Pasta With Herbs and Greens

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From Donna Hay’s Instant Cook. This is the easiest way to get Nevan to eat a lot of vegetables (although admittedly I may have gone a little crazy with the parmesan there). He had three helpings last night.

14 oz orecchiette or rigatoni pasta
1 tbsp butter (I use 2 tbsp)
3/4 cup chicken stock
7 oz broccoli, cut into small florets
3.5 oz green beans, quartered
3/4 cup green peas
2.5 oz baby spinach leaves
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1/4 cup mint, shredded
1/4 cup basil, shredded
parmesan

– I also add crumbled spicy turkey sausage and either smoked paprika or a little cayenne powder, and sometimes garlic. White pepper would be good too. This recipe is a great base but needs a little oomph.

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain. While pasta is cooking, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add stock and butter and bring to a simmer. Add broccoli, beans, and peas,and cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender. Stir in the spinach, salt, pepper, and cooked pasta. Sprinkle with basil, mint, and parmesan. Serves 4 (I think serves 6).

Banana Apple Dumpling Bread

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Sometimes a simple experiment ends up being a huge success. My little experiment from years ago ended up becoming a favorite in our house, among family and friends, and even the old grandma who used to be my neighbor, who would regularly ask me to make it for her.

I took a really good banana bread recipe (which I found in my America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook) and using their suggested Orange Spice variation I added large chunks of apple to it. I experimented with grating the apple (too wet) and large slices pressed into the loaf (looked beautiful, but the dough against the slices would not bake). In the end, large chunks won.

2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted then cooled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp orange zest
1 1/4 c walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 of an apple that is good for baking, such as Jazz, Pink Lady, or Granny Smith, diced into 1-1.25″ pieces, skin intact

Adjust oven rack to the lower middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Butter a 9X5″ loaf pan. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the bananas, eggs, yogurt, butter, orange zest, and vanilla in a separate bowl. Gently fold banana mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula and until just combined. Fold in apples and nuts.

Scrape batter into the loaf pan. Press any apple pieces into the batter if they are at the top. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few crumbs attached, approximately 55 minutes.

Let the loaf cool for 10 minutes, then unmold and allow to cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Serve warm, with a little powdered sugar sprinkled over it.

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Meatball Parmigiana Sliders

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Remember when I said that I rarely cook/eat Italian food?  Well would you believe that I’ve never made a freaking meatball?  For real.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and it looked simple and delicious.  I had some friends coming over for a casual dinner so it seemed like a good time to test it out. The friends are pretty honest with me and I know they would have told me if it sucked.  It didn’t.  I enjoyed it a lot and it happens to be on the dinner menu for tonight.

Recipe can be found here.  I did make a few changes which I included in my recipe.  I used 2% milk rather than whole milk and I omitted the veal.  I’m sure veal would be delicious but I know it would’ve totally changed the flavor and I liked it without.  Pardon the horrible photo.

Ingredients

  • For The Meatballs

    • 2 slices white or sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
    • 1/2 2% milk
    • 8 ounces ground beef (85 percent lean)
    • 8 ounces ground pork
    • 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
    • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 large egg
    • Coarse salt
    • Marinara Sauce (I used a jar of Trader Joe’s Marinara Sauce)
  • For The Sandwiches

    • 2 dozen rolls, split
    • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated mozzarella cheese (5 ounces)
    • 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
    • Small basil leaves

Directions

  1. Make the meatballs: Soak bread in milk for 5 minutes. Gently mix bread and milk with meats, pecorino Romano, parsley, garlic, egg, and 1 teaspoon salt. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Roll mixture into twenty-four 1-ounce balls (each about the size of a golf ball).
  3. Heat sauce in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Drop meatballs into sauce, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook, partially covered, until meatballs are cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Make the sandwiches: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Working in batches, arrange rolls, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Place 1 meatball, a spoonful of sauce, 1 tablespoon mozzarella, and 1 teaspoon pecorino Romano on bottom halves. Bake until cheese melts, about 3 minutes. Sandwich with basil.

Crock Pot Chicken and Beer

Yep, you read that right. I cooked some chicken in beer today. And my house smelled so very delicious. 

I started with 6 bone-in chicken thighs. I doctored them up with salt and pepper, oregano, and thyme. Go with whatever spices work for you. 

Heat 1 tbsp EVOO in a frying pan (again, I use ceramic) over med-high heat until it’s rippling. Add about 1/2-1 tsp minced garlic (to taste), and stir for 1 minute. Add all 6 pieces of chicken. Sear each side for 5 minutes, and then transfer chicken to your crock pot. 

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Next dump a bottle of beer over the chicken. I chose a local brew made right here in Stratford, CT. It’s Two Roads Worker’s Comp Saison. It really brought out the savoriness of the chicken and herbs I used.

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Set the crock pot on low and cook for 6 hours. Add some thawed carrots (I had a bag of frozen baby carrots in the freezer that I ran water over to thaw) about 30 minutes before the 6 hours are up.

Holy God was this good. And easy. I’m going to make this like every week. I paired it with Jasmine rice (a staple in our house), and it was scrumptious. 

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Soy and Apple Cider Honey Mustard Pork Loin

I scored a 6 lb pork loin for under $6 right before Christmas. Our local grocery store runs the sale a couple of times a year, and there was no way I was passing it up. When I got home, I sliced it up into 6-1lb portions, froze 5 of them, and cooked the 6th for dinner that night.

Last week, I stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest, so I took a pork loin out of the freezer, mixed up the marinade in a ziploc bag, added the frozen loin, and let it defrost and soak up the flavors over the next two days. My marinade was as follows:

 

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (Kikkoman)

2 tbsp apple cider honey mustard (got it at a farmer’s market in Mass. Shaker Kitchen is the name of the husband and wife team who makes it, highly recommended. You can order any of their delicious products at shakerkitchen.com)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

fresh cracked pepper to taste

 

Once you’re ready to prepare the pork loin, preheat the oven to 400*F. Add 1 tbsp EVOO to a frying pan (I love my ceramic stuff) over medium heat. Once you see it start to ripple, add the pork loin (make sure to shake off the excess marinade first). Sear for 5 minutes, then turn and sear another 5 minutes on the other side. Turn off heat when done.

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Once that’s complete, transfer the pork loin to a baking sheet lined with foil and pop in the oven for 30 minutes.

While that’s baking, prepare to make your reduction sauce (my first reduction sauce ever!). Add 1 tbsp butter to the still hot pan. Do not turn the heat back on yet. Let it melt. Then add about a 1/4 cup of the marinade and about a 1/2 cup of water (the original recipe calls for 1 cup veggie stock, but water works just fine). I’ve looked it up and yes, you can reuse marinade that was on raw meat provided you boil it for at least 15 minutes. Otherwise, you can just prepare a new one. It’s up to you. Turn the heat to med/med-high, and get the mixture bubbling. Stir it occasionally, getting all the delicious little bits off the bottom of the pan. I reduced for about 22 minutes before I deemed it thick and safe enough to eat.

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By the time the sauce is done, the loin is ready to come out of the oven. Take it out, but let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Then slice the meat thinly and serve.

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I paired it with some Jasmine rice and broccoli covered with hummus (another pinterest find. It was only meh. Kind of bland. Maybe it needed more salt or heat or something. I’ll have to keep experimenting). The meal was fantastic. I got rave reviews from the Mr. I’ll definitely be making it again.

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Crockpot Venison Chili

I think I originally found this recipe on the weight watchers site a few years ago. It’s a simple turkey chili recipe that’s cooked on the stove top. I found that it’s very versatile, in that you can use ground turkey, ground beef, and… ground venison. AND I’ve recently discovered it’s even easier to make in a crockpot. 

Ingredients:

1-2 tsp minced garlic (fresh or jarred)

1/2 a yellow onion, finely chopped

1-28oz can of crushed tomatoes (Tuttorosso in the green can is my personal choice)

2-3 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

a sprinkle of ground red pepper (we only like a little heat, but have at it if you like more)

salt and pepper

1 lb ground venison

1-15oz can of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Set crockpot to low. Add garlic, onion, crushed tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, ground red pepper, and salt and pepper. Stir until all spices are incorporated. Add ground venison (this can be added completely frozen or thawed). Make sure the venison is covered with the sauce. Set the timer for 2.5 hours, and let the crockpot do it’s thing. After 2.5 hours, use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the venison; it should crumble easily. Next, add the kidney beans, stir, and set the timer for 1 more hour. Once the hour is up, stir again and spoon into serving bowls. We usually have our chili with some kind of bread product (tonight, Harry had biscuits and I had rye), spooning a little chili directly onto the bread and taking a bite.

Note: this chili tastes even better the next day. Just pop it in the microwave for a couple of minutes and enjoy! 

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Hearty Curried Farro Salad

I love a good, nutty, wonderful salad that I can tote along to class with me on busy days.  I just made this for the first time today and it quickly moved to the top of my grain salad faves.  I found it here and changed very little, but I’ll post my version none the lexs.

Hearty Curried Farro Salad

1 cup farro (I measured 1 cup of dry, so I probably made more than intended by the recipe)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pecans halves
Salt and Pepper
1 large handful arugula
Curry Vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon balsamic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chutney
1/2 tsp hot curry powered
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400F. Thinly slice the fennel and place on a baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast for 20 minutes at 400 F,
or until golden brown and crisp at the edges. Cook farro per manufacturers
directions. Combine farro, fennel, red onion, raisins, pecans, and arugula.
*I ended up making slightly more dressing than the recipe suggests, probably because of my use of so much farro.
This salad is lightly dressed so the peppery arugula comes through, the nutty pecans and raisins are perfect, and the hint of curry spice to go with the chutney in the vinaigrette is just excellent. Even with so much flavor, my daring 2 year old dug in and declared “In my tummy this makes me giggle!”  I think that means she loved it as much as I.   This will be on my regular lunch rotation, no doubt!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

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When I first got married I had no idea how to cook.  In fact, I had a crazy work schedule so Pete actually did most of the cooking himself.  Once the kid came and I quit work it was time to teach myself.  I remember thinking that pot roast was the quintessential family meal.  All of the recipes I found usually called for cream of mushroom soup and a packet of onion soup mix and so that’s how I made it…for years.  Knowing now what I do about processed foods and their pure evilness I’m constantly on the hunt for recipes with simple ingredients.  And guess what? They taste a hell of a lot better than going the easy route and using processed stuff.  This Martha Stewart Recipe is simple and probably the best pot roast I’ve ever had.  I don’t change it much.  Sometimes I throw in some garlic cloves and I always add about 3-4 cubed red potatoes halfway through cooking.  Cajuns serve their roast on rice, so that’s how it’s done in the Pitre house.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 8 medium carrots, cut into thirds
  • 2 medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 beef chuck roast (3 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-4 redskin potatoes, cubed

Directions

  1. In slow cooker, stir together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water until smooth. Add carrots and onions; season with salt and pepper, and toss.
  2. Sprinkle roast with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; place on top of vegetables, and drizzle with Worcestershire. Cover; cook on high, 6 hours (or on low, 10 hours).
  3. Add potatoes about halfway through cooking
  4. Transfer roast to a cutting board; thinly slice against the grain. Place vegetables in a serving dish; pour pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve, if desired. Serve roast with vegetables and pan juices. (there’s no need for a cutting board.  the meat falls apart)

Lemon Basil Chicken Salad

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I had some ladies coming over to work on a project so I wanted to provide them with a simple, easy lunch.  This is the first time I’ve used a Paula Deen recipe and I was very happy with it.  I made a few changes which are in parenthesis.  I ate mine on Honey Wheat Hawaiian rolls and Pete and Chloe had leftovers today as a panini.

Lemon Basil Chicken Salad

Ingredients

4 cups diced cooked chicken (I cooked 3 breasts with some broth in the crockpot the night before so I could just quickly use my tongs to shred the chicken.  Much better than cubed chicken).

1 rib minced celery (I don’t like celery so I used 2 finely sliced green onions)

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup slivered almonds (I used sliced)

1/2 cup sour cream (Substituted 1/2 c. plain greek yogurt)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions
In a medium bowl, combine chicken, celery, basil and almonds. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add to chicken mixture, tossing gently to coat. Cover and chill.

Chipotle Steak Salad

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This is one of my favorite salads.  Take one thing away and it’s just not as good. You need the crisp red onion, the juicy tomato, and the chipotle mayo.  They work in harmony with each other.
I half the mayo recipe as it makes a ton.  I keep it in a mason jar in the fridge to use for dipping with sweet potato fries, crab cakes, etc.  It’s just that good.  I was running low on time and I didn’t want Pete to have to grill when he got home so I sliced the meat before cooking and cooked it in a wok.  It turns out okay this way but it is much better on the grill so you get that nice, pink center.  Oh, and this is another recipe from Pioneer Woman.

Ingredients

  • 30 ounces, weight Mayonnaise
  • 11 ounces, weight Chipotle Peppers In Adobo Sauce, Reserve 2 Tablespoons Adobo
  • 1 whole Flank Steak
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey
  • 24 ounces, weight Salad Greens (spring Mix)
  • 4 whole Roma Tomatoes, Sliced
  • 1 whole Cucumber, Sliced
  • 1 whole Red Onion, Halved And Sliced

Preparation Instructions

Dressing: In a food processor or blender, combine mayonnaise with canned chipotles. Blend until totally combined. Transfer to a separate container and store in the fridge.

Marinade: In a separate bowl, mix olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, oregano, honey, and reserved adobo sauce. Whisk to combine.
Pour marinade over flank steak, coating both sides. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for at least two hours.

Remove flank steak from fridge. Grill over high heat, only about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side until rare/medium rare. Remove from heat and allow meat to rest a few minutes. Slice very thin shingles of meat on an extreme diagonal.

Mound salad greens on a each plate. Drape strips of warm steak over the sides of the greens so that they’re cascading downward. Lay tomato and cucumber slices on one side of the plate, and place red onion slices on top.

Drizzle the whole salad with chipotle dressing. The warm meat on the cool salad, combined with the flavorful and spicy dressing, is out of this world.