Category Archives: Entree

Tangy Italian Beef Sandwiches

Tangy Italian Beef Sandwiches

Man, it’s been a while since I’ve given you all a recipe, huh? I’ve been so absorbed with sewing and sharing my stuff with you, I haven’t been showing you any foodstuffs lately. I swear, we’re still eating! I’ll be honest, I’ve scaled back our grocery shopping budget a bit and have gotten back to front-loading my weeks on the weekend by either grilling a bunch of extra meat, or making a big pasta or slaw salad, or putting some pasta sauce aside for the freezer so we can whip dinner together fast. The impetus of this is, the less I have to do to get dinner ready, the more time I have to sew in the weekday evenings. Selfish motives!

This weekend I made a big ol’ crock of shredded beef for sandwiches. I do frequent the special discount section of the meat departments looking for gems, and found a great big pack of boneless beef roast for a song. It was nice and lean, and I thought it would be good as shredded beef in the crock pot. A big pot of stuff like this goes a long way, as we’ve talked about in the past, and can be used in tacos, sandwiches, as a baked potato topper, with a bit of rice or noodles, as a nacho topper (OMG, nachooossss) or even by its saucy self with a salad or some fruit. A two pound pack of meaty something makes for at least two if not three meals for us.

When I crock things, I end up doing Mexican style stuff a lot, it’s just the easiest thing to do. Meat with salsa or tomatoes and Mexican seasonings, a few hours on low, voila, Mexi Meat Shreds. If it’s not Mexican, it’s BBQ shredded something-or-other, or soup, all of which get boring. BO-ring. I’m trying to get more creative with my crock repertoire, if you have anything  fun please send it!

In an effort to get out of my rut, I consulted Cooking Light and found a great recipe for shredded Italian style beef, which I altered a wee bit to accommodate what I had on hand. Just far enough away from my norm to be interesting! With only a handful of ingredients that are all shelf stable and live in my pantry this is an easy one to make when you don’t want to go to the store for an extra thing to add. Perfecto! The change I made was to the peppers that were required in the recipe as I didn’t have any fresh banana or Anaheim type peppers in my fridge (and rarely do I have these just laying around), instead I used a couple forksful of pickled mild banana pepper rings. Worked out great! I also added a bit more liquid as the recipe didn’t call for anything but the vinegar, and I felt it just needed a bit more to get the right. The results were shredded lovely beefy yumminess. Make immediately.

Tangy Shredded Beef

Tangy Italian Beef

Serves 8-10

2 ½ lbs. boneless beef roast, on the lean side, cut into cubes
1 t. olive oil
¼ c. pickled pepperoncini slices (I use Mezzetta brand)
¼ c. pickled banana pepper slices (again, I use Mezzetta brand)
½ c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. Beef Better than Boullion dissolved in ½ c. hot water, or ½ c. beef stock
1 T. onion powder
1 T. garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine the apple cider vinegar, beef stock or water/Better than Boullion, onion powder and garlic powder. Set aside.

Heat a medium sized heavy skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil and swirl to coat. Working in batches, gently salt and pepper the beef bits and sear them on all sides in the hot pan, a couple of minutes per side. Remove from the skillet to your crockpot insert. Repeat until all beef bits are browned.

To the beef in the crockpot, add the water/vinegar mixture and sprinkle on the peppers. Cover and cook on low setting of the crock for 7-8 hours, until beef is tender and can easily be shredded with a fork. Shred the meat, and serve on your favorite buns (we like ours lightly buttered and toasted under the boiler for added flavor

Homemade Veggie Burgers

Homemade Veggie Burgers

Last year when I was on one of America’s most popular weight loss plans, I was eating an enormous amount of soy burger patties, ones that had been canonized by the plan for only being two points each, because I could put them on a light English muffin (also two points!) and have a really low total point lunch with a green salad and fat free salad dressing. And looking  back on that, yeah, I lost 15 lbs and felt great about myself, but I was eating processed crap because whole foods don’t fit into the scale of their system very tightly. Being a Box Reader, I flip these items over now and look at the list of components that comprise the ‘food’, and, well, you know the rest.

I quit the cult and gained back half the weight from normal eating, which was to be expected. I also ditched eating all the ‘light’ and ’100 calorie’ and ‘thin’ versions of stuff because, well, yuck. I was eating so much of that stuff because I could and it made me feel like trash. The 100 calorie ‘cookie’ packs are supposed to be satisfying, but you either get 40% of a real cookie or you get a bunch of wafer like what-have-yous in a bag that are a far cry from the real thing. While no one made me eat these, the treats I normally would have gone for (peanut M&MS, you know I missed you) were verboten. Dismounting soapbox.

Disclaimer: if you follow or have followed this plan and have found success, I commend you. Making and achieving a weight loss goal is nothing to sneeze at, and you should be very proud of yourself. I know you worked hard on your journey. Keep up the good work! While I found success I didn’t like the direction I was steering on (and felt I was being steered in by the community of) this plan. By no means do I discount the system as a whole, it has given and will continue to give amazing results to many, it just wasn’t for me.

One thing I liked was the quick lunch options, though, and I like veggie burgers. Yes, carnivorous, bacon loving little me. I like veggie burgers. I like their flavors, and portability, and their ability to be reheated in the toaster oven at work. I decided I’d set out to make my own.

I cobbled together a bunch of different recipes to come up with this one, which is gluten-free and can be made egg-free (though you can use regular flour in place of the rice flour, and I use a regular egg). It’s got a handful of different ingredients, but you can riff and add just about any hearty veggie (I’d steer away from winter squashes but that’s about it), in place of the carrot, mushroom or bell pepper, or sub in different spices for the one listed (curry powder would be fun, no? Maybe some smoked paprika and chili powder and some black beans for a Mexican veggie burger, with corn subbed in for the carrot?). The nice thing is it makes a fat burger that bakes up well, can also be grilled, and can be cooked then frozen wrapped in wax paper to grab and take to work or a barbecue or what have you. There’s nothing not to love about these. I’m a Meat Lover (capital ML) and find these very satisfying. Give them a try!

Veggie Burger

Tempeh Burger Patties
Makes 8 patties

1 – 8 oz. package tempeh
2 T minced shallots
2 T minced onion
1/2 c. grated zucchini, grated on the small holes of your grater, then squeezed to emancipate excess water
1/3 c. grated carrot, also grated on the small holes of your grater
1/3 c. minced red, yellow or orange bell pepper
1/3 c. minced cremini mushroom
2 T corn or potato starch
1/4 c. brown rice or AP flour
3 T Italian seasoning blend
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (I love Worcestershire, personally)
1-2 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 t. Tamari or Soy sauce
1 egg or egg substitute to a one egg equivalent
Salt and pepper to taste

Open your tempeh pack and break the tempeh into pieces, placing them into the work bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped (4-6 pulses should do, keep an eye on it) and transfer into a large mixing bowl. No food processor? Finely chop the tempeh into bits and put it into a large mixing bowl.

Add the ingredients from the shallots through the egg to the bowl, stirring well to combine. At this point, taste and adjust your seasonings, does it need more soy, more Worcestershire, just salt and pepper? Don’t freak out about the raw egg, it’s just a tiny taste. I won’t tell. Adjust to your liking, and give another good stir.

Preheat oven to 350*F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Lightly oil a 1/3 c. dry measuring cup, and scoop and level out the mix in the measuring cup. Drop this onto the baking sheet, and pat to make a burger-sized patty, about 4-5″ in diameter. Repeat until all the mixture is gone, evenly spacing the burgers on the sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, remove burgers from the oven and flip over, then bake again for another 8-10 minutes until they are lightly browned and firm to the touch in the center of the patty.

Alternately, you can form these into patties and grill them. To do so, tear a bunch of squares of wax paper and form your patties, then stick them in the fridge for a couple of hours so they firm up. Preheat your grill to 350-400*F, and flip the burgers tempeh side down onto a lightly oiled grill, using the wax paper as your vehicle and removing it once you get the burger on the grate. Grill for 8-10 minutes per side until lightly browned and firm to the touch.

If you’re freezing these, cook by either of the means listed above and cool on a rack so they don’t sog out on the bottoms. Once cooked wrap individually in wax paper or freezer paper and store in a zip-top bag. You can reheat them in the microwave for a minute, in the toaster oven for 10ish minutes, or toss them in a lightly oiled pan to reheat.

Not Pad Thai

Not Pad Thai

Nick is out of town for a few days for work, which leaves me and Ted home alone. I love being home by myself, the freedom to eat popcorn and wine for dinner, watch back episodes of Mad Men one after another until I pass out, I can sleep in the middle of the bed like a boss (which I don’t – I try, I start there, but I migrate back to my side by morning.).

I miss my husband, though. It’s lonely. Ted misses him too. As I type this he wanders from room to room meowing, which he never does unless Nick is out of town (normally he sits right in front of me and yells at me). Poor cat slept by the front door for a spell last night, I think he was worried. Silly little thing.

One thing I do love about being home alone is making or not making special little things for just me for dinner, my little treat to myself and special way of taking care of me when I’m home alone. Maybe it’s a light bistro salad with just a poached egg and some bacony bits, or maybe a weird savory oatmeal that has appealed to me for a while that I can’t bring myself to make for dinner when Nick’s home (Look! Porridge! Fun, right?). And one thing I love that is healthy and filling and tasty is this Not Pad Thai I found at Can You Stay For Dinner. I’ve made this for Nick as well and he really likes it, it’s light but fills him up. I make a half order of the recipe below for just me often when he has plans in the evening. Light, fills a hankering for Thai food, and is laden with veggies. Lots of wins in a one-pan dinner. One-pan dinner, another win!

{Sidebar, I was chatting with one of my mothers in law a bit ago about a study she read that suggests we should be eating two pounds of vegetables a day. TWO POUNDS of vegetables a day. I wouldn’t have room for bacon if I ate that much vegetation. Just saying.}

This recipe goes lickety-split if you pick up a bag of angel hair shredded cabbage in the produce section. You can certainly grab a regular head of green cabbage, but the bags are even more convenient. While you’re there grab some mushrooms, if you don’t have any at home. You just need a few. If you feel like you need a bit more protein or are especially hungry, add some shredded cooked chicken or a few cooked shrimp to the mix along with the sauces and garlic.

Here it is, gently adjusted for even faster meal prep. Make it, eat it all, and go to bed skinny.

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Lightened up Pad Thai for Two
1 T. sesame oil
2 10-oz. bags of angel hair shredded cabbage
1 1/2 c. sliced mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce
2 t. brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 T fresh cilantro or Thai basil (or regular basil) (Or both cilantro AND basil, go crazy!)
2 large scallions, thinly sliced
Lime wedges and sriracha for serving
2 T. chopped dry roasted peanuts, also for serving

Set a large frying pan or wok over medium high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes, until crisp-tender.

Add mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.

Add garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar and stir well to combine.

Add eggs and stir constantly, scrambling them into the hot cabbage mixture.

Serve immediately topped with peanuts, cilantro/basil, scallions and sriracha.

 

Chicken Pho-Style Soup

Chicken Pho-Style Soup

Happy Day After Tax Day! I’ve found that many of us that wait until the last minute to file are either 1. lazy or 2. not expecting a refund and/or filing an extension. It always breaks my heart a little to see how much we actually made in a year, and stop to think of what we have to show for it. I’m a last minute tax filer, for reasons 1 and 2 alike.

for those feeling a bit lighter in the pocket after mailing the old 1040, I bring you a penny pinching post-Tax Day Soup. Hearty, comforting, tummy filling and healthy, inspired by a picture of a noodle bowl that a friend of mine took and shared the other day, which immediately made me sad that we were having roast chicken bistro salads with Basil Buttermilk Dressing that night! The pretzel rolls on the side made me a bit happier though, and the leftover chicken means easy dinner tonight!

Some may look at this recipe and think that it’s not exactly cheap, but I’m considering it from the standpoint that I have all of the spices and sauces in my pantry, and I only need the fresh ingredients. In order to not have to break the bank if we want something like this for dinner, I slowly stock things like fish sauce, hoisin, chili oil, sesame oil, star anise, etc., buying one or two at a time if they are on sale and keeping them for a day like this. It’s much easier on my bank account to buy them over time instead of spending a small fortune all at once. I also frequent the local Mexican markets for a lot of my spices, and go to places like Cost Plus for some of the exotic stuff that is costly in other outlets. It means I can have an outrageously well-stocked, multi-national pantry and not break the bank. Being able to cook fun, exotic things at home keeps us from going out more often. For a few extra dollars per week we end up saving a lot of money in the long run.

I’m calling this ‘Pho-Style’ because any time I’ve seen someone post a soup and call it Pho they get shredded for it not being authentic. So to spare my fragile ego I’m going to call it ‘Pho-Style.’ Be gentle with me. I know it’s not perfect and authentic and is probably missing something that makes it more pho-y, but absent a noodle joint in my little town it hits the spot.

Chicken Pho-Style Soup

Chicken Pho-Style Soup
Serves 2 very generously

6 cups chicken stock
2 T. fish sauce
2 t. brown sugar
4 whole cloves
2 star anise
1 small cinnamon stick, broken
1″ piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 bag shirataki noodles (find them in the refrigerator section of your grocery store)
1 t. canola or coconut oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
3 c. shredded cooked chicken breast
1 c. fresh bean sprouts
1 c. small mushrooms, quartered
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 c. thinly sliced basil
1/4 c.chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon soy sauce

For Serving:
1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup fresh basil sprigs
Lime wedges
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
Hoisin sauce and Sriracha sauce

Tie up the cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves in a small piece of cheesecloth or a mesh tea strainer, and set aside.

In a 4 quart soup pot, heat the 1 t. of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute 3-4 minutes. Pour chicken stock into the same pot, add in the spice bag/ball. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about a half an hour. Weed out the spice bag/ball.

Meanwhile, drain, rinse and parboil noodles according to package directions and set aside.

Add the onion and mushrooms back to the pot, along with the noodles, chicken, sprouts, green onions, basil, cilantro and soy sauce. Bring to a boil for 5-6 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Dish up into two bowls, and top to taste with more cilantro, basil, jalapeno/serrano, a squeeze of lime, and a dab of hoisin and/or sriracha.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken and Vegetables

Moroccan Spiced Chicken and Vegetables

We eat a large amount of chicken in this house, in many forms. Baked, grilled, slow cooked and shredded, in stir fries, as tacos, in pasta, on salads, on sandwiches. You name it. It’s a good, cheap protein, I get whole organic free rangers and stock up on parts and pieces and the Busy Housewife’s Best Friend, the boneless skinless chicken breast, when they are on sale and freeze them in small or individual portions for quick thawing and use.

I get sick of the same old standbys, though, and am constantly trolling the web and my copious number of delivered periodicals for something new and exciting in the world of poultry. I do a lot of marinading and grilling, we roast whole birds a lot, and there’s almost always a lemon involved in either of these. Booooring.

When my new magazines arrived a week or two ago, I got my requsite glass of wine and hunkered down for some digging and drooling and dog-earing of pages. I love when my magazines deliver each month, it’s one of my favorite little self-indulgences. When I was young and quite broke and could ill-afford a night out, I would go to the grocery store and treat myself to a magazine and microwave popcorn and would entertain myself for hours.

Anyway, I digress. I happened upon this recipe and was so excited that I had the spices and some chicken in the freezer, and it sounded perfectly aromatic and yummy and most of all, healthy, with a big fat pile of veggies and some lemon-scented quinoa on the side.

Fast forward to today when I want to share the recipe with you, and damn if I can’t find the magazine it came out of. I have more than a few issues in the pile, and cannot for the life of me remember which one it was in. I guess it’s OK? I only used it as a guideline anyway, but I like to credit my inspiration. Luckily this will eat at me until I find it later this weekend, and I’ll drop in the credit then.

I made mine with bone-in chicken thighs and it was so yummy and juicy, all warm spices and succulent chicken. I’m generally a white meat chicken kind of girl, but roasted or grilled thighs are awesome. To lighten the dish a bit next time I’ll pull the skin off of my portion of chicken and then coat with the spices, as I peeled the crispy bits off and gave them to Nick this time around and my spice coating went with it. Le sigh.

I threw in a handful of Brussels sprouts with mine, but it was a decidedly odd choice as they are not Moroccan and didn’t exactly fit into the whole of the dish. But they needed using before composting in the crisper, and I didn’t want to dirty another dish, so into the pot they went. Next time I think I’ll double the carrots or maybe cube up some sweet potato.

We decided these would be equally yummy with the spice rub applied and then grilled, instead of pan roasted, when the weather gets a bit warmer. Adding that bit of smokiness to the exotic spice blend would be, in a word, amazing.

Moroccan Chicken

Moroccan Chicken and Vegetables
Serves 4

4 bone-in chicken thighs
1/2 t. each: cinnamon, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika
3/4 t. salt
2 t. olive oil, divided
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias into 1″ pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 c. dried figs, sliced in half or quarters if large
Lemon-Scented Quinoa, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 400*F. In a medium bowl, combine the spices and 1/2 t. of salt. Add chicken to the bowl, drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil, and rub the spices into the chicken well.

Heat a large oven proof skillet over medium high heat and add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Place chicken skin side down in the pan and sear until golden, 3-5 minutes. Flip the chicken and brown the back side. Remove to a plate, and add the carrots and onions to the pan, sauteeing until the onions start to loosen up and cook a bit, 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle in figs, and add the chicken back to the pan, skin side up and on top of the carrot/onion mixture. Put into preheated oven and cook until chicken is done or a thermometer inserted into it registers 170*F, 20-25 minutes. Serve with Lemon-Scented Quinoa.

Lemon-Scented Quinoa

1/2 c. red or white quinoa, rinsed if it needs it
1 1/2 c. water
Zest from 1 lemon (try to get organic, so you aren’t eating the wax they put on conventional lemons)

Bring water up to a boil in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Pour in quinoa, stir, lower heat and simmer without peeking for 15 minutes. Add in lemon zest, stir gently, and allow quinoa to sit for 5-10 more minutes or until all water is absorbed. Serve. Leftovers make a great lunch salad with a handful of crunchy veggies and /or nuts and some dried cranberries.

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara and Meatballs

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara and Meatballs

In my imagination, I live in a world chock full of soft cheese mountains, crusty baguette trees with fluffy cupcake tuffetts beneath them to rest upon, rivers that run with wine and babbling brooks bubbling over with beer. The fields are waving stalks of pasta with herds of chocolate bunnies roaming the range, feasting on Cadbury eggs and full-fat yogurt in the springtime sun. The streets are paved with bricks of butter, lined by houses made of sourdough toast, with fountains of olive oil dotting the town square, and everyone is merry and bright. Sure, there are raspberry and strawberry patches and perennially ripe peach orchards and melon fields too, but they don’t overrun the baguette forests.

I could easily live and die outrageously overweight for my love of food and cooking with nothing stopping but my heart.

Unfortunately, my doctor doesn’t agree. Neither does my scale. My wardrobe is in cahoots with them both. And while I’m not generally the type to really diet (even though I am right now and NOT LOVING IT), most of us could stand to eat a bit lighter (or at least in some form of modest moderation) more often.

Spaghetti Squash

This is where my new recipe was born. For love of pasta soaked with spaghetti sauce, topped with a mountain of freshly grated parm, and a slab of garlic bread to wipe the bowl (long live wipeable carbs!). But oh, for want of skinnier jeans, a big ass bowl of pasta just can’t be eaten some days, much less my beef-and-pork-sausage laden sauce that smothers it. The cheese can stay, but maybe in less mountain-like quantities.

And so I bring you spaghetti squash and marinara. It’s a stalwart substitute for pasta, when our jeans are so skinny they belong on someone else. Not that pasta doesn’t have a place in a daily diet, and we do still eat it, but this one is a cheerful healthy sub when you’re counting calories or points. And bonus? It’s so packed with veggies that you don’t even have to make a salad if you’re feeling lazy, though it’s a nice cool contrast on the side.

Spaghetti Squash Marinara

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara and Meatballs

Serves 4 generously

1 2-3 lb. spaghetti squash
2 t. olive oil
½ a yellow onion, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
3 T. tomato paste
4 Turkey Hot Italian Sausages (you can sub sweet mild if you’d like)
1 28 oz. can of tomato puree
1/4 c. red wine
2 T. Italian Seasoning Blend (or more/less to taste, I like mine really spiced up)
1 California bay leaf
1/4 t. red chile flakes (go ahead and omit if you’re not a spicy sauce kind of person)
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly grate parmeggiano reggiano, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Slice the spaghetti squash from end to end (root to flower) and remove the seeds, then lay face down on a foil lined sheet pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a knife easily pierces the flesh when poked from the outside. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

While the squash is cooking and cooling, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook until translucent. Add in the garlic and sauté for a half a minute or until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine with the onion and garlic. Take each sausage and remove the casing, breaking each into roughly 6 equal pieces. Roll each of the little pieces into a rough ball with your hands and set in the pan with the onion/garlic mixture and brown on all sides. Repeat with remaining sausage.

When meatballs are browned, push them to the edges of the pan and pour the tomato puree into the center. Add in the red wine, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, chile flakes and sugar, and stir together. Once combined push the meatballs into the sauce, distributing somewhat evenly, and clap a lid on the top of the pan. Turn the heat town to medium low, and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking.

To serve, flip over the spaghetti squash and using a fork scrape out all of the guts into a bowl (it will shred into spaghetti-like strings). For each serving, pile up a giant mound of spaghetti squash, and top each serving with 6 of the meatballs. Ladle over as much sauce as you can handle, and grate on some fresh parmesan (just a tablespoon or so, don’t get crazy). Or, serve family style and put the squash/meatballs/sauce on a platter and let folks serve themselves. Enjoy thoroughly and go to bed skinny.

Beet and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Rosemary Browned Butter

Beet and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Rosemary Browned Butter

Ah, Valentines’s Day. Loved my many, loathed by many. It’s a spark of love in the middle of an otherwise dark and dreary month. Whether you spend it with your love, in the presence of those you love, a handful of giggling girlfriends, or with your lovely self, it’s a day to express those glittery, pink and red feelings.

And so I bring you these festive little ravioli. Tasty little morsels in a sweet little package that just shouts Valentine’s. If you have a small heart shaped cookie cutter here’s a place to use it, if not don’t fret, ravioli are perfect in any shape they come in. No fancy tools required here.

They don’t have to be hard, either. That’s right, you out there, the one who’s thinking I must be completely nuts for thinking anyone with a job is going to make ravioli on a weeknight. I may be nuts but you can truly do this on a weeknight. The secret? Wonton or gyoza wrappers. Available in your grocer’s refrigerated aisle (in mine, near the tofu products), they make quick work of these. You can use gyoza wrappers (which are a bit smaller but you can still use a cute cutter), round gyoza wrappers, or the larger egg roll wrappers if you’d like to cut out larger shapes. They work just like fresh pasta sheets (and in fact ARE fresh pasta sheets), and take all of the work out of making pasta.

Fresh Pasta

In fact I did make my pasta for these ravs, but up until I got a pasta rolling machine I didn’t bother to try. You just can’t get the same silky, soft, and evenly thin results with your dough if you use a rolling pin. I’ve made many ravioli with fillings as wide as my dreams with gyoza wrappers, and very few were any the wiser. For purposes of this application, go grab your gyoza wrappers and your Valentine and get to work.

Cooking together is fun and can be very sexy. The tactile work of assembling something like this, getting your hands in it and building your filling, using your damp fingers to brush water around the edges of your pasta to seal it, feeling the filled nubs to make sure there aren’t any air pockets that will burst the packets in the boiling process, it’s all very sensual. And knowing, when you sit down together for dinner, that you made this little treat with each other and your own two hands, is a sexy thing.

For those who don’t cook, this is something so simple that you can do on your own that will impress the pants off of your Valentine. (Pun intended)

A few of these tasty ravioli with a quick browned butter drizzle, a light salad with quick vinaigrette (which I’ll give you another day this week), and a nice loaf of crusty bread and even dessert from your favorite local bakery(ies), and you have a great dinner for two or more. This recipe makes a bunch of pasta, and they freeze beautifully for later use.

Beet and Goat Cheese Ravoili
Makes lots, be prepared to freeze

1 package of gyoza wrappers (round or square, your choice)
1 large red beet (skip the nasty canned ones)
Zest of half of a lemon, about 1/4 teaspoon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 4 0z. log of goat cheese (don’t like goat cheese? Use half of a brick of cream cheese, or about a half cup of good ricotta)

You’ll also need:
A small bowl of water, for sealing
Flour for dusting your work surface
A sheet pan to rest your finished pasta on
A 2″ heart shaped cookie cutter, optional

Preheat your oven to 400*F. Wash and dry your beet, wrap it in foil, and place it in the oven. Cook until a knife slipped into the side of the package (no need to unwrap, just stab it) slides in easily, about an hour. Remove beet to counter and gently unwrap, allow to cool, Can be done a couple of days ahead, cool beet completely and refrigerate.

When cool enough to handle, put on a pair of disposable gloves or a couple of plastic bags on your hands and peel the beet – the skin should slip right off. Discard the skin and using a box grater, grate the beet into a bowl. You’re gloving up because otherwise you’ll have purple hands forever. :) Sprinkle the lemon zest over and combine, adding a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

In another bowl, crumble up the goat cheese log so it’s easier to handle. Fill a small bowl with water and get your flour out. Sprinkle a light dusting of flour on your cookie sheet and your work surface, I use a cutting board and usually a piece or two of wax paper for easier clean up – I forgot the wax paper this time around.

Lay out a few of your gyoza wrappers, 6-8, and keep the rest in the package or between the layers of a damp paper towel. Pasta sheets dry out quickly and become difficult to work with. Now, you have a decision to make: large or small ravioli? Large ones will have the filling in the center and another sheet of pasta placed on top of the filling, small will have the filling placed just off-center and be folded over to create the ravioli. Choice is yours, you can flip for it.

if you decide to make hearts, cut out your shapes and toss the scraps, you’re going to be making larger ravioli. I used a 2″ cutter for my hearts

Beet and goat cheese ravs

Now. If you’re making large ravioli, put a scant half teaspoon of beet and scant half teaspoon of goat cheese in the middle of the pasta. Dip a finger in the water bowl, run your finger around the edge of the pasta sheet, and lay another on top of the filling. Seal the pasta around the edges, trying to get as much air out of the pocket as possible. It takes a couple of tries to get the feel for it, and even the pros have a few that get air in them and burst when boiled. Don’t stress about it.

Beet & Goat Cheese Ravioli

If you’re making small, fold over ravioli, place a scant quarter teaspoon of beet and goat cheese, respectively, just off-center of the pasta sheet. Using your finger, dampen half of the pasta, fold over and try to get as much air out as possible. Set the pasta on the prepared baking sheet as you finish them. Repeat with remaining filling and sheets until finished.

Pasta may be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, for two days, or frozen for a month. Freeze the pasta on the sheet pan, and when solid transfer to a freezer bag.

Freezing Ravioli

To cook, bring a pot of salted water just to a boil. Slip the ravioli in gently (if frozen no need to defrost, just add 3-4 minutes of cooking time) and boil for 3-4 minutes. Drain and serve in large flat bowls with a drizzle of Rosemary Browned Butter.

Rosemary Browned Butter
Serves 2, can be doubled infinitely

4 T. butter
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary
2 t. grated grana padano or parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides and butter begins to turn brown. Stir in sage and cook, stirring, until sage is crisp and butter is golden brown. Drizzle over ravioli, dust each plate with 1 t. of grated cheese, and serve.

For the Love of Leftovers

For the Love of Leftovers

I read a book last week called An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. If you haven’t read this book, run out and get it, it’s a game-changer. I’ve always considered myself to be a  thrifty and frugal cook, but this book brought me up to a whole new level. I mean, I make chicken stock from my clean-picked birds, but hadn’t thought about saving the skins and ends from onions, scraps and tops of carrots and ends and tops of celery to make my stock with, I always start with whole vegetables that I go out and buy. I’m familiar with the adage Waste Not Want Not, but this, this was different. Her creative use of what’s left and what most people think of as trash is outrageously amazing. We’re talking about saving artichoke cooking water to be the basis of soup, here. Stuff like this was head-slapping realization for me. Why not? As such, I’m rereading the book this week, a bit more slowly, and taking notes. In a time when we should all be a bit more cautious with our spending, I urge you to read her book.

And beyond her uses of these cast-away items, her description of food, how it should taste, her use of salt, her use of olive oil, her encouragement of nibbling and savoring, was, in a word, beautiful. It spoke to my food obsessed soul. Yes.

In reading this book, it’s changed my view of leftovers yet again. I’m pretty good about not throwing away food, but will admit my guilt about the things that compost in the vegetable bins (whoever named them the Crisper Drawers was either a liar or horribly misinformed). Now, though, with some of the new things I learned in this book, I’m armed with some new game plans for lifeless lettuce and dying cucumbers. Not that dinner last night contained either of these things. It did make use of some rather morose looking bell peppers, though.

The weather took a turn toward cooler this week, which I’ll be honest with you is fine by me. After last week’s 100+ degree blitz for more than a couple of days, I’ll take some overcast drizzly mornings, 70 degree afternoons, and cool evenings. Last night I almost wanted to put another blanket on the bed, it was so chilly! (Un)Luckily for me, the cat decided he needed to sleep on top of my feet all night long (no matter where I put them), so I had toasty toes without getting out a blanket. He’s such a needy little beast sometimes.

And with the turn in the weather, my appetite took a turn toward comfort. Last week I could hardly bear to turn on the stove, this week I made Chicken and Rice Soup for dinner on Monday. My mom thought I was crazy but it just sounded so good. I got myself a double-coupon deep discount organic chicken on Saturday (that cost me less than $5 for a 6.5 pound bird), and though I didn’t need one I couldn’t pass up the price. A whole chicken is a poor housewife’s savior if she’s a crafty girl, and can be made into not just one but upward of 4 dinners. Warm chicken bistro salads one night, another night he was Chicken and Rice Soup, last night he was pasta, and today he’ll be chicken stock to re-up my freezer coffers. Chicken stock means polenta, quick soup, and risotto base. I blast through a ton of it any given week and making it is a skill that I’m happy to have.

For those of you freaking out that it’s Friday and that chicken was just used up last night, well, calm down. The mystical powers of refrigeration and high heat made it perfectly safe to eat. I assure you.

And oh, that pasta. Sometimes a girl has to dispatch with the healthy and just have creamy pasta for dinner. On the whole the husband and I eat pretty healthy, but you have to give in every now and again. This pasta jogs somewhere in between. And for those of you who don’t think they like leftovers, I promise you, this pasta will change your tune. You see, the thing about leftovers is that they just need a little finesse to turn them into something else. This isn’t Saturday’s Chicken, this is Thursday’s Pasta.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
Serves 8 (easily divides in half)

1 lb. short pasta (penne, spirals, something that will hold the sauce in. I used gluten free brown rice penne.)
3 strips of thick cut bacon
1 t. butter
2 c. chopped bell pepper, whatever colors your family likes (no bell pepper? Use whatever is about to die in your ‘crisper’ drawer)
1 c. chopped onion
3 c. cooked, shredded chicken (we used white and dark meat, the choice is yours)
½ c. low fat buttermilk
½ c. sour cream or mayonnaise (use light or fat free if you’d like, I used good ol’ full fat mayonnaise because it’s what I had)
½ t. dry mustard
½ t. dried oregano
½ t. dried basil
¾ t. dried dill
¼ t. salt
¼ t. black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar or gruyere cheese
½ c. minced green onions
½ c. bread crumbs

In a large bowl, combine buttermilk through minced garlic, mixing well to combine, and set aside. Boil pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400*F.

In a medium skillet, cook bacon until very crisp, drain and crumble into bits. Drain all but 1 t. of the bacon drippings, add in butter. Sautee’ peppers and onions in skillet over medium heat until cooked and onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Add in chicken and warm through.

Add pasta, chicken mixture, and bacon to the buttermilk mixture, stir together well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if desired. Pour all in to a 13×9” oven safe baking dish (if you’re halving the recipe, put it in your favorite 2 quart baking dish). Top with cheese, green onions, and bread crumbs. Bake uncovered at 400*F for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and dish is heated through. To crisp breadcrumbs, run the dish under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, if desired.

Waffling

Waffling

We were given a waffle iron as a wedding gift that hasn’t seen many daylight hours, to our dismay. Not that we aren’t waffle people, but our old kitchen was so cramped, had so little counter space, and such an INCREDIBLE LACK of outlets (literally, one in the whole kitchen other than what the fridge and the oven were plugged in to) that it just didn’t come out a whole lot. A waffle iron is one of those appliances that you either use every weekend like clockwork or once in a blue moon when the mood strikes and you have house guests and buttermilk laying around. I also have yet to find a couples-friendly waffle recipe that only makes 2 or 3 of them. Why must all recipes make enough waffles for an entire classroom?

I have the tendency to sit down and have a drink with a good friend of ours and talk food. All things food. He and I talk about flavors and combinations of textures and cooking styles, each creation better than the next. And of course this always happens when we’re out camping, or at the pub, or somewhere that making these dreams come true isn’t going to happen. And far be it from either of us to write down these food-soaked dreams. We’ve had a couple of conversations about non-traditional waffles that leave us (and anyone in ear shot) salivating but have yet to make any of them come true. Until tonight.

I was inspired by this recipe but out of pure want for a healthier waffle, I smashed together this recipe and this recipe and topped the whole thing with a fried egg to make what I present to you below. We made these guys for dinner, but they would be equally appropriate and tasty for brunch or lunch as well. And all the while, I was dreaming of yet another waffle dinner that is going to make an appearance someday very, very soon.

Ham and Cheddar Waffles with Eggs

Made 7 in my waffle iron (will depend on the size of your waffler)

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or your favorite GF flour mix)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoons honey
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. sliced green onions
3 T. shredded fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 oz. thinly sliced ham, minced

Stir together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir together egg and next 3 ingredients; add to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Add in cheddar cheese, green onions, basil and corn. Preheat your waffle iron, and preheat your oven to 275*F (to hold the waffles at temp).

If your waffle iron tends to stick, give it a pre-spray of olive oil or canola oil cooking spray. Pour appropriate amount of batter in to your preheated waffle iron (usually 1/2 to 3/4 c. per waffle), sprinkle on a scant 2 T. of ham bits. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until your waffle iron tells you it’s done (mine is dummy-proof and beeps at me when the waffle is finished). Transfer to a foil- or silpat-lined baking sheet in the oven.

In your favorite skillet, fry 1-2 eggs per person until desired doneness (I like mine over easy, Nick likes his closer to over medium). Place a waffle on a plate, top with egg(s), and finish with hot sauce, maple syrup, honey and/or sour cream and a crack of black pepper. Devour with reckless abandon.

Twofer: Honey-Gingered Pork Tenderloin

Twofer: Honey-Gingered Pork Tenderloin

It can be cumbersome coming up with a dinner idea some nights. I have a handful of ‘standards’ that I can whip up in a moment’s notice but there are evenings when even that fails me because I just don’t want to eat it. It’s hard for me to put my heart into something that I know I don’t want to eat, even if it is one of my favorites. These uninspired nights generally end up being bacon and egg nights, or even (eeek) ramen and toast nights. Don’t judge. Having the foresight to think up two dinners and only have to do the real cooking once is a life-saver. Most of those types of dinners around our house come from the Sunday Night Chicken Roast, but who’s roasting a bird when it’s a million degrees outside? Certainly not I, even with air conditioning. And to be honest, I’m kind of chickened out these days, we eat a lot of it.

Pork tenderloins aren’t something that make regular appearances at our house. The only pork persuasion  items that I generally buy with any sort of frequency are bacon and Italian sausage, and the occasional pork shoulder for a dinner party or carnitas. Sometimes I’ll buy a ham when they’re on sale around the holidays that warrant their immediate consumption. I sometimes get some fat pork chops when I’m blue and need gravy. I grabbed a couple tenderloins and froze them last week but only because they were fire-sale priced and really make for a fast dinner, as they cook in no time flat.

I managed to come up with a new twofer this week, which I’m a bit proud of. Night 1 was this Honey-Gingered pork tenderloin, with brown rice and foil-roasted green beans.  To make this a twofer, save about 1/4 of the pork tenderloin, and make double the amount of rice that you will need for dinner and save it for Night 2 Pork Fried Rice later in the week when you don’t feel like thinking up dinner (recipe to follow later this week).

I only made one pork tenderloin and used the entire amount of marinade. If you’re making two tenderloins like the recipe calls for, double the marinade so you have enough to boil down for sauce for dinner later in the week. The marinade was probably one of the best I’ve ever had, I didn’t even get to marinate it the entire time, either. I can only imagine how good it would have been if I pulled my life together and made it the night before like the recipe said! Also, for those who don’t eat pork, this would be amazing with turkey ‘tenderloins’, turkey breast or chicken breast.

Honey-Gingered Pork Tenderloins
Adapted from Gourmet magazine

Two 3/4-pound pork tenderloins (I only used one)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce (or tamari)
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh gingerroot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Pat pork dry and arrange in a shallow dish. In a bowl whisk together all remaining ingredients and pour marinade over pork. Turn pork to coat well. Chill pork, covered, turning it once or twice, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.

Prepare grill.

Remove pork from marinade, reserving marinade, and arrange on a lightly oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals (or over medium high heat on a gas grill). Grill pork, basting with reserved marinade and turning it every 5 minutes, 15 minutes total. Continue to cook pork, turning it every 5 minutes, until a thermometer diagonally inserted 2 inches into center of tenderloin registers 155°F., about 10 minutes more. Let pork stand 5 minutes before thinly slicing.

For Sauce: Save the left over marinade! Pour into a saucepan, add 1/2 c. water, bring up to a boil and reduce the whole mixture by half. Drizzle a little over the sliced pork for tonight’s dinner, and save the rest for dinner later in the week.

Next up: Pork Fried Rice