Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Pebre" Cilantro Sauce

We've been enjoying lots of great veggies this week from our first share of the MSU Student Organic Farm CSA!  We're really looking forward to getting fresh veggies every week this summer!  Our box this week included a huge bag of cilantro, so I knew I had to post this recipe for Pebre.  This is one of my favorite recipes, and a great sauce for any grilled meat.  When I taught high school a few years ago one of my students made this for a class project and I've been making it at home ever since.  (I've since lost my original copy of the recipe so I have no idea what cookbook or website it's from.)

"Pebre" Chilean Cilantro Sauce

  • 2 bunches cilantro, chopped
  • 3-4 green onions, minced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2-3 hot chile peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Put all ingredients except olive oil into a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth but still a little chunky.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the olive oil.  Adjust seasonings as needed and let stand at least a half hour to let the flavors mingle.

Serve at room temperature with any grilled meat.  It's also great with grilled veggies.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Easy Skillet Lasagna (or, as we like to call it, "Faux-sagna")

I think my absolute favorite thing to make is Lasagna al Forno from my awesome Italian cookbook.  It takes hours to cook and is one of the best things I've ever tasted.  It's fairly different from a more "traditional" American lasagna: no tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, or mozzarella (although I have been known to add tomato sauce and mozzarella on occasion).  Instead, the lasagna noodles are layered with Bolognese meat sauce seasoned with cinnamon, creamy Bechamel sauce, and parmesan.  It's a very involved and time-consuming recipe, which is one reason it's so much fun to make - the other reason is that the end result is fantastic.  This is what I think of when I think of lasagna...

The following recipe is nothing like that... but it is very good, and super easy, and fairly quick.  I don't know when I will next have the time to make "real" lasagna, so until then, this is a darn good substitute.  Matt and I have taken to calling it "Faux-sagna."  Don't let the name fool you though - this tastes as good as any "real" layered American lasagna, and is far less time consuming.

Easy Skillet Lasagna, or "Faux-sagna"
(modified from this recipe)

  • about 6 oz lasagna noodles, broken into thirds
  • 1/2 lb. ground turkey or beef (optional)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans Italian diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 small (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1-1 1/2 Tbsp fresh parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese mashed with a fork until creamy)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 5-6 basil leaves, chopped

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.  When they are finished, drain, leave in the strainer, and set aside for later.

While the pasta is cooking, brown ground meat (if using) in a large skillet.  Drain fat from cooked meat and set aside.  I wipe down the skillet with a paper towel before continuing, but probably if you didn't it would be fine and might add a little richer flavor from the meat.

Heat the olive oil in the skillet, then cook onions over medium-high heat until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic and mushrooms and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, parsley, and salt & pepper to taste.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, then stir in ground meat.

While the mixture is simmering, rinse the lasagna noodles in the strainer in hot water and separate any that have stuck together.  Add the noodles to the skillet and stir into the mixture well.  Drop small scoops of the ricotta or cottage cheese around the skillet on top of the mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella, parmesan, and basil.  *Do not stir after this point!*  Simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.  The tomato sauce will bubble to the top in places while it simmers; when it does, poke around the lasagna with a wooden spoon to get the cheese mixed a little further down so it will melt better, but *Do Not Stir!*  You want the cheese layer on top, not mixed in.  I didn't try this, but you could also let it simmer for about 5 minutes, then put the skillet under the broiler until the cheese is melted.

When the mixture is thick and all of the cheese is warmed through and melted, you're done!  Serve with a spatula or a large spoon and enjoy the easy, cheesy goodness!

I love this recipe! :) It satisfies my craving for lasagna without requiring me to spend all afternoon in the kitchen.  Although, after writing above about how incredible Lasagna al Forno is, I find myself drooling over it now... I just might have to make Matt watch Elliot for the afternoon one of these weekends and make some "real" lasagna again!  If I do, I'll be sure to post about it and share the recipe here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Carrot Raisin Drops

I was looking for a cookie recipe to make yesterday when I stumbled upon this one that I had bookmarked long ago in my cookie cookbook (terrific little book - detailed instructions, and everything I've made from it is delicious).  It sounded good and different so I decided to give it a try.  I am so happy I did because these cookies are wonderful!  Matt was skeptical; when I told him I was making carrot cookies he dejectedly said "oh, I thought you were making cookies."  When they were done and he tried them though, he agreed they are far better than they sound, though he recommends chocolate chips instead of raisins next time.  If you like carrot cake or banana/zucchini-type breads you'll love these.  They're easy and fun!

This isn't the best picture, but trust me, these are delicious!
Carrot Raisin Drops
(makes about 72 cookies)
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange peel
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
In a mixing bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, orange peel, ginger, and nutmeg; beat until combined.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer; stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon.  Stir in the carrots, oats, raisins, and nuts.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.  (I kept a small bowl of water nearby to dip the teaspoon in after every few scoops of cookie dough - it helped keep it from becoming a sticky mess.)  Bake in a preheated 375º oven for 6-8 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove cookies and cool on wire racks.

*Optional changes:
  • I keep thinking these would be great with pistachios subbed for the walnuts/pecans. 
  • Matt thought they would be better with chocolate chips instead of raisins.  I usually am not a fan of raisins in cookies, but I really like them in these.  Even so, I'm sure chocolate would be a great addition to these cookies. :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dr. Seuss Christmas Dinner

Happy New Year!

It's been far too long since I've posted anything here.  I have a small collection of recipes and photos for posts that I've been planning on writing, but I just haven't seemed to find the time to write anything in awhile.  Now that the holidays are winding down hopefully I'll be able to get things posted on a more regular basis.

We spent Christmas this year at my parents' house with my parents, two brothers, sister-in-law, and 2 1/2 year old nephew.  We had a great time!  For our Christmas dinner we thought it would be fun to do something creative and decided to make a Dr. Seuss themed dinner!

My sister-in-law Lindsay decorated the table and made name tags for the dishes
The menu:
Grinch Martinis (from How the Grinch Stole Christmas): recipe here (they were ok... very sweet)
Green Eggs and Ham (from Green Eggs and Ham): deviled eggs with spinach (& food coloring) topped with ham (recipe below)
King Yertle's Broccoli Trees (from Yertle the Turtle): roasted broccoli with lemon olive oil
Who-shire Pudding (from How the Grinch Stole Christmas): Yorkshire pudding (recipe here)
Who Hash (from How the Grinch Stole Christmas): sweet potato hash with chili pecan streusel (recipe below)
Who Mash (from How the Grinch Stole Christmas): mashed potatoes
and of course, the main dish...
Roast Beast (from How the Grinch Stole Christmas): prime rib roast
and for dessert...
Yertle Turtle Pie (from Yertle the Turtle): chocolate caramel pecan pie (recipe here - we followed the advice of some of the commenters and halved the caramel )

My brother Taylor made the Green Eggs & Ham and even dyed the outside of the boiled eggs green
The Roast Beast was delicious!
Yertle Turtle Pie topped with whipped cream - it would be great topped with chopped pecans too
but I forgot and accidentally used the last of them for the Who Hash streusel... oops!
In addition to the menu, I thought I'd share the two recipes we improvised ourselves... Enjoy!

Green Eggs and Ham (Deviled Eggs with Spinach and Ham)
(this recipe is not exact at all - just play with it until you get the color, flavor, and consistency you like!)

  • eggs (appx. 1 per person)
  • green food coloring
  • mayonnaise
  • yellow mustard
  • frozen spinach (thawed and chopped)
  • thickly sliced ham, cut into small strips

Boil the eggs, let cool, and peel.  If desired, soak them in water and food coloring until the outside is the desired shade of green.  Cut the eggs in half and scoop the yolks into a small mixing bowl.  Set the empty whites aside to be filled later.

Mix the yolks with some mayonnaise and a dash of yellow mustard until you get the flavor and consistency you like (add the mayonnaise slowly - you can always add more but you can't take it out if you add too much!).  Then mix in some chopped spinach and enough food coloring to get the desired shade of green.

Use a small spoon to fill the boiled egg whites with the yolk mixture and top with strips of ham.  These would be great for breakfast or brunch.

Who Hash (Sweet Potato Hash with Chipotle Pecan Streusel)
(modified from this recipe - I used her streusel recipe and improvised the hash)
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 small onion (we used a sweet red onion)
  • 1-2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/8 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp & 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder, divided (we didn't have that so we used regular chili powder and it worked fine)
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, slightly softened
Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes and stab them with a fork a few times.  Microwave them until they are soft like baked potatoes (you'll probably want to microwave them in 1-2 minute increments and test them and flip them each time until they are done).  Set aside to cool.  When the potatoes are cool, peel and dice them.  Dice the onion and mix with the diced sweet potato.  Add the maple syrup, cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp chipotle chili powder and stir until coated.

Heat the oil in a medium pan.  When oil is hot add the sweet potato onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft.  Spread the sweet potato hash evenly into a baking dish and preheat the oven to 400°.

While the oven is preheating make the chipotle pecans:  Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add pecans, chipotle chili powder, and suger to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the pecans are coated and the sauce begins to thicken.  Make sure they do not burn.  Spread the pecans on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, sprinkle with salt, and let cool a little.

When the pecans are cool, chop them very finely, then mix together 1/3 cup chopped pecan mixture with flour, brown sugar, 1 Tbsp softened butter, and salt to taste.  Use your fingers to mix the ingredients together until combined.

Sprinkle the streusel mixture evenly over the sweet potato hash.  Bake until the streusel mixture is melted together and beginning to bubble, about 10-15 minutes.  Delicious!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Brussels Sprouts People Will Beg You to Make

Brussels Sprouts seem to be a universally hated vegetable, yet most people I know have never actually tried them.  I first tried them last Thanksgiving when my mom found this recipe (Stir-fried Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Parmesan) and decided to try it.  Much to everyone's surprise, it was delicious!  I now have a more open mind about brussels sprouts so when my mom told me she had a new brussels sprouts recipe to make while we were visiting this weekend I was excited to try it.

This recipe is delicious!  Everybody loved it; even those were skeptical initially were going back for more.  The key is cooking the brussels sprouts just right - do not overcook them!!

Mustard-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
(from the Fall 2011 issue of edibleINDY)

  • 20-25 Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup red onions, julienned
  • 1/4 cup cooked bacon, chopped
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 heaping Tbsp whole-grain mustard
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves, chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Blanch halved Brussels sprouts for approximately 3 minutes, until cooked through but not mushy.  Remove Brussels sprouts and place into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking (this step is key to cooking them right!).  Drain.  The sprouts should be tender and bright green.

Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until soft.  Add bacon and sugar; continue cooking for another 30 seconds or until the sugar melts and begins to turn a caramel color.  Add the Brussels sprouts and deglaze with the chicken stock.  Reduce by half.  Add the mustard, vinegar, and thyme.  Stir to combine.  Serve immediately.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ropa Vieja

I've been cooking a lot of crock pot recipes lately because they tend to have a very high taste to effort ratio (that's how Matt categorizes food preparation), and with a 6 1/2 month old crawling around (yes, I said crawling!), recipes with minimal effort are ideal!  Plus you have the added bonus of smelling it all day, which makes me very excited to eat it when dinner comes around.  Luckily Jeremy & Lindsay gave me an awesome crock pot cookbook for Christmas last year and I've been making very good use of it over the past 6 months.  The book is Make it Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O'Dea and pretty much everything I've made from it has been terrific.

Last night's meal, Ropa Vieja, was no exception!  Ropa Vieja is Spanish for "old clothes," which may not sound very appetizing but it is!  The smell and the flavor reminded me of something and it took me a little while to figure out what - it reminds me a little of barbacoa from Chipotle, which makes me think this would also be wonderful in burritos.

This is in the crock pot after a few hours of cooking.  (I guess
I should have taken the lid off for the photo so it would
have come out a little more clear.)
And here is the finished product, with the meat and veggies
all mixed together like old clothes in the wash!
Ropa Vieja

  • 1 Tbsp (tablespoon) ground cumin
  • 1 tsp (teaspoon) smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 pounds beef or pork stew meat or roast (get what's on sale: I used beef chuck shoulder roast)
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 yellow apples, peeled and grated (I'm not sure why it calls for yellow apples specifically; I used empire apples I had and it worked out great)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Use a 6-quart slow cooker.  Combine the cumin, paprika, salt, and peppers in a bowl.  Rub the spice mixture all over the piece (or pieces) or meat you are using.  Put the meat into the stoneware.  Dump any extra spice left in the bowl on top.  Add the vegetables, garlic, cilantro, grated apples, chicken broth, and vinegar.  Cover and cook on low for 10 hours, or until meat shreds easily with a fork - the meat and vegetables should be shredded and fully intertwined.  The longer and slower you cook this, the better.  Serve over brown or white rice, with a ladle full of broth.

*I'll add one more note about the meat:  The roast I used had a layer of fat on the top and bottom and I figured it would melt during cooking.  It didn't and I ended up pulling out a few fairly large ribbons of fat before I served this.  It might be worth attempting to cut the fat off ahead of time if it's a thick layer like it was on mine.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ragout of Lentils, Turkey Meatballs, and Mint

Now, in most cases, ground turkey seems to be one of those “meh-schmeh” kinds of meat. Don’t get me wrong—I love a good turkey burger—but I’m not generally racing to my kitchen because I have ground turkey in the fridge. This recipe has changed all of that. It not only tastes wonderful, but it also uses ingredients that I almost always have on hand.  

First of all, however, I have to make an embarrassing confession of an action not befitting any sort of erudite housewife.  I have looked at and made several “ragout” recipes. But, somehow, I never realized it was a French term, pronounced “ra-goo”.  Yes, I have indeed been reading “rag-out,” as in, “I need to wring this rag out.” I always felt it to be a bit rustic, but in a world of gumbo and hash (as in, country chicken hash, of course), what’s odd about a rag-out?  Somehow, along the way, Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag started playing in my mind and I subconsciously formed a whole etymology of “rag-out.” In my opinion (because clearly, these sort of things can be based on opinion), a rag-out is a colloquialism combining “rag-tag,” and pulling everything thing out of your pantry. It’s a  mishmash where you throw in a little bit of this and a little bit of that—whatever you have on hand—and simmer it together into warm, home-y goodness.

Now, to turn my faux pas into an educational experience, I ask,  what is a ragout? According to the Food Network, a ragout is “A derivative of the French verb ragoûter, meaning "to stimulate the appetite," ragoût is a thick, rich, well-seasoned stew of meat, poultry or fish that can be made with or without vegetables."  

I guess I wasn’t so far off. Nonetheless, this is has been the most eventful enunciatory epiphany I’ve had since the fifth grade, when I realized that “ron-day-voo” and “ren-dez-vous” were the same word. I need to learn French, but not knowing it definitely provides an opportunity to laugh and not take myself so seriously. 
Now, here is this wonderful recipe.

Ragout of Lentils, Turkey Meatballs and Mint
(This is from the Williams and Sonoma Beans and Rice Cookbook)

1 lb ground turkey (or chicken, lamb or beef)
1 c. bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic minced, (you need 4 cloves in all, however)
3 T. fresh mint for meatballs, (5 T for garnish at the end)
2 T. fresh parsley,
1 t. paprika,
¾ t. ground cumin,
½ t. ground cloves,
¼ t. cayenne pepper
¾ t. salt
½ t. pepper.
¼ c. olive oil
1 chopped small onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small diced carrot
1 c. lentils
1 can whole plum tomatoes, juiced reserved and tomatoes chopped
4 c. chicken stock

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients from ground turkey to pepper. Make 24 meatballs and bake for 10 minutes. Set aside.

2.Warm ¼ c. olive oil in large sauté pan. Add chopped small onion, diced carrot, and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Sauté until onion is soft over medium heat. Add lentils, 1 c. reserved juice from can of whole plum tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer until lentils are tender, around 20 min.

3. Chop tomatoes, add them and reserved meatballs to the pot and simmer 15 minutes. Season to taste. Garnish with 5 T. mint.