Archive | January, 2012

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

31 Jan

Are you ready for what I’m about to say? Because once I say it, you’re going to want to try this. OK? Sitting down? Braced? Here it is:

Aside from throwing chicken boobs and a bottle of barbecue sauce into the crock, this is the easiest Crockpot meal I’ve ever made. And it was fantastimically delicious and everybody ate it and cleanup was almost nothing, AND I have tons of leftovers for tonight.

A miracle. Right?

So now I have a confession. This is the first pot roast I’ve ever cooked. Seriously. It’s the first one I think I’ve eaten since high school, thanks to my 12-year moratorium on beef. It will not, however, be the last.

This quite literally took me four minutes to get into the slow cooker. Eight hours on low. Another two minutes to fish out the meat and veggies and stir a little thickener into the juice to make a simple gravy. And that’s it–dinner. Cutting boards and the slow cooker insert went into the dishwasher with the rest of the plates, the countertop got a quick swipe, and voila. Cleaned up.

Salivating yet?

The original recipe for this comes from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, which is a terrific reference that I recommend–not a can of cream o’ something soup to be found, and loads of easy, healthy, delicious dinners. I mucked around with it a tiny bit to give it a bit more umph and to use veggies we had in the house already, but I didn’t remake this one from the get-go. We really enjoyed it even though my children declared the potatoes “poison” (more for me, you little spud-hating freaks) and I was the only one who ate the onion (which was sweet and delicious despite not browning–I can’t explain it but I want more).

I forgot to take a picture. Worst food blogger ever. But it’s pot roast–you know what it looks like, right?

I really hope you’ll try this. Little to no effort and an amazing dinner at the end of the day. Tell me that’s not perfection. You need:

One 2.5 – 4 pound pot or chuck roast, trimmed of as much fat as you can get off.

Salt and pepper

About 10 baby carrots, cut into thirds (or 2 regular carrots chunked up)

12 oz waxy yellow or white potatoes (I used baby yukons), cut into large bites

1 large or 2 small yellow onions, peeled and quartered (cut the root end off)

2 bay leaves

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 1/2 cups of water

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

3 tbsp softened butter

3 tbsp flour

Salt and pepper your roast and plop him down in the slow cooker. Dump your veggies on top of him along with the bay leaves and garlic. Pour in the water and vinegar and turn your cooker on low for 6-8 hours. I stirred mine midway through to ensure that all the spuds got a good dunking in the liquid and cooked evenly, but you probably don’t have to.

About five minutes before you want to eat, use a fork to mash together your flour and butter into a paste in a small bowl. Fish your meat and veggies out of the crock (chuck the bay leaves) and cover them with foil. Turn your slow cooker to high and stir in the butter paste with a whisk until it’s dissolved and the gravy looks like gravy (it’ll be thin).

Cut up your meat, drizzle a bit of sauce on top, and raise your eyes to heaven for this amazing, couldn’t-be-easier meal.

Fluke (Oven Baked Salmon Sticks)

26 Jan

DH and I both had big lunches yesterday (and mine was delicious!) and didn’t need real dinners last night. I also didn’t really feel like cooking and cleaning up. The kids, though, were hungry, and my healthier eating resolution is still sticking (except for lunch–shaddup, I know).

What to do, what to do?

I mentally ticked off everything that might make dinner that was in my freezer: chicken, ground beef, rockfish, salmon. Aside: the friend I had lunch with and I had a great conversation about that in the car, and it’s so true. Having the basic stuff of meals in the cold box makes life so much easier when it comes to home-cooked, healthy meals. It’s so worth the time to figure out your family’s six or seven staple meals that are simple to put together, and make sure you have those basic ingredients in your pantry and freezer. Lifesaving.

Anyway. Salmon. Salmon is good–it’s full of omega-3s and is super easy to cook, and everybody likes it. So I pulled out two filets, defrosted them in a bowl of water in my sink, and cut them (along the grain) into fish sticks. I whipped two eggs together in a bowl with a fork, and put a handful of Panko in another bowl. Each salmon stick got dunked in the egg, rolled in the Panko, and placed on a foil-lined, olive-oil sprayed baking sheet. They then got a sprinkle of No-Salt and about 10 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees.

As it happens, DH wandered into the kitchen as the kids sat down to eat. “Those look interesting,” he said. “Kind of like tempura.” So I broke a hunk off of one and handed it to him, just so he’d see he wasn’t missing a gourmet meal. Guess what he said then.

“This is the best salmon you’ve ever made.”

Are

You

Serious??

Y’all those little goofy salmon sticks took me five minutes to put together. Cleanup was throwing four bowls in the dishwasher and a hunk of  foil into the recycling bin. And if I’d known he was gonna eat them, I’d have tossed some lemon pepper in with the Panko. I mean, I didn’t even take a picture because I had no intention of telling you guys about them–they were that thrown together in a moment of “must put something on the table.”

Best salmon ever. Total fluke. Go figure.

My Favorite Cinnamon Bread

24 Jan

You’re thinking I said cinnamon raisin bread. But I didn’t. Raisins, as far as I’m concerned, have no business in baked goods, and especially have no business in something as perfect as this amazing, comforting, perfect loaf of yumminess.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, this was a recipe from the old standard Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book that I’ve doctored up. And the doctoring has led to a slightly sweeter, slightly crunchier cinnamon bread that’s reminiscent of a cinnamon roll. Yummy for a snack, divine for breakfast, and y’all, this stuff makes some seriously kick butt French toast.

You should go make some. Right now. Before your kids get home from school, so you can enjoy the first amazing slice all by yourself. And I’m going to stop talking just so you can. You need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

2/3 cup milk

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp butter

1 tbsp light brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

Another 1/4 cup brown sugar

Another 1 tsp cinnamon

Measure your milk into a Pyrex cup or microwaveable bowl. Add the regular sugar and the butter and nuke it for about a minute, until it’s warmer than body temperature but not hot.

While that’s nuking up, pour your flour, yeast, egg, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon into your bread machine (or into the bowl of your mixer). Add the warm milk mixture and either set your bread machine for the dough cycle and walk away, or gently mix everything together, knead it with your hands or a dough hook for five minutes, put it into a greased bowl, cover it with a clean dishtowel, and let it rise until doubled, which will be about 45 minutes.

Once your bread machine is done and/or your dough has risen, heat your oven to 375 degrees and spray a loaf pan with your nonstick goodness of choice. Punch the dough down and set it on a floured countertop, and then spread a little flour on top of it too–it’s going to be sticky. Roll it out into a rectangle about as wide as your loaf pan and maybe 18 inches long.

In a small bowl, combine your 1/4 cup of brown sugar and your teaspoon of cinnamon.

Gently brush your dough with water and spread the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture all over the top of it. It’ll be a very thin layer–do not freak out. Starting with a narrow end, tightly roll the dough up and then lay the roll in your bread pan. Cover it with a clean dishtowel, give it a half-hour to rise, and then bake it for a half-hour, until it’s done.

Perfect Little Lemon Cookies

23 Jan

The weather this weekend was nothing short of disgusting–cold and wet and bone-shivering and nothing I wanted to be out in, especially with the head cold that attacked me in the middle of the grocery store yesterday morning. I left the house exactly three times: once for church and dinner out with my family, once to go to the market, and once to go to a birthday celebration lunch. That was it.

Bring on spring. And bring on my Kitchen Aid, because something about baking up a yummy treat lifts the spirit when the weather outside is nasty. This recipe fit both cravings quite nicely.

This started out as a recipe I tore out of Bon Appetit magazine. The original called for not much lemon in the actual cookies, and slathering them with lemon icing. We’re not much for iced cookies around here, and so I just bumped up the lemon in the batter itself to make a plain lemon icebox cookie.

They are tiny–I’m not going to lie to you. Each cookie is about a bite. But they are perfect little lunchbox treats and wonderful after-meal mouth refreshers, and I am in love with them. They would also be wonderful for lunch or a party with the girlfriends–you know those gatherings where you knock yourself out making food that nobody actually eats? Tiny is good for those occasions, and these are delicious.

Spring in my mouth in a perfect, tiny bite. Yes.

I hope these will brighten up a dreary day for you. You need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

One lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 large egg yolks

In your mixer bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until it’s light and fluffy (about 2 minutes on medium in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer; more for a hand mixer). Add in the vanilla, and then the zest from your lemon and its juice (zest it, cut it in half, and squeeze the juice in). Add the egg yolks and beat them in. Mix in the flour and salt on a low speed, and just until they’re blended in.

Divide the batter in half onto two sheets of wax paper. Use your hands to form each half into a log, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide and a foot or so long. Wrap the logs in the wax paper and stick them in the fridge for an hour or two.

Once your dough is chilled, heat your oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap one dough log and use a sharp knife to cut it into thin discs–mine were about 1/8 inch wide. The thinner you cut, the crisper your cookies will be. Lay them flat on your cookie sheet so they don’t touch (they don’t spread, but need some room to breathe in there). Bake them for 12-15 minutes, until they’re crisp and the bottoms have started to brown. Cool on the counter and smile.

 

 

Tidbits

20 Jan

Happy Friday, gang!

Two quick things to tell you today. First, I discovered yesterday that the double-yummy Swiss oatmeal I posted about earlier this week doesn’t need to sit overnight. This happened because I really wanted some for breakfast, but I hadn’t thought far enough ahead to prep it the night before (sound familiar?).

I get up early, and I don’t eat breakfast for several hours. So I mixed up my milk and yogurt and oats, covered them up, and popped them in the fridge. Three hours later, they were delicious. Which makes them fantastic for brunch…or days you realize you forgot to make them the night before.

Second: I scrambled up some eggs this morning with a dollop of Greek yogurt instead of water or milk. Um…YUM. Creamy and delicious. I cooked them up with some chopped onion, red pepper, and asparagus. Heaven.

Day 20, boys and girls, and still going strong. Whoop whoop! Have a great weekend!

The Paula Deen Thing

19 Jan

In case you’ve been under a rock this week, Paula Deen the butter queen announced she has diabetes. And everybody seems to have an opinion on it.

Was it her diet? No way to say. If you believe her TV show, she lives on a steady diet of cream cheese, butter, heavy cream, and more butter. If you believe TV is TV and that “reality” shows aren’t really what they claim (staged? what? you serious, Clark?), you can’t make a judgement. Food Network aside, Paula Deen can have whatever diet she wants and not have to justify it to the rest of us. If you enjoy the cupcake diet, rock on. Answer to yourself and never mind other people’s opinions, because the consequences are yours.

Personally, I think a lot of us have a dangerous obsession with weight. We’re bombarded by size 0’s who, along with a generous dose of Photoshop, are held up as ideals. A new diet is released almost every day, each sounding more miraculous and wonderful than the last, with a trail of celebrities hanging on to proclaim their success on whatever the newest trend is. On the other extreme, we’re tempted, constantly tempted, by cheap junk food that–let’s face it–tastes good, fits our budget, and looks darned fun in all of the ads. Sadly, many people think that’s the only way they can afford to eat.

No doubt about it, our attitude and knowledge about food and our bodies is messed up. Many people understand the concept of moderation, eat less/move more, and having a healthy body image (that at least has a real digit as a size). But many of us don’t, and the misconceptions are perpetuated by what we see on television and in magazines.

So. Paula Deen. Paula Deen has the right to cook the way she wants and develop recipes the way she wants and feed her own body the way she wants. I don’t think she has any kind of obligation to change any of that because of her diagnosis. Our habits are not her responsibility, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with indulging in butter and cream and cheese every so often. Remember the saying about the women skipping dessert on the Titanic? Word, yo. Have a cookie and birthday cake and ice cream and bacon. Just don’t do it all the time. Moderation!

My issue with Miss Paula is the timing of her announcement, which oh-so-coincidentally came at the same time she allied herself with a pharma company that happens to produce diabetes drugs. If news reports are to be believed, she’s know about her diagnosis for several years now. One would think if she was trying to do good, as she claims, she’d have shared her Big News well before signing a contract to hawk medication.

Your disease, your diet, your business. Your right to do whatever you want with your television show. Our obligation to educate ourselves and be reasonable and make our own choices as adults, and not blame a TV chef for our own issues and our own choices.

Paula Deen is a hypocrite and an opportunist who claims to want to do good, but really is angling for a profit. And that is my only beef with her, celebrity or not.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

18 Jan

Hey gang!

I am drowning in deadlines this week. This is a good thing (we who are self employed much prefer drowning in deadlines to twiddling our thumbs), but it is presenting an extra challenge for my health eating lifestyle (day 18!). Lunch, especially, is hard. These are the days I used to grab peanut butter and white bread or a frozen entree, just to make life easy.

No more. In between editing things on Monday, I whipped up a batch of Mango & Tomato’s Chicken Tortilla Soup, and I’ve been eating it for lunch every day. It is delicious–creamy without the cream, satisfying without fat and salt, and wonderfully comforting when the cold wind blows outside my window.

I’m not going to repost her recipe–it’s hers, after all–but I’ll tell you a few things I did differently, just because my pantry didn’t cooperate on Monday. I didn’t have fire-roasted tomatoes, so I used regular diced tomatoes and added about a tablespoon of smoked chipotle Tabasco, which is one of my top 3 condiments–not hot, but deliciously smoky. I also didn’t have fresh corn, so I added a can of rinsed salt-free kernels, and I used a can of rinsed black beans as well.

I did make the chicken the way she suggests, plain in a cast-iron skillet until it got delicously brown and crunchy, and I have a new favorite way to make chicken for soups and salads now. It is so very simple and absolutely delicious, and it added a ton of flavor to my pot of soup. I also used my immersion blender as she suggests; they are cheap and a nice investment if you don’t have one. You could, of course, use a regular blender or food processor, but blending it in the pot is so much easier that I recommend it if you can make it happen.

I am having more of this for lunch today, and I can’t wait. Thank you, Mango & Tomato!

Swiss Oatmeal

13 Jan

I met a friend for breakfast at my favorite breakfasty joint last week. Breakfast is a great time for us to meet, right after school dropoff and right before the daily phone calls start coming and the work needs doing and the emails start flying and the insanity smacks us right in our “what just happened” faces.

This was my first breakfast out since my healthy lifestyle resolution (day 12!), and it took me a minute to ponder the menu–clearly, my regular choice of scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, and toast with butter and grape jam was out unless I started running (and ran to, say, San Diego before afternoon carpool). After ordering my coffee, I chose Swiss Oatmeal, which was a mixture of rolled oats, yogurt, a little sugar, and fruit, served cold.

I said cold. As in, the oats aren’t cooked. They were soft, though, which led me to believe the mixture hadn’t just been whipped up. And gang, it was absolutely delicious. I had to learn how to make this at home, because one of the most difficult parts of reasonable eating for me is finding a breakfast that keeps me full until lunch without blowing half my daily calorie allotment.

I tried a recipe I found online that involved soaking the oats in water overnight and then mixing them with the yogurt and add-ins. It was good, but not as creamy as what I had at the restaurant. And that creaminess was what I wanted. Healthy and decadent. Yes, please.

Last night, I mixed my oats up with some unflavored nonfat Greek yogurt; I use Greek when possible because it is heavier and creamier than American-style yogurt, and it is packed to the gills with protein, which helps keep my tummy from yelping around 10 a.m. I stirred a little bit of lowfat milk in there, covered it up, stuck it in the fridge, and went to bed.

This morning, I stirred in a touch of brown sugar and some chopped up Honeycrisp apples, and took a bite.

Heaven. I, my friends, have a new favorite breakfast. And three hours later, I am not even a touch hungry.

Post this one on your fridge and toss it together before you go to bed tonight. You’ll thank me tomorrow. You need:

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

About 3 tbsp nonfat plain Greek yogurt

About 1 tbsp nonfat or low-fat milk

Brown sugar to taste (I used about a teaspoon–honey will work too)

Fruit to your liking, along with cinnamon, raisins, or anything else your heart desires.

In a small bowl, mix together the oats, yogurt, and milk the night before your yummy breakfast. It’ll be thick–that’s good. Cover it with plastic wrap and tuck it into your fridge, and then head off for slumberland.

In the morning, give that mixture a stir and add in your sweetener and fruit. Enjoy.

Froached Eggs

10 Jan

Show of hands: How many of y’all are addicted to Pinterest?

Me too. It is the ultimate window shopping experience, only there are tons of fantabulous ideas and projects and recipes there right alongside stuff you can buy. Creative heaven and ginormous time suck. Addicting to the nth degree.

One of the recipes I’ve seen floating around recently has been the perfect fried egg. It caught my eye because it was ridiculously easy and used almost no fat, which makes it fit in very nicely with my healthier-living New Year’s resolution (day 10!). Eggs are delicious and filled with all sorts of nutrients, so enjoying them without added oil or butter was too temping to not try. I printed out the pin, followed the directions, and held my breath.

Breakfast, y’all. This really did make a perfect fried egg. Well, it’s a cross between a fried egg and a poached egg, so I’m calling it “froached” (because I’m clever like that). No matter what you call it, it was delicious with a smidge of No-Salt and a slice of warm toast, and cleanup was a total snap–you’re steaming the eggs at the end, and the steam lifts those beauties right off the pan for you. No-scrub eggs. Tell me that’s not brilliant.

Pinterest success! Give this a shot, and if you need a Pinterest invite, I have lots to share–just leave me a comment with your email address. For a perfectly froached breakfast you need:

Two eggs

Olive oil spray

A tablespoon of water

Heat a small pan over medium heat until it’s good and hot–give it a few minutes. Once you’re there, spray it with olive oil and immediately crack your eggs in there, taking care not to break the yolks. Cook them for one minute, and then add a tablespoon of water to the pan, lower the flame down to low, clamp a lid on it, and let it be for two or three minutes (mine took three, but it’s going to depend on your pan and your stove). Remove your perfect eggs with a slotted spatula and enjoy.

Lemony Quinoa

5 Jan

I’d planned to mess around with this recipe today and post it for y’all tomorrow, but I just finished wolfing down a bowl of its deliciousness and couldn’t wait to share. If you were here (live and in person), I’d be shoving spoonfuls at your face and demanding that you try it. Because it is that good and so very healthy.

Quinoa is a grain that’s gluten-free and a pretty darned perfect source of protein, which makes it an allergy sufferer’s dream. I don’t fall into that category; I eat it because it’s super easy to cook, very versatile, and fills me up for a long time.

You can use it just like rice if you want to, but I like it as a main dish. This recipe was my lunch today. Turn it into a more substantial lunch or dinner entree with some cooked shrimp, chicken, tofu, or even smoked salmon stirred in at the end. Asparagus would also be a lovely addition, but any veggie you have in the house would probably work beautifully in this dish. That said, this would be a really good side dish alongside grilled chicken or fish.

I found the idea for this online, but the original called for raw red onions, cumin, and red pepper. And I’m sure that’s all good, but I have to talk to people in the afternoon, so raw red onion isn’t going to work for me (it’s super potent stuff), and I wanted more fresh and light than smoky this time around. I substituted cooked regular onion (you could use dried onion flakes too), swapped out the seasoning, and cooked it in broth instead of water to give it a little more flavor.

You’ll see lemon juice in this recipe. If you like lemon–like, really like it–go ahead and zest your fruit, and stir the zest in at the end. It’s really lemony that way. I happen to like lemony, but you might want to give this a try without that step the first time around and see if you think you need more citrus. I’m betting you could also use orange for a different flavor.

You’ll also see sliced almonds. I like them for their crunch, but you can leave them out and use more celery or chuck in some raw carrot for the same kind of mouth feel without nuts.

This is one of my favorite new healthy recipes, and I can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow. You need:

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well (gets rid of the bitterness) and drained

The juice of one lemon

A dash of salt

About a cup and a quarter of chicken or vegetable broth

About 2 tbsp of sweet onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/4 cup sliced almonds (or a crunchy vegetable if you don’t want nuts in the dish)

About 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

About 2 tbsp shredded or grated parmesan cheese

Heat a small/medium saucepan over medium heat. Spray it with something nonstick and saute the onions until they’re soft and translucent.

In the meantime, juice your lemon into a 2-cup measuring cup. To the juice, add broth until you have 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Once the onions are cooked, pour that mixture into the pan and stir in your rinsed quinoa grains and salt. Bring that to a boil, clamp a lid on it, and cook it over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is gone (just like rice).

Remove the quinoa from the heat and stir in the basil, celery, almonds (or substitute), and, if you want a lotta lemon, the zest from your lemon. Stir everything together and let it sit about 5 minutes. Spoon it into bowls (2 for entrees, 4 for side dishes) and sprinkle it with the parmesan.

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