I really like fresh herbs but a few things prevent me from using them. The biggest obstacle is that I buy them and then they rot before I can use them all up or even get to the recipe I bought them for. I've experimented with frozen herbs you can buy and freeze dried herbs. These aren't bad substitutes, but they tend to be rather expensive, and I've yet to find them for cilantro, which is the herb I usually want, even more than basil. If you've ever used the basil frozen that they sell at Trader Joe's, they basically look like little ice cubes, and they add oil, water, and weird stuff like sugar sometimes. I just want the herbs, and I don't want to pay three dollars for it when cilantro sells for 90 cents a bunch. So, I finally decided to try my hand at freezing cilantro myself, and it worked really well. I had bought a massive bunch of it from a neighbor, and I just threw it in the food processor (you can include the stems, as they are tasty, too, and it's a pain to peel off all the leaves). Once minced, I used a spoon to stuff it into our ice cube trays (slightly smaller than standard US ice trays), and froze it. After it froze, I ran hot water over the back of the tray, and used a knife and they popped right out. They were about two teaspoon a piece serving size, and I threw them all into a ziploc and stuck them back into the freezer. Now anytime I need cilantro, I just grab a few cubes and throw them directly into the recipe (they melt fast). It's the closest to fresh I can get without the rotting factor. I feel like this will serve me well, too, when I can get basil for $2 a giant bag at the farmer's market in the summer. Just freeze it the same way and my favorite tomato basil soup will taste fresh all winter.
Monday, October 31, 2011
So I took two pictures of this, and they both turned out sadly unappetizing. Do not let my poor photography dissuade you, though, because I thought this was really good. I'm not a huge meatloaf fan, but I do love Indian food, and this is a good combination of the two. This is another one from Eating Well. I made a couple alterations, though. They called for some rare black rice, which also added an extra 40 minutes of prep to cook the rice. I subbed a packet of precooked brown basmati rice (about 2 cups) to save time and because I did not see this rice anywhere. Also, they called for curry powder, which I am not a fan of. If you like it, use it, but I give spice suggestions that I think are tastier.
1 cup water
OR use 2 cup precooked brown rice
1 medium zucchini, shredded using the large holes of a box grater or food processor
1 tablespoon walnut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder (or make your own curry seasoning--see below)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds 93%-lean ground beef
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup mango chutney, plus more for serving, if desired (Trader Joe's and Sharwood's both make good ones)
If making rice, bring rice and water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer at the lowest bubble until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, 30 to 50 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add onion, celery and the zucchini; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder; cook 1 minute. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and salt until combined. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan with cooking spray.
Spoon the cooked rice onto a clean cutting board and chop the grains into small bits with a large knife or process. Transfer to the bowl with the vegetables, add ground beef and egg and gently mix until just combined. Place the mixture on the prepared pan and shape into a loaf, about 10 inches by 5 inches. Spread chutney evenly over the top.
Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meatloaf registers 165°F, 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with additional mango chutney, if desired.
Make your own curry seasoning:
If you are like me and think curry powder just tastes like stale tumeric (which is mostly what it is), try mixing up this combination and keep it in a shaker top container left over from some spice you've already used up.
2 tablespoons coriander seed
2 tablespoons cumin seed
1 tablespoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds (if you can't find these, just omit)
Place all of that in a spice grinder and grind it up pretty good, but it doesn't have to be a powder. Then add these other spices in a bowl and whisk well.
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
Use a funnel to pour into your shaker top container and use 1 for 1 substitution for curry powder, and it will taste a whole lot better.
This started out as an Eating Well recipe for garlic rosemary mushrooms, but then I realized I did not have enough mushrooms, and I had to adjust in a hurry. I felt it came out well, but I'll put both the original and my alterations in case you'd like to try both.
1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake (stemmed) and portobello, cut into 1/4-inch slices OR 8 oz sliced mushrooms with 1 pint grape tomatoes and 2 cups frozen green beans
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine
Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms, (and green beans and tomatoes if using) garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost dry, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour in wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
I recently had a conversation with my sister about good places to look for recipes while dieting. She should know, having lost over 70 pounds this past year doing Weight Watchers. Mad props to Katie! She brought to my attention the magazine Eating Well. It touts itself as sort of a diet magazine for people with foodie tastes. They also have a nice function where you can follow a 1200, 1500, or 1800 calorie meal plan for 28 days. Katie and I both are a bit tired of reinventing the wheel. We want something to eat, so we take a normal recipe and try to make it more diet friendly. This is partly because a lot of diet recipes are like eating cardboard, so I was eager to hear of a place that might actually have some good recipes that were lower calorie. I've tried 4-5 recipes from Eating Well now, and they are sort of hit and miss. They can be rather time consuming, so I want them to taste good enough to justify the effort. The oven fried zucchini was not worth it, the chili garlic sweet potatoes were decent, but I've made one that tastes better myself, and the salads can lack imagination. However, I had a really good meatloaf tonight, so I'm going to keep trying stuff from them.
However, this particular recipe is from Cooking Light, an old friend of mine. Katie sort of off-handedly mentioned CL while discussing Eating Well, and it was a good reminder. I was looking for a good chicken enchilada recipe and EW wasn't really coming up with anything in my searching, so I hopped over to CL, and this was really good. I subscribed to Cooking Light for a good 5-6 years, and felt it was a good magazine, just never had time to read it. I don't think Daniel believed me when I told him it only had 250 calories a serving. If you aren't watching calories, I'd add about a cup more cheddar, but it's very good as is.
2 poblano chiles (about 6 ounces)
2 Anaheim chiles (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1 red bell pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups sliced cremini mushrooms (about 8 ounces)
1 1/2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms (about 1 [3 1/2-ounce] package) (I just used more cremini)
1/2 cup sliced green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
4 ounces block-style fat-free cream cheese (about 1/2 cup), softened
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
9 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut in half
2 1/4 cups chopped skinned roasted chicken breast (about 3/4 pound)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Romano cheese
Cut the chiles and bell pepper in half lengthwise, and discard seeds and membranes. Place chile and bell pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet, and flatten with hand. Broil for 5 minutes or until blackened, turning occasionally. Place in a zip-top plastic bag, and seal. Let stand 15 minutes; peel and chop chiles and bell pepper, or just use food processor.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onions, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in flour, sage, cumin, and black pepper, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in chopped chiles and bell pepper, broth, and water; simmer 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Stir in cream cheese. Remove from heat; stir in cheddar cheese and cilantro.
Preheat oven to 350°
Spoon 1 cup mushroom sauce into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; top with 6 tortilla halves, 3/4 cup chicken, and 1 cup sauce. Repeat layers twice, ending with sauce. Sprinkle with Romano. Cover and bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes.
Makes 8 servings.
Friday, October 21, 2011
What is a timbale? Yeah, I didn't know either. It's the French word for timpani (as in the drums), and the French also have a drum shaped mould called timbales in which you make a custard like dish also called--you guessed it--timbales. I don't have a timbale mould, and the cookbook suggested cooking it in ramekins in a water bath. This recipe looked very good, but honestly, looked like a lot of work. I'm fine with that for a really amazing dessert, but for a vegetable side dish, I admittedly am less willing to put forth the effort. So, I tweaked it a bit to make it faster and easier, starting by cooking it a muffin tin. At home it would be even faster because you can buy canned pumpkin. The only pumpkin here is fresh, and it looks like this:
I mentioned to people here that you can buy canned pumpkin, they sort of made a face and said, "Tinned pumpkin?!" Sort of like if I had suggested canning dog poo. They also don't seem to have realized pumpkin's potential here. They usually just roast it and serve a hunk of it with meat or make pumpkin pie. That's just the beginning. But I digress. Here's the recipe:
10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
1 large leek, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
15 oz roasted pumpkin or canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325. Heat butter and oil in a skillet and add leeks and cook until soft but not brown. Remove from heat. Squeeze spinach to get rid of excess water and mix into the leeks. Add pepper, salt, and nutmeg, and puree in a food processor.
But the eggs, add the milk, and stir into the leek/spinach mixture. Spoon into a well greased muffin tin (will make about 9). Bake for around 15 minutes or until set.
Meanwhile, mix the pumpkin, butter, and salt and pepper in a food processor.
Run a knife around the cooked timbales, and turn over the tin onto a plate. Served topped with pumpkin puree.
I normally make my cornbread in an 9 x 9 pan, but they only have a loaf pan here, so it's a bit differently shaped. I also had to use polenta, because they don't have cornmeal here anywhere. It's pretty much the same thing, though.
The cornbread recipe is Jeanne Klepinger's, a home economics teacher from my church in Indiana. I've cooked it for hundreds of people at various retreats. She probably has no idea how worn my copy is. I've tried lots of others, but none of them get the texture and sweetness level right like hers does.
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons baking powder (if your powder is fresh, use 3, if a little old, use 4)
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons oil, Smart Balance, or butter (I've used all three)
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375. Put the butter/Smart Balance in a 9x9 pan and put the pan in the oven and melt the butter while it preheats. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl with a whisk. Add milk and egg and stir just until combined. Don't overmix. Pour batter directly on top of the melted butter in the pan, and return it to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes.
Even though it's heating up here in Australia, my taste buds still think it should be fall, so I've wanted warm soups and breads and desserts made with pumpkin. Chili isn't something most people eat here, and many people have never had. We had a friend from England for dinner when I served this, and she had never had chili or cornbread (make sure you check that post). I was trying to describe cornbread, which was more difficult that I thought. She asked if it was like taco shells. I finally told her to just wait until it was made and then she's see. They don't have Rotel here, so I had to improvise, but I got pretty close to my regular recipe, which is what is listed here:
1 lb ground turkey, browned
28 oz. diced tomatoes
28 oz. Original Rotel
3, 15 oz cans of Bush's chili beans in sauce (I like the medium ones, but the mild are good, too)
1 onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
48 oz (one big can) of V8 juice. Sometimes it's hard to find the can these days and you have to buy the bigger bottle. If so, use about half.
Throw all of that into a crockpot and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8. That's it.
I made these to take to a friends when we saw the footy finals. For those of you not familiar with that term, it's what they call Australian Rules Football. They call American football gridiron here. So, it was their version of the Superbowl, and they had there own Footy Finals Food. I never really thought about Superbowl food being culture specific until I was watching football with sweet chili dip instead of seven layer dip or guacamole, and eating meat pies instead of chili. Apparently chicken wings span cultures, though. Anyway, I was just given the instructions to bring a finger food. I thought mini quiches are always a hit, and then realized I did not have my mini-tart pan from home. I didn't want to make a full size quiche since that's not finger food, so I was stymied for a minute before I decided to use the regular muffin pan. I wasn't sure what to call them, though. It's almost Halloween, though, so my mind is on candy. I realized that there's regular sized candy bars, fun size, and those bite-sized minis. So, these mid sized quiches I decided were fun sized. These were darn good. I'm pretty sure four kinds of cheese had something to do with that. One batch makes 12.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)
1 stick smart balance baking stick
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/2 cup milk
2 oz feta cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
about 3 roma tomatoes, sliced
To make the pastry, put the flour and rolled oats into food processor for 30 seconds. Add smart balance and cheese and process until mixture forms a ball. You may have to add a few teaspoons of ice water, but it's a dry crumbly dough. You don't have to roll it though, just smush it immediately into the muffin tin. I tried putting in the fridge and rolling it out later as suggested in the cookbook, and it did not work at all. It was hard as a rock and still crumbly. The second time I made them I just smushed it in immediately and it worked better. At this point, preheat the oven to 375.
For the filling, beat eggs and milk and mix in the cheeses, retaining 1 cup of cheddar for the topping. Add salt and pepper. Put about 2 tablespoons of filling into each cup, but don't fill it too full. Top with a tomato slice, sprinkle with tarragon and garlic powder, and then top with some of the reserved cheddar. Bake for 12-15 minutes until it's puffed and golden and pastry is crisp.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
We had some Australian friends over for dinner recently, so I wanted to show them what having BBQ means in the South. I made pulled pork with slaw and baked mac and cheese, and had to end with banana pudding. They hadn't even heard of okra, so I guess that explains why I couldn't find any. I couldn't find vanilla wafers, either, so I had to use Marie biscuits, which taste sort of like animal crackers. Still, it's banana pudding, so it tasted good--and was a luxury. Because of a cyclone that wiped out most of last year's banana crop, bananas have been as much as $8 a pound. I got these for the low price of $4 a pound! This recipe is from the Joy of Cooking, which was actually contributed by a Chapel Hill cook, so I guess that makes it authentic. It's the only recipe I've used for years.
3 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter
6 large firm yet ripe bananas
Vanilla Wafers broken into bite sized pieces
Lightly sweetened whipped cream
In a large bowl whisk together the 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, eggs, and egg yolk. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the milk. Set aside while you heat the rest of the milk and sugar.
First, rinse a medium-sized heavy saucepan with cold water and then shake out the excess water. Doing this step prevents the milk from scorching. Then pour the remaining 3 cups of milk, along with 1/4 cup of sugar, into the saucepan and bring just to a boil. Gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the pudding mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise (about 3 -5 minutes). Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. If you want your vanilla wafers to stay crunchy, at this point cover and place in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or two (or even overnight). If you want them to turn to mush with the pudding (my preference), just continue on with the hot pudding.
To Make Banana Pudding Trifles: Take 6 or 8 bowls or wine glasses (depending on size) and place a few vanilla wafers in the bottom of each trifle glass. Spoon a little of the vanilla pudding over the cookies. Peel and slice the bananas and place a layer of bananas over the pudding in each bowl. Repeat layers until the glass is full (I needed three layers). Chill before serving if you made it with hot pudding. Garnish each pudding with dollops of whipped cream and a vanilla wafers before serving.
The ladies of Onward Christian Church introduced me to this salad. I don't really care for broccoli, but this I like. Every October at the church's annual chicken noodle dinner they would make vats of the stuff to serve along side the chicken and noodles on mashed potatoes (another post to come one day that always baffles everyone outside of Indiana). While I can't convince people of the beauty of chicken and noodles, everyone seems to like the broccoli salad.
5 to 6 cups broccoli florets (this usually takes at least 2 heads of broccoli)
1/2 cup chopped red onion (about one small one)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
8 strips turkey bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1 cup light mayo
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar or Splenda
Chop up the broccoli into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add onion, raisins, sunflower seeds, and bacon, and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayo, vinegar, and sugar. Pour over broccoli and mix well. I like to make sure this sets at least an hour before serving so it has time to soak up the dressing a bit.
Other than cod and salmon, we haven't really recognized most of the fish in the grocery store here. We have enjoyed trying each of the different kinds, though. When I made fish tacos I tried barramundi, and this time we had basa. Both are good mild flavored white fish, so if you want to make this recipe, just use a mild fish of your liking. This was a big hit, and tasted very similar to scampi.
4 basa fillets, defrosted
3 tablespoons smart balance
1 tablespoon basil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Lightly brush the fillets with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Cook on a griddle, grill pan, or I even used a sandwich press for faster cooking. It generally only takes 4-5 minutes total, but look to make sure that it has turned an opaque white and flakes easily.
Meanwhile, melt the butter with the garlic and basil in the microwave for about a minute.
Place the cooked fish on a serving platter, then spoon the butter mixture over top.