Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gordon Ramsay's Perfect Scrambled Eggs

I love eggs for breakfast, but on the weekdays, the most I ever have time for is a couple of quick plain scrambled eggs. Weekends however, are a different story. These eggs are great for when you have more time or want to make it a bit more special. Joe made them for me to celebrate my first ever Mother's Day; I even got to have them in bed! 

Since then we've made them several more times, including just the other night for dinner. We've never tried doubling the recipe for the eggs, we just make the first batch and keep it in a warm oven while we cook the second batch. Or in this case, I took my photos of the first batch while he cooked his. 

We learned about this recipe by stumbling upon a video of him making it:

My eggs are a little more cooked than his. That's partly because I'm not eating under-cooked eggs these days since I'm pregnant, and also because that's just how I prefer my eggs. I grew up eating what would be considered very over-done eggs. Over the years I've grown accustomed to softer eggs but by culinary standards they are probably still over-cooked. I still thought mine were very creamy and delicious though, especially with the addition of the creme fraiche at the end. 

Gordon Ramsay's Perfect Scrambled Eggs
adapted from Gordon Ramsay
makes 1 generous portion (or enough for two small portions)

1 generous tablespoon unsalted butter
3 eggs
1/2 tablespoon creme fraiche
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Thick slice of crusty sourdough bread
Olive oil
4-5 small tomatoes, on the vine if possible, cherry tomatoes would work as well
2-4 flat-capped or cremini mushrooms
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a small skillet over medium/low heat. Drizzle with some olive oil, about 1/2 tablespoon or so, and when hot, add the mushrooms and tomatoes to the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let the vegetables cook while you make the eggs, shaking the pan once or twice. 

Toast the bread, set aside. 

Crack the eggs into a small pot, add the butter. Set the pot over medium heat and immediately begin stirring the eggs together with a spatula. Once the eggs just start to come together, move the pot off the heat, for 20-30 seconds, then move it back onto the heat, but don't stop stirring. Continue moving the pot off the heat and back on the heat, stirring constantly, until the eggs are cooked enough for you. He likes them on the creamier side. 

To stop the cooking process, off the heat, stir in the creme fraiche. Season with salt, pepper, and fold in the chives. 

To serve, drizzle the toast with a little olive oil (we almost always forget this step!) and pile the eggs on top. Arrange the mushrooms and tomatoes next to the eggs. 

Best when someone else makes it for you and "gives it to you in bed"!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Almost Meatless Sloppy Joes

Whether you are trying to buy less meat in general or you have some leftover ground beef and are wondering what to do with it, this is a great recipe for you. It's a full 4 servings of sloppy joes but it only uses about 1/2 pound ground beef. Shredded carrots and kidney beans add bulk to the mixture, saving you both money and calories without sacrificing flavor.

In other news, I really am trying to post more often, but there has been a ton going on! My sister is getting married soon, I am now 6 1/2 months pregnant, and now we're MOVING to the Seattle area in August! Big changes and lots to do. We've found a place to rent up there and we've started purging and selling tons of stuff we've accumulated over the years in anticipation of the move. It's a nesting pregnant woman's dream, seriously.

We've been cooking a lot of easy meals lately, including a few that involved Tasty Bites. Have you ever heard of these? They are two-serving packets of pre-cooked Indian food for quick, easy meals. I tried them because they were on sale at the Co-op. You can also just buy sauce packets, where you provide the meat and veggies and cook them in the sauce. For the entrees/side dish packets, you can cook them in the microwave or in a pot of boiling water on the stove. What I like about these products is that the ingredient list is very short, and it's all real food and spices, no weird additives or preservatives. These would be great to take on a camping trip too.

Almost Meatless Sloppy Joes
adapted from Cooking Light / Mark Bittman - May 2010 issue
serves 4

Note: The recipe calls for 6 ounces of ground sirloin, but whenever I make it, I'm trying to finish up the other half of a 1 pound package, so I use 8 ounces in my version. You could definitely go to the meat counter at your grocery store and just buy 6 ounces though.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6-8 ounces ground sirloin
1/2 cup grated carrot (press out moisture with paper towels if freshly grating it yourself)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes, fire-roasted if available
1 (15.5-ounce) can low sodium red kidney beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
4 (2-ounce) whole wheat sandwich rolls, split and toasted
Thinly sliced red onions, separated into rings

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and beef to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the beef, until the meat is browned and onion is tender (if using a ground beef that is not as lean as sirloin, you might want to start with less oil).

Add the carrot, and the remaining spices and cook for another two minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the carrot is tender and the mixture has thickened.

Partially mash 1 cup of the beans in a bowl with a fork. Add the mashed beans plus the remaining whole beans to the pan and cook for another minute or two to heat through. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

Pile a big scoop of the meat mixture onto the bottom half of a toasted roll, add some onion slices, then finish with the top half of the roll. Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Sister's Bridal Shower

This past weekend I got to throw a bridal shower for my sister!

I was super nervous about how it all would turn out, seeing as I've never hosted anything like that before. I planned for weeks and made lots and lots of lists to keep myself organized.

Of course, since it was me, I was most concerned about the food, since that is the focal point of any event as far as I'm concerned. Thanks to a number of great food blogs and recipes from my mom and my friend Amy, the food turned out amazing. A lot of it could be prepared in advance too which is always a plus.

The menu:

Chicken salad sandwiches on croissants: my mom's recipe. I don't know the proportions of anything, but it's mayo-based with pineapple, sliced almonds, and dried cranberries. It's so delicious I could eat it every day, and this coming from a girl who doesn't usually care for mayonnaise!

Vegetarian Asian noodle salad: I've blogged about it here, but it's originally from VeganYumYum. This time, however, I used peanut butter instead of tahini and brown rice pasta.

Cocktail meatballsI used the frozen meatballs from Costco, and the crockpot made this so easy.

Rainbow fruit skewers

Mini caprese bites: these were a huge hit! We used Zoom Yummy's version.

Mango chutney over cream cheese with assorted crackers: recipe from Simply Gluten Free. I used thawed, frozen mango, chopped into smaller pieces. It calls for coconut palm sugar, something I hadn't ever used before but I was able to buy it in bulk so I didn't have to buy a whole lot. It's not too spicy, so if you wanted more heat, add more chilis or leave some seeds in.

Shrimp and cocktail sauce: prepared tray from Costco


Mini cupcakes with marionberry filling: my mom made these, so I'm not sure of the recipe.

Hazelnut truffles: from Vintage Kitchen Notes

I know this is supposed to be a food blog, but now for some crafty things:

The invitations: I bought some tulle already cut in circles from a craft store to use as the skirt.

The centerpieces:

One of the prizes:

I melted some odds and ends candles to make a new candle in an antique tea cup. Idea from Georgica Pond. I tied it with ribbon to hold it together and then wrapped it with tulle. I also had some store-bought lotions and soaps for prizes in case of ties, and there was one, so I'm glad I thought of that!

One of the games: homemade scratch-its! There is a great tutorial here. The losing cards had a cartoon picture of a frog with the word "sorry" written underneath.

Congratulations Jamie on your upcoming wedding! Love you! 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beef Tacos

I can't believe I've never blogged about our favorite taco meat recipe! This America's Test Kitchen recipe is very similar to the one I grew up eating as a kid. This kind of taco meat is nice and saucy, with just a hint of spice, and you won't believe how quick it is to make. We like to make the Test Kitchen's refried beans to go with it.

Beef Tacos
adapted from The America's Kitchen Family Cookbook
serves 4

Notes: I've discovered that the quickest way to mince onions is to use a food processor. Peel and quarter the onion, then pulse in the processor, stopping to scrape the sides every 3-4 pulses. Just make sure that when you open the lid, for the love of god, DON'T stick your face over the opening, unless you want a face full of eye-burning onion fumes.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound (90 percent lean) ground beef
1/2 cup smooth canned tomato sauce (8-ounce can)
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
8 taco shells

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Add the ground beef. Cook for about 5 minutes or so, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Stir in the tomato sauce, broth, vinegar, and sugar. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until thickened. Taste and season salt to taste.

Divide the filling evenly among the taco shells. Top with cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes (or whatever toppings you like).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer BBQ Recipes

Since Memorial Day weekend is coming up, I thought I'd post a little round-up of some of my favorite summer recipes from the past couple of years on this blog. There's a lot of great grilling recipes here, as well as several side dishes that would be perfect to make for a BBQ or bring along to a picnic. 

Depending on where you live, not all of these ingredients may be in season just yet, but at least they give you some ideas for the summer months ahead!

Just click on the photo to go to the recipe!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Nacho Cheese Sauce

Wondering why my posts have been few and far between?

It's NOT because I've lost interest in blogging about food. I've just been too tired to photograph and write about what I've been eating.

In fact, my interest in food has become all-consuming as of late. I don't know for sure if what I have been feeling are cravings, but I will borrow the words of my friend Sarah when I say that these days I am "very susceptible to suggestion". If I see an ad for a food, or someone tells me about a food, chances are, I'm going to need to find a way to buy or make that food soon, because I won't be able to stop thinking about it until I do. And when I do eat that particular food, it will be the best (insert-name-of-food-here) that I've ever had. It's like all my taste buds are heightened and my usual obsession with food has been taken to the next level.

To illustrate my point, the woman who rang up my groceries at the Co-op told me about a tuna sandwich she made that sounded so fantastic I made it myself the very next week. It was just plain tuna, but she added a slice of smoked mozzarella and topped it with a quick slaw made out of just kale and apple cider vinegar. It was incredible!

I haven't been eating any weird food combinations like pickles and ice cream or anything like that, but lately I've been going for things that I never used to eat very often, like chicken Caesar salad, tuna sandwiches, cottage cheese and pineapple, and orange juice. I even had a Pepperoni Hot Pocket the other day (now there's a blast from the past which I hope does not become a regular occurrence. They used to be my breakfast almost every day in high school). Strawberry lemonade has become a new obsession as well.

Have you picked up on my little hints? Well, here's a big hint that explains my lack of posts and sudden extreme obsession with food.

Yep, that's right, we're having a baby! I'm so excited to finally share this news on my blog. I'm about 4 months along now, so that means we'll get to meet this little one sometime in mid-October. I'm officially taking suggestions for adorable Halloween costumes for a two-week old infant.

So why am I posting about nacho cheese sauce?

Well, that's been another favorite food lately. My workplace is a mere five minute stroll from the university dining hall where they serve up huge portions of delicious nachos, covered in that classic oh-so-good-for-you cheese sauce. For awhile there in the first trimester I went ventured over to get my nacho fix once a week, but after a few weeks of that I decided I wanted to try to make my own cheese sauce at home, so I could control my portions better and know exactly what was in the sauce itself. As it turns out, making nacho cheese sauce is just like making any other kind of cheese sauce - easy. This is actually really delicious served over steamed mixed vegetables as well!

Nacho Cheese Sauce
adapted from - Kitchen Simplicity

4 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk, divided
2 teaspoons hot sauce
Salt to taste

In a medium saucepan, toss together the cheeses and cornstarch until evenly coated. Add 1 cup of the milk, the hot sauce, and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until thickened and smooth. Once it's hot and bubbling, check the consistency and add more milk if you'd like it thinner. Otherwise, taste and season with more salt if needed, and serve immediately. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ham, Asparagus, and Swiss Cheese Crepes

Crepes are so fun, why don't I make them more often?! The filling options are endless - these have a savory filling and are great for brunch or dinner and make use of fresh asparagus which is at it's peak right now.

I served these crepes with their recommended side - "fresh fruit with lime gastrique". Ignore the pretentious title of the recipe. Basically, it's chopped fruit that has been tossed with a lime juice and sugar slurry and allowed to soak for 15 minutes. I used bananas, mango, strawberries, and kiwi fruit. If you have about 4 cups of fruit total, you'll want to mix 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1 tablespoon sugar for your sauce. Or skip the sauce altogether and just eat plain fresh fruit with your crepes. Either way, it's more fun to serve it in a fancy glass.

Not related to crepes at all, but I discovered a great make-ahead lunch idea that I wanted to share. One Sunday, I bought a bunch of veggies: broccoli, red bell peppers, a head of red cabbage, and a bunch of carrots. I chopped them all up into bite sized pieces, stored them in the biggest tupperware container I could find, and they sat there in the fridge for two weeks, ready for lunches or whatever I wanted to use them for.

For weekday lunches, I packed a container with about two cups of these raw veggies to work with me, steamed them in the microwave, then either topped them with various things or stirred them into something else. Most days, I had a low carb lunch by topping them with edamame, sunflower seeds, a little shredded cheddar, and a heaping dollop of Yumm sauce. For variety, one day I topped them with leftover homemade nacho cheese sauce (blog post next week!). Another day, I brought a frozen meal (a rare occurrence), a four cheese penne with spinach, with a very creamy sauce. I knew it wouldn't make me feel full on its own (frozen meals never do), so I stirred in some of the steamed veggies to bulk it up. Besides lunches, I also used some of the broccoli and red bell pepper for a weekend omelet.

How else can I use steamed veggies in my lunches? I'd love to get your suggestions!

Basic Crepe Recipe
adapted from Cuisine at Home - April 2009
makes about 10 crepes

Notes: If you are planning on chilling the batter overnight, it's probably better to use the oil rather than the butter because it won't solidify. Remember, the first crepe of the batch is usually total crap, so just know that and don't get discouraged, the other ones will be much better. If nothing else, it's something to munch on while you make the rest.

2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl using a hand mixer on low speed. Scrape sides of bowl, then mix on high for about 10 seconds, or until ingredients are thoroughly combined. It should be about the consistency of heavy cream. Cover and chill for at least one hour or up to 24 hours. This resting time helps relax the gluten in the flour, making the finished product more tender. This also means you don't have to worry as much about over-mixing in the first step like you do with pancakes and other baked goods.

Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. When hot, spray bottom and sides of pan with nonstick cooking spray. Measure out 1/4 cup of the batter, pour into one corner of the skillet, then immediately swirl the pan, tilting it so that the batter covers the bottom as much as possible. You can fill in any holes with more batter. Cook for about 1 minute, until the edges start to turn brown. You will know it's ready to be flipped when you can gently shake the skillet and the whole crepe shifts side-to-side in one piece. To flip, gently lift the crepe using a spatula and your fingers, and flip it. Cook on the other side for about 20-30 seconds. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Continue to cook the remaining crepes, coating the pan with nonstick spray between each one. It also helps to give the batter a quick stir with a whisk before measuring it out when making each crepe.

Ham, Asparagus, and Swiss Cheese Crepes
adapted from Cuisine at Home - April 2009
Makes about 10 crepes and 2 cups of sauce

Notes: These can be made ahead of time - just assemble the crepes but do not bake, cover them in plastic wrap and chill for 2-3 hours. When ready to serve, make the sauce while the crepes bake.

For the crepes:
8 ounce cooked ham, chopped (I bought some ham from the deli and asked them for thick slices, but thin sliced ham would be just fine too)
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
Ground black pepper to taste
1 pound fresh asparagus spears, trimmed, cut in half (thin spears are best for this recipe)
10 prepared crepes

For the sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/4 cup stone-ground mustard
Kosher salt and pepper
Chopped fresh chives

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, add the ham, cheese, and pepper and toss to combine. Place 1/4 cup of this mixture plus 4 asparagus halves down the center of each crepe. Roll them up and place them seam side down on the prepared baking sheet (at this point you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake). Bake crepes for about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in the broth and milk, bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, salt, and pepper and simmer until heated through.

Serve crepes with the sauce, garnish with chives.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sauerkraut with Apples and Sausage

I realize most people consider sauerkraut and apples to be fall fare, and so this post may seem out of place amongst all the blog posts and magazines currently bursting with recipes for asparagus and broccoli raab. If you are one of those people, feel free to pin this to your recipe board and forget about it until next October, but if you're like me and enjoy warm, hearty meals all year-long, you can make it now.

This recipe came from a cookbook called The Un-Constipated Gourmet: Secrets to a Moveable Feast. I'll be the first to admit, it's not the most appetizing premise for a cookbook, but let's be real, sometimes we all need a little help now and then. I'll gladly take advice from a book with such a witty title. And even if you are so lucky not to have, ahem, issues in that department, I think you will agree that this is a meal that everyone can enjoy.

Sauerkraut with Apples and Sausage
adapted from The Un-Constipated Gourmet: Secrets to a Moveable Feast
Serves 4

Notes: Instead of bratwurst, we used chicken apple sausages. 

4 bratwursts (precooked), whole or chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound sauerkraut, drained
1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet (we used cast iron), cook the bacon until crisp, about 7 minutes. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the skillet.

At this point, the recipe suggests you just toss the excess bacon fat. I say, keep it, you fools! Leftover bacon fat is great to use instead of butter for pan-frying potatoes, caramelizing onions, sauteing veggies, and making any kind of beans (such as refried). We strain it through a paper towel into a jar and store it in the fridge where it will keep for weeks (months too, probably?). 

Spoon one tablespoon of the bacon fat plus a tablespoon of butter into another large skillet, and leave the remaining tablespoon in the original skillet. In the new skillet, saute the onion until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add the sauerkraut, saute 1 minute. Add the broth, apples, sugar, bay leaf, and wine. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes or so over low heat. Add the bacon and continue cooking for another 10 minutes while you do the next step.

In the original skillet, where you left that tablespoon of bacon fat, saute the sausage for about 10 minutes, until it's browned in spots.

At this point, you can either add the sausage to the sauerkraut mixture and cook the whole thing for another 10 minutes, then serve in a bowl, or you can let the sauerkraut mixture cook for another 10 minutes by itself while keeping the sausage warm, and pour the mixture over the sausage to serve. It's up to you, just don't forget to remove the bay leaf.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Broccoli Bacon Quiche

Apparently I've been eating quiche the Weight Watcher's way my whole life, thanks to my mom. I had no idea this was a "light" version of a quiche until I asked my mom for her recipe last week. Normal quiche recipes call for heavy cream and lots of eggs, but this recipe only uses 4 eggs total and 1 cup of evaporated milk.

We've been eating variations of this quiche for brunches and holiday breakfasts as long as I can remember. Sometimes we use chopped leftover ham instead of bacon, and you could use different vegetables like red pepper or spinach instead of broccoli. I don't know what the Points+ value is for this recipe; the original cookbook is from 1981 which used an entirely different method of tracking. You could easily enter the ingredients into a recipe builder yourself if you wanted to figure it out. What is nice about a quiche is that you get to decide how many servings you want it to be, based on how you slice it, so you can raise or lower the Points+ as you'd like.

Broccoli Bacon Quiche
adapted from Weight Watchers 365-Day Menu Cookbook
Makes 1 quiche

Notes: My mom has made many tweaks to this recipe over the years. For example, it originally calls for imitation bacon bits, but we use either real bacon bits or chopped cooked bacon. You'll notice that it calls for 1 cup of evaporated milk, yet most cans are 12 ounces. I don't know what to do with extra 4 ounces of evaporated milk. If you have a deep pie pan, you could probably use the whole can. Sometimes my mom would just buy two cans and just make three quiches (8oz x 3 = 24oz). We usually made at least two if it was for a family gathering anyway, and it makes great leftovers so having an extra one was nice.

1 standard prepared pie crust (I used a frozen one, placed in the fridge to thaw that morning), or make your own from scratch
1 cup steamed broccoli (from fresh or frozen), chopped into small pieces
2-3 heaping tablespoons cooked bacon, chopped into small pieces, or bacon bits
2 green onions, sliced
8 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (8 ounces) evaporated milk, regular or low-fat
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Prepare the pie crust in a pie baking dish according to package directions, if applicable (mine came in an aluminum pie plate so I just baked it in that).

In a medium bowl, combine the broccoli, bacon, and green onions.

Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bottom of the pie crust. Top with the broccoli-bacon mixture.

In another medium bowl, mix together the eggs, evaporated milk, salt, and pepper. Pour over mixture in pie crust.

Top with the remaining cheese.

Place the pie baking dish on a baking sheet (in case there are any spills) and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Pork

I have a sweet cat sleeping on my arm, making typing is difficult, therefore I will get right to the point. This is tasty - you should make it. The pork goes perfectly with the sauce, and fresh pineapple can't be beat! I have yet to be disappointed with anything I've made from this Rachael Ray cookbook. I've given away just about all my other books by her except this one.

Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Pork
adapted from Rachael Ray - 365: No Repeats
serves 4

Notes: Serve with white or brown rice and a simple steamed veggie, like snap peas.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 (1 1/2-inch thick) boneless center-cut pork chops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped
8 ounces pineapple chunks, fresh or canned (use the juice if canned)
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of the oil. Season the pork with salt and pepper and place in the skillet. Let them sear for about two minutes on each side. Transfer them to a rimmed cookie sheet and place them in the oven to finish cooking all the way through. Rachael says you can tell the meat is done when it is firm to the touch, but I prefer the precision of a thermometer (145 F). Remove the pork from the oven and let rest, covered with a piece of aluminum foil (as they rest they will get closer to 160 F, the actual "done" temperature).

While the pork chops are in the oven, return the skillet you were using to medium-high heat and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, bell peppers, jalapeno, salt, and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the veggies begin to soften. Add the pineapple (juice if you have it) and the chicken stock. Continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add the parsley and stir to combine. Serve the sweet and spicy pineapple sauce over the pork chops. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast or: What to do with Leftover Corned Beef

Still have some corned beef leftover from last weekend? This is a great way to make it into a new meal.

In fact, the main reason I even bothered to make corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day MAY have been for the sole purpose of having leftovers which I could then smother with white sauce and serve on a piece of toast. I am a HUGE fan of biscuits and gravy, after all, and this is a pretty similar dish.

My co-workers shared with me their not-so-fond memories of the original version of this dish. It goes by the endearing name "S.O.S", or "Sh*t on a shingle", from when it used to be served in the Army during World War II. Luckily, unlike the old versions, you won't find any condensed soup or canned chipped beef in this recipe.

By the way, the other thing in the background is a bowl of kale chips we made to have with it, because I have virtually no food-pairing skills whatsoever so that's what I came up with. Kale chips are awesome though. I used this recipe.

Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast
adapted from Cook's Country - February/March 2012 issue
serves 4-6 (can easily cut this in half if you don't have much leftover beef)

Notes: I made their recipe for Corned Beef and Cabbage, and reserved some of the cooking liquid for this recipe. It adds a lot of flavor, but you could also use chicken or beef broth if you didn't save any of the cooking liquid.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups half-n-half
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup reserved corned beef cooking liquid
2 cups chopped cooked corned beef
Pinch nutmeg
6 slices hearty white sandwich bread, toasted
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 1 minute, or until softened slightly. Add the flour, mustard, thyme, and cayenne and stir to combine. Cook for about 1 minute so it becomes fragrant. Slowly add the half-n-half, milk, and corned beef cooking liquid, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a simmer and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring every now and then, until thickened.

Add the chopped beef and nutmeg and stir to combine. Cook for a couple of minutes to let the beef heat through. Season with pepper to taste, and a little salt if it needs it. Spoon over the toasted bread, and top with the minced chives. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Matsaman Curry

A few years ago we took a Thai cooking class from Niddy Lindsley for Joe's birthday. She came to our house armed with a rice cooker and bags of groceries and taught us the traditional way of cooking several different Thai dishes. We took lots of notes and still try to replicate her dishes in our kitchen years later.

Tonight we made a version of Matsaman curry (my favorite curry). Usually it's made with onion, potatoes, and pork or chicken. This time we used what we had on hand, which happened to be an eggplant, some carrots, and some chicken thighs.

On a good week, I try to plan at least three meals and shop for all the ingredients on Sunday. This was not one of those weeks. I managed to get to the store, but I had no plan. So I bought some random veggies that looked good and that I knew we liked: eggplant, carrots, asparagus, cabbage, and some kale. I bought some boneless chicken thighs because they are relatively cheap, and the ingredients for my current favorite snack, cottage cheese and pineapple. Between the basic veggies I bought and our Costco stash of salmon burgers, Ling Ling Potstickers, and chicken apple sausages I knew we could figure out some simple meals this week.  

So while this particular version of curry is definitely not traditional, it's still a delicious, home-cooked meal. 

I love how she uses the coconut milk in this dish. You add the thick, creamy part of the coconut milk first, which rises to the top of the can, and then you pour in the remaining coconut water later on in the cooking process. For this to work, you can't use light coconut milk, you can't shake the can before you open it, and you have to make sure that you buy one without guar gum, which I think is a stabilizer that keeps it from separating. We like Aroy-D the best, but Mae Ploy is good too, which is what we used this time. We also like Mae Ploy curry paste, as seen below.

Matsaman Curry with Chicken Thighs, Eggplant, and Carrots
adapted from Niddy Lindsley
serves 4

Notes: If you wanted to be more traditional, use 2 medium potatoes and 1 medium onion, diced, instead of the eggplant and carrots. If you click on the link to her original recipe, you'll see a few more ingredients on her list that we didn't use. We just didn't have them on hand, but if you do (or have time to go buy them) by all means, use them. Your dish will be that much more authentic and delicious. 

2-4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
2-3 tablespoons Matsaman curry paste
1 pound boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat, and chopped
1 can coconut milk (15-19 ounces)
1 cup water (or more as needed)
1 medium-large eggplant, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium carrots, diced or cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
basil (Thai or regular) for garnish

While you get your other ingredients ready, place the diced eggplant into a strainer, place the strainer on a plate, and sprinkle some salt over the eggplant. Let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to one hour. This helps extract bitterness.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the curry paste. Cook until fragrant, 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. 

Add the chicken, and a little more oil if the pot looks too dry. Cook until browned for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the creamy part of the coconut milk and simmer 4-5 minutes, until you can see the red oil start to separate and float to the top. 

Add the eggplant, carrots, peanuts, and the rest of the coconut milk (the watery part). Add more water to cover if needed. Stir to combine and simmer for about 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. The red oil will separate to the top again. 

Add the sugar, fish sauce (pictured below), and lime juice. Taste and add more fish sauce or lime juice as needed. If it's not spicy enough for you, add more curry paste.

Serve over rice. Garnish with the basil. 

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