Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pig Farmer's Pie

1 pound group sausage
2 cups cooked lima beans
1 pound potatoes
1 pound turnips
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon butter

Peel the potatoes and the turnips and cut into small pieces. Boil for about half hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

While the potatoes and turnips are boiling/ Cook sausage over medium heat. Add HALF the salt and pepper and the full teaspoon of basil. When the sausage is browned, stir in lima beans and let cook on low for five minutes. Then, transfer the sausage/lima beans into a 1.5 liter casserole dish.

When potatoes and turnips are tender, drain out all water. Add one teaspoon butter and the rest of the salt and pepper and mash until smooth. Cover the sausage mixture with the potatoes and turnip. Cook in the over for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Crock Pot French Dip Sandwiches

These delightfully greasy sandwiches are one of my husbands favorites, and I am currently writing this with a bellyful of them. They are easy to make. The trick with these, like with any beef roast in a crock pot, is to make sure not to cook it too long. I used to put dishes in the crock pot and leave them all day long, and wondered why my pot roasts came out so tough. I now have a programmable crock pot, and do my 2-3 pound roasts for only about six hours.

There are two primary roast cuts available at Kroger, the bottom round roast and the chuck roast (there are more cuts that you can braise, but these two are the ones I find most often at Kroger--the local Publix has a larger variety of meat cuts, but I don't go there unless I have to since they are more expensive). Bottom round roasts are leaner, and thus more prone to drying out if you leave them in the crock pot too long; they also don't have as rich a flavor as a chuck roast. The chuck roast has a lot more fat and connective tissue and so a lot more meat ends up going to waste, and it can be difficult to carve up (especially with the thin slices that these sandwiches need).

Anyway, to the recipe:

French Dip Sandwiches
2-3 pound beef roast
1 packet dried onion soup mix
1 can beef broth
Sliced Swiss cheese
Fresh deli hoagie rolls

1. Mix together the beef broth and onion soup mix in a crock pot. Place the roast in the crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours.

2. Remove the roast from the crock pot but keep the liquid in the pot warm. Slice it as thinly as possible. Slice each roll and put the beef slices on the bottom half and cover with cheese.

3. Turn the oven on broil. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and put both the top and bottom halves of the sandwiches on the sheet. Broil in oven to 3 minutes.

4. Spoon the liquid from the crock pot into small bowls or ramekins and serve with sandwiches.

Make sure you have plenty of napkins!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Grill Grill Grill (dugga dugga dugga)

When we moved into our house in 2005, my dad bought us a really nice Webber propane grill. And like most nice things I have been given as gifts, I didn't take the best care of it. Because between 2005 and the Great Grill Fire of 2010, I never really cleaned it.

I'm not totally disgusting. I cleaned the parts that actually touch my food. But you know all that part UNDER the grill? The part where 5 years worth of fats can accumulate? And that little grease trap at the bottom (who knew there was a grease trap in big propane grills)? I never cleaned them. Which led directly to the aforementioned Great Grill Fire of 2010.

(Look, I claim only to be pretty good at cooking. I have never claimed to be anything but terrible at cleaning, and everyone who knows me will back me up on that ).

It wasn't really that bad. I was innocently cooking hamburgers on the clean top grill that perched unassumingly above the grease-filled underbelly, when the whole shebang just went up in one big inferno. I shut off the gas, dumped a box of baking soda on it, and we ordered out that night.

So I didn't use the grill for about a year. Because I was freaked out, and well, with my life, and all of the 100 things that always need doing, cleaning out my nasty charred grill never struggled to the top. But I bit the bullet today, and how I cleaned. I dug out all the ashes and scoured the grill top to bottom and inside and out, and am happy to report that the fabulous Weber is still in fine shape and no real damage was done.

Which is great, because summer is ending and I need to make up for a lost year's worth of grilling. I love the grill, and tonight I did the entire dinner o it.

I marinated two bone-in split chicken breasts (great deal on those at Kroger right now) overnight in a bottled Teriyaki marinade. I tossed those on the grill with a few zucchini, sliced down the middle and coated with olive oil and Italian seasoning, and four corn cobs in their husks.

I used to engage in a lot of guess work when grilling. Does it look done? I don't anymore and finally started using a meat thermometer, for two reasons: 1. I don't want to kill my family with food poisoning and 2. If you try to guess, you usually end up overcooking more often than not. Which takes a nice, delicious piece of meat and turns it into jerky. I try to yank stuff off the grill the second that it reaches the right internal temperature (my grill actually has a temperature chart printed on it, but there's also a handy one here.

Split breasts are a very large cut of meat, so it took a while to grill--about 45 minutes, which made dinner later than I intended. One was enough for the family, and I cut up and saved the other one to use in a pasta dish tomorrow night. The kids mainly just ate the corn, which wasn't surprising, but they ate a little chicken, too. The zucchini was a bridge to far for them, but the hubby ate it happily, so it wasn't a total loss.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuna Corn Cakes

Groceries are really expensive these days, if you haven't noticed. So I have been trying to make the most of cheap foods.

Two of my favorite cheap proteins are eggs and canned tuna. Seriously, they're practically free, especially if you buy the tuna when it's on sale. Eggs are easy to make delicious (I will follow up in the next few days with the frittata recipes I have been making), but tuna is a bit more challenging--it's strong, and I don't like the most simple way of making it (tuna salad). But I made a foray over the weekend that turned out quite delicious. A tuna corn cake, like a crab cake, except with corn meal.

I made mine completely from scratch, but you could easily use a cornbread mix. I personally don't like any of the mixes, as most of them are too sweet, especially Jiffy. But there are a few that don't load up on the sugar.

The husband complained that they were a bit too dry, and he had a point. That can probably be solved by adding a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise. I abhor mayonnaise (one of the things probably keeping me from ever being a great chef) and so didn't use it, but may hold my nose and add it in the next time.

Tuna Corn Cakes
1 cup self-rising flour (if you don't use self rising, just add two tablespoons of baking powder)
1/2 cup corn meal
2/3 cups milk
3 eggs
3 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
12 ounces canned tuna
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Mix together the flour, corn meal, and milk. Pour into greased square casserole dish. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Take out and allow to cool.
3. Beat eggs. Mix in green onions, Worcestershire sauce, and Old Bay.
4. Crumble corn bread. Fold into egg mixture along with tuna.
5. Form into 3 inch patties. Heat vegetable oil and butter in a skillet. Fry the patties over medium heat for about 4 minutes on each side.

This recipe made eight cakes, which was more than enough for dinner for everyone, and lunch for me the next day.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Massaman Curry

There are a few dishes out there, that the first time I tried them, I wondered how I was able to enjoy life fully before I knew they existed. Pesto, for example, was one of these heavenly foods. And also avocado (I had never tried guacamole because it looked gross, and didn't first really have avocado until I was in Hawaii with my family and there was a tree with fresh ripe avocados right outside out hotel room. My father picked it, I ate it, and life was never quite the same).

One of these dishes, for me, is Massaman Curry.

Massaman is a Thai curry that is just so unique. The sauce is mainly peanut butter and coconut milk, with a heavy helping of aromatic spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom. It can be served with a variety of meats, although given the very strong flavor of the sauce, it's best with just chicken. It also usually has either potato or sweet potato, as well as other sweet vegetables such as carrots and onions.

I have never tried to make it myself, because I honestly didn't believe I could craft something so delicious. But I walked that plank tonight, I made Massaman Curry, and it was totally delicious.

I started with this basic recipe from AllRecipes. I am a very big fan of that site, at least as a good starting place for recipes, even though I rarely make things strictly according to what I find there.

I made some substitutions, and ended up making this:

Massaman Chicken
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1.5 pounds chicken breast, cut into chunked
1 large sweet potato, cubed*
Six tablespoons Patak's Tandoori paste with tamarind and ginger*
2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
1 can coconut milk*
1/3 cup natural unsalted peanut butter*
1 cup Cashews*

* I have further commentary on the starred ingredients after the recipe.

Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and curry paste, and cook for about two minutes. Then add the chicken breast and cook for about three more minutes, until the outsides have turned white. Then add the coconut milk, peanut butter, and sweet potato, stir well until blended, and bring to a boil. Then, turn down and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender (cut the chunks very small so they won't take forever to cook). Serve over rice and sprinkle with cashews.

A word on ingredients. Many restaurants make massaman with potatoes, and you can do that if you despise sweet potatoes. But I recommend trying it with sweet potatoes, even if you don't think you love them. The flavor blends so wonderfully with the peanut butter and aromatics and coconut milk, and sweet potatoes are far healthier than white potatoes. If you do decide to go the plain white potato route, you might want to add 2 or 3 tablespoons of brown sugar to the sauce, to make up for the lost sweetness.

Curry paste is a complicated thing; there are literally dozens of them, and for non-desis such as myself, it can be a bit confusing. For the massaman, you really want something with tamarind. Apparently, there is also a product known as tamarind paste, so you can either use a paste with a lot of tamarind in it (like the one I used) or pair tamarind paste with a mild curry or garam masala paste. If you are at an Indian grocery, you may want to ask the person behind the counter to help, they will probably be more than happy to (though they will inwardly despair over you inability to make a proper curry). Pick up some Mysore sandalwood soap while you're there.

The other ingredient that you may have to get at an Indian/Asian food store is coconut milk, although my grocery store has a variety available in the Asian section.

Another important ingredient is the peanut butter. Jif just isn't going to work right.You may not know it, but most commercial peanut butter it pretty disgusting and overprocessed, is half trans-fat, and has tons of added salt and sugar. All of these things will ruin your curry. I would even be careful of the 'Natural' peanut butters--they are better, but tend to be loaded with salt, which will overload the dish.

My favorite brand is Krema, which is available at my normal grocery store. I recommend it (for everything, really, not just this curry. Peanuts are yummy all by their lonesome). If you can't find it and are someone who goes to the health food store a lot, grind up some real peanut butter (Whole Foods almost all have grinders). Or, failing that, just look at the natural peanut butters that ARE at your local grocery store and find the one with the lowest sodium content.

My husband hates nuts on food. Not the flavor of nuts (so the peanut butter based sauce it no problem), just hard nuts on his food. Even the most delicious of nuts, cashews. So I didn't serve it with cashews tonight, because I wasn't going to bother getting a whole thing of cashews if no one else was going to want them except me...especially because I knew I would then gorge myself on all the rest of the cashews afterward. I don't know how wide-spread this nut-hating trait it, but if you like cashews on your food, please use them. They are delicious.

And that's all. If I make this again, I may want to add onions or carrots.

Happy Massaman!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Teriyaki Beef

I have spent years trying to figure out how they make the food in Chinese restaurants taste so damn good. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure that I don't really want to know, that it probably involves some sort of perverse processes and unearthly ingredients. So I've learned to be satisfied with the vague facsimiles I can cook up in my own kitchen.

Stir-fries have long been a favorite of mine, especially since most grocery stores even carry bags of pre-cut 'stir-fry' mixes that are pretty good. Cook up some meat and some veggies in some sesame oil (I HIGHLY recommend using sesame oil, it really adds that extra bit of flavor that makes it delicious), add a little teriyaki and, voila! -- you have a lovely fresh dinner.

But if you really want that delicious, tender, salty-sweet meat that makes Chinese food so yummy, a slow cooker can really come in handy. This recipes is a big hit with my entire family, which is a rarity.

Teriyaki Beef
1.5 pounds flat iron steak*
1 bottle teriyaki sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
+ Your favorite veggies

*really, a wide variety of beef cuts can work for this, but I personally like to use this cut instead of the roasts, as it's less fatty and too much grease can kill this dish

Just mix the teriyaki, sugar and garlic in a crock pot, then slice up the steak into strips and mix it in, and cook on low for 6 hours. Then, when it's done, spoon some of the sauce from the crock pot into a pan, and quickly steam some of your favorite veggies. Onions are always a good addition (normally, onions are perfect IN the crock pot, but for this recipes, it's so much better if they are still crisp and crunchy). Broccoli is good, or a mix of red and green peppers. If I weren't cooking for my family, I would definitely add in some water chesnuts, but for some bizarre reason the hubby doesn't like them.

When the veggies are tender,just mix in the beef, and then serve it all over rice.

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pork Week!

I slow-cooked a pork shoulder this week. I love pork shoulders; they are cheap (about $1.50 a pound when they're on sale) and they are great in the slow-cooker. They have a high fat/moisture content, so you can put it in the slow cooker set on low in the morning, with absolutely nothing else, and come home ten hours later to a hunk of meat completely submerged in liquid. Drain all that off, and it shreds very easily.

(Note: pork shoulders are normally sold in the supermarket labeled as either 'picnic shoulder' or 'Boston butt' or maybe just 'butt'. They are slightly different cuts, but essentially the same thing. And not, it's not the butt, since that is the ham--the name has something to do with the kinds of containers they used to be shipped in.)

The only problem is that pork shoulders are very large--normally about 7-10 pound, and they yield several pounds of cooked meat. So, the problem is what to do with all that shredded pork. And it's not that big of a problem, because you can do just about anything with it.

I like to add some salt and pepper and two tablespoons of liquid smoke, and you'll end up with a lot of very versatile meat. If I know I am going to be doing a lot of Mexican, I'll also throw in some green chilis, some cumin and maybe a little onion powder, but sometimes it's better to just go basic and then add spices later.

So, what did I do with all this pork?

Barbecue sandwiches

This is the easiest and most obvious. Stir up some shredded pork with home-made or bottle barbecue sauce, serve it on buns, and you have a very happy family. I always reserve some extra pork-with-barbecue since it makes a great lunch, as well.

Pork quesadillas

I took about a pound of pork and added two teaspoons of chili powder, a teaspoon of onion powder, two teaspoons of cumin and a half cup of water, and simmered it for a few minutes.

I then took some corn tortillas, the little kind (I despise flour tortillas, and don't know why they are so much more popular in the U.S.--nothing beats the flavor and texture of corn tortillas, and they are healthier, as well). I heat one side over medium high heat for half a minute, flipped it, and then put a big spoonful of the simmered pork, a bit of jarred salsa, and then some colby/Monterrey jack cheese. I then folded over the tortilla, let it cook for just a bit, and flipped it a few times until the cheese was totally melted.

It can be time-consuming to make all these, but it's easy, and fun. Everyone loved them and I was requested to make them again for a midnight snack, and then again for dinner the next night. So, I am pretty confident they weren't just being nice.

Pork fried rice
This is so easy for how good it is. It makes a lot and the leftovers are great.

I mixed two cups long-grained rice with a cup and a half of chicken broth, a quarter cup of soy sauce, and frozen 'stir-fry' vegetables (this one had carrots, onion, red pepper, and broccoli; I added a little frozen corn, as well). Heat to a boil and then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, I lightly beat three eggs and cooked them in a skillet, chopped them up and set them aside.

I then heated about a pound of the shredded pork in a very large pan, enough the let the fat melt and the meat to get a little greasy again. I also added some black pepper. I then added in the cooked rice and veggies and stirred them thoroughly until it was heated through and starting to dry out, just a few minutes. Then mix in the eggs and serve.

So, that's what I have done so far...and I still have a little left from that $11 worth of pork shoulder. Any more ideas?