Friday, April 26, 2013

Indian-Inspired Ground Beef and Potatoes

This Indian-inspired dish of ground beef and potatoes has most of the elements of its true counterpart, Keema Aloo, with a few tweaks to suit our taste preferences.

The Hub is not a fan of coriander, so I substitute it with garam masala. I know garam masala has coriander but it's not a whole portion of it and that seems to do the trick. It's warm and satisfying, easy on the budget, cooks up quickly, which makes it a great weeknight meal.

Serves 4

1 pound of ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon light butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger root, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons tumeric
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1 large russet potato, peeled & diced (1/2")
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 cup beef broth

In a stainless steel skillet, head the olive oil over moderate heat and add the onions. Saute for 3 minutes, then add garlic and ginger root and cook for 2 minutes, taking care to not burn the garlic. Sprinkle in  the cumin, garam masala, tumeric, cayenne pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir to coat the onions and add the tablespoon of butter, cooking for 2 minutes. Incorporate the ground beef and break up any large clumps, sprinkle with remaining salt. Add raisins, tomatoes and potatoes. Cook till beef is no longer pink and then add the broth. Allow to come to a full boil and then lower heat to a simmer.  Cook, covered for 15-20 minutes.

Serve with basmati or jasmine rice, naan or pita bread and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. ENJOY!

RECIPE TWEAK Oct 7, 2014:
This is one of my favorite "go-to" weeknight recipes. Recently I tweaked it a bit by switching out the beef for ground turkey, the raisins for dried cranberries and the olive oil for coconut oil. The results? WOW, I did not think it could make it any better but I think I prefer this version to the original!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Coconut Curry Red Lentil Soup with Ham

This recipe came out of desperation on a day when I hadn't planned ahead.  I had a carton of coconut-curry broth, ham, potatoes, carrots, baby corn and 7 ounces of red lentils. And did I mention I was in the mood for soup? All in all this recipe was deliciously satisfying.

Serves 4
1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil
1" inch piece of ginger root minced
2 - 3 cloves of garlic minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Thai roasted red chili paste - to taste
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Burnt to a Crisp ... Dinner and My Favorite Pan

No, there is nothing wrong with your screen, the "image" you are seeing is right. It's a black box and it represents today's cooking disaster. It's been years, and I am thinking more than 20 years, since I've completely wrecked and crispy burnt a dinner like I did today.  Guessing I was due for a kitchen disaster, yes?
I had planned on making a German-inspired dish today ... Rouladen.  Rouladen is rolled up thin beef steaks stuffed with pickles, caramelized onions and bacon, then simmered in beef stock. I was so excited to try this out. Everything went well and fairly quickly. Then when it came time to simmer the beef rolls, I added the stock, covered it and walked away to take a break for lunch and just chill for a bit. About fifty minutes later, the scent of burnt food comes wafting into the family room. I got up so fast I nearly hit the ceiling. I ran into the kitchen and knew immediately what I had forgotten to do. I cook on induction burners, it is faster, heats up the house less and doesn't require 220 volts of electricity to power them. I had forgotten to lower the heat to a simmer. When I removed the lid the bottom of my favorite all-clad french skillet was charred, and the bottoms of the Rouladens were charred to a crisp. There was no salvaging the rolls, only one seemed to be somewhat okay. I was so disappointed ... dinner was a charred mess and then I was really mad when I saw the condition of my favorite skillet.
I figured what the heck, let me at least taste the one salvaged roll and I am happy to say ... it was delicious! I can't wait to try this again and now I know what needs to be tweaked to suit our palette.
So while dinner is now a charred memory, I can say I WILL be making this again and this time I will make sure to double check my heat setting OR leave the simmering portion of the recipe to my slow cooker.
Oh, and my skillet you ask? Nothing a little soaking in oven cleaner can't handle! Next time you char your dinner to the skillet, don't flip, just spray with some oven cleaner, let it soak and your stainless steel skillet will shine like new!
Now, the question is ... what the heck do I make for dinner!?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stop... Don't Throw Vegetable Scraps Out!

Did you know you can save the trimmings from your vegetables to make stock?  That's what I do and it saves you time and money. Unless your saving your vegetable scraps for compost, you could be using them to make any variety of stocks.
I am not at all against using the store bought stock that comes in cans and cartons, but nothing is better than homemade stock. What I do is I use a gallon size freezer zip bag to store the scraps. As I am prepping recipes I place all the vegetable scraps on a plate. When I say all, I mean all the end and the skins from the onions, which adds a deep color naturally to your stock, the greens from scallions, the tops and the peels from carrots, the bottoms of romaine lettuce or celery, parsley stems, the woody stalks from broccoli ... pretty much anything that is a vegetable goes into my scrap bag.  Of course, there are exceptions, I do not add potato peels (white or sweet) of any kind because it "dirties" the stock or beets and red onions, unless you want a red/pink stock. Green, white, yellow and orange vegetables all make it into the scrap bag. I'll collect 2-gallon size bags worth of vegetables before using them for stock. If I am making a vegetable stock, I tend to use 3-gallon size bags worth of scraps.
You are probably wondering, who has time to make stock? Everyone does! If you have a slow cooker, all you have to do is chuck all your ingredients in to it, set it on low for 8-10 hours and you've got stock. Portion out into freezer safe containers, zip bags or into ice cube trays and you are ready to elevate and enhance your recipes. Give it a try and not only will you be utilizing all your food resources, but you'll know what you putting into your food and body.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spring Pea Soup

It's the quintessential lunch; soup and salad or soup and a sandwich. I really enjoy accompanying a salad, sandwich or wrap with a soup.  It rounds out the meal and you'll be less likely to overindulge too. Unlike other recipes that use chicken stock, I use vegetable stock, which enhances the flavor of the peas and gives it a light spring taste. If you want to trim some of the calories, use skim milk and fat free half & half. 

Serves 2
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 tablespoon light butter
3 - 4 shallots, small dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic gloves, crushed
5-6 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup milk (use your preference, whole, 2%, skim etc)
1/2 cup half and half

In a medium stainless steel pot heat the oil and butter over medium heat and add shallots, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, saute for 3 minutes. Next add garlic gloves, basil and parsley, cook for another 2 minutes and add stock and the peas. Cover and cook over medium low heat for 5-7 minutes.
Using either a blender or immersion stick blender, process until smooth. Stir in milk and half & half, heat through but do not boil. Add remaining salt or season to taste.

Serve with dollop of sour cream and a light spring salad or wrap. ENJOY!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cuban Ropa Vieja or Cuban Shredded Beef in Sauce

"Ropa Vieja" literally translates to "old clothes".  This refers to the stringy, twisted look of the beef in this dish.  This is a classic Cuban dish.  The smells of the "sofrito" as it cooks and permeates the air, takes me back to my moms kitchen. It's memory evoking aroma is bittersweet. The main portion of this dish cooks very quickly, however, the meat needs to cook in water first before it is transformed into Ropa Vieja. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do at our home.

Serves 4-6

To prepare the meat:
2 1/2 - 3 pounds eye round roast, cut into long chunks
1 large onion quartered
3-4 garlic cloves crushed
1 large green bell pepper
2 quarts of water

Place all of the ingredient into a slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. If you don't have a slow cooker, you can simmer the meat for about 2-3 hours, until fork tender. Once cooked, pull the beef like you would string cheese so that you have beef strings of different thicknesses. Set aside to make Ropa Vieja. TIP: Do no throw out the yummy stock the beef made while it cooked. Simply cool, remove any fat, strain and freeze in portions as needed.

To make the Ropa Vieja

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

White Bean & Spanish Chorizo Soup

Beans Chorizo Carrots Soup Bacon potatoes

I have a new favorite bean ... Great Northern White Beans! I am completely enamored of these dusty white little gems.  When cooked they are soft and creamy, and have a rich buttery flavor. So, after a 4 day weekend hiatus to the Hollywood beach boardwalk and a bit too much food and libations, our tummies needed something homey and comforting.  I was craving this simple, yet satisfying soup. The addition of the Spanish chorizo adds an extra depth and layer of flavor to this soup.

Serves 4

1 pound great northern white beans
5-6 slices turkey bacon, cut into 1" strips
40 oz (5 cups) vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced into half moons
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
2 links fresh Spanish chorizo, sliced into coins
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped, stems discarded
1 1/2  teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Salt Will Keep Your Beans from Softening

Did you know you shouldn't add salt to your beans until they are softened?  That's right, adding salt to your beans when you start cooking them will inhibit the softening process. The salt actually prevents the starches in the beans from breaking down, thus producing a hard bean. Beans are a superfood! They are high in fiber and protein and rich in anti-oxidants, and because they digest at a slower rate than their protein counterpart - meat, they keep you full longer and that makes them great for your waistline.  Beans are so versatile and it's another food staple that I think people, in general, tend to shy away from. I have found that the best way to prepare dried beans for cooking is as follows:

  1. Soak beans overnight in water. At least 8 hours or more. The ratio I use for the soaking is 2:1 (2 parts water to 1 part bean)
  2. If possible, I like to change out the soaking water a few times.
  3. Never cook in the soaking water. Discard and and rinse your beans.
  4. Place your beans in a stock pot or dutch oven. Add enough water or unsalted stock to cover beans about an inch over top of beans. You can add aromatics, such a onions, peppers etc., but NO salt.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Petits Oignons, Mushrooms & Chicken à la Sauce

Can you tell by the title of this post I was in a Parisian mood? I knew I was going to have a busy day, with a 3 mile run this morning followed by some grocery shopping and then vet visits for Lennon, our beagle and Sophie, our silver tabby. But, a simple but very Parisian inspired dish, I knew would hit the spot at the end of the day. I had a pound of chicken breast brining in the fridge overnight. I had no idea then what I was going to do with it, till I hit the running path this morning! And so, here is the recipe for my française inspired dish. 

Serves 4

1 pound chicken breast*, diced into 1" cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound frozen* pearl onions, defrosted, reserve the "onion" water 
8 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ginger-Coconut Curry Shrimp

Last Friday, I was in the mood for curry and coconut with some heat and I also wanted shrimp! So here's what I came up with, and it was delicious! The Hub and I had seconds, not something we do often, as we both try to not over-indulge, but we just couldn't resist!

Serves 4

Shrimp stock:
Using all the shrimp peels, plus  1 small onion roughly chopped, skin and all, 4 cups of water. Cook in a mini slow cooker on low for 8 hours or stove top bring to a boil for one minute, simmer for an hour or longer. Using the onion's skin adds flavor and a rich color to the stock. Freeze any leftover stock for use in future recipes!

Mix 1 cup shrimp stock + 1 cup coconut milk + 3 tablespoons unsweetened finely shredded coconut and 2 teaspoons honey together. Set aside 1/4 cup, and when cooled add 2 generous teaspoons of cornstarch, stir to incorporate.