Saturday, January 30, 2010

Penne with Sausage, Garlic, & Broccoli Rabe- Cooking Light

Once I decided that I really want us to start eating healthier I subscribed to Cooking Light magazine. This is such a great magazine- I can't believe I waited so long for it to go on my radar! They always have heathy recipes at various skill levels. When I received my first issue, I saw this recipe and smiled to myself. The previous day, my boss had mentioned a great meal that his wife had made and it looked suspiciosly like the one I was looking at! I asked if she was a subscriber and he confirmed it!

I have never cooked with broccoli rabe before. Shawn's a big fan, but I've always preferred spinach with it's milder flavor. I found it amongst the greens in the produce section and decided that this was the week to try the recipe! Of course, as the week went on I kept pushing it back and by last night I was seriously torn between the pasta and ordering some takeout!! Economics and healthy eating willpower won over and I started on the dish.

With only 5 ingredients, it's extremely simple. I started trimmed the broccoli rabe and realized that I wasn't entirely sure how much to trim off. I had more than needed, so decided to be a little agressive with my trimming, then added the stalks to the veggie parts I keep in the freezer for stock making. I kept only the buds on the top with some leaves for good measure. Per the recipe, I put the greens in boiling water for 2 minutes, then plunged it in ice water to set (also known as blanching). It brings out the green color and partially cooks the greens. This method is also great for plain broccoli or asparagus.

Once the broccoli rabe was out of the pot, I kept the water boiling and added the pasta. I sauteed the turkey sausage til browned and added the garlic, then the rabe, chopped coarsly. The pasta finished around the same time everything else was done. You save 1/4 cup of the liquid, which makes for a nice dimention to the sauce, and drain. Add pasta & liquid, cook one more minute, and voila! Dinner!

Again, simple easy meal. I used a few more pots than I like to with a quick meal, but it was really delicious. The rabe was perfect- not too bitter, great consistancy.... Shawn declared that I "nailed it".

Penne with Sausage, Garlic, & Broccoli Rabe- Cooking Light Magazine

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mango Salsa and the Mexican Fiestivities

I have been so slacking! My newest recipe was almost a week ago, so I've decided to finally blog about it while waiting for my jambalaya to cook. We had invited some friends over last weekend with their two kids and I'd been toying around various ideas of what to make all week. The visit was postponed but we ended up with an impromptu gathering, so I went with my original menu plans since I was so excited about it! My plans were to redo a few things that I had made somewhat off course the first time and try out one new recipe. I love Mexican food and can eat it almost every day, so I decided to redo the tacos with avocado salsa, the cheesy chile rice, and try out a mango salsa. Being that the first two items were pre-blog I figured I could loop the recipes in here for you. Enjoy!!

The tacos come from my first issue of Cooking Light. They're delicious, simple, healthy, and inexpensive. More importantly, they're the recipe that started this whole thing! I couldn't believe how simple it was and loved the few tips I learned from it and decided to keep on logging recipes. The cheesy chile rice came quickly after from an older version of "All You" magazine, and the mango salsa was picked (after much deliberation) from You Enjoy My Cookbook. Another recipe from Cap'n Mike! I promise to show others some love as time goes on.....

I originally had made the tacos with chicken since the recipe declared it an acceptable substitution, but this time I used steak as was inteded. I also bought some medium sized shrimp and had some chicken short cuts on hand for a third protein. I know, I know... short cuts in a recipe blog?! Well, they're convenient and taste good and I threw it in as a last minute "I might not have enough meat" moment and was glad that I did! Ok, this is my issue, not yours... sheepish moment over.....

I started out by preparing the salsas earlier in the afternoon. It was just as easy to make two different salsas as it is to make one! They pretty much have the same base ingredients and all of the items compliment each other so I could use the same cutting board & knife. I kept them in the fridge and brought them out about 30 minutes before serving.

Right before everyone arrived, I rubbed the sirloin with spices and marinated it with the juice from one lime. Then I peeled and deveined the shrimp and tossed them with some paprika, cumin, garlic, salt, & pepper. Once it was time to prepare everything, I pulled out my trusty double burner flattop pan. I love this pan!!! It works for so many types of things- pancakes, bacon, burgers, fajitas, and for cooking two types of meat at the same time! I seared the steak and sliced against the grain, serving with a little pink in the middle. I sauteed up the shrimp, heated the chicken, and put them on a platter.

What I love most about these tacos is that it turned me on to corn tortillas. I never really liked them, but always felt like I should. This method calls to place the tortillas over an open flame for 10 seconds on each side. It really gives the tortillas a nice texture. As a bonus, they're a little thicker than flour tortillas and can really hold up to whatever you put in them. They're quickly becoming my favorite way to eat tacos.

Finally, I wanted to serve an awesome side dish and decided to do the cheesy chile rice again. The first time that I made this I didn't have scallions, which is an ingredient, and left them out. It was definitely missing something. Well, that something was scallions!! I made the rice again this time, using brown rice instead of white. I mixed the rice with sour cream, cheese, diced green chilis, scallions, salt, and pepper, topped it with parmesan cheese, and baked in the oven. Wow!!! So amazing, Creamy, cheesy.... loved it. And I couldn't tell that the rice was brown versus white.

Once everything was out, my table looked so pretty! The taco presentation was beautiful. The salsas were so colorful and I put out shredded cheese, tomato salsa, sour cream, and cabbage for those who wanted it. The avocado salsa is fantastic and goes really well with the lime marinade in the steak. It really works and has tons of flavor and great textures. The shrimp tacos were amazing with the mango salsa! It was a little heavy on the onions, but so delicious.

I love the taco options and will be fine tuning the salsas to create something perfect. Without a doubt I'll be making this again and again and again.

Tacos with Avocado Pico De Gallo- Cooking Light Magazine

Mango Salsa- "You Enjoy My Cookbook- Cap'n Mike"
1 ripe mango
1/2 small red onion
1 jalepeno
1 red hot pepper
2 cloves garlic
Cilantro (leaves from a few stalks)

Cut flesh from mango pit. Peel the mango skin and cube to 1/2 inch pieces. Then, remove tips, stems, & seeds from peppers. Chop the peppers, onions, and garlic coarsly.
Add mango, peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro and a pinch of salt to food processer and pulse to desired consistancy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Roast Pork with Garlic & Rosemary- How to Cook Everything

Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" is another one of my favorite cookbooks. My sister in law, Laurie, got this for us as an engagement gift (I think?) and I refer to it constantly. It is exactly what it says. The Basics. They discuss every type of food and each section discussed the types and then a basic recipe with variations. This is a must cookbook for anyone, in my opinion.

This week's project was pork roast, which was (of course) on sale at Acme. I picked up a 4lb roast and decided to do a simple method, as this is my first time ever working with pork when it isn't in the crock pot.

The reason I like HTCE is that it's perfect for something like this. The "Basics of Pork Roast" section starts with a discussion on the various types of roasts available and what they are best used for. There was the standard recipe, which I went with, and another variation with sage and potatoes that also looked tasty. I opted for the simpler option.

I started by cutting small deep slits around the roast and inserting slivers of garlic into the roast. I rubbed it with salt, covered it back up with saran wrap and put the roast back in the fridge for about 2 more hours. When the time came for roasting, I made a rub with rosemary, minced garlic, salt, pepper, sugar, and cayenne and rubbed it all over. Cooked the meat for 15 minutes at 450, then for another hour at 325, pouring a 1/2 cup of stock over the meat every 20 minutes or until it starts producing enough juices for basting. My oven is notoriously long when it comes to meats, so I ended up cooking it another half hour to temp. The roast is to be cooked to 145 or 150 in the center and then sits while you prepare the rest of the meal. I have such a hard time wth meat thermometers- I don't know why but I always end up stabbing the poor thing to death trying to figure out if it's done.

Once we were ready for carving, I called in my father in law for assistance. Carving is another one of my weak points and his wife volunteered him for the job. I'm glad, too, because it was carved perfectly! The meat was fantastic- moist and delicious and I loved the little surprises of garlic inside the roast. I saved the bone in the freezer to make red beans and rice, which I'm sure you'll read about at a later date!

For a sauce, I heated up the roasting on the stove top and whisked it a bit to gain juices and reduce it down. I got a little impatient with this, so I added a little corn starch to the juices to thicken it up and voila! Sauce!

The meal was served with mashed potatoes, broccoli, and.....

Spinach to Like
(Unfortunately, I don't know where the recipe came from as it's in a book that I wrote stuff in years ago)
2 pkgs frozen spinach, thawed and drained
8oz sour cream
1/2 pkg onion soup mix
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Mix spinach with sour cream and soup mix, put in a casserole, top with breadcrumbs and bake for 30 min at 350.
This tasted good, but was a little overcooked and the cream was almost a little curdled. I love my spinach gratin recipe and hoped this might be an easier way to make something similar. I probably wouldn't make this again, though.

All in all, great meal! The pork was about $8 and fed 4 of us with leftovers and a bone for future use! Not bad....

Roast Pork with Garlic & Rosemary
salt and freshly ground pepper, to tast
2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves, or 1t dried rosemary
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp minced garlic
1 (3-4 lb) pork loin roast, bone-in, or 1 (2-3 lb) boneless roast, or a similar size portion of fresh ham
1 1/2 cups dry white wine, or stock, approximately
1 Tbsp butter, optional

1. preheat oven to 450F. Mix liberal amounts of salt & pepper together with the spices and garlic, and rub it all over the roast. Place the meat in a roasting pan (use a rack if the roast is boneless, but don't bother if the bone is still in) and put in the oven. Roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes
2. Open the oven and pour about 1/2 cup of wine or stock over the roast; lower the heat to 325F. Continue to roast, adding 1/4 cup of liquid every 15 minutes or so. If the liquid accumulates on the bottom of the pan, use it to baste. If not, add more.
3. Start checking the roast at 1 1/4 hours of total cooking time (it's likely to take about 1 1/2 hours). When it is done- a meat thermometer will register 145F to 150F- remove it to a warm platter. Pu the roasting pan on the stove top set to medium high. If there is a great deal of liquid in it, reduce it to about 3/4 cup, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any brown bits that have accumulated. If the pan is dry, add 1 cup of liquid and follow the same idea. When the sauce has reduced some, stir in the butter if you like, slice the roast, and serve it with the sauce

Friday, January 15, 2010

Becoming Creative with My New Techniques

I didn't exactly make a new recipe, but had a lot of fun last night making something new by using techniques from different recipes that I've used throughout the project. I had some ground turkey and wanted to make something Mexican-ish. I was originally going to try a mexi-meatloaf, but the meat wasn't quite thawed enough to mold, so I decided to get creative.

First, I browned the turkey and added Old El Paso Reduced Sodium Taco Seasoning. Basic, but this is an old staple of ours. In another pan, I used the theory from my Black Bean Tostatos to create a bean dish. The original recipe called for sauteeing one chopped onion & one minced garlic clove for a few minutes, then adding a can of drained and rinsed black beans, salt, pepper, and mash with a potato masher. It was easy and delicious. I only had half an onion and wanted to add some veggie element to my dish, so I used less onion and added half a zucchini, cut in a small dice, to the onions before adding the beans.

Side note- I love onions and in creating these recipes I have realized that I don't use enough when I cook. A whole onion seems like a lot to me, but when using only half I could really tell the flavor difference. It was bland and needed more salt than the first time I made it. Interesting....

Anyway, the zucchini was perfect with the beans and was a nice way to add a green vegetable to the meal. I'll have to try this method the next time I make my mexi lasagne!

To finish off the meal, I took some corn tortillas and (using the method from my Chicken Tacos with Avocado Salsa) placed them one at a time directly over the flame on my gas stove. 10 seconds on either side browned them a little and gave a nice consistancy to them.

I really liked this quickly thrown together meal! We put beans and meat on the tortillas with some cheese and a little sour cream. Fantastic! The corn tortillas did a good job of holding everything together without breaking and I was filled from 3 tacos.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yankee Doodle Beef Stew- Better Homes & Gardens

Another one of my favorite cookbooks is my Better Homes & Gardens 75 Anniversary Cookbook. It's a fun one to browse through, as it has pictures and stories of when the recipes were published. They also include old articles from the 50's on how to host a dinner party, and things like that. This book, like many others, holds lots of recipes that I want to make but have not gotten around to!

My Dad & Joyce came over for a late lunch/ early dinner yesterday so I chose this meal for my attempt. I picked up some chuck roast on sale and browsed a few beef stew/ pot roast variations before deciding on this one. It was a long meal to prepare. East to cook, but lots of prep work! I trimmed and sliced the chuck in to 1 inch pieces, dredged in flour and sauteed in a kettle. I added water and spices and simmered for 1 1/2 hours before adding carrots, potatoes, & baby onions. I've been on a boiling onion kick and this was my first time making them. The book lists a tip to boil them for 3 minutes and they pop out of the skin. After trying to peel one of them, I decided to go with their tip. It worked, but took about 20 minutes to get 1 lb of onions peeled! Quite annoying.... The stew cooks for another 30 minutes, then you make a gravy with the liquid.

The stew itself was very good, but a little boring. The gravy had a nice consistancy and a good taste, but needed a little oomph. The meat was fantastic- really tender and delicious. I would make this again, but maybe would sautee the onions and carrots up a little, or add to the stew 20 minutes before the potatoes. I like my stewed veggies to be a little more done than these were. All in all, it was a good and inexpensive meal.

One of the things that I like about my experiment is that I'm really forcing myself to follow the recipe. In situations like this one, I may have made the meal a little better by following my instincts, but I really think that overall my cooking skills will improve by learning new methods.

Yankee Doodle Stew with Vegetables
link to website:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Stuff- You Enjoy My Cookbook

A few years ago my friends Jennie and Kristina created a cookbook. They collected recipes from a group of friends who are bonded together by their love of music and created a wonderful collaboration titled "You Enjoy my Cookbook". Of all the cookbooks that I drag out and leaf through on a regular basis, this is one of my favorites for a few reasons.
1. The recipes are recommended by people that I know and trust.
2. Some of the recipes were submitted by yours truly!
3. It's a lot easier to get Shawn to try new foods when they come from someone he knows!

I bought a package of turkey sausage on sale at the Acme this weekend and decided it would be the subject of this week's project. After toying with a few recipes, I opted for "The Stuff" because it featured my key ingredient with other simple ones and, hell- it has an awesome name. It features turkey sausage, onions, garlic, bell peppers, kidney beans, and diced tomatoes served over pasta. You sautee up the onions and garlic, add the sausage. Brown and at the last minute add the peppers, then the beans and tomatoes. Serve.

The recipe was super easy to make and took all of about 20 minutes start to finish. The finished product was beautiful, kind of like chili but cleaner. I wasn't sure how I'd like it though- I thought it might be bland and was unsure about the recipe's instructions to leave the peppers crisp. Was I wrong! This recipe really surprised with how much we enjoyed it! The flavors and textures worked together beautifully. Shawn loved it, too. It was quite filling and the meal made enough for us each to pack some for lunch tomorrow. I may, however, forgo my leftovers to see how my son, John, would like it. I think he'll like the colors and the fact that he can see what it is he's eating, but you never really know with him! One day he loves something and the next it's cause for meltdown... but I digress...

Overall The Stuff is a keeper and with the cost, ease, and healthy factors it's definitely getting put into our rotation. Thanks, Capt Mike!

The Stuff
1 pkg turkey sausage
2 bell peppers of different colors
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 jalepeno (optional)
1 small can kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
2 small can diced or crushed tomatoes

1. Chop onion into bite sized pieces and mince or press garlic. Sautee in 1Tbsp olive oil for 1 minute
2. If you like, remove casings from sausages- chop into bite sized pieces. Add to onions and garlic. Brown thoroughly.
3. You can drain the fat from the sausage, or leave it in. Add peppers.
4. Drain canned beans & tomatoes, add. Cook until just hot (peppers should still be crisp. If there's a lot of juice, you can drain or simmer on low, but don't overcook the peppers
5. Serve over rice or pasta

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My first blog!

I love cookbooks. I have a shelf full of them, cut them from magazines, but oddly enough, I rarely use them! When I want to try something new I'll typically take out 4-5 cookbooks and create my own version of making what I want to make. My birthday waas in November and I decided on a resolution that, I'm excited to say, I have kept all the way into the holidays!
I decided that for the next year I would make at least one new recipe every week. The key is that the recipe has to be created to spec and it has to be something I haven't made before. It's been so much fun and is also helping us to be more frugal with groceries and planning menus. I'm also making a point to try and do some healthier recipes to make cutting fat and/or carbs more fun. I use the circular each week to see what's on sale, then get out my recipe books and decide what to make.
Here's a quick update on what I've made so far. I missed only one week, which was this past week, and am ready to go full force into 2010! Since some people have shown some interest, I figured I'd share my recipes (good and bad) in my very first blog. Enjoy!

Spice Rubbed Braised Beef- Cooking Light
very tasty and well cooked. I liked the sauce method and think I might use it next time I make red gravy.
Chicken Taco with Avocado Salsa- Cooking Light
these were fantastic! This was also the recipe that got me started on my resolution:)
Best Darn Meatloaf- You Enjoy My Cookbook
thanks, Jennie!! So good- love the cheese in the middle
Baked Pork Chops with Brown Rice- Kitchen Secrets
these were delicious, but looked really plain. I'd add some parsley or something the next time.
Brussel Sprouts- All You
needed to be boiled for longer than called for. they were good, but still won't be good enough to talk SB into loving sprouts!
Spinach Gratin- Barefoot Contessa
OK, so this isn't a new recipe, but so great I had to put it on here!
Bolognese Sauce- Emeril
I was really excited for my first attempt at ragu, which was my most elaborate foray in my new recipes. It was fantastic!! I also used the leftovers for baked ziti, which rocked the house.
Corn, Bacon, Potato Chowder- Aunt Jill
Black Bean Tostados- All You
The method to cook the beans is a keeper, but we weren't a fan of the tostados themselves. SB told me that he's never been so annoyed at a food before!
Rocky Road Fudge- Peeps Cookbook
I tried this at a party and went home to make two more batches. So easy and so delicious!!
Cheesy Chile Rice- All You
This was fantastic! Nice switch up from usual rice or potatoes

So, here I am! In the new year and haven't made anything yet, but am planning on trying out a newbie tomorrow. I'll keep you posted and hope you all enjoy my findings.