Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Menu Planning

This is my new thing. In trying to cut back on the grocery budget, I've been trying to plan our meals at least a week in advance. In order to help this goal along, as well as "beef up" my recipe list, I've decided to post them in my blog entry. That way I should be held accountable to stick to the plan and blog about it.

SO! Here we go. I'm aiming for two weeks at a time, building in space for leftovers, etc.

February 1 - 14
Sunday: White Chicken Chili (suuuuuuuperbowl!)
Monday: Salmon
Tuesday: Roast Turkey Breast
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Smoked Pork Chops with Sauerkraut
Friday: Lavender Chicken Breasts
Saturday: Dude Ranch Beef Stew with Lavender Dumplings
Sunday: Spicy Chicken Fingers with Sweet Potato Fries
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Wednesday: Chili Lavender Turkey Pot Pie (using leftover turkey breast)
Thursday: Vegetarian Lasagna
Friday: Shepherd's Pie (using leftover beef stew)
Saturday: Leftovers

Monday, January 26, 2009

White Bean, Kale and Meatball Soup

I mentioned in my Swedish Meatballs post that I doubled the recipe to turn half of them into my take on Italian Wedding Soup. It actually ended up not being wedding soup at all but some general conglomeration of the meatballs, kale and white beans. It was tasty, though.

Two things about my soups - I almost always use dry vermouth in them. Not a lot but just enough to impart that herbal essence that, IMO, adds a huge amount of depth of taste.

The same thing goes for lavender. A little bit goes a long way but it adds an earthiness to meat-based soups and stews that I absolutely love.

White Bean, Kale and Meatball Soup

olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped or torn into pieces
dry vermouth
Leftover meatballs
1 can no-salt added white beans, undrained
2 tsp Tuscan Sunset seasoning (or similar salt-free Italian seasoning)
1/2 tsp lavender, finely crushed
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup beef broth

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat thru. Add garlic and sautee until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add kale and sautee until lightly braised, about 3 minutes. Deglace pan with a splash of dry vermouth and stir until evaporated.

Add meatballs, beans and seasoning to pot. Add chicken and beef broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 30 minutes, adding water as necessary. Serve hot.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Swedish Meatballs

When I decided to cook the short ribs last week, The Spouse asked me what my goals were for the Cook's Illustrated subscription. I thought about half a second and then said "To try and make every recipe in them. I want to test America's Test Kitchen."

The only problem I have with ATK is, frankly, they use high and full-fat ingredients. The original recipe for this called for heavy cream, ground pork, ground beef, a ton of vegetable oil for frying, blah blah. I don't cook like that because we don't eat stuff like that.

So, this recipe is a slimmed-down version of the original. I substituted ground turkey for the ground pork and ground beef. I used skim milk instead of cream. I ALSO doubled the recipe for the meatballs and reserved half for the Italian Wedding Soup that I'll be making this weekend - which means I also eliminated the brown sugar from the meatballs. I also did not use milk, brown sugar or lemon juice in the sauce.

Another big change was the method of cooking. I'm usually not a "fussy" chef - flip once halfway thru and be done with it. However, when I tried the recommended cooking directions, I ended up with flat pancakes, not balls. So what I ended up doing was constantly going around the pan in a circle, flipping and turning the meatballs in order to get them to retain their shape.

IMO, even with using extra-lean ground turkey breast, the meatballs were delightfully springy and moist. Nothing was missed by using leaner types of meat.

Swedish Meatballs

2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 large slice sandwich bread , crusts removed and bread torn into 1-inch pieces
2 lbs ground turkey
1 large onion, grated
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp table salt
2 tsp baking powder
olive oil as needed

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk egg and milk together in medium bowl. Stir in bread and set aside. Beat half the turkey, onion, nutmeg, allspice, pepper, salt, and baking powder until smooth and pale, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, mash bread mixture until no large dry bread chunks remain; add bread mixture to turkey mix and beat until well combined. Add remaining turkey and mix until just incorporated. Form meat mixture into 1-inch round meatballs.

Heat a pan over medium heat; add oil and heat until shimmery. Add meatballs in single layer and saute, flipping each meatball several times to brown on all sides and retain their shape. When meatballs are done, remove from pan and place on a plate covered in paper towel to drain. Set aside half the meatballs for freezing or later use.

Pour off any remaining oil in pan and discard, leaving any browned bits behind. Return pan to medium-high heat and add butter. When butter is melted, add flour and whisk constantly until flour is light brown, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in broth, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits. Bring to simmer and cook until sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining meatballs to sauce and simmer, turning occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Braised Pork Ribs

After the success of the Tandoori Chicken recipe, I was eager to try another recipe in the magazine.

I've never been a fan of ribs. I know that's bizarre but, for a long time, I hated the taste of bone-in pork. Then we started getting BBQ cut pork chops from our butcher and it tasted fine. But, even then, I wasn't willing to try ribs.

Well, in this month's issue, they have an article on re-thinking braised short ribs. The idea? Go boneless. Well, heck, I'm down with that. Even better? Our grocery store had boneless country-style pork ribs on sale for $1.99 a lb. The recipe called for beef but pork works just as well, right?

The recipe in CI called for using a dutch oven, which I sadly don't have. So I decided to just let them stew them on the stove. The meat ended up being melt-in-your-mouth don't-need-a-knife good. And the leftovers we shredded for pulled pork sandwiches.

Braised Pork Ribs

2 1/4 lbs boneless country-style pork ribs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/3 cup red wine
2/3 cup beef broth
3 carrots, peeled, halved and cut into 2" segments
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

1 1/3 oz water
1/3 tsp gelatin

Heat olive oil in large sauce pan over medium heat until fragrant and lightly smoking. Add pork and cook until well browned, about 4-6 minutes. Turn pork over and cook another 4-6 minutes. Transfer pork to a bowl lightly lined with paper towel.

Reduce heat to medium and add onions. Cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until garlic is lightly browned. Increase heat to medium-high and add wine. Bring to a simmer, scrapping up the browned bits, until reduced by half. Add broth, carrots, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper and stir. Replace pork in pan and bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 2 - 2 1/2 hours or until pork is tender.

Place water in a small dish, add gelatin. Let stand about 5 minutes. Remove meat, onions and carrots from pot, cover with foil. Strain liquid into fat separator and let rest about 5 minutes. Return liquid to pot and cook until reduced to about 1 cup. Remove from heat, stir in gelatin. Serve sauce with ribs and veggies.

Chicken Tandoori

I think I mentioned that for Christmas a friend of mine got me a subscription to Cook's Illustrated. I had flipped thru the first issue and thought this recipe would be great to try out because it doesn't involve grilling (always a plus when it's winter and 20 below) or marinading for 24-hours.

I didn't follow their recipe exactly because I only had boneless skinless chicken breasts. As such, some of the instructions in the original recipe were pointless.

Chicken Tandoori

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 yogurt
4 tbsp 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, set aside

Combine remaining spice mixture with salt and remaining lime juice. Rub salt mixture onto chicken and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to upper position of oven, about 6-8" away from the heat source. Preheat oven to 325. Place a wire rack on a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil. Pour yogurt mixture over chicken and toss. Lay chicken on wire rack, discarding extra yogurt mixture. Bake chicken until about halfway done, 15-25 minutes.

Remove chicken from oven. Turn oven to broil and heat 10 minutes. Flip chicken over and broil until lightly charred. Flip chicken once more and char other side until chicken is done, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest about 5 minutes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Oatmeal-Cranberry Cookies

Today is my birthday, so I needed to come up with something to bring in to work. I have a ton of leftover cranberries from the Cranberry-Ginger Cake from Christmas, so I decided this would be a good way to use some up.

Oatmeal-Cranberry Cookies

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup regular oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cranberries, chopped and drained
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350º.

Place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour, oats, and salt to egg mixture; beat well. Fold in cranberries.

Drop by level tablespoons, 1 1/2 inches apart, onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350º for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; let stand 2 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheet and let cool on wire rack.

Pork Schnitzel

I don't think I mentioned my cooking-related gifts this year.

My brother - who had my name in our family exchange - got me a mandonline and a 8-jar gift box from Penzey's that I think he put together himself (at least, I don't see it anywhere on Penzey's website).

And my friend got me a subscription to Cook's Illustrated.

Which leads me to dinner I cooked on Saturday. I didn't realize this at the time but Pork Schnitzel is a recipe in this month's Cook's Illustrated. However, I did my own version (which does not involve frying anything in 2 cups of oil). Below is what I did.

Pork Schnitzel

2 pork loin chops, butterflied
1/2 cup flour
~1 tbsp Sunny Paris seasoning
2 tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt & pepper
dry white wine (optional)
capers (optional)

Place the pork loin chops underneath wax paper. Pound with meat mallet until to 1/4" thick. If necessary to fit cutlets in pan, slice in half. Combine flour and seasoning. Dredge pork cutlets thru flour mixture.

Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and heat thru until shimmery. Add 2 cutlets to pan, sauteeing on both sides about 2-3 minutes. Set aside and keep warm. Add remaining oil to pan, add remaining cutlets, repeat.

Combine broth and lemon juice and deglace pan. Bring mixture to a boil, add salt, pepper, wine and capers (if using). Return pork to pan, reduce heat to low, and simmer until pork is cooked thru. Remove pork from pan, turn heat to high and, stirring constantly, reduce sauce to about 1/4 cup. Plate pork, drizzle sauce over top, and serve.