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!

Summer Classic

Potato Salad.

I can think of many classic summer foods but potato salad has to be number one. However I rarely make it. I find it to be generally a lot of effort. Especially for 2 people. If I volunteered to bring it as my “pot luck dish” to the family cookout, well than I am happy to make the effort. Otherwise it’s a lot of work; all the peeling of potatoes and boiling, etc.

But recently I was inspired to make the effort with help of some conveniently sized and packaged small red potatoes. (about 3/4 to 1 lb) I simply scrubbed them up good and boiled them until just tender. Drained them and let them cool a bit while I chopped up a few other things. The other things were dried chopped rosemary (about a heaping tablespoon) and scallions (about a cup, medium dice, green parts only) and bacon*. (fully cooked, not too crispy, about 5 slices) Don’t forget a generous couple of pinches of salt and pepper – potatoes need lots!

The dressing was simple – mayonnaise, vinegar, crushed mustard seed or celery seed, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. I know this sounds suspiciously like a coleslaw dressing and you would be right, but why not let this dressing do double duty!

For this amount of potatoes, I started with a cup of mayo, 1-2 tb of vinegar (depending on how tangy you like it) a couple tsp of sugar to smooth it all out and a couple tsp of the mustard seed. (I was out of celery seed!) As with all cold salads, mix in the dressing in batches to see if you need more or less and reserve a bit on the side to re-moisten after the salad has sat a bit in the fridge to fully chill and potatoes have absorbed the flavors. The other most important tip is adding the dried rosemary and bacon to the potatoes after they have drained and while they are stilling cooling. The warm potatoes really activate the bacon and rosemary and absorb their flavors. Let this cool to at least room temp before adding on the scallions and dressing. This way the scallions will stay crisp and crunchy.

rosemary and bacon potato salad with pork tenderloin

I served mine with grilled pork loin. You can serve it with whatever.

*obviously you could leave out the bacon – but why would you want to ;)

Corn Season

This time of year in New England fresh “Corn on the Cob” is king!

And while many people are busy thinking up new ways to use up all the Zucchini, I spend my time thinking up ways to eat more fresh corn!

The latest way…..

“Fresh corn pudding with roasted sweet potatoes & red bell pepper!”

(served with grilled steak or not)

final plate

 

The key here is the not only the 4 cups of fresh raw corn taken right off the cob, but the roasted sweet potato.

Sweet potatoes - Simply peeled, cubed, drizzled with oil, salt & pepper. Roast at 400 degrees till tender and browed a bit.

Sweet potatoes – Simply peeled, cubed, drizzled with oil, salt & pepper. Roast at 400 degrees till tender and browned a bit.

Tip: Scrub and roast your potatoes in the cool summer nights and make the corn pudding the next day or better yet if early morning is your thing, get it all done before the heat of the day sets in.

Another Tip: I like roasting potatoes or any veggies just to have on hand for quiche fillings, sandwich stuffers, omelets or quesadilla.

 

the recipe

2 cups cubed, roasted sweet potatoes

1 small-medium sweet red bell pepper diced

1 cup small dice white onion

4 cups fresh corn kernels (be sure to reap the “milk” from the cobs too!)

1 heaping TB fresh chopped sage

1/2 cup melted and slightly cooled butter

4 medium size eggs (adjust according if yours are smaller or bigger)

1 Tsp Baking Powder

1 1/4 cup finely ground corn meal (yellow or white okay)

1 1/4 cup “half and half”* or Whole milk     *I used fat-free because that is what I had but I think it would be richer with full fat.

salt and pepper to taste

preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 8×12 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

mix the potatoes, onion, bell pepper, corn kernels and corn milk together and dump into the baking dish. In another bowl mix the butter, eggs, sage and baking powder together. Alternately whisk in the cornmeal and milk (or half and half) – watching consistency. The batter should be thick but still very pourable. You may end up using more or less of one of these two ingredients. Salt and pepper should be added in and pour over the veggies in the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes, uncover and bake 20 more mins. Baking time may vary – the edges should be brown and the middle firm but soft – kinda like quiche.

Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

 

Can You Really Ever Get Enough…

…of grilled food?

on the grill

Especially in the short New England summer season?

I can’t. I just love to take advantage of the grill for dinner (or lunch or breakfast even) and getting outside to cook. It also reminds me to water the garden too. (Although that sometimes leads to “well-done” grill food. But the “flavor is in the brown right?”)

Here is a classic grilled meal!

grilled chicken dinner

Marinated & grilled chicken with grilled veggies and cole slaw!

Like my meatloaf, my marinades are never the same!

To make my marinade, I simply combine some oil, (extra virgin olive is nice but almost any will do) some acid, (lemon juice or vinegar) salt/pepper and whatever spices strike my fancy that day. Mix it up in a little dish as a “flavor concentrate” – tasting it until you basically have the same balance as a strong salad dressing, then add a little cold water to “extend” the volume of marinade to cover whatever cut of meat you plan on using. Pour over meat and refrigerate until grill time! This could be an hour or it could be a day.

This chicken had a citrus influence with lemon-pepper seasoning, coriander seed, and cumin.

 

Tropical Twist

Recently I was inspired to put a tropical twist on an old favorite: stuffed peppers.

It might have been the gorgeous colored bell peppers at the store inspiring me or perhaps I was just craving a lighter version of this dish. Whatever it was – I am pleased with the results.

tropical stuffed pepper

I also decided to keep things light by using ground pork instead of beef.And of course I used some rice – a lazy bag of frozen white/wild rice blend. I also added in some frozen corn kernels and a bit of leftover shredded carrots that was kicking around the fridge.

But the real tropical twist was the use of fresh pineapple!

Chopped fresh Pineapple along with the diced tops to the peppers, Maui sweet onion and garlic!

Chopped fresh Pineapple along with the diced tops to the peppers, Maui sweet onion & garlic!

A good dose of teriyaki sauce (use your favorite brand) and some freshly grated ginger also packed some flavor into this dish!

Light, tasty and many tropical miles away from your standard stuffed pepper recipe, this really delivered!

 

The Recipe:

Note:  Mine made plenty of filling for 4 decent size peppers, but I only had two HUGE peppers so I just cooked the extra filling in the dish along with the stuffed peppers and then used it to help the peppers stand up on the plate.

 

3/4 lb +/- ground lean pork

7 oz cooked rice (could be a bit more or less)

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 small onion or half of a sweet onion like Maui or Vidalia

2-4 large peppers to stuff

1 tb minced fresh ginger

1 cup small diced fresh pineapple

the pepper “tops’ diced small

4-5 tb teriyaki Sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Oil for browning meat in pan

Brown the onions, diced pepper tops and meat in a bit of oil in a saute pan. (pork is really a ‘white’ meat so it won’t really get too “brown” but use some butter too if you really want some color!) Add the garlic about 1/2 way through so it doesn’t burn. Add S&P to taste along the way. Add the fresh pineapple, ginger and teriyaki sauce to deglaze the pan and coat everything. Take off heat and add cooked rice, stirring to combine. At this point you could cool the filling and fill the washed, cored and topped peppers and refrigerate until time to bake. Otherwise stuff the peppers and surround them with any remaining filling. (personally I like to spray the baking dish with cooking spray to make sure nothing sticks) Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees, covered tightly with foil to keep things moist for about 30-40 minutes. Check and see how tender the peppers are – if they need more time to get tender then recover and bake longer. I like to finish my peppers by removing the cover and baking about 10-15 mins just to get a little brown on top.