Monday, August 22, 2011

soon returning to regularly scheduled blogging!

Hi, hi...really sorry I've been slacking on the posting, but I'll be back at it soon, I promise! :)

Stay tuned!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

asian lettuce wraps

I got this enormous pork shoulder on super duper sale. It was like $1.29 a lb, and it was $2.00 off because it was getting close to its use-by date (which, incidentally, was still three days away when I bought it! I love catching meat on sale like that. It feels like such a score). I packed brown sugar all over the roast, then set it in a beer-bath, like this:

I wrapped the pan with foil and sealed up the edges so that the steam would stay in and kind of braise the meat as it cooked. This baby went into a 275 F oven for 5 hours (I took the foil off after about 3 hours, because I wanted the fat to crisp up). When it came out, it looked like this:

It pretty much fell apart when I lifted it from the pan onto that plate. I just kind of shoved it back together for photographing purposes and then shredded it with two forks when the photo shoot was over. I also ate some. In fact, I couldn't stop eating it at midnight last night when I was shredding it. It was so good.

Today, I was sitting here trying to decide what to make with my new-found wealth of pork, when I remembered some lettuce wraps with Asian flavors that I'd done with a previous batch of pork and really liked. I decided to reprise that dish, and this is the final product:

The iceberg lettuce wasn't my first choice, but I forgot to get butter lettuce at the farmstand so I was stuck with what the grocery store could give me, which was either the decent looking iceberg or some fairly manky looking romaine. Not a terribly hard choice. Other fixings on the wrap include: the pork of course, shredded carrot, thinly sliced red bell pepper, cilantro, green onions, cucumber, (drowning in the) hoisin (of your lies) sauce, and sriracha. All of the crunchy, cool veggies balance out the soft, warm, fatty pork and the sweet sauce. Highly enjoyable...and aside from the hoisin, perfectly Primal!

Friday, July 15, 2011

stuffed pork chops and zucchini gratin

Pork chops, especially stupidly big ones, make me happy. I don't know if you've picked up on that yet or not. The more ridiculously thick and dinosaur-like they look, the stronger my urge to possess them, cook them and them.

These pork chops were boneless loin chops cut about 2 1/2 inches thick. I carefully cut a pocket into each of them, being sure not to cut all the way through the outside edges as I carved. I seasoned them with salt and pepper, then stuffed them with a mixture of finely chopped onion, mushroom, garlic, dried sage (because I couldn't find fresh at the store), fresh thyme, and a little olive oil. I tied the chops with some kitchen twine so that they wouldn't flop open and lose all their lovely stuffing. The chops then got seared in a hot pan in a mixture of a little olive oil and a little butter until they were nicely browned on both sides and the wide bottom edge. They then went into a 450 degree oven for 12 minutes, then came out and were allowed to rest for 10 minutes before I cut the twine off and plated them.

The zucchini gratin was very simple - two zukes and two yellow squash sliced and tossed in a mixture of a little cream and a 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. I put it into a lightly greased baking dish and topped it with another 1/4 cup of Parmesan. It cooked in a 450 degree oven for about 35 minutes. When the squash is tender, it's done.

I would definitely make these again, but I think I'd re-jig the stuffing somewhat. My husband, on the other hand, deemed his pork chop "utterly orgasmic". ;) Also, no grains anywhere to be found, lots of protein and veggies...counts as a Primal meal in my book!

Friday, July 8, 2011

pan-fried pork chops and roasted potatoes

I found some lovely pork chops on sale at the store and decided I'd try a new recipe with them. The recipe, from Cook's Country (the people who also do America's Test Kitchen, which I adore), is here. It's very simple - just some paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper and garlic powder to season, and some flour to dredge in. The "secret" to the recipe is bacon. It calls to chop up and cook some bacon to render the fat out, then add oil to the bacon fat and shallow-fry the chops in it. The bacon gives the chops a lovely smokey flavor, and the double-dredging in flour makes for a great crisp crust.

The roasted potatoes are my usual - red potatoes tossed with salt, pepper, ground sage, thyme, rosemary, and olive oil, then baked on a cookie sheet at 475 for about 30 minutes. I got wrapped up in doing the chop stuff and forgot to stir my potatoes for about 20 minutes so they stuck, but they still tasted fantastic!

I apologize for the weird blue glow on the picture. I was over by the laptop and the TV and didn't really think about the effect that would have at the time. Oops. ;)

caprese salad

Caprese salad is very simple - only tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It's a perfect dish for summer, when the tomatoes and basil are at their very best.

All you need to do is slice the tomatoes and cheese, layer them with leaves of fresh basil, and drizzle the whole thing with the best extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar you can get your hands on. YUM!


Just a quick note to point out that I got all fancied up with some little networking button thingies on the bottom of my posts. Now you can like my posts on Facebook, Tweet them, and all those other crazy things you kids do these days!

So, have at it! Just stay off my lawn, ok? ;)

Friday, July 1, 2011


These are Cranberry Orange Pecan scones. The basic dough is just flour, butter, a little sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. I really like scones because they're rich and not super sweet. This was my very first try at scones, so I was a little skeptical that they'd come out well, but I surprised myself! They came out nicely tender inside with a slightly crispy outside. NOM!

I'm not 100% sold on the pecan-cranberry-orange combo. I think next time I might just do cranberry orange, and add a little orange juice to the dough. I have some other combos I'd like to try as well, now that I know I can make execute the basic recipe well.

Friday, June 24, 2011

stuffed portobello mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms are infinitely variable and they're great for using up odds and ends of everything you don't really have enough to do anything with in the fridge. Eg: I had kale and shredded cheddar leftover from last night's colcannon, half a red onion I needed to use up, and about half a cup of panko bread crumbs and some bulk pork sausage hanging around. I browned the sausage in a small pan, drained it, and tossed it in a bowl. I squeezed the excess water out of the kale and chopped it, and added it along with a handful of cheese to the bowl. In went the chopped half a red onion and the bread crumbs, I gave it all a couple tosses with my hands to combine, and then smooshed it all into / onto two big portobello mushroom caps (I pulled the stems out and scraped the black gills out with a spoon - this keeps them from getting really watery and mushy and gross). I set them on a foil-lined cookie sheet lightly rubbed with olive oil, and baked them in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.


The panko bread crumbs combined with the cheese made for a really nice crunchy crust but the filling underneath stayed moist. The sausage gave a nice little fatty, salty kick to the greens and the onions softened and mellowed nicely. All in all, not bad for just throwing everything in the fridge into a bowl and seeing what happened.


Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made of mashed potatoes and kale or cabbage. Often onion and some cheese is added, as well. I decided that I'd make mine extra fancy and add some linguica sausage. It became sort of a crazy Irish / Portuguese fusion much of the state of Massachusetts! :D

This was a great use of leftover mashed potatoes and kale. It was fast and tasty and while probably not terribly healthy, it definitely did give us a couple servings of kale apiece, which (as fervently as my husband may try to deny it) is never a bad thing. It also made stellar leftovers for lunch.

Note: Measurements on the recipe are very approximate, as I was totally making it up as I went along. As usual. ;)

Colcannon with Linguica

1 lb mashed potatoes
3/4 lb kale
1/2 lb linguica sausage, diced
two big handfuls shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 bunch of green onions, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten

Rinse kale, trim off stems, roughly chop. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and submerge kale (you'll have to use a spoon to really push it down because it likes to float) in boiling water for 2 minutes. Dump kale in a colander and let drain while you ready the rest of the ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine mashed potatoes, cheese, chopped green onions, diced sausage, and egg. Mix this to a uniform consistency.

When kale has cooled enough to handle, pick it up out of the colander and squeeze as much of the moisture out of it as you can...and there will be a LOT, so keep squeezing. When you can't squeeze much more water out of it, add it to the potato mixture and stir to combine.

Heat a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat. Add potato mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until hot through. Serve!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

asian cucumber salad with seared flank steak

The recipe for this salad came from Mark's Daily Apple. I wanted lots of veggies but not another lettuce-based salad, and this totally delivered. It's super easy to make, pretty inexpensive if you already have stuff like sesame oil and rice vinegar on hand, and it's super tasty. The recipe calls for black sesame seeds but I couldn't find any, so I just toasted some white ones and it worked fine.

For meat to go with the salad, I wanted to stay kind of in the same flavor area, so I got some flank steak, brushed it with some hoisin sauce, and let it marinate for a while. When I was ready to cook, I preheated the oven to 450, then I got a pan ripping hot and seared the meat off for 1.5 minutes per side. The meat came out of the pan and onto a foil-covered cookie sheet in the hot oven, where it cooked for about 7 more minutes, total. The result was flank steak with a nice sear outside, still mostly rare in the middle, with a nice smoky hoisin crust.

I topped the meat with a little more hoisin, some chopped scallions, and served it alongside a big pile of the cucumber salad.


a perfect carrot cupcake

Just for me...I MEAN, you. :D

I've talked about carrot cake on here before, usually for birthday cakes. It is undoubtedly my family's favorite. I've been using the same recipe from an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (the first cookbook I ever got. My dad got it for me for Christmas one year) for years. Lately though, I've been playing with the recipe a little, just to see what I can get away with, basically. I can't ever leave well enough alone. For example:

- The original recipe calls for a cup of vegetable oil. I started substituting half of that with plain low-fat yogurt a couple years ago, and I've now stopped using vegetable oil and switched over to coconut oil (far healthier, and better for the environment to boot!),

- The original recipe calls for a teaspoon of cinnamon and no other spices. I now use a tablespoon of cinnamon (which might be partially because I'm using store-brand cheapo stuff and it's pretty weak), plus ground ginger, cloves, and nutmeg,

- The original recipe calls for a whopping 2 cups of sugar! I've been going more and more scant on the 2nd cup of sugar the last few times I've used the recipe and never had any trouble.

This time, I decided to really monkey around and cut half a cup of sugar out. Not only did it not even remotely effect the texture of the cake (as I feared it might), but it actually made the whole thing more balanced, taste-wise. It wasn't a super-sweet cake with super-sweet frosting anymore. It was a spicy cake with a little sweetness and a cloud of tangy-but-sweet cream cheese frosting on top.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

antipasto salad

You know that limp, salty, overly vinegary antipasto salad you get at the local deli counter? It's really easy to make your own and it's like 100 times tastier than something that's been sitting around a deli case for days. So, why don't you try it? Enjoy it with a big glass of red wine and a nice slab of semolina bread to sop up the juices, toss it with cooked pasta, or even just enjoy it as-is, as a nice first course to an Italian meal. Or, you can scoop it onto a bed of romaine like I did!

For mine, I combined the following:

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tsp good extra virgin olive oil (the more peppery, the better)
3 jarred roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
8 marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
8 kalamata olives (not really Italian, I know, but it's what I had in stock), pitted and chopped
2 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
half of a small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 lb of thinly sliced hard (Genoa) salami, cut into quarters
a couple shakes of black pepper

I tossed this all in a big bowl to combine, then spooned some of it over a bed of nice crisp romaine lettuce. It's SO much better than the deli stuff, I promise you! It actually tastes like, you know, artichokes and red peppers and salami, not just salt and vinegar.

stuffed zucchini

Zucchini, like rhubarb, is another omnipresent summer produce item in New England. Zucchini grows so quickly and gets so huge that it's often impossible to use up all the zukes that one's garden produces in a summer. This leads to the time-honored small-town tradition of The Gifting Of The Squash. It starts with a co-worker or family member announcing that they have a zucchini surplus and would be happy to share. You might offer to take a couple but they'll give you half a dozen. It will eventually progress to the point where your friends and neighbors stop offering the surplus - you'll just find mysterious zucchini waiting for you on your porch when you come home at night or in your car at the end of the work day. And not one or two at a time, either. We're talking plastic shopping bags full. Ask any New Englander you know. I'm willing to bet they've experienced the Gifting Of The Squash phenomenon, or know someone who has!

At the risk of amassing a large pile of gifted squash this summer, I will publicly admit that I enjoy the hell out of zucchini. I like it boiled, steamed, mashed, stir-fried, au gratin'ed, incorporated into bread and cake, pickled, you name it. Stuffing it like this is one of my favorite preparations, and it's super simple to do.

For this batch, I took 4 smallish zukes, halved them lengthwise, and scraped the seeds out with a spoon to make "boats". The filling was comprised of 8 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped fairly small, a couple teaspoons of white wine vinegar, 5-6 stems worth of fresh thyme leaves stripped off the stems, and 3 links of sweet Italian sausage that I browned beforehand. I spooned the stuffing into the zucchini boats and baked them at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, then removed the pan from the oven and turned the broiler on. I sliced some fresh mozzarella cheese and laid it on top of the baked zukes, then put the pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes until the cheese was nicely browned and bubbly. The finished product looked like this:

The bland squash makes a perfect vehicle for the combination of salty, creamy, cheesy, meaty and acidic stuffing. It was easily as good for lunch the next day as it was straight out of the oven. It would also be veg-friendly if you omitted the sausage...but I don't understand why anyone would want to do that, really. ;)

rhubarb berry pie

Rhubarb has factored heavily in my summer eats as far back as I can remember - rhubarb pie, rhubarb cake, rhubarb sauce, rhubarb compote, rhubarb conserves. Maybe it's just a Vermont thing, I don't know...but rhubarb seems omnipresent around here in the summer. Thus, summer officially arrives for me when I get the first call from my dad that the rhubarb is ready to cut!

This pie is actually my dad's idea. The first time he added blueberries to a rhubarb pie, I thought he'd done lost his mind, but it was SO. GOOD. Now berry-rhubarb pie is my favorite! I've never actually measured anything except the sugar in this "recipe". I basically just peel and chop what looks like 2.5 cups of rhubarb, add about a cup of frozen mixed berries, add about 3/4 of a cup of granulated sugar (you may want to use more - I like my pie pretty tangy), 2 Tbsp of flour, and toss to combine. I dump it into a prepared, docked pie crust (no, I don't make pie crust from scratch. It's one of the few things I've decided is more of a pain in the ass to make at home than it's worth. HAH!), then roll out a top crust and use cookie cutters to cut some decorations out. The top crust goes on, the edges get crimped, the decorations get stuck on, and the whole thing gets brushed with a beaten egg and sprinkled with a little bit of granulated sugar, and it goes into the oven for about 45 minutes.

herbed chicken breast and sauteed kale

Pretty simple, really. I took boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, rubbed them with a little olive oil and sprinkled them with black pepper, dried rosemary, and dried thyme. They went into a 425 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, I washed a big bunch of kale, trimmed the stems off and cut into bite-sized pieces. In a large pot, I browned a little bit of chopped bacon. Once it was crisp, I removed it and added a chopped Vidalia onion. The onion cooked until it was softened somewhat, then I removed it and set it aside, and added the kale, tossing well to coat. I added about a half cup of low-sodium chicken stock, covered the pot and let the kale cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. When the kale was almost tender, I added the onion and bacon back in and cooked for another couple of minutes, then removed from heat and tossed with a splash of apple cider vinegar before serving.

leeky potato salad

We don't eat potatoes that often anymore, but I had a wicked potato salad craving last night (to go with my T-bone steak that was super on sale...score!), so I found a recipe in my latest issue of "Real Food" magazine (it's the little Martha Stewart one) and it was fantastic, semi-healthy, and the (unaltered) recipe is veg-friendly to boot! Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to take a picture of it because a) I was drunk and b) I was hungry. Sorry about that...;)

Anyway, here's the recipe as it was in the magazine:

2lb red potatoes, washed and chunked (bite-sized pieces, or quartered / halved if you're using little potatoes)
1 bunch leeks (about 2lbs, white and light green parts only)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup or so of roughly chopped parsley

Boil potatoes in salted water for about 15 min or until tender. Trim leeks and split length-wise, cut into 3/4 inch chunks, rinse well. When potatoes are cooked, remove from boiling water with a slotted spoon and drain. Meanwhile, add rinsed leeks to the boiling water and let boil for about 10 min or until tender. When leeks are done, remove with slotted spoon, drain a little, then transfer to a blender. Add mustard, oil, vinegar, and a little of the water. Blend until smooth, adding water to thin if necessary. Pour warm dressing over potatoes, add chopped parsley, and toss to combine. Serve warm or room-temp.

Now...two things happened while I was making this. The first was that I somehow ended up with cilantro rather than parsley, so I skipped that. The second was that, as previously mentioned, I had been drinking wine since I started cooking. In my inebriated state I had a mini-epiphany and decided to crisp up some bacon and crumble that into the salad as well. The result reaffirmed yet again my personal mantra that Bacon Makes Everything Better.

Also, I would point out that unless you drain the ever loving crap out of the leeks once they're cooked, you likely won't need anywhere near the amount of water the recipe calls for. I used 1/4 cup and my dressing was quite thin. Next time I'll start with no additional water and just eyeball whether or not the dressing needs thinning once it's been blended.

And just to prove that it's not just a merlot-induced memory, I'm having the leftover salad for lunch today (sadly not drunk), and it's still REALLY friggin' good. In fact, I warmed it up a little in the microwave and added a packet of tuna packed in olive oil to it, and my mouth is very happy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

pernil al horno

Pernil al horno is a traditional Puerto Rican preparation of pork shoulder. I've used this method of preparation before with a loin roast, which was decent - but a shoulder roast has more fat running through it as well as on top of it which keeps the meat succulent.

Mmmm, porky goodness!

The method of preparation is dead simple, really. For a 5lb roast, I threw 4 big cloves of garlic, half an onion, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 2 teaspoons of black pepper, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a food processor and let it whiz until it was a paste / liquid. The fat cap on top of the roast got scored and then the paste was evenly schmeared over the meat, into every crack and crevice! The roast was put in a pan, covered with foil and stuck in the fridge for about 5 hours, then the oven was preheated to 350 and the roast was added to it. It baked for about 3.5 hours, with the pan being rotated a half-turn every hour or so. I let it sit for about 20 minutes while I prepared my side-dishes, then it was go-time:

The side dishes are spinach sauteed with shallots in a little bit of coconut oil, and a sort of black beak succotash I made up on the fly and really enjoyed. To make the beans, I chopped up a little bit of bacon and let it render in a pot until crispy then scooped it out to drain and reserved about a teaspoon of the fat in the pot. To the hot fat I added half of a chopped yellow onion. I let the onion cook until it was softened a little, then added a can of black beans which I had previously rinsed thoroughly. The beans and onion cooked on medium high for a few minutes, then I added a can of diced tomatoes and a tiny pinch of sugar to balance out the acid. When everything was warmed through, I scooped it into a serving bowl and topped it with the crisp bits of bacon I'd rendered the fat from earlier. It was quite good for just sort of thinking it up on the fly, and while legumes aren't considered part of a "primal" or "paleo" diet, I think enjoying them every once in a while probably isn't that bad. :)

thai green curry with chicken

I picked up a little jar of green curry paste a few weeks ago and then pretty much forgot about it until yesterday afternoon when I was pondering what to make for dinner that would use up some lime I had hanging around. I'd never made green curry before, so I figured it was worth a try!

Here's the actual recipe I used:

Thai Green Curry with Chicken

Serves 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup sliced shallots (about 5 large)
1 3/4 teaspoons Thai green curry paste
1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into thin strips
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice plus wedges for garnish

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and curry paste. Stir until shallots soften, about 2 minutes. Add coconut milk and fish sauce; bring to boil. Add chicken and bell pepper; stir until chicken is just cooked through. Stir in chopped basil and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide curry among bowls. Garnish with basil sprigs and lime wedges.

It was super yummy! Normally you would serve it over rice, but we don't eat rice so we just scooped the curry into bowls and ate it like stew.

fajita-style beef salad

Mmm, fajitas. They're one of our favorites, but what's a girl to do when she can't eat tortillas? Stick the fajita fixings on a salad, of course!

I started with some flank steak, which I cut as thinly as possible across the grain. This went into a bowl with a mixture of lime juice, olive oil, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper and marinated while I sliced up some bell peppers and some mushrooms. I cranked a frying pan up on high and seared the strips of meat in batches, then stir-fried the veggies in the same pan so they'd pick up some of the flavor of the marinade. When the veggies were done I made big beds of spring mix and dressed them with some roasted-garlic salsa, plain yogurt, sliced red onion and a little shredded cheddar cheese. The stir-fried veggies went on top, and then the meat. I topped the whole shebang with some chopped avocado and it was ready to eat. I love the combination of warm meat / veggies with cold lettuce and dressing, and it's hard to beat the tang of lime juice with beef. Yum!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

catching up

Sorry I've been gone so long! Here are some of the goodies I've made in the past few weeks. If you're interested in specific recipes for anything, drop me a line or leave a comment and I'll write it up for you and post it. I'll be back to regularly scheduled posts with recipes starting this coming week, I promise. :)

Pot Roast with carrots, onions and gravy:

Home-made almond butter:

Tzatziki burgers with kale chips:

Easter quiche - mushroom and chives:

Ham, zucchini and onion saute:

MOAR QUICHE! Ham, onion and cheddar cheese:

MOAR QUICHE! Ham, onion and cheddar cheese:

gyro salad:

pot roast with onions and carrots, parmesan-roasted asparagus:

super duper salad with salmon:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

pardon the interruption :)

Hi all - just a quick note to let you know that I've not dropped off the face of the planet or anything. Just taking some time to get adjusted to my husband's new work schedule (and what that means for my cooking habits). I'll be back soon, I promise! :)

Take care,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon

Another recipe I tried from Mark's Daily Apple this week was his Boeuf Bourguignon recipe.

I'll tell you right off the bat that I've never smelled anything so amazing in my life as this stuff cooking in the oven for hours. Seriously. If I could bottle that smell, I'd be rich!

Anyway - this is basically just a French beef stew. You start with bacon (how can you go wrong?!), render some fat out of it, then brown a bunch of chunks of beef (I used a big chuck roast that I bought on sale and cut up into bits myself) in the hot bacon fat. The beef and bacon then go into a casserole dish, some seasoned flour is sprinkled over it, and it goes in a 425 degree oven for about 10 or 15 minutes, until the flour is absorbed and it starts to crust a little. Meanwhile, you saute a chopped onion, some minced garlic and a couple sliced carrots in the remaining bacon fat, then add some tomato paste, oregano, bay leaf, parsley, beef stock and wine (I used a cheap cabernet sauvignon to great effect). The liquid simmers for 10-15 minutes and is then added to the meat in the casserole dish. The whole thing goes in the oven for anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours. This is where that whole smell thing comes in. Brace yourself for that, because it's fairly maddening. ;)

The recipe I was working off of called for browning the mushrooms separately and adding them after, but next time I'll just throw them right in with the meat and liquid before it goes in the oven, as I found the un-incorporated mushrooms kinda...meh. I think if they'd had a couple hours of soaking up wine and beef and bacon flavors, they would have added more to the dish. Also, the original recipe called for straining the meat out of the liquid and then reducing the liquid a bit before serving but I decided mine was thick enough and so I skipped that step.

This stuff was truly wonderful. Rich, thick, velvety, with amazing depth of flavor. All of the connective tissue in the beef (which there's a LOT in chuck cuts) melts during the braising and leaves the meat amazingly tender without being fall-apart soft or mushy. I think this has become one of my new favorite dishes. Even writing about it after the fact is making me salivate. I might have to go pick at the leftovers now. ;)

stuffed peppers

Stuffed peppers are my husband's absolute favorite dish. These ones are an adaptation of this recipe from the Mark's Daily Apple blog, which replaces the usual rice stuffing with a mixture of meat, onions, seasonings and grated cauliflower. The original recipe calls for cooking the stuffed peppers in a slow cooker all day, but I figured if I pre-cooked the filling once I mixed it up, I could then cook the peppers in the oven with no problem. Turns out I was right. I cooked the filling in a frying pan until it was probably about half cooked, then stuffed the peppers, added a few pieces of super-sharp cheddar cheese to the tops and put them in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes. The filling cooked through, the peppers softened, and best of all, the cheese bubbled and toasted on top.

MMMMM. Cheesy! :D

We really enjoyed these. I used half ground beef and half ground pork instead of the 2lbs of pork the recipe called for. The texture was obviously a bit different than traditional stuffed peppers, but in a nice way. Next time I think I might grate my onion rather than chop it, so that it's finer and gets better incorporated into the mix. I might also add a can of diced tomatoes along with the tomato paste. Other than that, I was really happy with these and will definitely make them again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

chicken bacon avocado salad

I've made this one a few times. I actually got the basic recipe from the Mark's Daily Apple blog a long time ago, and have tweaked it a couple different ways to fit what I've got in the house at the time.

The basic gist is that you chop up some bacon into little bits, fry it, then drain the bacon and reserve some of the fat. Leave the rest of the fat in the pan, and cook some cut-up chicken thighs in it. Use the reserved bacon fat and some apple cider vinegar plus some dijon mustard to make a vinaigrette. Dress some lettuce (I use romaine) with the vinaigrette and top with chicken, bacon, cut-up avocado, chunks of green apple, red onion, and whatever else you have hanging around. I indulged a little tonight and picked up some wonderful locally made raw-milk cheese to shave over my salad as well. You could easily use Parmesan instead, or a nice sharp cheddar.

beef bulgogi

Bulgogi is a type of Korean barbecue. Traditionally, it's grilled on a hibachi, but it works pretty well done in a pan on the stove top, too.

Bulgogi is dead simple to make, as long as you've got some Asian kitchen staples hanging around. The meat is marinated in a mixture of soy, toasted sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, fresh ginger, and chili oil for 15 minutes to a few hours, and then grilled or seared in a hot pan. The veggies are tossed in a little of the marinade as well and grilled or stir-fried. Bulgogi is sometimes served wrapped in lettuce leaves, but I prefer to just eat it straight-up.

For this batch, I used a really cheap piece of meat that was labeled as "london broil" when I bought it. I was curious what cut it actually was, so I started Googling and asking around, and the best guess we can come up with is that it's another name for flank steak. It would make sense, given the texture of the meat, especially when I cut it across the grain. It was nearly falling apart to begin with, and it didn't toughen up one iota when I cooked it. It was literally melt-in-your-mouth. So good.

Here is the recipe I use, if you want to try it:

1/4 cup soy sauce (I use reduced-sodium tamari)
1 tablespoon hot chile sesame oil (you can substitute 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil plus a dash of red pepper flake for this. Sometimes I use sriracha and toasted sesame oil instead, too)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (have used molasses to good effect a couple times)
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

I used two red onions cut into wedges, a green bell pepper cut into strips, and sometimes a bunch of white button mushrooms for veggies. For meat, try to get flank steak (or london broil?), about 1.5 lbs. You'll also need oil to fry in. I used coconut oil this time and it worked great.

You can either put the meat in the freezer for about 20 minutes to firm it up before slicing, or if you have a super sharp knife like I do, you can just go at it. Cut it across the grain as thinly as possible and toss it in the marinade. Let it sit for 15 minutes to a few hours.

When you're ready to cook, heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat in a large pan. Stir-fry the veggies first. You may have to work in batches, depending on how big your pan is. When the veggies are done, set aside. Wipe out the pan, add 2 more tbsp of oil, and add strips of meat. You want to do this in batches so as not to crowd them, and keep in mind that the meat is sliced very thinly so it really only needs a sear on each side to cook through. You can cook it longer if you WANT to, of course...;)

Combine the veggies and meat with any accumulated juices, and serve on lettuce leaves or just heaped happily on your plate. YUM!

Monday, April 4, 2011

egg-drop soup

I find myself coming down with a bit of a cold. When I'm feeling stuffed up and with a sore throat, the only thing I really want is soup. I usually make just a simple chicken soup with carrot and celery, but tonight I wanted something a little different. I ended up settling on egg-drop soup because it's loaded with protein and is very simple and inexpensive to make.

Egg-Drop Soup

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups water
3 eggs
1 bunch scallions
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 2-inch piece of ginger root
salt and white pepper to taste
toasted sesame oil to taste

Combine broth and water in a large pot, add salt to taste if desired. Smash six scallions and chop into thirds. Peel ginger and slice. Add scallions and ginger to liquid and bring to a simmer. Add chicken breasts and allow to poach in simmering liquid for about 15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Once chicken is cooked, remove and let broth simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Shred chicken and slice the remainder of the scallions. Remove ginger and scallions from the broth (I put a strainer over a large bowl and carefully dumped the contents of the pot into it, then dumped the strained broth back into the pot). In a separate bowl, beat three eggs with a whisk until combined, then pour the egg in a slow steady stream into the simmering broth while constantly whisking. Remove from heat and ladle into dishes. Add shredded chicken and chopped scallions, and drizzle toasted sesame oil across top, to taste.

It was a nice change from our usual soup, and filled us up for not a lot of money or effort, which is always nice. :) Plus, this soup fits nicely in with our Primal eating, as it's high-fat, moderate-protein and low carb, with no grains in sight!

mac-less mac and cheese

So, we're trying to eat Primal again, which among other things means that we don't eat grains. I was having an incredible mac and cheese craving the other day and was lamenting the fact that I couldn't have pasta when I suddenly realized something: I always used to put cauliflower in with my mac and cheese anyway in an attempt to sneak one more serving of veggies into my husband. Cauliflower is quite bland, and the only reason he even noticed I added it to the mac and cheese was because the texture was slightly different. So, why couldn't I just substitute cauliflower for the pasta completely?

The answer, happily, was that I COULD! Check it out (sorry the picture is a bit blurry):

Basically, what I did was take a head of cauliflower, trim it and chop it into small florets, then cooked it in salted boiling water for about 10 minutes until it was tender. While the cauliflower was cooking, I made a batch of my standard cheese sauce - a roux of butter and flour (not technically primal, but it was only a couple tablespoons and I'm sure some non-wheat flour could easily be substituted), powdered mustard, onion powder, black pepper, milk and cheddar cheese. I drained the cauliflower, added some chopped kielbasa, then mixed in the cheese sauce. The mixture went into a casserole dish and was baked at 450 for about 25 minutes. The top got all lovely and toasty, and it was creamy, cheesy and wonderful in the middle. And best of all, it satisfied my mac and cheese craving without the pasta.

I'll definitely make this again, although next time I think I'll substitute a little bit of bacon or ham for the kielbasa, as I found the kielbasa to have a bit too strong of a flavor in this application.

Friday, March 25, 2011

steak salad

Lots of veggies, lots of meat. Just the way dinner should be! This whole thing took me about 15 minutes, start to finish. Not too shabby!

The asparagus and mushrooms were roasted with some halved cloves of garlic and olive oil at 500 degrees for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I sprinkled a chuck steak with a little kosher salt. I heated a non-coated pan till it was ripping hot (technical term there...hah!) and then added the steak and let it sear for 5 minutes. At the end of 5 minutes, I flipped the steak and seared the other side for another 5 minutes, then removed it to a plate and let it rest for 5 mintues. The salad was spring mix tossed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, dijon mustard). When the asparagus and mushrooms were tender, I added them to the top of the greens while still warm. I sliced the steak against the grain and added it to the top of the salad, poured a glass of wine and voila! Time to eat!

I was a little concerned that the chuck steak (which is quite a cheap cut) might be too tough when cooked like this, but it wasn't too bad. It had some nice marbling to it and produced a lovely beefy flavor, so it was worth a few more chews per bite. :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

birthday cake for dad

My dad loves carrot cake. I've been making him carrot cake for his birthday since I was a teenager. I don't enjoy shredding the carrots, but the end product is well worth it. I've tried using pre-shredded carrots before but they're too big / thick and they kind of all sink to the bottom while the cake cooks, making for an odd texture. So, I suck it up and shred by hand. ;)

I've been using the same recipe for this cake for ages as well, all though I do add a lot more spices (ginger, cloves, nutmeg) than the recipe calls for (just cinnamon). It's from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook my dad got me when I was probably about 14. The recipe calls for a LOT of oil (2 cups) and I've never deviated from that until this year. This year I decided to try subbing yogurt for half the oil. I used full-fat yogurt, but even so, it has half the fat of the oil, if that. It worked like a charm. The cake came out wonderfully moist and tender.

The cream cheese frosting is just butter, cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar. I saved out a little to color for decorating. My frosting-carrots look more like chili peppers, I know. I had a lot more colored frosting left over than I intended, so I kind of just kept scrawling things until I'd used most of it up.

rosemary balsamic chicken with sauteed kale

Pretty much what it says on the tin! This was very quick and easy - a good weeknight dinner.

I took some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and sprinkled them with some garlic powder, onion powder, and topped each of them with a sprig of rosemary. They went into a 425 degree oven for about 25 minutes. While the chicken cooked, I washed and trimmed a bunch of kale, then spun it mostly dry in the salad-spinner. In a big nonstick pan, I melted a little bit of bacon fat and sauteed half a chopped onion in it. When the onion was slightly softened, I added the kale and covered the pan. I let it cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the kale was bright green and softened. The chicken got a dousing of balsamic vinegar for the last 5 minutes of cooking, then we were ready to eat!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

tortilla-less fajitas

Everything you love about fajitas, minus that pesky flour tortilla! :D

Very simple to make - I took a mostly-frozen piece of London broil and sliced it against the grain as thinly as possible. The marinade for the meat was simply the juice of one lime, a tablespoon of ground cumin, a teaspoon of ground coriander, three grated cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of ground black pepper and about half a teaspoon of kosher salt. I tossed the meat with the marinade and let it sit while I sliced some mushrooms, a large onion, a smallish red pepper, a smallish green pepper and half of a big yellow pepper. The veggies went into a large non-stick pan on medium and were covered. The meat went into a very hot pan with some olive oil in it and tossed pretty much constantly until it cooked through, which only took about 5 minutes. When the veggies were tender, I scooped them onto the plates and topped with the meat. We topped the the "fajitas" with a little plain full-fat yogurt instead of sour cream. Yum!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

mushroom mini-meatloaf

May I please just say...OMG SO GOOD!!! There are not words to describe the utter nomminess that these meatloaves contained. Seriously. Maybe it was just because I was really hungry and had already put away a hefty glass of wine, but I'm pretty sure these were the best damn meatloaves I've ever eaten, let alone made!

I used a mix of ground turkey, pork and beef - about half a pound or so of each, along with 3 tablespoons of Worchestershire sauce, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a teaspoon each of garlic powder and onion powder, a little salt, a good teaspoon or so of coarsely ground black pepper, a tablespoon of dried thyme, and one egg. You'll notice there's no bread crumbs. This is where the mushrooms come in! I chopped up about a cup of button mushrooms and mixed those in rather than the breadcrumbs. Wasn't quite sure how this would work, but I was willing to give it a chance!

The meat mixture was packed into four mini-loaves and seared both sides in a non-stick frying pan. Just to gild the meaty lily, I had a lone slice of bacon hanging out in the fridge that needed to be used up, so I cut it into four equal pieces and laid one on top of each mini-loaf, then placed on a foil-lined baking sheet and popped into a 500 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Searing the outside makes it nice and crisp, and then cooking it quickly in a super-hot oven preserves the crispness and doesn't allow the loaves to dry out as they might in a longer cook in a slower oven. When the loaves hit about 140, I pulled them out and let them sit for 5-7 minutes while I steamed some broccoli for a side-dish.

The mushrooms worked perfectly. They kept the loaves juicy, and unlike breadcrumbs, actually contributed to the flavor. The bacon was impossibly crisp on the edges and melting in the middle, and the juices from it sort of basted the meat loaves as it rendered. I am not lying when I tell you that I could eat one of these a day for a week and be a very happy woman!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

spiced roasted pork and cauliflower

This pork roast was the last hold-out from the SUPER AWESOME box o' meat that my parents got us for Christmas. It was slightly sad to see it go because it's been hanging out in my freezer like a nice porky safety blanket for a couple months now - but it had to be cooked before it got freezer burnt.

So! What to do with a boneless pork roast? Aside from the bit of fat across the top of the roast, it was actually quite lean so I guessed it was a loin cut (it didn't say). I took a knife and scored the layer of fat, sprinkled it with kosher salt and cracked black pepper, then concocted an "empty the spice rack" rub - cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, paprika...yeah. I think that's everything. ;) I rubbed it on the meat and then put the roast in the oven for 60 minutes at 425 degrees (it was still a tiny bit icy in the middle so I gave it a little extra time).

In the meantime, I trimmed a head of cauliflower and cut it into eight wedges. I drizzled them with olive oil, kosher salt and cracked black pepper, along with a little bit of the left-over rub I'd used on the roast. I used a trick I got from America's Test Kitchens, which is to line the roasting pan with foil, put the cauliflower on, then put another layer of tinfoil over the top and seal the edges. This basically roasts and steams the cauliflower at the same time, cooking it faster and keeping it from drying out but also giving it a lovely layer of roasty goodness on the surface that touches the pan. To maximize the roasty goodness, I pulled the pan out after about 12 minutes, opened up the foil packet and flipped the wedges, then sealed 'er back up and stuck it back in the oven for another 12 minutes or so. Ta-dah! DOUBLE-SIDED ROASTY GOODNESS! :)

I made the rookie mistake of letting the roast sit on top of the stove while the cauliflower finished cooking, and it made it a little bit dry in places, but the flavor was quite nice and I'd definitely use that rub again if I can ever duplicate it...hah!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

pork stirfry

I got a big package of pork chops on sale...YAY! Three of them were sirloin chops, which are the ones with bone through the middle...BOO. Undeterred, I took a few minutes to cut the meat from around the bones on the sirloin chops and decided it was stir-fry night! I threw the meat into a bath of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, honey, toasted sesame oil, Sriracha and white wine and let it soak while I chopped up veggies. I had a head of cauliflower I needed to use up, as well as some mushrooms, the better part of a green pepper and some carrots. I made ribbons out of the carrot because a) it's fun and b) I like them better that way because then you don't get a whole mouthful of just carrot taste (which I detest).

The veggies went into my big non-stick pan on medium. I put the biggest lid I have on the pan to trap the steam and help cook the veggies through more quickly. In a regular (not non-stick) pan, I heated a little olive oil until it was shimmery and started stir-frying the pork in batches and then removing it to a bowl off to the side. When the last batch was cooked almost through, I dumped the rest of the previously-cooked pork back into the pan. I added a little cornstarch and a handful of sesame seeds to the remainder of the marinade and dumped that into the pan as well, letting it come to a boil and thicken. The veggies were tender at that point, so I put them on the plates, added the meat and sauce, and voila! Nommy stir-fried pork with lots of healthy steamed veggies and no rice. Mark cleaned his plate in record time so I took that as a sign that he enjoyed it. :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

pancake tuesday

My husband grew up with the tradition of having "pancakes" on Shrove Tuesday. In the UK, their pancakes are what we would consider crepes. Mark likes his with lemon juice and powdered sugar, which is how we had them last year. This year, I wanted to branch out a little, so I picked up some all-fruit blueberry preserves (I really like Polaners. No HFCS or anything crazy. Just fruit and cane juice) and some ricotta cheese. I grated some lemon zest into the ricotta and spread it onto the pancakes on top of the blueberry preserves, then folded them up and served them:

They don't look like much on the plate, but they were very yummy! Mark didn't try my ricotta creation, but he DID buck tradition and have honey on his pancakes rather than powdered sugar...;)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

spaghetti squash

I had been reading a lot of recipes involving spaghetti squash and realized I'd never actually had it, so I bought one and gave it a try.

First of all, it's about the easiest thing to cook EVER. I just split the squash, scraped out the seeds, and put it in the microwave for 15 minutes. When it was done, I held each half (wearing an oven mitt) and scraped the pulp out with a fork. It does in fact come right out like spaghetti! I probably derived way too much amusement out of the pulp-scraping process. :)

The squash doesn't taste like spaghetti, of course - but it's bland enough that it's a perfect vehicle for pretty much any sauce. I whipped up a quick tomato sauce with Italian sausage, green pepper and mushrooms.

It was really good! I'll definitely be making spaghetti squash again.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

rib night

I give ribs!

I found these racks of baby-back ribs on SUPER sale at the grocery store and grabbed some up on a whim. I'd never made ribs before, on the grill or otherwise, so I did a bunch of reading to try and figure out what to do with them. The general consensus seemed to be: rub them with something, cook them low and slow, and smother them with some sauce when they were cooked. So...that's what I did!

The rub was a combination of paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cumin, brown sugar and a little cayenne. I rubbed quite a lot of it into the meat on both sides, then wrapped the racks up together in some cling film and let them sit in the fridge for an hour.

When it was time to cook, I set the oven to 300, unwrapped the racks of ribs, and set them in a deep roasting pan. I added a bottle of beer (Otter Creek Copper Ale) and then covered the pan tightly with foil. The ribs cooked for about an hour and a half covered, then I uncovered them, drained the liquid and spooned some barbecue sauce (which I also made from scratch) over them to cook for the last half hour. The end product was moist, tender, flavorful meat with a sticky caramelized glaze. I served them with homemade cole slaw.

These were super good, and well worth the wait and the torture of smelling them all afternoon. And for the record, homemade barbecue sauce is SO much better than store-bought. It was super easy to make - ketchup, molasses, apple cider vinegar, and some spices (of which I neglected to measure any, so I'll likely never be able to replicate the sauce again. Figures!).

taco salad

I made taco salads with no taco shells / tortillas. I used beds of romaine lettuce (which, frankly, I should have known better. Bagged romaine lettuce = ick), and added chopped avocado, tomato, onion, and black olives. For the meat, I used 90% lean ground beef. I browned it, drained the excess fat, and added a mixture of cumin, chili powder, cayenne, thyme, oregano, garlic and onion powders, salt and corn starch. It's basically the same thing you get in those little packets of pre-made taco seasoning, except with a lot less salt and no weird chemical ingredients. I added a cup of water and simmered until the meat was saucy, then scooped it on top of the salads and topped with some plain yogurt.

Aside from the romaine lettuce having tons of crappy rib pieces in it, these were really good!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

salmon with roasted asparagus and sauteed spinach

In an effort to be more healthy, I'm trying to transition our diet back to a focus on vegetables and protein and far less grains. Thus, tonight we had salmon and two different veggie sides!

I actually cooked the salmon and the asparagus together in a super hot (500 degree) oven. To prep the salmon, I just rolled it in some olive oil. The asparagus was the same, except I also sprinkled a little kosher salt over it. I arranged it all on the same pan and baked it for about 10 minutes at 500 degrees.

Sauteed spinach is something I really love, as there are so many different flavors you can incorporate into it. For this batch, I chopped up three slices of uncured bacon and cooked them until they got quite crisp. I scooped the bacon out and put it on some paper towel to drain while I chopped up half a white onion and sauteed that in the accumulated bacon fat (don't worry, it wasn't that much). When the onion was soft and golden brown, I added some balsamic vinegar and let it cook out for a minute or so. I added a whole bag of baby spinach to the hot pan and tossed it until the spinach wilted. So yummy!

peanut noodles with shrimp

This is a reprisal of the Thai Peanut Noodles I did a while ago. I did it exactly the same except: a) I used real udon instead of linguine, and b) I used shrimp instead of chicken.

I'd never cooked udon noodles before, so I got a little bit of education here. Udon apparently doesn't like to sit around after it's been cooked. Pasta in general doesn't like to sit around, I know, but this udon sat maybe 3 minutes and it turned into a big sticky mess. Once I got the sauce into it and started tossing it, it started to loosen up...but there was major potential for a big gummy mess there for a minute or two!

For the shrimp, I just stir-fried them for a few minutes in a mixture of soy sauce, sriracha, garlic and ginger. When they were cooked through, I tossed them in with the sauce and noodles, chopped up some peanuts and scallions roughly and added those in, then finished it off with a heavy squeeze of lime juice.

I can't get over how good this is. I could eat it like three times a week and be a happy camper.

roast chicken and root veggies

Sorry for being gone so long, but things have been a little crazy. I'm doing a little catch-up here, so bear with me. :)

Here we have some breast and thigh meat from a whole chicken that I roasted, as well as a mixture of parsnips, potatoes, carrots, radishes and leeks. The stuffing on the side is my normal cheater-y boxed stuffing mix. Roasting a whole chicken always seems like such a good idea when I start, but it always ends up taking wayyyy longer than I bank on it taking and it drives me nuts. I ended up with dead-cold veggies and stuffing because they were done like 45 minutes before the chicken was. Good thing they're warm-up friendly!