Sunday, December 13, 2009

Brother Bandera's Italian Bread

A new one from The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking. I was looking for a good italian bread for this coming week since I have a lot of soups on the menu and I wanted one that didn't require a 24-hour slow rise in the fridge.

This one was a workout to knead! The dough ends up being very dry but the resulting loaves were unbelievably tender.

Brother Bandera's Italian Bread

2 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
2 cups hot water
4 tsp salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil
8 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 1/2 cup whole wheat and 6 1/2 cups all-purpose)

Combine the yeast, honey, water and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir until the yeast and salt are dissolved. Stir in 1/4 cup of oil. Beat 10 minutes, gradually adding in about 6 cups of flour until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary to prevent stickiness.

Lightly grease a large bowl with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk - about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough. Turn out again and knead gently for 2 minutes. Divide into 3 balls and flatten each ball with a rolling pin into a rectangle approximately 10 x 12 inches. Roll each rectangle into a torpedo shape. Start from the longer side of the rectangle and fold in approximately 1/3 of the dough, pinching along the seam to seal and remove any air spaces. Fold the remaining 1/3 piece of dough over, pinching along the seam again, rolling it back and forth a little to be certain. Fold the ends under towards the seam side and pinch closed.

Grease two baking sheets. Place the loaves on the baking sheets, seams and tuck sides down. Make three 1-inch-deep diagonal slashes evenly spaced along the loaf. Mist with water until they are thoroughly damp. Cover with a lightly damp tea towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Mist the bread again. Place in a cold oven set at 375º. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. During the baking, spray the loaves a couple more times - at the 10-minute mark and the 15 -minute mark. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Beef Stock

I've been making my own chicken and turkey stock for a couple years now. It's unbelievably tasty and easy to do.

This is my first time at beef stock. I had some leftover beef rib bones from a standing rib roast. I added a couple of neck bones to round out the amount. Since the beef bones were already well roasted, I did not roast them a 2nd time. If the bones you pick up are raw, roast them with the vegetables first and then add them to the stock pot.

Beef Stock

3 lbs beef bones
2 medium onions, quartered, skins on
2 large carrot sticks, cut into 3" pieces
2 celery sticks, cut into 3" pieces
1 leek, cut into large pieces
3 dehydrated tomato halves
1 bouquet garni
16 cups of water

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer for 8 hours, skimming off foam as it appears and adding water as necessary.

Remove from heat. Remove and discard solids. If desired, run thru a fat separator to skim off uncessesary fat. Let cool. Remove any additional fat that appears. Store in air-tight containers (I'm a big fan of the Ziploc Twist n' Loc 4 cup ones) overnight in the refrigerator.

Stock will keep in the fridge for a week or so and frozen indefinitely.

Healthy Granola

This is an oldie but goodie from my very first cookbook - The Healthy College Cookbook. Over the years I've modified it (surprised?) and, this last time around, I gave it an interesting twist - making a reduction of the barley malt to substitute for the corn syrup.

Healthy Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped almonds
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp molasses
1/3 cup hot (but not boiling) water
1/4 cup barley malt

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, seeds and nuts.

In a 2-cup, microwave proof measuring cup, combine the hot water and barley malt. Stir until dissolved. Place in the microwave and cook on high about 3 minutes - be careful to not boil over. Stir, then heat another 3 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup. In a separate bowl, combine the malt mixture with the butter, vegetable oil and molasses, stirring until well combined. Pour onto the oat mixture and stir until well coated.

Spread the mixture on a shallow baking pan. Bake about 15 minutes, stirring periodically, until it's dry.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


This recipe comes courtesy of that bastion of authentic Indian cuisine - The Joy of Cooking. It actually turned out fairly well, I think. Personally I would have liked to have a longer rise time but I started it at 8:30pm so we could have it with Curried Chickpeas with Veggies the next day.

This was an easy one to mix by hand rather than hauling out the KitchenAid. If you've never made bread with just a bowl and wooden spoon, this would be the place to start. The other thing I liked about this recipe is it re-heated well the next day when wrapped in a slightly moist paper towel.


2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast

3/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon water, as needed

Optional garnish - minced scallions, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced garlic....

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix by hand until a soft ball of dough is formed. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn it once to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 1 1/2 hours.

Place a pizza or baking stone in the oven. Preheat the oven to 475°F.

Punch down the dough and divide equally into 4 pieces. Roll into balls, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll out each ball of dough on a floured surface to an oval, 1/4 inch thick. Brush the tops with melted butter. If desired, sprinkle garnish on top.

Place as many dough ovals as will fit without touching each other directly on the baking stone or sheet and bake until each oval is puffy and just beginning to turn golden, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven. Serve warm.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

So, following up on the previous post, yesterday we had the leftovers of the Sauteed Chicken with Mixed Veggies & Wild Rice turned into soup. The only thing we had left over was the sauteed chicken & veggies, so you have to add extra wild rice to the dish. I also chopped up a few extra carrots and celery sticks to add in. I also had homemade chicken stock on hand, which I think helped add a depth of flavor.

As predicted, it was faaaaaaaaaabulous. Rich and hearty and perfect for a blustery fall day. Plus, is there anything easier than throwing a bunch of ingredients into a crockpot and letting it cook all day? I think not.

Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

Leftover Sauteed Chicken with Mixed Veggies
3/4 cup wild rice, uncooked
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
garlic powder
ginger powder

Combine all ingredients in the crockpot (herbs and spices to taste). Set crockpot on low and let cook 8 hours or until rice is done. Taste; adjust seasoning as needed. Serve piping hot.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sauteed Chicken with Mixed Veggies & Wild Rice

My general rule of thumb for this blog is that I don't post recipes that I am not satisfied with.

I'm breaking that rule right now.

Last night's dinner was supposed to be Chicken & Barley Stew. I had been fairly confident we had barley on hand when I left that morning, so I didn't check the pantry. Turns out we didn't have any. So I had to scramble.

The result wasn't BAD, it just wasn't great. The timing was off with the cooking because the rice takes 45 minutes, so the chicken was a bit dry and there wasn't much of a sauce/gravy. The flavors were good, I just failed on execution.

While discussing the meal with The Spouse, I had a brain wave that the leftovers - of which there were a lot of. The chicken breasts were HUGE - would make a fabulous soup. That's the reason I'm posting this - to set up the tasty soup we're having tonight.

Sauteed Chicken with Mixed Veggies & Wild Rice

1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/4 cup water

1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped up into bite-size pieces
1 medium red onion, diced
1 large package frozen mixed vegetables
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp poultry seasoning
¼ tsp black pepper

In a small sauce pan combine the wild rice and water. Bring to a boil, stir once. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for 45 minutes or until rice is done. Let sit 5 minutes.

While rice is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sautee about 5 minutes. Add in chicken and sautee, stirring occasionally, until mostly cooked thru, about 8-10 minutes. Add in frozen veggies, stir and cover. Let cook until veggies are warmed thru, about 5 minutes.

Plate chicken & vegetable mixture over wild rice.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Swedish Rye Bread

I've been wanting to try this recipe for a while but never have rye flour on hand.

The original recipe, from The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking, called for 1/2 cup molasses. I don't have it on hand and didn't want to go buy a bottle just for this recipe. Strangely enough, The Spouse (who has been trying his hand at brewing beer) brought home a large bag of barley malt. So I made the executive decision to try subbing the barley for the molasses. I think it made for a faster rise time for the sponge (either that or the fact that my stove has been running for hours on other projects) and the initial rise, so that's something to be aware of. I listed the times I used for the bread in the recipe below.

Swedish Rye Bread

1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water, divided
1 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup barley malt
1/4 cup organic sugar
5 cups rye flour, divided
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp salt
1 cup unbleached flour

To make the sponge:
Combine the scalded milk, barley and sugar, stirring until dissolved. Let cool to lukewarm.

Combine the yeast and 1/2 cup of the warm water in a very large bowl. Stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the milk mixture and remaining 1 1/2 cups of water. Gradually add 2 1/2 cups of the rye flour and beat for 3 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk - about 2 hours.

To make the bread:
Add the butter, caraway seeds and salt to the sponge. Beat vigorously, gradually adding all the unbleached flour and enough of the rye flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bow - about 10 minutes.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary to prevent stickiness.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk - about 1 hour.

Grease two loaf pans. Punch dough down and add to loaf pans. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375. Place pans in the oven and bake 45 minutes or until done. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cranberry-Orange-Ginger Muffins

The Spouse went for a run this morning so I thought I'd make a nice breakfast for when he got back. I pulled up this recipe and thought "Perfect!"

Except I only had 1 cup white flour, no orange to zest, no walnuts and no cooking spray. Clearly I need to go to the store today.

So, what follows is a slightly modified, perhaps healthier(?) version of what I started with.

Cranberry-Orange-Ginger Muffins

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cranberries, drained, juice reserved
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 tbsp butter for greasing

Preheat oven to 400°.

Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups; level with a knife. Set aside 1 tablespoon sugar. Combine flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture.

Combine orange juice, reserved cranberry juice, oil, egg and ginger in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in cranberries and walnuts.

Lightly grease muffin tin with butter; spoon in the batter. Sprinkle evenly with reserved sugar. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until the muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Carefully remove each muffin; place on a wire rack.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Zinfandel-Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta

Fall is here. The last two mornings we've woken up to frost on the grass and below freezing temps. The garden is pretty much officially done as a result - the collards can stand the freezing temps (if anything, they help improve them), but the rest is either compost or needs to be brought in soon.

So, in honor of fall, we had a tasty, hearty meal - braised country-style ribs finished in the crockpot.

This was also my first attempt at homemade polenta, which was fabulous. A bit fussy, what with the constant stirring, but I see much potential in the future.

Zinfandel-Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta

4 country-style pork ribs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon each of chopped parsley, oregano and rosemary
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups Zinfandel
3/4 cup beef broth
Creamy Polenta

Season the ribs with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the herbs.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a medium nonreactive roasting pan. Working in two batches, add the ribs to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, turning a few times, until richly browned, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer the ribs to the crockpot.

Add the onion, carrot and celery to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and beef broth and boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Pour the liquid and vegetables over the ribs. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours until the meat is very tender.

Transfer the ribs to a plate. Run the braising liquid thru a fat separator, reserving the vegetables. Transfer the liquid to a medium skillet and boil over high heat until reduced to 2 cups, about 3 minutes; add vegetables back in. Plate the polenta, add one rib per plate, and spoon sauce and vegetables over the ribs and polenta. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing: we had a merlot/malbec blend with this.

Creamy Polenta

2 tbsp butter
1 large shallot, minced
3 cups water
1 cup corn meal
1 cup water
2 tbsp mozzarella cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add in butter and swirl pan until melted. Add shallot and sautee until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil.

Combine 1 cup water and corn meal. Gradually add to boiling water; reduce heat to low. Stir constantly for 20-25 minutes until thickened and meal pulls away from the side of the pan when stirred. Add in salt to taste. Stir in mozzarella cheese; remove from heat. Plate.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Herb Focaccia

This is another recipe from the Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking, only modified so there's no hand-kneading. Some days I just like to let the Kitchen-Aid take care of it.

Herb Focaccia

2 tbsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
various dried herbs (I used freshly dried oregano and rosemary from the garden)

Combine the yeast and water in a small bowl, stirring until yeast is dissolved. set aside for 5 minutes.

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle of the flour. Pour yeast mixture into well and beat gently until incorporated into flour. Remove bowl from mixer. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm, draft-free place for 20 minutes.

Punch down dough. Replace bowl in mixer and beat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk - 1-2 hours. Punch down dough. Replace in mixing bowl and gently beat in olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs.

Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Turn dough out onto baking sheet and knead out to corners of the sheet until about 1/4" thick. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled in bulk - about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prick the surface with a fork and sprinkle with salt and pepper and more herbs. Bake for 10 minutes and reduce the oven temperature to 375. Bake another 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Autumn Harvest

Things in our household are very crazy right now. It's autumn, which means, aside from our full-time jobs, we're focused with harvesting the garden and putting food aside, which tends to translate to little time for blogging. I do have several new recipes - a coffee-marinated pork loin, herb foccacia, a mexican-style white-bean soup and more, so stay tuned! I promise to try and get them posted over the next few days.

But until I can get to writing all that up, here's a harvest poem. Happy fall!

"Smoke hangs like haze over harvested fields,
The gold of stubble, the brown of turned earth
And you walk under the red light of fall
The scent of fallen apples, the dust of threshed grain
The sharp, gentle chill of fall.
Here as we move into the shadows of autumn
The night that brings the morning of spring"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Italian Shredded Beef Sandwiches

I make a MEAN BBQ Beef Sandwich. Yesterday I came up with this variation on that recipe. You could add in some onions and peppers to the crockpot (or sautee them up separate). We topped them with swiss cheese. Yum.

Italian Shredded Beef Sandwiches

1 cup beef broth
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt-free italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground mustard
ground black pepper to taste
dash of worcestershire sauce
2 1/4 lbs beef roast, trimmed of excess fat

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl, whisk to combine. Place beef roast in crockpot and pour sauce over it. Cover and cook 8 hours on Low.

Turn crockpot to WARM and remove beef from sauce. Shred beef by pulling it apart with 2 forks and place back in crockpot, stir to mix sauce in and heat thru. Serve warm on rolls.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mojito Shrimp with Roasted Corn & Poblano Salsa

I made this last week for dinner and The Spouse absolutely loved it. For some reason, the flavor reminded me of General Tsos Chicken. Don't ask, but either way it was tasty. The corn was leftover from grilling out, the shallot, tomatoes and poblano were from our garden. Normally I'd post the salsa separately but I think it contributed significantly to the overall flavor of the dish.

Mojito Shrimp with Roasted Corn & Poblano Salsa

20 chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup sugar
1 thinly sliced shallot
1/3 cup light rum
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp kosher salt

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. peeled, deveined shrimp

2 ears of grilled or roasted corn, removed from ear
1 poblano, cored, deseeded and cut in half
2 medium tomatoes, cored, deseeded and cut in half

Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Marinade at room temperature 20-30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Drain marinade.

While shrimp is marinading, heat broiler to 450. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and place a cooling rack on top. Place poblanos and tomatoes on cooling rack and broil until the skin is charred. Remove from oven and let cool until warm to the touch. Peel the skin off the tomatoes and poblano; dice. Combine with reserved corn; set aside.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and heat. Add shrimp and sautee until shrimp are pink and cooked thru, about 4 minutes. Remove shrimp from wok, set aside.

Add salsa to the wok and heat thru, stirring constantly. Add shrimp back to the wok, remove from heat and toss with the salsa to combine. Serve immediately.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Apple Spice Cake

This is one of my favorite fall recipes to make. Based on this recipe from Cooking Light, I have made numerous changes, as I found the original recipe lacking. This time I subbed light Laughing Cow cheese for the cream cheese, since I didn't have any on-hand.

Apple Spice Cake

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup (3 oz) low-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
~2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup low-fat buttermilk (I subbed with 1 cup skim milk w/ 1 tsp lemon juice)
1 chopped and peeled apple
2 tbsp brandy
2 tsp powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.

Place the first four ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine flour thru cloves in a large bowl and combine. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat well after each addition. Stir in apple and brandy. Pour mixture into a greased 8" square baking pan.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Whole Wheat-Wheat Germ Bread

This week has been a outright horror. A friend lost her baby at 20 weeks, a friend of the family's daughter-in-law was struck and killed by an SUV while out running and, last night, my aunt passed away in her sleep.

I'm one of those people that, when faced with events like this, keeps moving and keeps busy to keep from dwelling.

So today I've been cooking and baking up a storm. This is one of my favorite breads from The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking. Unbelievably healthy AND tasty. One thing I've discovered in baking these recipes is that I tend to use more flour than is called for. I think here I used about 4 1/2 cups.

Whole Wheat-Wheat Germ Bread

1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
1/4 cup honey
1 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
4 - 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Combine the yeast and water in a large bowl, stirring until yeast is dissolved. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Stir in the salt, oil and honey. Beat vigorously for 10 minutes, gradually adding the wheat cherm, whole wheat flour. Slowly add in the all-purpose flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary to prevent stickiness.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk - a good 1 1/2 hours.

Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.

Punch down dough. Divide in half, shape into loaves, and place in the pans. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled in bulk - about 45 minutes.

Place in a cold oven and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Transfer from pans to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chicken in Provencal Garlic Sauce

Whenever I see recipes for pan-sauteed chicken, I'm always amazed at the fact that they seem to miss one essential step: no one pounds their chicken.

For me, that's the first step to any successful sauteed chicken dish. You don't pound it as flat as you would for a scallopine, but if you pound it to a uniform thickness, you end up with a much better result.

Also featured in this recipe is freshly-grown garlic! We bought 4 started sets this spring and ended up with 3 small-ish bulbs. I was a bit afraid as to how they turned out but the one I peeled ended up wonderful - fragrant and spicy.

Chicken in Provencal Garlic Sauce

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2" thickness
Sel de Provence and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
herbes de provence

Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add oil and heat thru. Season chicken breasts lightly with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan and sautee 5 minutes, turning halfway thru, until done. Remove from pan and keep warm.

If necessary, add a bit more olive oil to pan. Add onion and garlic and sautee 3 minutes or until translucent. Add chicken broth to pan and stir, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add in wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes or until reduced. Add chicken to pan and simmer in the sauce for another 3 minutes.

Serve chicken and sauce over rice.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

Six years ago I went thru my kitchen and threw out all sorts of "staples" - bleached, enriched white flour, pasta, anything with GMO grains, anything with HFCS (cereal, cookies, crackers, chips, frozen/processed foods, soda, etc.) - and, where necessary (don't need to replace cookies or processed foods) replaced it with organic, whole-grain versions.

That initial large step resulted in several smaller ones over the ensuing years. The result is that the majority of our refrigerator and pantry has been overhauled and filled with organic and sustainably produced food. Three years ago we started an organic vegetable garden and began growing and putting aside our own produce. I barely buy any vegetables from June thru October - only paying for what we don't grow ourselves. We even switched our dog's food to a more sustainable variety.

People often balk at the cost of those foods, that it's not affordable. But, as the article points out, we can't afford to NOT make these sorts of changes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dry-rubbed Sirloin with Balsamic Fingerling Potatoes

This is an homage to Oregon. And my mother-in-law. Everywhere we went in Oregon, all the food was fresh from a farmer. So, tonight, we had grass-fed organic sirloin, organic fingerling potatoes from the farmer's market, and sweet corn picked yesterday from a friend's farm.

As for how my mother-in-law figures into it, the olive oil and balsamic used on the fingerling potatoes was a Christmas gift from her.

Dry-Rubbed Sirloin

2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp mustard seeds, ground
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 lb sirloin steak

Combine the first seven ingredients in a small bowl. Rub over both sides of steak. Let sit at room temperature 20-30 minutes.

Pre-heat grill. Cook steak 10 minutes over direct medium-high heat, turning once halfway thru. Then cook over indirect medium-heat another 4 minutes, turning halfway thru, until internal temp reads 140*. Remove from heat, tent with foil and let rest 2-3 minues.

Serve with Balsamic Fingerling Potatoes and grilled sweet corn.

Wine Pairing: Erath Pinot Noir from Dundee, OR

Balsamic Fingerling Potatoes

Balsamic Fingerling Potatoes

1 lb fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
kosher salt and pepper
rosemary-infused olive oil
18-year-old balsamic vinegar

Combine potatoes, onion and garlic in a medium dish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil (about 1/2 tbsp) and toss. Drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar, toss. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and let cool for a minute. Then lightly drizzle with a bit more balsamic and stir. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tuna and White Bean Salad

My guilty pleasure when The Spouse isn't home is to have tuna. Tuna melt, tuna casserole, tuna anything. He likes tuna steaks but tuna from a can/pouch? No.

This is a light, healthy, summer-y alternative to the traditional mayo-heavy tuna salad. It takes advantage of lots of fresh herbs that are readily available this time of year. We're growing all the herbs this recipe calls for.

Tuna and White Bean Salad

1 garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3 tbsp fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
2 tbsp capers
1 tbsp olive oil
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper

2 6oz pouches of tuna
1 can white beans (like great northern), drained and rinsed

Combine the first seven ingredients (thru lemon juice) in a small food processor and blend until chopped and well-combined. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, break tuna apart with a fork. Fold in beans and vinaigrette until well combined.

You can serve this a variety of ways - over open-faced sandwiches, with crackers, over lettuce, etc. Me? I had it with a slice of crusty whole-grain sourdough and a few pieces of cheese. Yum.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Creamy Orzo Primavera

I hadn't been planning on harvesting anything yesterday. Heck, I hadn't even planned on making dinner, just re-heating some leftovers. But as I was walking past while out with the dog I saw a bunch more pea pods. I have had a small pile sitting in the kitchen since Saturday, so I figured I'd just steam them as a side dish.

Then I checked the beans. And they were loaded. Again. So I picked off all the mature beans, nearly 2 dozen.

So I poked about in the pantry debating what to do with these veggies and came up with this. The interesting thing was it tasted lemony, which was wonderful. But I didn't add any lemon juice. I think it was the wine, so if you omit that, add a dash of lemon juice.

Creamy Orzo Primavera

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup orzo
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 - 1/2 cup wine
green beans, chopped
pea pods, chopped
2 oz feta, plus extra for garnish

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and warm thru. Add onion and garlic and sautee for 2 minutes. Add orzo and sautee, stirring, until orzo is lightly toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes. And broth and wine, stir, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until liquid is mostly absorbed (if needed, add more liquid during cooking).

Meanwhile steam the veggies until sharply crisp. Once orzo is nearly done cooking, add vegetables to the pan and fold in. Continue to cook until the liquid is completely aborbed. Crumble the feta over the pan and stir until creamy.

Spoon into bowls and crumble a bit of extra feta over the top.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

We generally don't make fancy breakfasts. I'll make the occasional scones but, otherwise any real attempt at breakfast is just scrambled eggs and toast.

These pancakes are three things - healthy, hearty and delicious.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups skim milk plus 1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp safflower oil
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine dry ingredients (flour thru baking soda) in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients and whisk together. Slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture, stirring to combine until just moist.

Heat large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add pancake batter to skillet with 1/3 cup scoop. Flip pancakes over when the top is bubbling. Cook another 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat. Serve with local, organic maple syrup.

Pancakes can be kept warm in a 200* oven for up to 20 minutes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Garden Bounty Minestrone

I know, I know. Soup in the middle of July? What the heck?

Blame the jetstream. Today was cool, cloudy, rainy and more appropriate to mid-fall than high summer. It left both The Spouse and I hankering for a bowl of soup and crusty bread.

Fortunately our garden is still producing, though it's lagging behind last year. Yesterday I ran out and picked 1 zucchini, 1 squash, another half pound of beans and a handful of pea pods. Add in some fresh onions and garlic from the farmer's market, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of beans of your choice (I like great northern), wild rice, some vegetable broth and fresh herbs and voila!

Garden Bounty Minestrone

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup wild rice
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium summer squash, diced
1/2 lb green beans, cut into 1" pieces
pea pods, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 can beans, drained and rinsed
~4 cups vegetable broth
salt-free italian seasoning

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and warm thru. Add onion and garlic and sautee until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add in wild rice and stir gently until the rice is coated.

Add zucchini, squash, beans and pea pods and stir to combine. Add in tomatoes, beans and oregano; stir. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the vegetables are tender. Season to taste with seasoning, salt and pepper.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Best Steak Ever

Generally when we think of steak we think of grill. We're hard-core grillers, shoveling out our grill year-round to get that flavor. One could say it's our way of hanging on to summer even when there's a foot of snow on the ground.

When you could theoretically have snow on the ground from October thru April, you force summer into your life whenever you can.

But, there is one thing grilling steaks won't give you and that is a To Die For pan sauce. And this steak will give you that. I predict that this will become a winter favorite.

The Best Steak Ever

1 tbsp oil
1 sirloin steak, seasoned with your favorite combination
1 large shallot, minced
3/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
1 tbsp butter

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and heat thru. Add steak and sautee 4 minutes each side or until medium. Remove from skillet, place on a plate and tent with tinfoil and keep warm.

Add shallots to pan and sautee for about 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Combine beef broth and red wine and add to pan. Reduce by half. Add in drippings from steak and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add in butter, stirring until melted and combined. Remove from heat.

Serve steak with pommes frites, sauteed mushrooms and spinach.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bourbon-Mustard Chicken

This is a modified recipe from the Weber Big Book of Grilling. Original one called for squab - we just used bone-in chicken breasts. We only marinaded for about 1 hour - and I definitely think it should have gone longer.

Bourbon-Mustard Chicken

1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

4 bone-in chicken breasts

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey (we used locally harvested raw honey)
2 tbsp bourbon
2 tbsp dijon

Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, whisking thoroughly. Place chicken in a large plastic bag, pour marinade over, seal the bag, removing as much air as possible. Turn the bag to evenly distribute the marinade and refrigerate 2-12 hours, turning occasionally.

Just before grilling, make the baste by mixing all ingredients in a small bowl.

Remove chicken from bag and discard the marinade. Preheat grill to medium heat. Grill chicken over direct heat until chicken is done, about 20-25 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of grilling, apply the baste. Serve warm.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spinach-Stuffed Pork Chops

It's that time of year again to start cooking with homegrown veggies. Our garden got a later-than-normal start this year, and then unseasonably cool weather delayed the first harvest of spring greens. The spinach and rosemary were from our garden and the spring onion was from our local farmer's market. The obvious side dish of asparagus is also from our local market, steamed and lightly seasoned.

Spinach-Stuffed Pork Chops
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped spring onion
2 tsp minced garlic
2 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 large bunch fresh spinach, chopped
3 slices prosciutto, finely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely grated fontina cheese
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

4 thick-cut pork chops

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and cook the onion until soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes, then add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the remaining stuffing ingredients.

In a small bowl combine the rub ingredients. Trim the chops of any excess fat and cut a pocket in the side of each chop. Push the stuffing into the pockets and close with toothpicks. Lightly brush or spray the chops with oil and season with the rub. Allow to stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling.

Grill over direct medium heat until cooked to desired doneness, 15 to 20 minutes for medium rare. Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Wine Pairing: Stephen Vincent "Crimson" 2006

Monday, June 15, 2009

Honey Glazed Baby Back Ribs with Whiskey Marinade


I never liked ribs. I always found them too fatty, too chewy, too tough, too.... gross. I give them a go every year or so, at restaurants, sworn-by family recipes, etc. and am always - always -disappointed.

Every year we host a BBQ for The Spouse's co-workers. This year we had 20 people over (plus 4 kids and 2 dogs). The theme was "BEE-BEE-Q" in honor of one of the co-workers having adopted a colony of bees and fostering them on my sister's prairie. So there was lots of honey-based items. Honey punch, honey beer (leinie's) and I found a recipe for honey-glazed ribs. So I decided to make them... with one big change.

Unfortunately the locusts...uhm.. guests! moved thru before I could photograph them. Clearly I wasn't the only one who was impressed! Which means I just have to make them another time.

Honey Glazed Baby Back Ribs with Whiskey Marinade

3 racks baby back ribs (about 5 pounds)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 whiskey
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Honey Glaze

1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp hot water
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red pepper flakes, preferably Korean
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tbsp sugar

Marinate the ribs: Arrange the rib racks in a large glass or ceramic baking dish, overlapping them slightly. In a medium bowl, whisk the soy sauce with the whiskey, honey, ginger, white pepper, sesame oil, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour the marinade over the ribs and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange the ribs on the baking sheet, meaty side up. Roast for about 2 hours, until tender.

Make the glaze: Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl, whisking until well combined and sugar is dissolved. Heat a sauce pan over medium heat. Add honey mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and reduce until thickened. Remove from heat.

Baste the ribs with the honey mixture and roast for another 15 minutes, until browned and glossy. Remove the ribs from the oven and baste again with the honey mixture.

Preheat a grill. Grill the ribs over moderately high heat, turning once, basting on each side with the glaze, until lightly charred, about 4 minutes. Transfer the racks to a cutting board and cut into individual ribs. Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Grilled Cumin Chicken with Fresh Tomatillo Sauce

About, oh, four years ago The Spouse and I spent a lovely weekend up north at the lake, just the two of us. We grilled out quite a bit and I had made a recipe for a homemade tomatillo salsa that rocked the casbah.

Strangely, though, I haven't made it since. Not sure why, except maybe that finding tomatillos here that don't look awful is difficult (why they had them in Bumble-F, Nowhere I don't know. mysteries of the universe). Hence the reason we're growing our own.

Then I spotted this recipe while menu planning and shot it over to The Spouse with a "Whaddaya think?" To which he responded "::thumbs up::".

Per usual, lots of changes. Namely, I didn't follow their instructions for the tomatillo sauce at all but substituted the uber-deliciously-goodness of the other recipe. They're really not that dissimilar but I liked the idea of roasting the tomatillos on the grill instead of in the oven. I mean, if I've got the grill going already for the chicken, why on earth would I bother turning the oven on??

I also added some fresh lime juice to the cumin/olive oil mix that the chicken breasts sit in.

Grilled Cumin Chicken with Fresh Tomatillo Sauce

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 onion, cut into 1/4" thick rings
1 lb tomatillos, stems and husks removed
1 large jalapeno, stem removed, cut in half
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 tsp lime juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal and let stand for 15 minutes.

Pre-heat grill. Add the onion, tomatillos and jalapeno to the grill. Grill over direct heat, turning once halfway, for about 6-8 minutes. Add grilled vegetables and remaining salsa ingredients to a blender or food processor and pulse until desired consistency is reached.

Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 tsp salt. Place on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Serve with tomatillo sauce.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chicken and Feta Tabbouleh

I love tabbouleh. It's one of my favorite summer dishes to make since we grow 90% of the ingredients.

But it's one of those things that I don't get very often because The Spouse has A Thing about cold salads (other than, well, salad). He won't eat pasta salad or anything along those lines. Tabbouleh falls into that - if I convince him to eat it, he heats it up. As he indulges some of my more bizarre food eccentricities (like my dislike of almost all fruit), I don't complain about this one.

So, while hunting for new dinner ideas, I found this recipe and decided I'd just make it "hot". The directions for the bulgar don't work (at least they didn't with mine), so follow what I suggest below (which DID work). If I were to adjust anything, I would add more feta and a bit more bulgar.

Chicken and Feta Tabbouleh

1 cup uncooked bulgar (like bob's red mill)
1 cup water
2 chicken breasts, chopped up
1 cup tomato, chopped (about 4 med. roma)
1 english cucumber, chopped
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup green onions
1/4 cup minced mint
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add bulgar, stir, remove from heat and cover until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Broil chicken breasts until done, about 15 minutes, turning halfway thru. While chicken breasts are cooking, combine remaining ingredients and chopped chicken breasts and stir to combine. Stir in bulgar and serve.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Grilled Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese Spread

The Spouse looked at me in askance when I said there was going to be spinach in the burgers themselves. But he changed his tune.

The dish had a decidedly Greek flare to it which would lend itself well to being made with ground lamb, as well.

Grilled Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese Spread

2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb ground turkey breast
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 large egg white
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
Cooking spray
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 tspb chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
6 (2-ounce) whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted

Combine first 6 ingredients and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl, mixing gently. Divide turkey mixture into 6 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/4-inch-thick patty. Preheat grill and add patties; cook 8 minutes on each side or until done.

Meanwhile, combine remaining pepper, yogurt, and next 4 ingredients (through mint) in a bowl, stirring well.

Serve burgers with goat cheese spread, lettuce, tomatoes and onion for garnish.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chicken Scaloppine over Broccoli Rabe

I had originally spotted this recipe and thought the concept sounded tasty.

Then I read the recipe. Not the best way to prepare a veggie as bitter as rabe. Plus, really, how hard is it to make your own "italian" breadcrumbs?

So below is a highly modified version. No, it's not a "1-pot" dish but it tastes pretty darn good.

Chicken Scaloppine over Broccoli Rabe

1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
black pepper
salt-free italian seasoning
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast cutlets
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp butter
1 lb broccoli rabe (rapini), cut into 3-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained

Combine breadcrumbs, pepper, salt and seasoning in a shallow dish; dredge chicken in breadcrumb mixture.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and warm thru. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Add wine, broth, juice, and butter to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Let simmer until slightly reduced. Stir in parsley and capers.

While chicken is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add in rabe and blanch 1-2 minutes or until just tender. Drain. Add garlic to pot and sautee briefly with rabe, season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Plate rabe, top with chicken and drizzle with the wine sauce.

Wine Pairing: For highly acidic dishes like this one you should go with a acidic wine. In this case, a good Italian white wine is ideal. We had a chardonnay/pinot grigio blend from Orvieto that was very good.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spanish Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Today was a miserably cold and wet day, more appropriate for mid-April than late-May. So it seemed appropriate to make a warm chowder for dinner. I also wanted something "spanish" to honor the UEFA Champions League finals between Manchester United and Barcelona, since The Spouse and I were both rooting for Barça... as it turned out, we were celebrating a Spanish WIN! Yay!

Taken from this recipe, I used skim milk instead of 2%, reducing the amount to just 1 cup, and increased the salt and cumin to a full teaspoon. I also made some very quick goat-cheese crostini, which actually were phenomenal with the dish.

But the biggest impact was the teaspoon of saffron I added. If you ever want to turn a dish from hum-drum to exquisite, add saffron.

"Spanish" Shrimp and Corn Chowder

2 tbsp butter
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 finely chopped serrano chile
1 can chopped green chiles, undrained
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups frozen Southern-style hash brown potatoes, diced, thawed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp saffron
1 can whole-kernel corn
1 lb peeled and deveined small shrimp
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper, and serrano chile to pan and sauté 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.

Add canned chiles to pan and cook 1 minute. Add flour to pan and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk and next 6 ingredients (through corn) and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until slightly thick.

Stir in shrimp. Cook 1 minute or until shrimp are done. Cover and simmer another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Ladle into bowls, top with crostini and serve.

Wine Pairing: A nice, fruity pinot grigio balances the heat of the chiles and the sweetness of the corn.

p.s. I realize that just adding saffron doesn't make this dish "spanish" but it had totally slipped my mind that the finals were tonight. ::sigh::

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cocoa-and-Chile-Rubbed Pork Chops

The Spouse had originally requested my Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops but I decided I wanted to make this one instead. It involves some techniques that really piqued my interest (brining! indirect grilling!). It was a bit cold and cloudy to grill out but that's never stopped us before, seeing as we've shoveled the grill out in times past.

I made a few changes - notably, I only brined the pork chops for 30 minutes since ours weren't as thick as the original recipe called for. I also omitted the olive oil - it didn't need it.

As far as cooking, we have a large 4-burner grill and the hottest spot is the left hand corner. To create an appropriate "cool zone," I turned the two left burners on, left the 3rd one off, and turned the 4th one on medium-low. Then I put the pork chops just to the right-of-center after the first 4 minutes. I think that this helped balance the heat a bit better and provided a nice slow, even cooking temp.

The result was a taste that was almost like a deconstructed mole and chops that was perfectly moist and juicy.

Cocoa-and-Chile-Rubbed Pork Chops

2 quarts water
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp plus 1 tbsp Kosher salt
4 boneless pork loin chops
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp ancho chile powder

In a large bowl, combine the water with the red pepper and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the pork chops and let brine at room temperature for 1 hour.

Light a grill and create a cool zone (for a charcoal grill, rake the coals to one side; for a gas grill, leave one side unlit). In a bowl, mix the cocoa, sugar and ancho powder with 1 tablespoon of salt.

Drain the pork chops and pat dry, removing any bits of crushed pepper. Roll the pork chops in the cocoa rub and pat to help it adhere. Grill over moderately high heat for 4 minutes, turning the chops once until lightly browned. Transfer the chops to the cool zone, cover and grill for about 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the chops registers 135° for medium meat. Let the chops rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Wine Pairing: Food & Wine recommended a fruity Zinfandel from Paso Robles, so I picked up a bottle from Trader Joe's called Novella. As The Spouse put it, this was a fantastic summer grilling wine and, I predict, will become a staple for summer parties to follow.

The Best Beer for Wisconsin Beer Brats

Usually the Spouse and I just grab a bottle or can of Heineken or other "crap" beer and call it a day. Generally because we don't want to waste a good beer on a batter.

I'm officially changing my tune. There is now only one acceptable beer (or style of beer) for use when making beer brats:

Fuel Cafe Stout

Fuel Cafe Stout is made here in Wisconsin by Lakefront Brewery. If you cannot get Lakefront beers where you live, find an acceptable coffee-flavored stout. Because, after years and years of making brats with skunk beer, nothing else will ever, ever do.

I've also tweaked my brat recipe a bit to better incorporate the wonderful flavor of beer. It remains true to the roots of the dish. Enjoy!

Wisconsin Beer Brats with Fuel Cafe Stout-glazed Onions

1 pkg uncooked bratwurst
1 onion, halved and sliced
1 bottle Fuel Cafe stout
1 pkg brat buns
brown mustard

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add brats and sautee on both sides until lightly brown. Remove brats from heat.

Pour about 1/2 cup of the stout to hot pan to deglace. Reduce heat to a simmer and let beer cool down - about 10 minutes - until it is simmering very slightly. Add brats back in (if you add the brats in earlier they'll split from the heat) and let simmer in the beer 10 minutes, flipping once halfway thru. Remove brats from pan and reserve pan with leftover beer. Heat grill to 375º. Add brats and cook for 10 minutes, flipping once halfway thru.

While brats are cooking, return pan to heat and add onions. Sautee onions until soft and the beer has reduced to a glaze. Remove from heat and keep warm until brats are done.

Serve brats with sauteed onions and brown mustard.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grilled Salmon with Peppercorn-Lime Rub

We love grilled salmon, though I've never made a rub for it before. I found this recipe and decided to modify it.

Grilled Salmon with Peppercorn-Lime Rub

2 tsp grated lime rind
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
4 salmon fillets
Lime wedges (optional)

Combine lime rind, salt, pepper, garlic and a splash of lime juice. Rub over the flesh of the salmon fillets and let sit for 15 minutes.

While fish is resting, preheat the grill to 400ºF. Add fish, skin-side down, and grill about 8 minutes until it flakes easily with a fork and is still somewhat pink in the middle. Tent with foil and let rest a couple minutes. Remove skin and serve.

Rosemary-Merlot Flank Steak

A quick and easy marinade that turns into a homemade steak sauce. Fabu!

Rosemary-Merlot Flank Steak

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup merlot
1 tsp dried rosemary (or 1 tbsp fresh, chopped)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp italian seasoning
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 flank steak

2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp tomato paste

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a large plastic bag. Add flank steak and let marinade in the fridge for 30 mintues.

Remove flank steak from marinade, reserving the liquid. Preheat grill while meat comes to room temperature. Add steak to grill and cook 10 minutes, flipping once halfway thru. Remove steak from grill and let rest under tented foil for 5 minutes. Slice across the grain.

While steak is cooking, combine marinade, tomato paste and mustard in a medium skillet and reduce, stirring occasionally, until thickened into a steak sauce (about 1 cup). Plate steak slices and top with sauce.

I served this with Grilled Potato Chips and fresh steamed broccoli.

Grilled Potato Chips

An idea that popped in my head for dinner last night. Turned out pretty good.

Grilled Potato Chips

2 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
spray olive oil

Heat water to boiling. Add in potato slices and boil 2 minutes or until just slightly tender. Transfer to an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process.

Layer potatoes on paper towel to dry. Lightly spray with cooking oil and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the grill to 375ºF. Add potatoes directly to grate and cook for 10 minutes, flipping as needed. Remove from grill and serve.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Ultimate Tandoori Chicken Recipe

The Spouse has been requesting Tandoori Chicken for dinner once a week for the last several months. I haven't been making it that often but I think we've had it half a dozen times so far this year.

Hence, I've had a lot of time to experiment. I started with the recipe from Cook's Illustrated, which is a lovely recipe but really does not impart enough flavor of the yogurt marinade. So I started messing about with ingredients, preparation and have finally achieved Tandoori Chicken Perfection (sorry ATK).

The Ultimate Tandoori Chicken Recipe

2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 cup plain fat-free greek-style yogurt
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp kosher salt
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts

Heat oil in small skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Add garam masala, cumin and chili powder and cook another 30-60 seconds. Transfer half the garlic mixture to a bowl, stir in yogurt and 2 tbsp lime juice. Refrigerate mixture until needed.

Combine remaining spice mixture with salt and remaining lime juice. Rub salt mixture onto chicken and let stand at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. Place chicken in a ziplock bag, add in the yogurt mixture and close. Toss to coat chicken thoroughly and place the bag in the refrigerator. Let marinade for about 1 hour.

Remove from refrigerator and let chicken warm up. Preheat grill to 400ºF. Remove chicken from bag, making sure to leave some of the yogurt marinade on the breasts, and discard the remaining marinade. Grill chicken 10 minutes, flipping once halfway thru, until a probe inserted reads 160ºF. Remove chicken from grill, tent with tinfoil, and let rest 5 minutes. Serve with couscous and tomato & cucumber salad.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chicken with Dark Beer

I found this recipe while poking about for new dinner ideas. Anything that involves beer, gin and fire sounds like a party to me. And when that beer is from New Belgium brewery (recently made available here in WI), it's bound to be good. We used Fat Tire, though had debated between that and 1554.

The only real problem was I'd never flambed before. So I was caught a bit by surprise when I lit the gin the first time


It turned out fantaaaaaaastic, though we had to do a 2nd pour and lighting of the gin. I consider that making up for the missed juniper berries.

Coq à la Bière

3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cut-up chicken, skin removed
1 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp dry gin
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped peeled carrot
1/2 cup chopped shallots (about 3 medium)
1 (8-ounce) package mushrooms, halved
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp parsley
1 bay leaf
1 cup dark beer
1/4 cup Greek-style yogurt
2 tsp white wine vinegar

Combine first 3 ingredients; sprinkle evenly over both sides of chicken. Heat skillet over medium heat and add butter and oil. Cook until butter is lightly browned. Add chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove pan from heat. Pour gin into one side of pan; return pan to heat. Ignite gin with a long match; let flames die down. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Add celery, carrot, and shallots to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms. Place thyme, parsley, and bay leaf on a double layer of cheesecloth (a coffee filter can be used in a pinch). Gather edges of cheesecloth together; tie securely. Add cheesecloth bag to pan. Return chicken to pan, nestling into vegetable mixture. Stir in beer; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the meaty parts of chicken registers 160°.

Discard cheesecloth bag. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Place pan over medium heat; stir in yogurt. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated (do not boil, as the yogurt may curdle). Remove from heat; stir in vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired. Plate chicken and top each serving with sauce and vegetable mixture.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Szechuan Tofu

In an effort to eat less meat, I dug out a similar recipe from The Joy of Cooking and, well, fixed it. But this makes a quick, healthy dinner on a weeknight

Szechuan Tofu

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger (or 1/4 tsp ground)
1 bunch scallions, minced
Various Stir-Fry veggies (we had carrots, broccoli, pea pods, mushrooms)

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp chile paste
1 tbsp dry sherry (or white wine)
1 tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp sugar

1 package firm to extra-firm tofu, pressed and diced into 1/2" pieces.

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and heat thru. Add garlic, ginger and scallion to the pan and stir fry for 1 minute. Add vegetables of choice and stir fry 3-5 minutes or until somewhat wilty. Combine chicken broth thru sugar and then add to pan. Cook 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Add in tofu and simmer until warmed thru, about 3 minutes. Serve with rice.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ancho-Rubbed Flank Steak

Originally based on this recipe, though I was out of cumin. Whoops. Also, we grilled it instead of pan-frying.

Ancho-Rubbed Flank Steak

1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground ancho chile powder
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
1 (2-pound) flank steak, trimmed

2 bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 lime

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl; rub evenly over both sides of steak. Let rest for 1 hour.

Preheat grill to 400ºF. Grill flank steak 10 minutes, turning once halfway thru the cooking time, or until steak is medium. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Meanwhile, place onions and pepper strips on the grill pan and squeeze half the lime over them. Grill 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until veggies are done. Remove from grill and squeeze the remaining lime half over them.

Slice flank steak into strips across the grain. Serve with grilled veggies, warmed tortillas, cheese, salsa and other fixings for fajitas.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Curried Chickpeas with Veggies

When The Spouse and I sat down to make this week's menu, I mentioned that I would prefer to add in a few meatless dishes. He agreed, though somewhat nervously because I said tofu would feature largely. He doesn't mind tofu if it's well prepared or mixed in with other items, but

This is one dish, though, that I felt would be pretty safe since he loves Indian food.

Curried Chickpeas with Veggies

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp chopped ginger
2 tsp madras curry powder
1 cup chickpeas, cooked
1/2 large head of cauliflower, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 cups fresh green beans, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup yogurt
2 tbsp flour

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and heat thru. Add in cumin seeds and toast until fragrant. Add in minced garlic and ginger and sautee until aromatic, about 1 minute. Do not let brown.

Add in curry powder and sautee until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chickpeas and remaining ingredients. Stir to coat. Cover and let simmer 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are cooked. Remove from heat.

Combine yogurt and flour and stir into vegetable mixture until well incorporated. If necessary, return pan to heat and heat thru, stirring constantly, being careful to not bring to a simmer. Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Jerk Chicken

I'm not sure why we choose grilling recipes when it's gross out. Cloudy, windy, cold and supposed to rain/snow this evening yet The Spouse says he wants jerk chicken.

Ah well. It's worth it! I think I've posted this recipe before, but as part of a menu. So here it is on it's own.

Jerk Chicken

2 habanero peppers, stem and seeds removed
4 green onions, white parts only
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 whole chicken, cut up

Combine the first 9 ingredients (thru black pepper) in a small food processor and blend until smooth.

Rinse chicken, pat dry. Place chicken in a ziplock bag and pour spice mixture over it. Toss to coat and place in fridge. Let marinade several hours.

Heat grill to 400. Place chicken on the grill, skin side up. Grill chicken for 30-40 minutes or until done (instant read thermometer should read 180 when stuck into the thickest portion of the breast), removing smaller pieces as necessary. To crips skin, grill skin-side down for the final 5 minutes of cooking.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo

We're watching my nephews this week while my brother and sister-in-law are out of town. On Wednesday I asked what they'd like for dinner the next night. The response was "Something with Carbs." Which I find odd because that night we'd had braised ribs with gravy bread and the night before there was cornbread, so it's not like we're All Protein, All The Time. The other nephew suggested alfredo.

So I spent the day trolling about for a reduced-fat version of Alfredo sauce and found this one by Cooking Light. Unfortunately, while chopping up my fresh frozen broccoli, I discovered that the batch had been corrupted by cabbage worms, so broccoli was out. Also, not having ricotta on hand, I subbed in low-fat cottage cheese.

Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo

olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
salt & pepper

2 tbsp butter (I use earth balance)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups fat-free milk
2/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) low-fat cottage cheese, pureed until smooth (I used the Fiber One brand)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

8 ounces uncooked pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting any fat or salt.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and warm thru. Add minced garlic and sautee until fragarant, about 1 minute. Add chicken to skillet, season lightly with salt and pepper. Sautee until chicken is done, about 8 minutes. Remove from skillet and keep warm.

Deglace skillet with water.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook 15 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Stir in cheeses, salt, and pepper, and cook 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Reduce heat to low. Stir in chicken and heat 5 minutes until chicken is warmed thru.

Place cooked pasta in a bowl, pour sauce and chicken over. Toss the pasta until well coated. Serve immediately.

Wine Pairing: A crisp italian pinot grigio.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Caramelized Thai Chicken with Stir-Fry Noodles

I recently signed up for a trial subscription to Food & Wine magazine. After I'd received my confirmation email from them, I went to check out their recipe section of the website and stumbled across this one, which served as the leaping off point for dinner that night. My version uses about half the amount of sugar, and it was plenty sweet.

Caramelized Thai Chicken with Stir-Fry Noodles

1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
1/2 tsp thai chile paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, water, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, pepper and chile sauce.

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the fish sauce mixture and the chicken and simmer over high heat until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a pot of boiling water. Add dry rice stir fry noodles to pot. Cook according to package directions. However, after draining, add noodles to chicken mixture. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until chicken is cooked thru and noodles are well-coated. Serve immediately.

Mustard-Crusted Lamb Chops

Lovely dish for St. Paddy's Day, if it's warm enough out to grill (in our house it always is, even in January, but we're strange like that). This is basically a scaled down recipe of this Cooking Light one.

Mustard-Crusted Lamb Chops

1 tbsp and 1 tsp stone-ground mustard
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/8-1/4 tsp salt
1/8-1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
4 (4-ounce) lamb loin chops, trimmed
Cooking spray

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add lamb; seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour or up to 8 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

Remove lamb from bag. Place lamb on grill rack coated with cooking spray; cook 6 minutes on each side or until medium-rare or desired degree of doneness.

Remove from grill, cover with tented foil and let rest 5 minutes. Serve with Colcannon.

Wine Pairing: We had the leftover chops with a merlot.


This is an Irish dish that is traditionally served on Halloween (since cabbage is in season then), but it's good just about any time of the year!


1/2 head large cabbage
6 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large shallot
1 tbsp butter
~1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tbsp butter, melted (optional)

In a large saucepan, boil cabbage until tender; remove from heat and drain. Chop well, aside and keep warm.

Boil potatoes until tender. Remove from heat and drain.

Chop shallots and simmer them in just enough milk to cover, until they are soft. Add boiled potatoes, milk, and mash well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Blend in the cabbage until well-combined. Add additional butter, if desired

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rudy's BBQ Chicken

The Spouse and I have been craving grilled food. Our grill blew over in a massive storm this winter and we were afraid it was damaged beyond repair. But, beyond being a bit battered and broken, it actually does work. Enough.

BBQ Chicken is theoretically an easy dish to make. Grill the chicken, slap on some bbq sauce, voila.

To make GOOD BBQ chicken takes a bit more. It's easy to grill up a dry chicken breast. It's easy to end up with drenched chicken. But to cook a good, moist chicken breast with a proper bbq glaze takes experience.

Fortunately I have a good bit of that!

Rudy's BBQ Chicken

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Rudy's Rub
2-3 tbsp Rudy's Original "Sause"

Trim chicken breasts of excess fat. Sprinkle each side with Rudy's Rub and massage rub into breasts. Let stand at room temp for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat grill to 400. Add chicken breasts to grill. Grill first side about 5 minutes. Flip. Grill other side 3 minutes. Using a pastry brush, brush sause on chicken breasts. Grill another 2-3 minutes. Flip. Brush sauce on other side of chicken breasts. Reduce heat to medium. Grill 2 minutes, flip, brush sauce on breasts. Grill another 2 minutes, flip, and slather the last of the sauce on. Remove chicken breasts from heat and serve immediately.

You'll know you've done this right if you don't need any extra sauce on the plate to moisten the chicken.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dude Ranch Beef Stew with Herbed Dumplings

The dumplings were actually supposed to be lavender but I nixed the idea because the stew itself was on the "sweet" side and I wanted something more savory to contrast it with.

In retrospect, I would use less orange peel than the recipe called for. A good 3" slice would have been more than enough, in my opinion, to flavor the stew.

Dude Ranch Beef Stew with Herbed Dumplings

4 lb beef roast, well trimmed and cut into 1" chunks
3/4 cup flour
5 tsp lavender, well ground in spice grinder, divided
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 3 tbsp
2 white onions, diced
1 medium leek, chopped
1 tbsp garlic, minced (about 4 cloves)
4 cups beef broth
1/4 cup whiskey
2 bay leaves
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp parsley
1 orange
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3/4 lb yukon gold potatoes (about 4), cut into 1/2" chunks
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced

for the dumplings
3/4 cup flour
1/8 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk

Combine the flour, 2 tsp lavender, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add beef chunks and toss to coat.

Heat large stock pot over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and heat thru. Working in batches, add beef to pan and sautee, stirring occasionally, until beef begins to brown. Remove beef to bowl and set aside.

Add remaining olive oil to pot. Add onion, leek and garlic and sautee about 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add beef broth and whiskey to the pot, scraping the bottom to loosen any browned bits. Add beef back to pot. Using a vegetable peeler, peel a 3" strip of orange zest from the orange and add to pot. Add remaining lavender and herbs. Stir well, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 45 minutes until the beef is tender. Add carrots and potatoes, cover again and simmer another 30-45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, to prepare the dumplings, combine the flour, cheese, thyme and salt in a medium bowl. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined. Set aside.

One the carrots and potatoes are fork tender, add the mushrooms to the pot. Gently spoon dollops of the dumplings - about 1 tbsp each - to the pot. Let simmer on low 5-10 minutes uncovered. Then replace cover and let simmer another 10 minutes or until dumplings are fluffy and cooked all the way thru (test with a skewer). Ladel stew into bowls and serve immediately.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Baked Spicy Chicken Fingers

I made these as an appetizer for the Super Bowl last year and they were a hit. But they make just as tasty a dinner.

Baked Spicy Chicken Fingers

1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tsp hot chile sauce

1 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 1/2 lbs chicken breast

Cut chicken breasts up into strips. Combine lemon juice and chile sauce in a plastic bag. Add chicken strips. Let marinade 30 minutes, turning bag halfway thru. Drain and discard marinade.

Preheat oven to 425. Combine bread crumbs and spices. Dredge chicken breasts in breadcrumbs. Spray baking sheets with spray oil and place chicken strips on in a single layer.

Bake strips at 425 for 10 minutes, turning halfway thru. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chili Lavender Turkey Pot Pie

What a delicious way to use leftover roast turkey breast. The original recipe, from The Lavender Cookbook by Sharon Shipley, called for a handmade crust with spices, but I didn't have time so Pillsbury it was.

This recipe has quite a kick to it, so you may feel the need to dial it down a notch. I had to make some substitutions, so here is the recipe as I made it.

Chili Lavender Turkey Pot Pie

1 lb butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 medium carrot, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chipotle chile powder
2 tbsp spiced lavender seasoning *see note
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 14-oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 lbs turkey breast, chopped into 1" cubes
salt and pepper to taste
pre-made pie crust

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add diced butternut squash and blanch for 6 minutes or until tender. Remove to a colander with a slotted spoon. Add carrot to water and blanch for 4 minutes. Pour into colander.

Reduce heat to medium and return pot to burner. Add oil and heat thru. Add onions, garlic, chipotle and lavender seasoning. Sautee 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add the peppers and corn and sautee 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is slightly reduced. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to coat. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until warmed thru. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer filling to a large (3qt) baking dish and let cool. Remove pie crust from fridge and let warm to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375. Roll out pie crust to fit baking dish. Place pie crust on top, overlapping the edges of the dish and sealing them with your fingers. Cut 2 or 3 vent holes in the top. Bake 30 - 40 minutes or until bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Spiced Lavender Seasoning

I had to make a couple substitutions in this from the original.

2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp dried lavender
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp harissa
1 tsp ground black pepper
dash of sea salt

Add cumin and coriander to a small skillet to toast, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to mortar or spice grinder. Add lavender and crush the mixture with a pestil until well combined. Add oregano, harissa, pepper and salt and mix until well combined. Store in air tight container.

Provencale Roast Turkey Breast with Pan Veggies

A delicious way to get your thanksgiving turkey fix without all the heavy trimmings.

Provençale Roast Turkey Breast with Pan Veggies

2 tbsp Herbes de Provance
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 7lb turkey breast

4 medium carrots, chopped
1 bunch celery, chopped
1 shallot, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed

Combine herbes, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and garlic. Stir until salt dissolves.

Rinse turkey breast and pat dry. Place in roasting pan on a rack. Using your hands, loosen the skin from the turkey breast. Liberally apply herb mixture to the breast, under the skin. Let sit at room temp for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400*. Add vegetables to bottom of the roasting pan. Place turkey in oven. Cook for 1 hour 30 minutes or until a thermometer stuck in the breast reads 180. Remove from oven, loosely tent with tinfoil and let rest 15 minutes.

Remove veggies from pan into a colander to drain remaining drippings. Place pan on burner, add 2 cups of water or broth and warm, whisking to remove browned bits from the bottom. Combine 1/4 cup of cold water with 2 tbsp corn starch. Add to pan and whisk constantly until thickened.

Carve turkey and plate breast meat with veggies. Serve with gravy.

* For convection, heat oven to 350 and cook 1 hour or until a thermometer reads 180.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Menu Planning, Week 2

So, things got a big mixed up this week in terms of my original plan. But that's ok, because some of it lets me extend the planned m. Below is what really happened:

Saturday: White Chicken Chili
Sunday: Superbowl Party
Monday: Salmon
Tuesday: Smoked Pork Chops with Sauerkraut
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Frozen Pizza (pizza, beer and a basketball game)

And here's the plan for the next week and a half:

Saturday: Roast Turkey Breast
Sunday: Vegetarian Lasagna
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Chili Lavender Turkey Pot Pie (using leftover turkey breast)
Wednesday: Spicy Chicken Fingers with Sweet Potato Fries
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Dude Ranch Beef Stew with Lavender Dumplings
Saturday: Shepherd's Pie (using leftover beef stew)
Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Tuesday: Lavender Chicken Breasts