Monday, December 12, 2011

Sausage Stuffed Manicotti- Cooking Light

There are certain recipes that I just can't wait to try, but never get around to making.  I can't even remember how long ago I printed this recipe up.  I was searching for something else and loved the look and sound of it so much that I couldn't wait to try it.  Of course, it took me at least a year to do it. 

The best kind of recipe is one that features items that I usually keep in my house and seems easy, but is also a little outside of the box.  This has it all for me.  It also uses a cream sauce instead of ricotta cheese, which excited me.  Shawn can't stand ricotta which really limits us in the baked Italian world.  I will, sometimes, make it with half ricotta and half not but its just not the same for some reason.  I hoped that the cream sauce would be a happy medium. 

I started by browning up turkey sausage with chopped peppers and onions.  In a separate pan, I used equal parts flour and butter and added 2 cups of skim milk.  Boiled until it got thick, stirring constantly.  I learned a long time ago to not do anything else while performing this step.  The sausage was off the burner at this point and I had full focus on the sauce at hand.  I really like the consistancy that it created and will give this a shot the next time that I make mac and cheese. 

I added about half of the cream sauce to the meat mixture and set the rest aside.  The recipe calls for uncooked manicotti shells.  I started filling them by using a spoon and that got old really fast.  I ended up using my (washed) hands to stuff the shells and placed them in a pregreased baking dish.  The recipe doesn't call for it, but next time I will add some sauce to the bottom.  I also would leave some more space between the shells, allowing sauce to fully envelop the shells.  There was a little meat leftover, which I added to the open spots in the dish.  Topped those bad boys with some mozzarella, then covered with the remaining cream sauce, 2 cups of marinara sauce, some parmesan cheese. 

It looks like a lot of sauce, but trust me.  It'll soak it all up. 

I baked it all for 30 minutes and then let it sit for a while.  The dish looked fantastic!!  The sauce didn't cook the noodles completely through.  They were a little al dente for my taste, but that's easily adjusted for next time.  The taste was ridiculous, though!!  So flavorful, creamy, and delicous.  I would just encourage you to make a side vegetable or salad with it to keep you from eating way more than the recommended portion size.  Oh, and the leftovers were just as good!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chocolate Bark- Food Network Magazine

Its been a while.  Its funny, because I've been still using new recipes.  I just haven't written then out.  There's been a few awesome ones.  Cabbage with Bacon and Onions from Emerill should have been written about, and I suggest you try it.  But for now, I'll talk about one of my favorite things in the world.  Chocolate.

I have been making a seriously awesome and super easy fudge recipe for the past few years.  I wanted to try removing the sweetened condensed milk from the mix to see if I could make it a little lighter and remove a touch of the sweetness.  I took out all the dessert recipes from my accordian recipe file (I have a slight obsession with clipping good recipes from magazines) and found the one that best suited my mood.  The set up is simple.  Split into 5 sections:

1.  Prepare the pan.  Line a baking sheet with foil, shiny side up; smooth out the creases

I was curious about using foil only, but it worked just fine.  Peeled right off once the chocolate cooled.

2.  Pick your ingredients
CHOCOLATE; 1 pound
Bittersweet, Semisweet, White

CRUNCH; 1/2 cup, chopped
Almonds, Walnuts, Macadamia Nuts, Pecans, Peanuts, Pistachios, Cashews, Pine Nuts, Hazelnuts, Peppermints, Toffee, Peanut Brittle, Toasted Coconut Flakes, Peanut Butter Chips, Banana Chips

CHEWY TOPPINGS; 1/2 cup, chopped
Dried Figs, Dried Apricots, Dried Cherries, Dried Cranberries, Dried Mango, Raisins,
Mini Marshmallow, Candied Orange Peel, Crystallized Ginger

SPICES (optional)
Red Pepper Flakes, Flaky Sea Salt, Crushed Cardamom Seeds, Toasted Fennel Seeds, Crushed Pink Peppercorns

I made 2 variations.  One with Milk Chocolate, Mini Marshmallows, & Salted Peanuts and one with Semisweet Chocolate, Blueberry Craisins, & Peanuts.  I prefer semisweet choclate but the milk was just as good,  I loved the peanuts and the other toppings were decent.  I didn't use the full amount in the recipe and wish that I had.  It definitely needed more.  Next time I plan on trying semisweet chocholate with crushed candy cane topping. 

3.  Melt the chocolate
A.  Make sure that all of your tools are dry.  Chop chocolate into 1/2 inch pieces with a large knife.  Place all but 1 cup of the chopped chocolate in a mircowave safe bowl. 

B Microwave 30 seconds, then stir with a rubber spatula.  Continue microwaving and stirring at 30-second intervals until melted, 3 to 5 minutes total. 

C.  Immediately add the reserved chopped chocolate to the bowl.  Stir vigorously until melted and shiny.  Don't worry if there are a few small unmelted pieces. 

I used chips for the chocolate so there was no chopping involved.    The method worked perfectly, except I set the microwave for the full amount and kept forgetting to get the chocolate out.  I didn't think it affected the taste at all.  I only had to stir the extra chocolate for a minute or two and it melted beautifully. 

4.  Spread it out
Pour the chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet; use the rubber spatula to spread it into a 10-12 inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick.

This part was easy. 

5.  Add your toppings
Press your cruchy and chewy toppings into the choclate, arranging them so each bite has a mix of flavors and textures.  Sprinkle with spices, if desired.  Let the bark harden completely at room temperature, about 1 hour.  (if the room is warm, you may need to freeze the bark for a few minutes).  Break into pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks. 

Don't rush the chocolate!  You definitely want to give it enough time to harden and it'll come right off the foil and break or cut into pieces. 

This was great!  Affordable and easy.  We loved it!  I'll make this again and again and can't wait to try all different combinations!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Creating My Own- Brisket Hash

I posted my breakfast potato recipe a while back. It's definitely one of my favorites because it's a recipe that's my own adaption of my father's idea and it just so happens to taste great, too. We had some leftover brisket from our recent party and I decided to try it out in the same method that I use for my breakfast potatoes. Kind of like a hash. Guess what? It's awesome.

I started by dicing up the brisket into large cubes and sauteed them in a hot 15" frying pan, sprayed with nonstick spray. Sauteed for a few minutes until they sweated a little grease and removed the meat from the pan. Added 2 small chopped onions, a chopped green pepper, and sauteed on med-high until slightly soft. Cut 4 red potatoes into a large dice and added to the pan. After a few minutes I turned the heat to low and covered the pan, tilting the lid to let the steam out. I let them go on low for about an hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so, and then added back the brisket cubes. 30 minutes later I topped it with American Cheese; another 15 minutes covered on low, and served.

Wow. This was amazing. Looked just as good as my breakfast potatoes, but darker. I was concerned that it would be too greasy, but the meat juices combined with the vegetables to make this awesome gravy. The brisket softened while cooking and the spices from it mixed throughout the dish. It was simply fantastic. Go me. :)

A Party is a Great Excuse for New Dishes! Marinated Veggies & Succotash Salad

We had a big party this past weekend and lucked out with great weather for March. We brought out the smoker and I had a blast deciding what to put out with it. I love putting together a party menu! I put an obsessive amount of thought, reading, and brainstorming before making a final decision. I even buy a few back up things to have on hand just in case. Love it!! This year I browsed through all my books, jotting down tasty things that went well for a group and could sit out for the whole party. We had people arriving over the course of the day and I like to try and have fresh food at various intervals to keep things interesting. Here are a few things that I tested out on my friends.

Roasted Marinated Vegetables- Kitchen Secrets
The picture in this cookbook has been luring me for years. It shows all of the different vegetables, looking grilled and delicious. I love love love grilled vegetables, but they're such a pain to make and this particular picture looks pretty intimidating. When I was browsing through and finally read the method I realized that the veggies were baked and not grilled! I decided to make a grilled veggie try instead of my usual crudite and see how it went over. The recipe calls for a pound of new potatoes and I found miniature potatoes at Trader Joe's that were adorable. I thought it would be a fun substitute to the dish. I also used zucchini, red & green peppers, squash, eggplant and red onion. I decided to hold off on adding the mushrooms until the next day but ended up forgetting them the next day.

Sidebar- I hate slicing onions!!! No matter what I do or what tricks I try I end up with sore eyes for the next hour. These particular onions were a doozy.

After everything was cut up, I put all of the vegetables on a disposable baking tray, wrapped with saran wrap, and placed in the fridge for the next day. About an hour or so before the party started I removed the veggies & transferred everything into two pans; leaving a single layer on each pan. Baked everything for 15 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Once it was ready, I drizzled the marinade over everything and left out to cool. The original recipe stated to cook the potatoes first but since they were mini I cooked them all together. They were a little underdone, so I threw them back in the oven for a few minutes and all was well. I transferred everything to two platters and served with slices of fresh mozzeralla.

The trays were beautiful and exactly what I was hoping for! The vegetables were delicious, with the exception of the eggplant which was a little tough for my taste. The balsamic in the marinade was such a nice touch and it was nice to have a veggie option that was outside of the box. My only complaint was that I didn't put the leftovers away early enough and had to throw them away after being out all day. I would make this again and again! I want to try it next as a side dish to a pasta or lasagna meal, which is one that I often have trouble pairing veggies with.

Succotash Salad- Smoke &Spice
I love the new trend to use edamame beans as a replacement for lima beans in succotash recipes. Such a great idea! I knew that I wanted this type of salad for one of my side dishes and picked this one because it seemed fresh & simple. The recipe calls for baby string beans and I had planned on using frozen haricot verts that I keep in the freezer. Unfortunately, I didn't have them. All I had was frozen or canned green beans so I went the frozen route. They didn't thaw to the texture that I wanted so I grabbed a new bag at the last minute. The salad didn't take long at all. I combined the corn, green beans, edamame and celery and put them in the fridge the night before. On the day of the party, I added the shallots & parsley and mixed it all up with the vinaigrette before serving. Asthetically, it was a boring salad. In the future I would add carrots or something colorful to the mix to keep it from being boring. Maybe serve in a lettuce cup? It tasted very good, although I felt that there was way too much oil in the dressing. There was quite a bit leftover and I found it to be delicious when I heated it up as a dinner side dish later in the week. I would make the succotash again, but slightly altered the next time.

Roasted Marinated Vegetables- Kitchen Secrets
1lb small new potatoes, quartered
2T olive oil
1T chopped fresh rosemary or 1tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
1tsp salt
1 large sweet red pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into strips 1-inch wide
1 large sweet green pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into strips 1-inch wide
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch slices
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1-inch slices
2 small red onions, cut into slim wedges
8oz button mushrooms, stemmed & wiped clean
2 cloves garlic, minced
*For the marinade
3T balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, or lemon juice
1T olive oil
1T chopped parsley
2tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
2tsp Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
1tsp finely grated lemon zest, optional
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450F. In a large shallow pan, toss potatoes with oil, rosemary, and salt. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
2. Stir in sweet peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Bake, uncovered, stirring frequently, until vegetables are lightly browned and tender- 35 to 45 minutes.
3. To prepare the marinade: In a small bowl, whish together vinegar, oil, parsley, thyme, mustard, garlic, lemon zest, salt & pepper until smooth. Pour marinade over vegetables in a roasting pan and stir gently but thoroughly to coat. Cool to room temperature. Makes 6 servings

Succotash Salad- Smoke Spice
8oz fresh thin young green beans, trimmed, and halved or thirded diagonal
2c cooked baby limas, butter beans, or shelled edamame, fresh or frozen
2c cooked corn kernels
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
2 large shallots, minced
2T minced fresh parsley
6T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
pinch or 2 of sugar
2T cider vinegar

1. Steam the beans over simmering water for a few brief minutes, just until tender. Run cold water over the beans to retain their bright green color and drain. Transfer the green beans, limas, corn, celery, shallots, & parsley to a large bowl.
2. Prepare the dressing, whisking together their ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss until completely combined, and chill covered for at least 1 hour. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Monday, March 14, 2011

London Broil II-

I have to start by saying that this might be the most boring title of any recipe that I've prepared so far.... I guess that I could have prepared London Broil I, but this one caught my eye first! London broil is a tempermental piece of meat. I grew up thinking that I hated steak until I was older and had steak prepared the right way. By "the right way", I mean medium to medium rare so it's tender, bloody, and delicious. The wrong way, which is how my mother always prepared it, was medium well to well done, little to no seasoning, and cut thickly on the grain. I have memories of spitting pieces of steak into my napkin simply because my jaw was too tired to keep chewing them. I remember the first time that I had london broil prepared properly and my amazement at how delicious it could be! After Shawn made a successful attempt on the grill, I was exited to have an affordable option for steak. I bought some on sale this week and in a measure to conserve time, energy, and propane I found a recipe with a broil option.

I scored the meat in a diamond pattern. They said to cut about 1/8 inch in but apparantly my knife is sharper than I realized and I cut in about 1/4-1/2 inch in some spots. I mixed up the marinade (halving the ingredients to accommodate the size of meat that I was cooking) and poured it into a plastic bag with the steak. Put it in the fridge to marinade until dinner.

Dinner was ready very quickly. I sauteed up some pierogies with onions, heated up leftover broccoli & cauliflower from the day before, and they were ready by the time that the steak was. I broiled it for 8 minutes on each side and it was cooked to a perfect medium with a cripsy crust. Looked beautiful! The end result..... well, I think that I need to marinade it longer next time. The flavor was good, but didn't shine through and the steak was pretty tough. Kind of a disappointment. I'll try again but marinade overnight to try and toughen up the meat and really bring out the flavor.

London Broil II-

Monday, March 7, 2011

Veal Stew with Tomatoes- How to Cook Everything

A few weeks ago, when I bought the short ribs, I also bought a few veal shoulder cube steaks as an alternative for dinner. I didn't realize at the time that veal cube steaks and veal steaks/ cutlets are not the same thing. I looked around and found an easy braising recipe that I thought would be a good way to ease into cooking this new cut of meat. The recipe says that it should be served with rice, noodles, or bread to soak up the sauces. I opted for egg noodles simply because I like egg noodles. Correction- I love egg noodles!

The meat defrosted easily overnight and was perfect for slicing and preparing the next day. I cut the steaks into 1 inch pieces and sauteed them in butter, in batches so they weren't crowded, until browned on all sides. Put them on a plate and wiped the pan clean. I sauteed the onions for about 5-10 minutes, until softened, and then added the garlic. Added a touch of salt, pepper, and white wine (I keep a cheap bottle in the fridge for cooking) and simmered for a minute.

The recipe specifies that you can use canned or fresh tomatoes, so I used canned tomatoes, rinsed thoroughly. I added them with the remaining spices, returned the veal to the skillet, and turned on low for about an hour. I was concerned that there wasn't enough liquid to properly braise the veal because I halved the recipe and the liquid covered only half of the meat. I stirred it every 20 minutes or so and cooked up the noodles right before serving. You could add olives at the end, but the step was optional and neither of us really care for olives, so I skipped that part.

The Verdict- The veal was absolutely fantastic! So amazingly tender. It was really, really good. I might try it with beef or chicken stock instead of wine next time to cut back on a light acidity from the wine and the tomatoes. As far as the noodles go, I hadn't had egg noodles in a while and forgot how much I absolutely love them. That being said, they didn't really do anything for the dish. I think that the stock exchange (he-he) and pairing the dish with some orzo risotto, cheesy grits, or a nice crusty bread would take this up a few more notches.

Veal Stew with Tomatoes- How to Cook Everything- Mark Bittman

3Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 1/2- 2lbs lean veal stew meat, cut into 1" chunks
1c diced onions
1tsp diced onions
1tsp minced garlic
salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
1c white wine, meat, or vegetable stock, or water
2c cored & chopped tomatoes (canned are fine; drain them first)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp minced fresh thyme or rosemary leaves or 1/2 tsp dried thyme or crumbled rosemary
1c good pitted black olives (optional)

Place a large skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil or butter. A minute late, when the butter foam subsides or the first wisps of smoke rise from the oil, brown the veal chunks, adding a few at a time, turning them to brown all over, and removing the pieces as they brown. Take your time and don't crowd the pan, or they will not brown properly.

Wipe out the pan, lower the heat to medium, add the remaining butter or oil, and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the salt, pepper, & wine, bring to a boil and let cook for 1 minute

Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme or rosemary, and bring to a simmer. Return the veal to the skillet, turn the heat to very low, cover and cook, stirring every now and then, until the veal is tender, 45 minutes or more. Add the olives, if you like. Taste and correct seasoning, if necessary, then serve with bread, rice, or noodles.

Spicy Crunchy Chickpeas- All You

I love a good snack!! Something about working in an office makes me ravenous on a daily basis around 3 or 4pm. I try to keep healthy snacks on hand in my desk to keep me on track and away from the candy. I have had this recipe for quite a while and was so intrigued to try it. I decided to put it all together and see how it came out before testing it out on others.

I started by rinsing a can of chickpeas and then dried them with some paper towels. I mixed the spices together with a tablespoon of olive oil, mixed it with the beans, and laid it all out on a sheet pan. Baked at 400 for 50 minutes, while shaking the pan every 10 minutes or so. Voila! When they came out of the oven they were crispy, but not crunchy. That comes after they cool. You definitely need to cool them for about 30 minutes before putting in a bowl or airtight container.

The Verdict! The next day they were crunchy and addictive. I would make this again and again, however I wouldn't use the same spice combination. I'm not a fan of cinnamon and it really shone through all of the other spices. I recently found another version that uses salt, pepper, and garam masala and I'm totally trying it. I love that it's a protein filled snack that's crunchy, salty, and costs about $2 to make a huge batch of it! It's totally on.

Spicy Crunchy Chickpeas- All You

2Tbsp olive oil
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp cumin
1tsp allspice
1tsp salt
1/2tsp pepper
2 15oz cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained, thoroughly patted dry

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, combine olive oil with spices; add chickpeas, and toss to coat thoroughly. Turn chickpeas out onto baking sheet and roast, stirring or shaking the baking sheet often, until chickpeas are browned and crunchy, 45- 50 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool before serving, stirring occasionally.

*You can toss in a generous pinch of cayenne or chili powder with the spices

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Grilled Salmon with Cucumber Yogurt Salad- All You Magazine

I really wish my husband liked fish. He finally started eating some seafood, but would never order it or eat a whole dinners worth if I made it. Because I don't cook it often I am a little timid about new recipes. I finally figured out that I could easily prepare fish filets in the toaster oven to perfect temperature and am loving it! I can make salmon for me and chicken for Shawn without having to use a second saute pan. I also try to take advantages of night's alone to make things that he'd never eat.

Tonight I knew I'd be alone so I bought a salmon filet while shopping. I found a quick recipe using mostly things that I had in my fridge, including a cucumber and plain Greek yogurt that both needed to be used in the next few days. It was from my All You magazine and had everything that I was looking for. Easy, healthy, and featuring fish. Sold!

A few hours before dinner I sliced up the cucumber, mixed up the yogurt, garlic, and dill; and put it all in the fridge until later. After I put John to bed, I took out the salmon and sprinkled it with salt & pepper. I skipped the olive oil step and just sprayed some Pam on the toaster tray. The recipe featured a broil option, which my handy dandy toaster oven has so I warmed it up and put the salmon in for 15 minutes. I flipped it once about halfway through, and served it with the cucumber salad.

Very tasty and very easy. I debated for a while on what starch to serve with it and ended up just toasting some whole wheat Tuscan bread. What a nice simple meal! I love when salmon gets a nice crispy crust to it. The cucumbers were delicious and the dill sauce went so well with the fish. I could see it pairing well with a chicken breast, too, and will have to keep that in mind for when we're grilling this summer.

Grilled Salmon with Cucumber Yogurt Salad- All You Magazine

2 cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
1/2 small clove garlic, minced
1tsp dried dill, or 1Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 lb salmon filet, cut into 4 pieces
1Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

1. In a medium bowl, combine cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, & dill and mix well. Cover & refrigerate at least 15 minutes or up to 6 hours
2. Preheat gas grill to medium high. Rub salmon with olive oil and sprikle with salt & pepper. Oil grill and cook salmon, skin side down, 4-5 minutes. Use a wide spatula to flip salmon; grill until just opaque, another 4- 5 minutes.
3. Season cucumber salad with salt & pepper and serve alongside salmon.

*Broiler preparation- preheat the broiler and place a rack about 6 minutes from the heat source. Broil the fish for about 15 minutes, flipping over once. It should be lightly browned on both sides and should flake with a fork.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Short Ribs with Mustard & Potatoes- How to Cook Everything

If you have been reading this, you're aware of my loyalty for Acme. There's a nearby ShopRite that I go to on occasion, but for some reason or another I get annoyed every time I go. They lure me with specials on occasion, but Acme gets me for their sales and their loyalty programs. That being said.... ShopRite's meat department has them all beat. I wanted to get something special for our Valentine's Day dinner and wound up at ShopRite to find something out of the ordinary. This is where my local ShopRite wins.... They have about 10 times the variety of meats that I find at any local store. Weird stuff, too, but fresh and affordable. I picked out a few things to try out on Shawn and figured that I could stash the rest in our handy dandy standing freezer that we were blessed with for Christmas. One of the things that I purchased was a 3 pack of short ribs. I've never made them in my life, and only eaten them a few times, but they were affordable and looked interesting so I figured "what the hell?"

I browsed some recipes and realized that short ribs are definitely a slow cooked type of dish. There were quite a few recipes that I wanted to try, but found this interesting one in Mark Bittman's book. I liked that I had all of the ingredients and that potatoes were included in the dish. I was a little put off at the fact that he suggests cooking mostly the day before and reheating the next day but Shawn pointed out that it would make a quick preparation for a Monday meal. I also realized that most recipes called for at least 3 lbs of ribs, but I only had 1 1/2 in my package of 3 ribs. Thankfully, Widener University teaches all of their hospitality students how to yield recipes.

I started out on Sunday by browning the ribs over medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side. This was easy to do while finishing dishes and cleaning up from the previous evening's dinner. I removed the ribs, removed all but a little oil, and added in a cup of minced onions. Sauteed for 10 minutes on medium heat and added 1 cup of chicken stock. Recipe said to use chicken, beef, or vegetable and I had chicken stock in the fridge from a recent bird that I had. I know it's okay in the land of cooking, but I always feel a little cannibalistic when I cross over meats from one type to another. I just think of jambalaya and shrug it off. Why waste perfectly good chicken stock? Once it was all boiling up nicely I added the ribs to the mixture, returned to a boil, lidded it up, and reduced to low. The rest of the evening I let it simmer; added potatoes after 30 minutes, and turned the pieces every 15 minutes or so. The recipe states to cook for "at least" 30 minutes after adding the potatoes or until tender. I let it go about 1 1/2 hours and then turned it off to cool, adding red wine when the broth got low. It was a great excuse to open up the bottle of Hot Date Cabernet Sauvignon that Shawn got me for Valentine's Day. I was pleased to find that it tasted great and went well with the flavors.

Once cooled, I removed the meat and potatoes; strained out the onions, and put in the fridge. In a moment of brilliance I realized that I could put the pot in the fridge with the stock and use it the next day without having to clean in between! Boo-yah!

The next day, when I got home from work, I pulled the pot out of the fridge and learned by Mark Bittman suggest to cool the stock overnight. There was about 1/8 inch of fat on top of 1/2 inch worth of stock. Ick! I skimmed it off, brought it back to a boil, and added in the meat & potaoes. Covered, turned to low, and let it simmer happily until it was time for dinner. Just before serving, I stirred in a touch of dijon to the gravy. In the future, I'd add more stock or wine when reheating. The gravy was SO GOOD, and more would have been lovely.

Which brings me to the meal.... we each took one rib, a few potatoes, and a touch of gravy. I served it with some leftover haricot verts (green beans for the laymen) and mini baguettes.

Side bar! The baguettes were a recent find from Trader Joe's. I read about them and their awesomeness and bought a pack for the freezer. Basically, they are frozen rolls that you heat up at 400F for 4-5 minutes. This was the first time I made them and they were fantastic and easy. I now have yet another staple from TJs that will be in my freezer at all times. They're a great size for sandwiches, too.

The meal was fabulous. Very similar to a pot roast, but I found it to be more tender. I used Russet potatoes instead of the suggested waxy type and it worked well, despite a few of them breaking up a bit while cooking. The gravy was fabulous and we sopped up ever speck of it with the bread. I thought that baby carrots would have been perfect in the dish, and brought some color to it also.

Steller meal this time!! So exciting to have a new meat that I can work with. Inexpensive and lots of possibilities...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Beef Tamale Bake- Pampered Chef

Who doesn't love Pampered Chef? It's fun to browse and they pretty much invented the baking stone which I absolutely love. I received a cookbook as a gift years ago and browsed through it the other night to see if I could find something new and interesting. I found this Tamale Bake that looked delicious, and like something that I could easily alter so I would not have to use their specific products.
This recipe was weird for me... Maybe I was distracted because it's a Friday and I was busy all day but I had a really hard time following the recipe. I kept looking too late and realizing that I misread details. It worked out in the long run, but caused for some backtracking and annoyances.
I started by sauteeing up ground turkey (instead of beef) and drained the excess liquid. I added one jar of salsa, a can of red beans, and some cumin & chili powder. Brought it back to a boil and mixed it all up and set it aside while I worked on the cornbread part.
I mixed up 3 parts of corn meal with one part flour and added baking soda & salt. Whisked it with 2 egg whites, 1 cup of hot water, and 3Tbsp of butter. Added the batter to a greased pie plate, topped it with meat (leaving 1/2 inch of space at the edges) and baked for 28 minutes. Topped with cheese and served with sour cream.

Mistake #1- didn't notice how much meat that I was supposed to use and made the full 20oz package of meat instead of the 8oz that was called for. Put about 1/3 of the mixture aside for future use.
Mistake #2- Added 1tsp of baking soda before realizing that it should be 1/2tsp and had to skim off what looked like 1/2 of it
Mistake #3- Recipe called for butter spread with 70% oil and I realized at the last minute that I had 48% spread and had to sub in butter. Used unsalted, so I added a tiny bit more salt than mentioned.
Mistake #4- Topped it with cheese before realizing that cheese was supposed to go on at the end. Had to skim it off before baking.

I was terrified that dinner was going to be awful. I am such a subpar baker and not having paid full attention meant to me that my cornbread crust was going to suck big time. I took the pie out of the oven and set it aside to cool. Breathed a huge sigh of relief and the perfectly set crust. We sliced some off, topped with a little sour cream, and settled down for a taste.

It was really good!! Shawn wasn't a huge fan of the cornbread crust, but he's also not too into tamales and doesn't appreciate cornbread as a chili base like some others (like me) might. The cornbread was slightly dry, but really worked with the chili topping. I used spicy chipotle salsa, which brought a nice kick to the mix and it all came together really well. We each had seconds and still have half a pie leftover for tomorrow.

Beef Tamale Bake- The Pampered Chef "Its good for you"
1 1/2 c yellow cornmeal
1/2 c flour
1/2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt
1c hot water
2 egg whites
3T 70% vegetable oil spread, melted
1/2lb 95% lean ground beef
1 jar (16oz) salsa
1 can red beans, drained & rinsed
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1tsp cumin
1/2 c shredded cheddar

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda, & salt. Whisk in water, oil, & egg whites, & stir into cornmeal mixture. Stir until smooth & pour batter into baking dish.

2. Cook beef over med-high heat for 6-8 minutes or until no longer pink, breaking into crumbles. Drain, if necessary.

3. Add salsa, beans, spices, & garlic to the beef, and mix well. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Spoon beef mixture evenly over batter to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dish. Bake 20-23 minutes or until crust is set. Remove from oven; sprinkle with cheese. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut into wedges.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Crispy Tomato and Onion Chicken- Chicken Step By Step

Look at me! Two posts today! Disclaimer- I made this recipe for a brunch over the holidays using all chicken legs so it isn't technically a new recipe but it's a new one from the start date of the blog. It comes from a book that I have had forever but for some reason have only made a few recipes from. It's exactly what it says- all types of chicken recipes. Some are weird, but many look pretty good. I need to try and focus on this one a bit.....
I bought a whole chicken on sale this week and wanted to plan something that was quick and easy. I wasn't feeling like a crock pot recipe for once and decided to cut the chicken up. I had everything needed for this recipe, so I went with it!

First off, separating a whole chicken into pieces is no easy feat. It took me quite some time to finish, but I managed to get wings, skinned thighs, drumsticks, and skinless boneless breasts. I put the carcasses in a stockpot with discarded veggies from the freezer and decided to make some stock with the extras. To make the rub, I mixed a packet of onion soup mix with two packets of instant tomato soup mix. Coated the chicken pieces, and set them in a baking dish on a bed of onions, carrots, and zucchini. The recipe called for 45 minutes, but I know my oven runs long. I baked for one hour at 400F and it was perfect! The veggies get almost caramelized in the chicken juices and were amazing served atop some mashed potatoes. The chicken was moist and I didn't miss the skin at all on the thighs and breasts. I have to say- the thighs were better skinless! The flavor from the soup was fantastic and the little crispy onion pieces were a special treat. I will probably not cut up my own chicken again, but will probably try this with some drummies or split breasts the next time.

Crispy Tomato & Onion Chicken

1 boiler chicken (2 1/2- 3 lbs), cut up
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
2 envelopes instant tomato soup mix
2 medium onions
2 medium carrots
2 medium zucchini
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Trim chicken of excess fat. Remove skin, if desired. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels.
1. In a bowl or plastic bag, combine soup mixes. Coat chicken pieces with soup mixture. Shake off excess.
2. Chop onions, carrots, & zucchini. Place in a single layer in a 9x13 inch baking pan. Add pepper to taste
3. Place chicken pieces on top of vegetables. Bake, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes or until chicken is browned and no longer pink near the bone.

NOTE! I saw as I was typing that there is a variation listed that sounds delicious. Add 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, paprika, and garlic powder to soup mix.

Beef & Barley Soup

I gave up on the project.... so sad. I did continue to make recipes, but not on a consistant basis and not to where I felt led to blog about it. So last night I made something delicious and wanted to share. Will it be a regular thing? Who knows. But it's worth putting it out there!

I have had a recipe for beef & barley soup that I've been wanting to make since last year. It's in my cooking light magazine and the picture looks absolutely scrumptious. Shawn agreed that he would try it so I have had it in my back pocket to make forever. I bought the perfect size piece of beef (3/4 lb) and put it in the freezer a while ago and decided that this was the weekend to do it!
I started in the afternoon by cutting up celery, carrots, & onions to have ready to go. I cut the beef into 1/2 inch pieces and sauteed for about 4 minutes until they were browned. Took the meat out and added the vegetables, sauteeing on med-high for 6 more minutes. Added the meat, some beef broth, and a bay leaf. turned to low and forgot about it.

After John got up from his nap I told him that he was going to help me make soup. He's a toddler, so he gets really excited about things like that! We measured out 2/3c of barley and he helped me add it to the soup a little at a time with the salt & pepper. He got his own spoon and I showed him how to stir it slowly. The recipe stated that it would take about 30 minutes, but we weren't eating for at least an hour so we turned it to low and kept stirring every once in a while. The soup looked much better after an hour! Thicker, like a stew, and more like the photo.

Upon tasting, I realized that i used too much pepper. It should have been added at the end, and not earlier when I put it in. I wonder if that had something to do with it? The soup itself was fantastic! The meat and vegetables were tender and the barley had a nice bite to it. It had a great flavor, too. John was more interested in the bread than the soup, but I would say that it yielded enough for 3 adult sized portions. The soup was very filling, too. We ate much earlier than normal and it held us until the end of the evening. I would definitely make it again!

Beef- Barley Soup