Fresh From The Snow

Anybody who has been stuck in the house this winter with blizzard after snowstorm after blizzard has probably already cooked their way through the entire repertoire of soups, stews and slow cooker meals. I know I have. So last week with a “dusting” of 3-6″ expected and temperatures stuck in single digits, I decided I was tired of “cold weather food” and made some summer food instead. However with the grill drowning in 5 feet of snow out back I had to adapt summer food to indoor cookery.

Pork Spare Ribs, Broccoli slaw and roasted cauliflower ended up on the menu. Easy, fresh and bright – everything that winter is not.

spareribs-slaw-cauliflower

I had about 3 lbs of spare ribs that I brushed with about a 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard (option here to add  a Tsp of liquid smoke to the mustard) and then coated with my favorite BBQ spice rub, salt and pepper. Wrap in plastic and store 3-4 hours in the fridge or even overnight, but be sure to bring out and let the meat come up almost to room temperature before cooking. I placed the ribs on a rack on a sheet pan – cranked up my broiler – and cooked each side long enough so that they got brown and caramelized. Next I poured a little bit of apple juice under the rack and closed up the whole thing in foil, a big pouch, but not too tight. The oven got taken off broil and dropped to 300 degrees and the ribs cooked like that for about 1.5 hours. For the last 15-20 minutes I unwrapped the foil pouch and brushed on some BBQ sauce to give the ribs that tangy, saucy glaze and of course served more (warmed) on the side to pour over.

The broccoli slaw was simply a bag of shredded slaw and I added tiny shreds of raw sweet onion and a standard coleslaw dressing to it. Mix this up at least an hour (preferably longer) before serving so it has time to develop flavor and break down the raw veggies a bit.

The Cauliflower was sliced thick, drizzled with just a bit of sunflower oil, (great nutty taste – use olive oil instead if you want) salt and pepper. Roast it on a sheet pan at 425 degrees until tender and starting to brown on the edges.

Enjoy with a cold beer, plenty of napkins and a view of the snow-filled back yard.

 

Going Nuts In The Snow

The last time I made these brownies (a week and 2 blizzards ago) I had a bit of chopped walnuts on hand and threw those in.

However this time I was out of walnuts and only had some pistachios on hand, pistachios that were still in the shell. Since we were on our third blizzard in like 7 days and both school and work was cancelled, I figured with nothing but time on my hands, I might as well shell the pistachios and add those to my brownies.

I really wanted to have the rich little nuggets of pistachio flavor jump out so I barely chopped the pile after I shelled them. I ended up with about 1/2 cup of shelled nuts and just threw them into my favorite brownie mix. ( I like Bob’s Red Mill GF)

Since these nuts were roasted but NOT salted, after I spread the batter into my sprayed baking dish I sprinkled just the tiniest amount of course sea salt on the top. That would give that expected salty hint that you usually get with pistachios and the combination of sweet and salty is always fun.

fudgy nut brownies

Moist and fudgy style brownies are the best in my book.

 

Convenient Breakfast

In the true spirit of “Cabinet Stew” I managed to pull together a breakfast casserole with things that were just hanging around the freezer and fridge.

Production Notes

Spray your dish first with a non-stick spray.

This is a small dish – About 7″x 10″ – so double the filling and eggs to serve a crowd!

Not noted above but in full-disclosure; I actually used up 4ozs of leftover full-fat sour cream by whisking it into the eggs first and then pouring over the goodies. It made the whole thing that much more luxurious and delicious! (but leave it out if you are dairy- free!)

Some Like It Tangy

I am more of a “vinegar girl” then a “sweet girl” so I like things a little on the “tangy” side whenever possible. I think even traditional dishes like beef stew can use a little “tangy” to them. And of course tomatoes…because I can not resist the combination of beef and tomatoes!

On a rare day of cooking together, my husband expressed his doubts when I pulled out a half-full bottle of Pepperoncini’s from the fridge. But I assured him that the beef stew I had in mind, while not traditional, would be delicious and remind him of a yummy roast beef sandwich with sliced tomatoes and mild “hots.”  (Oops, that is how I like my roast beef sandwiches, not him, but no matter I was sure I would convert him!)

We kept it simple by browning about 2lbs of stew meat in hot fat first with a dusting of flour*, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then after carefully removing the meat – added in a large sliced onion for its turn to get browned a bit. Next in was the cherry tomatoes – whole. When they just burst a bit, everything was added back to the pot. We added only enough low-sodium beef stock to get the liquid level up the “shoulders” of the meat. A healthy couple of dashes of my secret ingredient (A1 Sauce!! ) to step up that beefy flavor.  And then the scary part…. about 8 ounces of sliced Golden Greek Pepperoncini’s. WITH some of the juice too. Let the beef cook till the meat is tender, season liberally to taste, and serve it up – all tangy, beefy and delicious! We just ate it in bowls but it would be delicious on big crusty rolls or over some rice! Guess what? He liked it!

spicy beef stew

tangy beef stew with burst cherry tomatoes!

*leave off the flour coating for Gluten-free!

 

longs days, slow cook

open book

I am sorry I have been away for so long! I have been busy. Very Busy. Some may know and some may not, but I am a grad student finishing up my thesis in the next 2 months and I barely have time to breathe never mind cook!

So I am hoping to squeeze in a few things between now and my final thesis deadline in late January but forgive me if I am a little slow about posting. Now as I head into the holidays I am going to have even more things to juggle!

These busy days call for the helping hand of the slow-cooker. There is nothing better than dumping a few things in and hours later having a meal waiting for you. My latest creation was inspired by the cold night and the fact that I happened to have potatoes on hand.

I put scrubbed, chopped to bite size potatoes into the slow-cooker with a couple of tablespoons of butter and 1 smallish-medium onion chopped small. I opened a can of creamed corm and a can of niblet corn and added that. Next a can of low sodium broth, a dash of ground nutmeg, dash of garlic powder and plenty of salt and pepper. I also happened to have a small ham steak in the fridge so that got chopped and added too, but you could leave out for a vegetarian version. I let the whole thing cook on low for 8-10 hours till potatoes were tender. (consult your crock pot directions for times/settings as you may want to do high for a shorter time) At this point I took out my immersion blender and gave the mix a quick couple of pulses just to “thicken it up” with the blended potatoes etc. I added about a cup of half and half, adjusted for salt and pepper and served!

It came out delicious, couldn’t have been easier and sustained me  and my husband for several servings each while I march onward towards my academic goals!

chowder

Crispy Bits

Doesn’t matter what you are actually eating, the crispy bits are always the best!

Lasagna, meatloaf, pizza, hot dogs or even french fries to name a few – all have crispy bits (and in the french fry’s case – the extra crispy bits!) And those are always the best part!

So recently when my husband asked me if I had used breadcrumbs on top of the macaroni and cheese (I had not) I knew the extra time in the oven “crisping up the top” was totally worth the wait!

mac and cheese with ham

A little paprika sprinkled on top makes it “fancy” :)

Now for a few secrets about this particular dish ( mostly to see if my husband is reading all the way to the end!)

I used a gluten-free pasta and thickened the cheese sauce with arrowroot flour! Also I added cubed ham but you could easily leave this out and have a vegetarian version too! Be sure to sprinkle some extra shredded cheese on top for that extra yum factor!

Raspberry BBQ

My mother is on the eternal search to find the perfect salad dressing. Not too tart, not to sweet- just perfect for her. This results in her buying and trying many different ones and when she inevitably doesn’t like them she sends them home with me. I pretty much like them all but her salad dressing tastes do run a little sweeter than my preferences. So this is how I find myself at the time of this writing with no less than 3 bottles of raspberry vinaigrette in my refrigerator.

I decided to use one of them up by turning it into a sweet and tangy homemade BBQ sauce. And I think it turned out pretty good. Watch out competitive BBQ participants I might just be on to the next greatest thing!

ribs with raspberry BBQ sauce

I simply combined the rest of a barely used bottle of fat-free “balsamic raspberry” dressing (about 3/4 cup) with about a cup of ketchup, a couple of tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, some Korean hot pepper paste for heat and a cup of water. I added in a couple teaspoons of liquid smoke for that “just off the grill” nuance. I the whole thing simmer over medium heat till reduced by about a third. I used some of it to brush on  my ribs in the last 30 min sof cooking for a nice glaze and poured additional on at serving time for that “finger-licking” delicious rib experience!