29 January 2009
I doubled the recipe so it would serve three plus leftovers. When we got home, the house was filled with the smell of the roast. The recipe listed below represents exactly what I did, including doubled ingredients. For the original, 2 lb. roast recipe, simply halve all ingredients.
To Die For Crock Pot Roast
4 lb. roast, any kind
2 packets brown gravy mix
2 packets ranch dressing mix
1 packet Italian dressing mix
1/2 c. white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1/2 c. water
5 carrots, peeled and quartered
Mix together all packets in a small bowl. Poke the roast all over and rub packet mix all over it.
Put carrots and liquid in bottom of crock pot and place roast on top. Cook on low 8 hours.
Laura's recipe indicated to cook the roast on high 4-5 hours. I opted to cook on low for 8, since I was at work and wouldn't be there to turn the crock down. My slow cooker has an automatic warming function, so after the 8 hours were up, the roast sat in the warm pot for another 2 hours. Laura's recipe includes quartered red potatoes in the crock, but I opted to make homemade mashed potatoes instead.
The meat was falling apart - juicy, flavorful, and so delicious. It is pretty tough to photograph meat - I'm not posting the pictures I took of the sliced meat, because it looks gross, belying it's deliciousness. Andrew doesn't usually eat carrots, regardless of how I cook them, but he told me he loved these, and even reheated some when he ate the leftovers. I'll definitely make this again - and you should try it too.
27 January 2009
26 January 2009
Two weeks ago, I bought bananas at the beginning of the week so they would get ripe and I could make some homemade banana nut muffins. By Saturday of the same week, there was only one banana left! Apparently Andrew likes bananas more than I thought.
I decided I still wanted to make banana muffins, but knew I would need something to bulk up the muffins. I had some large carrots left in the fridge, so I typed "banana carrot muffins" into Google and found an interesting recipe.
The carrot and banana blend nicely - the carrot is really a background flavor, while the cinnamon and banana steal the show. I really liked the addition of walnuts - they give these muffins a carrot cake type feel.
Below is my adapted recipe.
Banana Carrot Walnut Muffins
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 large mashed ripe banana
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. Canola oil
1 c. finely grated carrots
2/3 c. chopped walnuts
Mix together first four ingredients in a medium size bowl, set aside.
In the bowl of your mixer, combine bananas, sugar, oil, and eggs. Beat at medium speed (#4 on a KA mixer).
Stir in dry ingredients. When fully combined, add carrots and walnuts and mix thoroughly.
Bake at 350 for 18 minutes.
The recipe says you get 2 dozen muffins - this is absolutely a lie. You will be lucky to get 18 very small muffins. If I had it to do over, I would have made just 12 muffins so that one would suffice for breakfast. As they are now, eating one isn't quite enough, but two makes me feel tubby.
Despite the miniature proportions, I love these muffins. I kept five of them on the counter for breakfast that week and froze the rest. To freeze muffins, wrap individually in plastic wrap and seal in a food storage bag in the freezer.
Don't be nervous about freezing muffins or anything else. As my Nonnie always says, "baked goods are the only thing that come out of the freezer better than when they went in." She's right - these muffins are moister and more flavorful after being frozen.
22 January 2009
Of course, I've posted pictures of Finn in the past, but here's another one, just because he's so darn cute and this is a pet post:
21 January 2009
20 January 2009
I received the Williams-Sonoma cookbook Essentials of Healthful Cooking as a gift, and had yet to make anything in the book. I have so many cookbooks, yet I keep requesting them as gifts and buying them for myself. I sat down and flagged a bunch of recipes in this one, then decided to add one to my menu plan for the week.
I edited the recipe when I found beautiful crab-stuffed salmon pinwheels with a Manager's Special tag on them during my grocery run. I've reproduced the green lentil ragout recipe below.
1 c. dry French (green) lentils
2 c. reduced-sodium, fat-free broth
1/3 c. finely chopped onion
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 boiling potato, peeled and cubed
garlic salt, pepper, powdered Adobo
*A good way to cut large carrots is to halve them first, then cut them into equal sized pieces. I cut the halved carrot vertically to about the point where the width of the small end is almost the same as the width of the halves. Then I can cut crosswise all the way down the carrot without having to then cut each of the half moons in half again.
Rinse the lentils in a fine mesh seive, picking through to remove any that may be misshapen. Place into a saucepan with 3 cups of water, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower heat to medium-low and cover. The recipe says to cook 45-50 minutes, but this is WAY too long. Cook them for 30 minutes tops or they will be mush!
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Allow to boil until broth is reduced to 1-1/2 cups and remove from the heat.
In a nonstick frying pan, warm 1/2 cup of the reduced stock until it bubbles, then add onion, carrot, and potato. Cook until liquid has almost evaporated (3-4 minutes).
At this point, I packaged the vegetables and the lentils separately. I cooked this ahead of time on Sunday for a meal I was planning for Monday. Obviously, if you wanted to cook this all at once, you could skip this part.
*Since I refrigerated both the lentils and the veggies, I took them out of the fridge about 20 minutes before I wanted to cook dinner so they could start to come to room temperature. Then I added the veggies to the frying pan and caught up with the recipe here:
Pour in the remaining stock and add the cooked lentils. Simmer over medium heat until liquid is mostly absorbed. Stir in salt, pepper, and at least a teaspoon of Adobo. The lentil-veggie mixture will be relatively bland, so season liberally.
I baked the salmon pinwheels in the oven at 375 for about 15 minutes, until the fish was flaky and the stuffing heated through. I spooned the lentil mixture onto plates, topped with the pinwheels, and garnished with fresh parsley.
The lentil mixture left something to be desired. If I hadn't added garlic salt and Adobo, there would have been no flavor! Andrew didn't love the lentils, and neither did I. I'm glad I learned the method, but I don't know that I would do this again. The pinwheels were fantastic, and I will probably try to recreate them using a homemade stuffing and salmon fillets.
There are still recipes I want to try out of the Wills cookbook, but lentil ragout only got half a thumbs up from us.
19 January 2009
It was my new co-worker's birthday on Saturday, and I wanted to make something sweet to celebrate his special day.
I found a great Apple Crumble recipe that used the ingredients I had on hand by googling "apple crumble with oats". FamilyFun magazine has a good recipe that's super simple. The ingredients and method I listed below are my version of FamilyFun's recipe.
adapted from FamilyFun magazine
5 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 c. rolled oats
6 tbsp. butter
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3 tbsp. orange juice
Stir together all items except apples and orange juice. Divide apples between twelve ramekins and top with oat mixture. Sprinkle 1/4 tbsp. orange juice over each ramekin. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until apples are cooked and topping is toasted.
I put the ramekins on a cookie sheet to make it easy to move them in and out of the oven. Everyone liked the individual desserts, and they were so much easier to serve at work.
Next time I make these, I would do another apple so that each ramekin had half an apple in it. I would also make a homemade caramel sauce to drizzle over the top. Andrew and I brought two of the leftover crumbles home with us and ate them after dinner. They were really yummy topped with French vanilla ice cream!
Baking in ramekins was a really neat idea, and I'm glad I tried it. There are so many more desserts I want to try this way. Pear and cranberry would be a great one to try next time!
This fantastic crockpot recipe is a great way to roast a whole chicken on a lazy Sunday - or any day of the week, for that matter. The recipe is simple, like most of the slow cooker recipes I've tried, yet yields delicious results.
Roasted Garlic Crockpot Chicken
1 - 5 lb. fryer chicken
1/4 lb. butter (1 stick)
5 cloves garlic
1/2 c. chicken broth
Rinse chicken inside and out. Season cavity and skin with salt, pepper, and paprika. I used many more cloves of garlic than the recipe calls for - more like ten! I smashed five of them and placed them in the bottom of the crockpot. Then I put the other five through my garlic press and smeared some inside the chicken and smeared the rest onto the outside of the chicken.
Pour 1/2 c. of chicken broth into crockpot, then place chicken into crock. Cut up stick of butter - press pats all over chicken and scatter any remaining butter around chicken. Cook on low 6-8 hours.
The chicken was falling off the bone and the sauce was garlicky and delightful. I served it with Roasted Thyme Potatoes and fresh steamed green beans.
Roasted Thyme Potatoes
3 baking potatoes, cubed
Toss all ingredients and spread onto a baking sheet. Roast at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until potatoes are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.
The photo at the beginning of the blog is after Andrew coated his whole plate with garlic powder and pepper, but hopefully you can get a good idea of what it all looked like.
I set aside a fair amount of the chicken for Chicken Caesar Salads later in the week. I put the chicken carcass and the last of the garlic butter sauce into a stockpot and covered with water. I simmered it on the stove tonight for a couple hours with two rough cut stalks of celery and one quartered onion.
17 January 2009
Stir fry is such an easy meal to put together, and you can use whatever you've got on hand. I try to keep bags of frozen veggies to get started with - sliced peppers, broccoli, green beans, peas, etc. Then I can add whatever meat I have - frozen shrimp, leftover grilled chicken, roasted garlic pork, the list goes on.
Here are the basics:
1 medium onion, sliced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. canola oil
veggies & meat of your choice
1/4 c. Szechuan-style stir fry sauce
green onion, sliced - optional
toasted sesame seeds - optional
I always start a stir fry with sliced onions in a bit of canola oil. Olive oil is too heavy for stir fry, as is butter, and canola oil is a good option both because it's light and because it's so good for you. You're not looking for carmelization, just soft onions, so salt them immediately.
If I have raw meat, I add it once the onion softens. While the meat is cooking, I put any frozen vegetables I'm using into a colander and run hot water over them to get rid of any ice and increase the temperature of the veggies.
Once the meat is cooked almost all the way, I add the thawed vegetables and the Szechuan sauce and put a lid on the pot. I let the frozen vegetables heat all the way through, then remove the lid, add any fresh vegetables, and put the top back on. If I'm using meat that is already cooked, I add it at this time.
Lastly, I spoon the stir-fry over a bowl of rice or stir into whole wheat spaghetti for an easy lo mein. Top with the green onions and sesame seeds, if desired.
This time, , when I added the onions, I added sliced carrots at the same time. I had grilled chicken from a previous nights dinner, so I cubed it and threw that in. I have a can of water chestnuts in my cupboard - it's been there for the past three stir fry nights, and I forget it every time. Yet again, I forgot, so the poor water chestnuts remain languishing with the Tupperware and crackers.
We do stir fry once or twice a month - it's never the same twice, but it's always delicious.
13 January 2009
12 January 2009
11 January 2009
So, here we go at #2 - removing the wallpaper from one of our bathrooms.
Here's Andrew spraying and scraping away:
It may be difficult to see, but the wallpaper in this bathroom was covered with lighthouses. We're ocean lovers, but this was too much. We've been gunning to get rid of this wallpaper since we moved in last August, so we were only too thrilled once we started peeling it off in huge hunks.
We're still scraping away, but I feel so great about everything we got done this weekend. I'll try to post updates on Resolution #2 as we get more done.
On the left in the photo above is the spectacular Five Counties Cheddar, from the U.K. On the right is a smoked cheddar that added some great flavor to the mac & cheese.
I chopped the cheese into small pieces so that they would melt evenly and added to the roux along with the milk.
There was so much pasta and so much cheese sauce that I couldn't combine them in the pot. Instead I layered them in the casserole dish and then poured the remainder of the sauce over the top. It worked out fine, although it seemed WAY too soupy - I was afraid I had mixed up the ratio of cheese to pasta somehow. It thickened up a lot when I baked it though, and the consistency was perfect.
I realized after I had combined everything that I forgot to add salt and pepper, so I topped the dish with S&P and hoped for the best. I figured we could season it on our plates, and that worked out fine.
I topped it with both the shredded and the smoked cheddar, then added the bread crumbs mixed with butter. I had homemade bread crumbs in my cabinet, so I used those rather than Panko as recommended. The top browned beautifully and gave the dish a fantastically rich, homemade flavor.
This recipe never fails, even when I tweak it. And honestly, what could be better than pasta covered in cheese and topped with buttery breadcrumbs? Make this - you won't regret it.
06 January 2009
I set my stove up as above, with the chicken stock behind the rice pot. Off to the right, I put my spoon rest. I use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to move stock from the back pot to the front, then set it on the spoon rest when I'm not using it.
Begin by ladling 1/2 cup of chicken stock into the rice. Stir the mixture, then allow the rice to absorb the liquid before ladling in the next 1/2 cup. If you have a good white wine on hand, feel free to substiute one cup of white wine for the first cup of chicken stock. The rice will absorb the wine and take on a more intense flavor.
When you have about a cup of stock left, stir in the frozen corn with the final cup of liquid. Once this round is fully absorbed, stir in cream and shrimp. Salt & pepper to taste, and garnish with fresh parsley.
This risotto came out soooo good. The rice was creamy, the corn was crunchy and delicious, the shrimp were perfectly cooked, and the parsley added a beautiful bright freshness to my bowl. I would definitely make this again. The only bummer was that I didn't have more shrimp! Risotto can easily become a main course when you add meat and vegetables to it, so don't be afraid to experiment.
05 January 2009
Andrew loved the Cajun burgers at the restaurant I worked at. They just closed last week, so I thought I'd put together something similar for him. I cooked the burgers on my Griddler. I haven't figured out how to change the grill plates yet, so I'm going to have to read up on the website. Luckily, they were correct for grilling, so I didn't have to worry about it tonight!
Back to the Cajun burger...I had leftover sauteed onions in the fridge, so I heated those in the microwave once my burgers were cooked and topped with cheese. I piled the onions on top, then added hot sauce. The only thing missing is the homemade Chipotle barbeque sauce they used to make at The Grill (the restaurant I mentioned).
I toasted the buns face down in the toaster oven. They got great "grill marks" and looked really cute.
I served dinner with a side of sweet potato fries. I love them salted and topped with honey. Andrew likes them plain, so I just lightly salt them before baking, then pile the salt onto my own once they're on my plate. I drizzled honey over the top, and they tasted like such a treat!
Sweet Potato Fries
2 sweet potatoes, peeled
fresh ground salt & pepper
Chop the sweet potatoes into "fry-like" shapes - wedges would be good too, but I wanted these to cook quickly, so I made them small.
Spread potatoes out on a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes.
I can never wait long enough for my fries to get crispy, and always end up pulling them out as soon as they're cooked. Oh well, one of these days I'll exercise some willpower and Andrew will get crispy fries!
I attempted to be good - no roll on my burger, a side of roasted brussels sprouts, and two pickles on the side. Granted, the hunk of homemade bread and butter I ate before I made dinner isn't pictured here, but nobody's perfect, right?