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Monday, February 28, 2011

Beef & Cheese Cobbler

While out shopping at one of my favorite discount department stores recently, I came across a really fun cookbook for a song called 1 Ground Beef, 100 Meals.  I couldn't pass it up.  I mean, hamburger is the cheapest thing you can buy in the market and the possibilities are endless. 

The first recipe I wanted to make from this book was Beef & Cheese Cobbler.  The recipe as it appears in the book has a nice cobbler topping; pretty much a homemade cheese biscuit.  But at 35 weeks pregnant, I don't want to mess around with cookie cutters.  I'll give you my shortcut version of this dish.

Beef & Cheese Cobbler

2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 lb onions, cut into wedges
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef stock
milk, for glazing
salt and pepper
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 can instant biscuits (like Grands or Simply Buttermilk Biscuits)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat oil over medium heat and add ground beef.  Cook, stirring frequently and breaking the beef up with a wooden spoon, for 8010 minutes, until evenly browned.

2.  Remove skillet from heat and spoon ground beef into a casserole dish, then stir in the flour.  Add the onions, ketchup, thyme and bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour in the stock and stir well, then cover and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour.

3.  After the hour, remove the casserole from the oven.  Sprinkle with half the cheese, then place overlapping biscuits on top of ground beef mixture.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and put back into the oven for an additional 30 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown.

The Verdict:  We all loved this, including Mr. Picky, the toddler in residence. 

It wasn't the healthiest choice, but it sure was a nice comfort food.  The ingredients in the ground beef are simple but work well together to create a pleasant taste.  The hamburger stays juicy without being gloppy like a sloppy joe.  The biscuits are the perfect accompaniment. 

Since onions are a current part of my son's "no-eat" list, I was initially worried.  I didn't want to leave them out; onions are a fragrant and integral part of cooking.  But a-ha!  Because they were chunked, I could easily pick them out of his portion.  They still flavored his food, but he never knew they'd been there.  (And by the way, we started the meal with carrot sticks.  That way, he got a serving of vegetables before we started eating the family meal.)

Maybe someday when my energy levels are waxing toward normal I'll make this the way it's described in the cookbook.  For now, this is easy enough to prepare with little hands-on time and everyone liked it as is.  I'd make it again.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Apricot Stuffing and Chicken

Time to dig out the old crockpot again.  I've mentioned in a couple of previous posts that I'm looking for easier recipes now that I'm getting ridiculously pregnant and don't want to spend as much time in the kitchen and generally the slow cooker heeds the call.  And where I'm not a giant fan of "cream of dinner", I was kind of excited to try this recipe out as it calls for four...count 'em...four ingredients, none of them being a cream of something soup.  I found this dish from Fix-It and Forget-It, Our Best Slow Cooker Recipes 2010.

Apricot Stuffing and Chicken

6-oz pkg. cornbread stuffing mix
1/2 cup butter, divided
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
6- to 8-oz jar apricot preserves

1.  In a mixing bowl, make stuffing using 4 tbsp butter and amount of water called for in package instructions.

2.  Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces.  Place in bottom of slow cooker.  Spoon stuffing over top.

3.  In microwave or on stovetop, melt remaining 4 tbsp butter with preserves.  Pour over stuffing.

4.  Cover and cook on high 3 hours or cook on high 1 hour and then on low 2 hours or until chicken is tender.

The Verdict:  I think my cat could make this recipe it's so easy, but it's so good you'd never believe it was so stupidly simple.

There's a recipe that I recently posted for creamy chicken and stuffing casserole that's very similar.  It's a bit of an old standby, but I do believe it's been pushed out of the roster by this new recipe.  The combination of cornbread stuffing, sweet apricot preserves, and tender chicken is just awesome.  Just sweet enough without rendering the chicken a sugary mess.  Perfect.

I did run into a conundrum while making the stuffing.  The recipe tells you to make the stuffing as directed on the package, and the package that I used (Pepperidge Farms) called for an additional two ingredients: diced onion and chopped celery.  Zut alors.  This means that my four ingredient recipe would then become a 6 ingredient recipe.  And is that what they meant by following the package directions?  It's rather weird that I'm sometimes so literal as I consider myself to be pretty creative.  So as usual, I suggest you do whatever you want to do.  I added the onions and celery and am very happy that I did.  The stuffing was "let's have seconds" good.

Yes, that's a good way to put it.  Let's have seconds.  In fact, let's make two more crockpots of this concoction and have have thirds.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Quesadilla Casserole

Oh what to make, what to make for Meatless Monday?  With good farmer's market produce months away, it's starting to get difficult to find things that interest me.  I've overlooked this recipe for Quesadilla Casserole for a long time now, but figured, why not?  Looks easy enough, we all like beans...let's give it a try.

Quesadilla Casserole

3 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 29-oz can black beans, drained, 1/2 cup liquid reserved
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
Five 10-inch flour tortillas
8 oz monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 cup store-bought green enchilada sauce

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes.  Add 1 1/2 cups black beans and mash into a chunky paste.  Stir in the reserved liquid.

2.  Grease a heavy, ovenproof skillet.  In a bowl, combine the corn, parsley and remaining black beans.  Place a tortilla in the skillet and spread with 1/3 cup mashed black bean mixture and 1/2 cup cheese.  Press to compress layers.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas, mashed black beans, corn-bean mixture and cheese.  Bake until the cheese is melted and the casserole is heated through, about 30 minutes.  Transfer to the broiler and cook for 1 minute.  Serve with the enchilada sauce.

The Verdict:  It's pretty yummy!  But the little smatterings of green...toddler hated it.

So I'm starting to learn how to un-green my kiddos food.  It's really difficult to write a recipe blog when your 2.5-year-old is going through the "assert-myself-in-weird-ways" stage, which for him includes the green aversion.  (Doubly hard with an engineer husband whose adjectives are different versions of "good" or "I like it.")  Oh, and in case you're thinking "Of course the kid didn't eat that green stuff!" I only put the sauce on my husband's and my quesadilla.

I don't know that I actually used five tortillas to make this recipe.  I think I only used 3 or 4.  For some reason, each time I'd read the directions, I was seeing to use a third of the bean mixture, not 1/3 of a cup.  If you use them all, you're a rock star.  If you don't, you're hooked on phonics like me and that's OK.  It still turned out really good.

Another confession: my supermarket didn't have green enchilada sauce.  After spending too long scouring the Tex-Mex part of the aisle, I just shrugged my shoulders and bought green taco sauce.  Does it make a difference?  I don't know.  I buy salsa verde all the time, but couldn't tell you the difference between taco and enchilada sauce.  If you'd like to give me a tutorial, feel free to drop me a line. 

I enjoyed this recipe a lot.  What's not to like?  Beans, corn, and cheese...and cheese that got to hang out under the broiler?  That's a winner in my book.  It did take a bit of time to prepare, which isn't always the best choice for a weeknight with a small child.  But good stuff.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chicken with Curried Fruit

Even when I was single, I loved to cook.  I did my share of takeout and restaurant dining, but mainly for things that I can't claim to cook well like Chinese and Indian food.  Otherwise, I always felt like there was no reason to eat well, even if I were dining alone that particular evening.  So I remember that I was really excited when I found a copy of The 15-Minute Single Gourmet cookbook by Paulette Mitchell for about 50 cents at the local thrift store.  Perhaps its previous owner got married and decided the cookbook was no longer necessary, but I decided to hang onto it.  Not because I plan to be single again someday, but because a good recipe idea can be changed to accomodate different tastes, different needs, and even a different number of diners. 

This recipe for Chicken with Curried Fruit sounded really delicious, so I did just that: cooked enough for my entire family.  Unfortunately, the suggested fruit to be curried was peaches and peaches aren't in season at the moment.  So I went with a can of cling peaches instead.  Feel free to substitute with pears, pineapples or apricots--frozen, canned or fresh.

Chicken with Curried Fruit

1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp curry powder, or to taste
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tbsp light brown sugar
2 peaches at room temperature, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch wedges

1.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the water, stir in the curry powder, and heat until bubbly.

2.  Add the chicken and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is lightly browned and cooked through, 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a measuring cup, combine the orange juice and brown sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

3.  Remove the chicken from the pan; place in a bowl and cover to keep warm.  Reduce the heat to low.  Add the peach wedges and orange juice mixture to the skillet; stir until the fruit is lightly cooked and the sauce buhbly, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the chicken and heat for 1 minute.  Taste; adjust the seasonings.

The Verdict:  Not bad.  Easy, flavorful.  But not nearly as good as Indian take away.

To be honest, I was surprised how the curry sauce was prepared.  Not that there's a better way to do it; I've just never made it before and was slightly surprised when I read that you first add oil, then add water.  But it works!  You suddenly have a skillet full of fragrant sauce.  And let me tell you, fragrant might be an understatement.  Our house smelled like curry for days afterward and if I were to rate recipes on a scale of one to five stars, it would definitely lose one for that factor. 

I also think I would wait for fresh fruit to be in season.  The cling peaches were a little blah.  Or I would have at least used frozen. 

I will say that it's very quick to prepare and is a fairly healthy meal.  And it's not bad alongside brown rice.  I apologize that this one doesn't have a picture to accompany it.  It was a night of everyone being tired and hungry, so the priority was food on the table.  All in all, it was good but not the best chicken dish I've done.  But again, I might try it with seasonal fruit.  And maybe some onion bhajis on the side, you know, to negate all the healthy aspects of the recipe.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Turkey-Vegetable Loaf

Twenty million years ago or so, I bought a cookbook called The Low-Fat Epicure by Sallie Twentyman.  It has quite a few good recipes in it, but I'd never tried this one for Turkey-Vegetable Loaf.  I was kind of excited; I had visions of filling a meatloaf with lots of healthy additions and my family being none the wiser.  Well...

Turkey-Vegetable Loaf

1.25 lb ground turkey
1 small onion, grated and squeezed of excess juice
1 cup fresh spinach or grated zucchini, well packed and squeezed of excess juice
1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 cup minced celery
1 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 slices fresh bread ground into crumbs (about 2 cups)
2 egg whites
1/2 cup ketchup

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine all ingredients except ketchup, and mix well.  Press into 9 1/2-by-5 1/2-inch loaf pan and spread ketchup over top.  Bake 1 hour, or until turkey loaf is no longer pink in middle. 

2.  Remove from oven, drain off juices, and let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict:  Surprise!  Or not so much--the toddler could spot green flakes from 10 miles away.

In addition to my son going on a vegetable safari (picking out anything he thought might possibly be a vegetable), I found it to be kind of bland.  And plain ketchup spread over the the top?  Just plain yuck.  You could at least mix in a little Worcestershire and brown sugar to create a somewhat tasty glaze.  Instead, it was gelatinous ketchup.

I was happy that the loaf stayed in a loaf shape.  My meatloaves are notorious for crumbling into heaps, so that was one win.  However, I think I'll take what I learned and apply it to a meatloaf that, um, tastes good.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bean and Sausage Stew

Many years ago now (which makes me whimper as it makes me feel old thinking about it as many years ago), I worked in a nonprofit that housed a WIC program.  The Women, Infants and Children's (WIC) Program are a state and federally funded program that gives nutritional advice, support, and vouchers to pregnant women and their families.  I got to work with WIC quite often, which was always a treat.  The women who ran that program were so knowledgeable and caring.  To this day, I still tell people about WIC and encourage them to apply if they think they might qualify.

One of the perks of working with WIC was the information and recipes I was always privy to.  I have a cookbook from those years from WIC, called The Bean Cookbook, put out by the Northharvest Bean Growers Association, chock full of bean recipes.  This is one of them.

Bean and Sausage Stew

1/2 lb Polish or German sausage, or low-fat turkey sausage
1 large onion, sliced
1 cup sliced celery
2 cups sliced, peeled carrots
1 can (15 1/2-oz) great northern beans with liquid
1 can (15 1/3-oz) red beans with liquid
2 cups water
1 bay leaf

1.  Slice sausage into 1/4-inch thick rounds and fry until brown.

2.  Add onion to sausage and brown.  Drain off grease.

3.  In a large pan, combine sausage and onions with rest of ingredients.

4.  Cover and simmer, 45-60 minutes.

The Verdict:  Delicious!

I bought all the ingredients to make this recipe but didn't really read it until the day I planned to make it.  Then I panicked: seriously, that's what's in this stew?  Shouldn't there be something else, or at least some spices?  It was my last-minute decision to add a bay leaf, but in all, I resisted to change it.  If it was bland, it was bland. 

Surprisingly, this recipe is fantastic.  I used a mild Italian chicken sausage which lent a lot of flavor.  And I under-estimated the power of celery.  Together, these simple ingredient come together to create a rich broth and a hearty taste.  I served it over brown rice. 

Don't forget not to rinse or drain your beans.  The bean liquid gives the dish taste and substance.  Which also reminds me, this is one of those stews that leftovers end up tasting even better than the first day.  As someone who rarely likes leftovers, this is always a treat.  The whole family enjoyed it: day one and day two.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sweet & Savory Chicken Tidbits

The original recipe, from Rachael Ray Magazine, called for chicken wings.  And while chicken wings are a fun and occasional treat, I can't remember the last time I actually made any.  They tend to be extremely fatty and high in calories in comparison to others parts of a chicken since they're mainly skin.  Not to mention that with a toddler, a piece of meat made up of 2/3rds bones just seems like a bad idea.  So I decided that instead of wings, we'd try Sweet & Savory Chicken Tidbits, made from cut up boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Sweet & Savory Chicken Tidbits

1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup soy sauce
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 oz lemon-flavored gelatin
2 tbsp poppy seeds

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine the pineapple juice and soy sauce.  Add the chicken and let marinade for 15 minutes. 

2.  On a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, arrange the chicken in a single layer.  Pour 1/2 cup of the marinade over the chicken, then sprinkle with about 1/3 of the gelatin; bake for 15 minutes.  Flip and sprinkle with another 1/3 of the gelatin and the poppy seeds, then bake until browned, about 15 additional minutes. 

The Verdict:  I can understand why the wings would be tastier as the chicken pieces dry out a little bit.  Aside from that, this dish tastes pretty good and is easy enough to make.

I really love to cook with pineapple.  I like pineapple alone, but in foods it has a great sweet-tart flavor.  When combined with the soy sauce, it gives it a fun Polynesian vibe.  The gelatin makes the chicken slightly sticky, creating a feeling of finger food that's fun like wings.

Be really careful when sprinkling the poppy seeds on the chicken.  Because the gelatin makes the chicken instantly sticky, if you pour too many seeds at once they'll clump unattractively on the chicken. 

We all liked the taste, but I don't think anyone was particularly bowled over.  If anything, I'd use the actual wings and use this as an appetizer for something like a Super Bowl party or a game night.  They'd be a little more moist and more fun to eat.  But since we won't be hosting the next Super Bowl bash, I'm guessing this recipe will get lost among the "just OKs."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Easy Beef Enchiladas

So in my quest for easy recipes, I dug this one up from my friend Carolyn.  She made these for us when my son was first born to freeze, though hers were chicken.  They're a cinch to make, a must for my current 33-week pregnant self.

Easy Beef Enchiladas

2 cups cooked stir fry beef strips
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 8-oz package cream, cubed
1 jar (16 oz) salsa, divided
8 flour tortillas
1 package shredded Mexican cheese blend

1.  Stir beef, bell pepper, cream cheese, and 1/2 cup salsa on low heat until cream cheese is melted.

2.  Spoon 1/3 cup beef mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up.  Place, seam-side down, in a lightly greased baking dish.

3.  Pour remaining salsa down the center of tortillas in baking dish.  Top with cheese.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

The Verdict:  Chicken! Chicken! Chicken!

I love this recipe, but I definitely recommend making it with the chicken.  Chicken will stay a lot more moist, whereas the beef having to go through two cooking times, turns into shoe leather.  And while I'm sure there's some way to cook the beef so that it stays on the medium to medium-well side, I'm thinking that might take work.  And people, we're not into work these days.

Still one of my favorites, though.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Creamy Chicken & Stuffing Casserole

My family is currently down for the count.  If you're a regular reader, you might have noticed that I haven't posted for a while.  I am nearly eight months pregnant and dealing with all kinds of musculoskeletal fun and my husband has the flu.  The toddler is a wizard at plastic food preparation, but reminds us all as we delight in his dishes, "Mommy, Daddy, don't weally eat it, it's just patend."  Therefore, we can't count on his Iron Chef abilities.

So I dug into the freezer this week and we ate the frozen lasagna I'd made extra a couple of weeks ago.  I also made the Southwest Cheese & Pasta recipe from months back, which we all love and takes minutes to prepare.  There wasn't much kitchen creativity happening this week.  In fact, my menu planning over the weekend included all recipes that are easy to prepare.  This following recipe for Creamy Chicken & Stuffing Casserole is one of them.  It's a cream of dinner, generally something I hate, but I like this one.  Can't remember where this recipe comes from; I've been making it for a long time now.

Creamy Chicken & Stuffing Casserole

1 pkg (6 oz.) chicken-flavored stuffing mix
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5-6 oz each), cut into cubes
2 zucchini, cut into ½” pieces
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 can (10.75 oz) reduced-fat cream of chicken soup

1.  Combine stuffing mix (and seasoning packet, if included) with 1/2 cup water until just moistened in a large bowl.  Set aside.

2.  Mix chicken, zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion in another large bowl.  Stir in soup.  Transfer half of the chicken-vegetable mixture in a 4-quart or larger slow cooker.  Spoon half of the reserved stuffing on top.  Repeat layers.

3.  Cover.  Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or on high 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until vegetables are tender.

The Verdict:  As the cook, I love this recipe because it's deliriously easy and quite tasty to boot.  My husband thinks it's pretty good.  The toddler thinks it's rubbish, but will eat the chicken.

My son is driving me crazy with his current dislike of 99% of vegetables.  It's really ironic, as I went out of my way when he was an infant to introduce him to a plethora of foods.  I made them myself and spiced them quite liberally.  By that rationale, he should be a super-foodie, but no. 

Anyway, I love stuffing but we never eat it.  This is a quick way to enjoy it, as well as to eat a bunch of vegetables (if you aren't 2 1/2).  And aside from chopping the vegetables, you can't find a quicker recipe.  This recipe is fantastic for potlucks.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chicken with Mushroom Hash

Why is it, when I think of hash, I think only of grated potatoes browned in a pan?  When I found this recipe in the Food & Wine 2006 cookbook, my first reaction was "yum" and my second was "whatever you say."  Because the hash in this recipe is cubed potatoes, mushrooms, and pears.  In my limited little brain, that's not hash.  But apparently, I'm wrong as I found approximately one billion recipes afterwards that defy my definition of what hash is.  (And by the way, don't research the subject with Google searches like "what is hash?"  You will learn more about the pasty marijuana substance than you ever needed to know.)

Chicken with Mushroom Hash

Four 8- to 10-oz bone-in chicken breast halves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
8 oz. sliced white mushrooms
1 tsp thyme
1/2 cup water
2 Bosc pears, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  In a large, deep skillet, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil  until shimmering.  Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned, about 6 minutes.  Transfer to a baking dish.  Roast the chicken for 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the breasts are pierced.

2.  Meanwhile, in the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil until shimmering.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, until barely softened, 3 minutes.  Add the potatoes, mushrooms and thyme and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.  Add the water, cover and cook until the potatoes are browned, about 7 minutes.  Add the pears, cover and cook over moderately low heat until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes longer.  Transfer the chicken to plates and serve with the hash.

The Verdict:  Perfection!

This dish is wonderful in many ways.  The first is that it's a visual feast.  It's stunningly beautiful with an autumn palate of golden browns, russets, and yellows.  And not surprisingly, the taste matches the beauty of the plate.  Crisping the chicken skin then roasting it in the oven allows for a lovely, crispy skin that envelops a juicy breast.  And that breast is a perfect combination with the hash.  The hash has soft, almost buttery potatoes, earthy mushrooms and sweet pears.  I wasn't sure that adding a half cup of water while cooking the hash would do anything for the taste.  I was tempted to add chicken broth, but no need.  The water helps to break down the ingredients, creating a very moist composite of fruit and vegetable.  Not anything like the hash I'm used to--and so, so, so much better.

The original recipe calls for shiitake mushrooms.  I'm sure that makes the dish even more decadent, but while I was shopping, I didn't like how the shiitakes at the market looked.  So I went with plain white mushrooms and they were fantastic.  Use either.  Also, they suggest fresh thyme.  As I've written before, I don't use many fresh herbs, especially during the winter.  The dried thyme tasted great, but if you have fresh, you might want to give it a try.  Add two springs and discard before serving.

Make this dish during the fall or winter then have people over.  I promise they'll think you're some kind of kitchen savant. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Teriyaki Beef with Noodles

I was flipping through The New York Times Cookbook, looking for something new.  I don't know how new it is, exactly, but I stopped on a dime when I saw the recipe for teriyaki beef.  When I was single, I ate Chinese take away at least once a week.  My husband isn't very fond of Chinese food, so these days it's a treat to have it.  I prayed that this teriyaki would be just as good as what comes in the little white take out box.

I was going to serve it with brown rice, but last weekend, I made an impromptu stop into H-Mart. If you aren't familiar with H-Mart, it's a chain of Asian grocery stores here in the U.S.  Very few states and cities have them and we happen to be one of the lucky ones.  The store is humongous, with a produce section that's at least twice the size of a regular market.  An entire wall makes up the fresh fish section.  And then there's just the Asian groceries.  Every noodle known to mankind is available, which is what I picked up: fresh, thick Chinese noodles.  If you don't have these noodles available to you, I think a fresh pasta noodle (think Buitoni) would be OK.  However, you might lose some of the starch which is very important to the dish.  When cooked with other liquids, it creates a wonderful, thick broth.

Teriyaki Beef with Noodles

2 lbs (1/4" thick) sirloin steak
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cup light soy sauce, divided
3/4 cup sherry, divided
1 package fresh Chinese noodles
1 package (12-oz) package sliced white mushrooms
1/4 lb pea pods
2 cups low-sodium beef broth

1.  Cut the steak into thin slices or strips.

2.  Combine the ginger, garlic, onion, sugar, 1 cup of the soy sauce and 1/2 cup sherry and pour mixture over the meat.  Let stand for 1 to 2 hours.

3.  Turn broiler on high and allow time to heat up.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the beef broth, the rest of the soy sauce and the rest of the sherry and bring to a boil.  Add the mushrooms and peapods and let cook for approximately 4 minutes. 

4.  Add noodles to broth and vegetables and cook for time expressed on the the package.

5.  After adding noodles to the broth, place meat under the broiler for approximately 2 minutes per side.  Remove from heat.  Serve teriyaki with the noodles hot.

The Verdict:  Not only was the teriyaki as good as what you'd get from Chinese takeout, the noodles were a surprising hit!  I kind of winged the recipe, hoping my son would enjoy them, and it ended up that we all liked them a lot.

The teriyaki can also be grilled and it might even be better that way.  But since we have an enormous amount of snow outside and can barely find our cars, nevermind the grill, we'll be using the broiler.  But however you cook it, the meat has a wonderful flavor.

The gluten in the noodles, like I mention above, creates a lovely, thick beef broth that coats the noodles.  Beware, however, that noodles this glutenous do not make good leftovers.  They begin to break down, creating a slugdy mess.  My son still liked them, but the texture absolutely grossed me out. 

I started the meal with edamame in the shells, sprinkled liberally with salt.  It was fun to peel the beans out of their shells before eating our main course.  It felt like a good night out at a restaurant, minus a tip, a scorpion bowl and fortune cookies.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pasta Shells with Chickpeas and Hominy

Mollie Katzen is a great vegetarian cook and cookbook writer.  I've had her book Vegetable Heaven for years and have many recipes in it that are old standards, along with a few I'm not so fond of.  Actually, I've had the book for such a long time that looking through it the other day with fresh eyes made me see recipes I didn't even realize were there.  Like this one, which she called "Pasta Shells with Chickpeas and an Unexpected Ingredient."  I was intrigued.  The secret ingredient was...

...hominy.  Oh.

Well, that's fine.  There's nothing wrong with hominy.  I just was expecting something a little more interesting.  Or exotic.  But I like hominy; especially the way that it tastes and even looks a bit like hard, wet popcorn.  So we gave it a go for Meatless Monday.

Pasta Shells with Chickpeas and Hominy

1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 (15-oz) can white or yellow hominy, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
3/4 lb medium-sized (1-inch) pasta shells
1/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
Coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper

1.  Combine chickpeas, hominy, olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt, herbs, and mozzarella in a large bowl.  Stir, cover tightly, and let stand at room temperature.  Marinade for up to 8 hours.

2.  Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water until it is tender.  Drain thoroughly, and add it to the chickpea mixture in the bowl.  Toss well from the bottom, sprinkling grated cheese and chopped parsley as you go.  Grind in a generous amount of black pepper, and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. 

The Verdict:  Good, but I'd rather it be a side than the main event.

The herbs and vinegar are what make this recipe.  While pasta, chickpeas, hominy and mozzarella all taste good, none of them are highly flavorful foods.  They seem to be a blend of different blands.  In some ways, they work better standing alone as their mellow tastes don't stand out too much when competing with one another.

Hominy was not a hit with my son.  He wanted to try it as soon as I opened the can because, I'm sure, it looks like a fun food.  Almost like a can of tiny snowballs.  But whatever he was imagining it would taste like, it didn't.  He chewed, made a perplexed face, then immediately spit it out in dramatic toddler fashion.  I guess to him it was the "unexpected ingredient" to which Mollie Katzen refers--unexpectedly disgusting.

I think this dish would be great to bring along to a barbecue.  Which, I sheepishly admit, means bringing it to sit along side a big, juicy burger.  Ironic, as it was my Meatless Monday choice.  But it just doesn't have enough going on for me to be a main course.

Just as an aside, I used tri-color shells.  I mention this because the photo looks like a bowl of pasta salad with orange peels.  That's tomato pasta shells.  Boy, wouldn't it be nice to have a professional food photographer to go along with this blog?  My husband would love that, as he already complains that every dinnertime is like a CSI: Kitchen episode with all the flashbulbs.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Crispy Fish with Lemon-Dill Sauce

I had a gaping hole in my weekly menu for Sunday night.  I figured I'd pick up some fish and a vegetable, though I wasn't really sure which fish or what to do with it.  Whole Foods quickly answered the which question with pollock fillets on sale for an astounding $3.99 a pound!  A white flaky fish?  I then remembered an oven-fried fish recipe I've been coveting from Cooking Light.  And voilĂ , dinner is served.

Crispy Fish with Lemon-Dill Sauce

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp garlic powder
4 (6-oz) skinless cod fillets, or other white flaky fish
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
Cooking spray
1/4 cup canola mayonnaise
2 tbsp pickle relish
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp chopped fresh dill

1.  Preheat broiler.

2.  Place egg in shallow dish.  Combine panko, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder in a another shallow dish.  Sprinkle fish evenly with pepper and salt.  Dip each fillet in egg white, then dredge in panko mixture; place on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray.  Broil 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

3.  Combine mayonnaise, relish, lemon juice, and dill.  Serve sauce with fish.

The Verdict:  Looks like fried fish, tastes like fried fish, but not a drop of oil is used.

Let me tell you, the combination of delicious fresh fish and crispy coating is amazing.  Plus, the homemade tartar sauce with the hint of dill was phenomenal.  My husband and I enjoyed dipping the fish in the sauce, while my son thought it was a side dish and ate it with a fork. 

The other part I loved about this dish was using the broiler.  Five minutes to coat the fish, eight minutes to cook it.  Can you get any easier?

This is THE recipe when you're in the mood for fried fish.  I can't say enough about how good it was.