Tuesday, February 28, 2012

brussels sprouts with bacon

Yes, I've expounded upon the awesomeness of Brussels sprouts roasted with bacon before, but it's something that bears repeating.

Seriously. They're so freaking good, and they only take 20 minutes. I could eat them every day.

Friday, February 24, 2012

slow-cooker pulled pork carnitas

Carnitas are usually made of pork that has been cut into chunks and slow-cooked in fat, then crisped up before serving. Since I usually have to spend eight hours a day at a place called "work" and I don't have three hours AFTER work to wait for dinner, I decided I wanted to try doing a slow-cooker version of carnitas instead.

Part of what makes carnitas so good is the crispy rendered bits of meat. When you're cooking a pork butt in a crockpot, you don't get those bits. I came up with two ways to deal with this, each of which was only moderately successful on its own, but done in conjunction seemed to really make a difference. The first thing I did was brown the entire roast, one side at a time, in a very hot pan. This ensured that I'd at the very least not end up with flabby chunks of fat in the crock-pot at the end of 10 hours of cooking. It also, I think anyway, made the flavor of the meat deeper than just plopping it in the slow-cooker would have. The second thing I did was, after shredding the cooked meat, I spread it out in a wide, shallow pan and chucked it into a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. The top surface of the meat got nicely crisp and did a good job of emulating the crispy bits of traditional carnitas.

I used Bibb lettuce leaves to pile the meat and toppings on rather than tortillas. As you can see, I went for avocado, cilantro, radish, white onions, and there's actually some salsa, lime juice and full-fat Greek yogurt in there, too. Some people look askance at me for putting radish on my tacos like this, but I really like the crunch of them, especially with all the softness of the meat and the avocado.

I'm fairly happy with how these came out, but I'll definitely try them again with the addition of some citrus juice and spices to the cooking liquid. This time around, I just used a little chicken stock, a bunch of minced garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. I did mix some onion powder and and cumin into the meat as I was shredding it as well, but next time I'll definitely add these at the beginning of cooking so to better infuse the meat with flavor.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

salmon en papillote

In an attempt to be more healthy last weekend, I decided we need to eat more fish. I bought a bag of frozen wild-caught salmon fillets at the grocery store and chucked them in the freezer. Yesterday afternoon, whilst peering into the depths of the freezer and thinking about what to make for dinner, the bag of salmon caught my eye. It was honestly less of a burning desire to eat the fish and more of a guilt thing over having spent money on it but not used it that made me pull two fillets out of it...but the point is that I DID pull two fillets out, defrosted them, and cooked them for dinner.

I wanted to jazz the salmon up a little, since frankly neither my husband nor I tend to get too excited about fish unless it's beer-battered and served with a heap of fries and malt vinegar. Flipping through several cookbooks yielded little inspiration - everything seemed to be calling for sugary glazes to coat the salmon with, and we're doing our best to cut sugar out of our diets. I remembered an episode of Good Eats I saw years ago, where Alton Brown cooked salmon in these nifty parchment pocket things - you pack the fish and whatever else you want to go with it into a parchment pocket, seal it up, cook it, and everything lightly cooks itself in the trapped steam. It sounded like the beginnings of a good idea, so I turned to trusty Google and found an old Julia Child recipe for Salmon en Papillote with Tomatoes and Shallots. Winner, winner, fish for dinner!

The recipe, found below, is super simple as long as you can get your hands on some parchment paper. All you really need to do is season the fillets and then place them on the parchment with your chosen vegetable accoutrements, like so:

Then, you do a little origami practice to seal the packets up, like so:

 NOTE: Gods, how I tried to do these packets into nice neat rectangles by folding the ends of the parchment over in the middle and then creasing the ends closed, but they WOULD NOT stay closed no matter what I did, so I regrouped and did it Alton Brown's way. Worked so much easier. I wish I'd have just done it that way to begin with, as it would have saved me a good 20 minutes of paper-crackling and swearing and muttering about having quit drinking too soon.

These packets then go into a 425 degree oven for about 8 minutes or so. The only thing I found frustrating about this cooking method (other than the above-mentioned packet-making debacle), was that when it came time to check the fish to see if it was done...I couldn't, at least not without ripping open one of my carefully constructed packets. That was mildly annoying. I cracked one open and deemed it done, but if it hadn't been, I suppose I'd have had to just stick them back in the open ripped open and hope for the best.

Anyway, this was the end result:

It was pretty tasty, though I'd like to try the same recipe again with fresh fillets rather than previously-frozen ones. I think, with salmon at least, freezing just does something unfixable to the texture of the fish. I enjoy fresh a whole lot more than frozen, but this was still certainly decent. As you can see, I added some asparagus and a side-salad with a nice bright lemon-garlic dressing.

Salmon En Papillote with Tomatoes, Shallots and Asparagus
Serves two

1 medium bunch of asparagus (or about 6-8 spears per person, depending on how much you like asparagus), woody ends broken off
2 Roma tomatoes, washed and chopped
1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped fine
2 4oz salmon fillets, fresh or defrosted
salt and pepper
small amount of butter for applying to parchment and topping vegetables
parchment paper

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Rip off a piece of parchment about 16" long. Lightly rub center of parchment with a bit of butter. Arrange half of asparagus on parchment. Place one salmon fillet atop asparagus. Add half of chopped tomatoes and half of chopped shallots atop salmon fillet. Top with a dab of butter.

2. Carefully fold parchment over fish and vegetables and work your way around the edge, folding paper over and crimping as you go.When you get to the other corner of the packet, crease the paper and fold the remainder UNDER the packet. This will keep it closed and keep the packet air-tight.

3. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

4. Place packets on a cookie sheet and place in 425 degree oven for about 8 minutes (my fillets were about 3/4 inch thick. If you have thicker ones, you'll need to adjust your cook time up by a couple minutes).

5. Remove packets from oven, open carefully, and serve.

Note: If you're interested, the dressing on my salad was a vinaigrette made with the juice and zest of one Meyer lemon, some extra virgin olive oil, a small dash of white wine vinegar, a little salt, and one clove of garlic, minced.

Friday, February 17, 2012

chicken curry with cauliflower "rice"

This is SO good, and it's super easy, trust me. This dish took me 30 minutes, start to finish, and that was with nothing prepped ahead of time (because, frankly, that's usually how I roll). Lightly mashed cauliflower actually makes a really nice rice substitute, and it's really not much more work than actual rice. The key is to get the cauliflower going before you do anything else, because it takes the longest to cook.

See? Looks like rice!

Chicken Curry with Cauliflower "Rice"
6-8 servings

1 large head cauliflower
1 can coconut milk
2lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp coconut or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, grated or minced
2 tablespoons ginger, grated or minced
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (I use the no-salt-added organic ones)

1. Put a large pot of water to boil on high heat. Add a pinch of sea salt. While waiting for water to heat, trim and rinse cauliflower, and chop roughly. It doesn't need to be chopped fine, just chunk it up into pieces that are all roughly the same size. Put chopped cauliflower into boiling water, turn heat down to medium, cover. Allow to boil for around 10 minutes. You want it fork-tender, not mushy. Alternatively, you could steam the cauliflower if you've got the set-up for it.

2. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add olive or coconut oil. Working in batches, sear chicken thighs for about 2 minutes per side, then remove to a plate and set aside. Don't worry, the chicken will finish cooking in the sauce in a few minutes.

3. Once chicken has been seared, add chopped onion to pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion becomes golden. Add in garlic, ginger and garam masala, stir well to coat. Cook this for about a minute, or until the spices become fragrant.

4. Add chopped tomatoes and coconut milk, stir well to combine. Roughly chop up the chicken thighs into 1"-ish pieces and add to sauce. Stir, then turn heat to medium-low and allow to simmer while you prepare cauliflower.

5. Carefully drain cauliflower and return to pot. Mash into small bit - I use a standard-issue potato masher for this. Just remember that you want a rice-like consistency. You'll know it when you see it:

6. When the chicken has no visible pink left, the sauce is done. Scoop some cauliflower "rice" into a bowl, spoon some sauce and chicken chunks over it, and enjoy!

So there you go. Flavorful chicken curry that's quick, easy, pretty cheap, low-carb, and really very tasty.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

pork chops with dijon pan sauce

Nothing too ambitious tonight, really...especially after the fancy-pants dinner we went out for last night! I had some boneless pork chops defrosted that I needed to use up, but I really wasn't in the mood for a stir-fry, so I decided I'd pan-sear the chops and make a little sauce to go with them. This is what I came up with!
It may not be much to look at, but this was actually very tasty. I started by heating up some olive oil and searing off my chops, then removed the chops from the pan and deglazed with about a cup of chardonnay. I added two large chopped shallots, a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of dijon mustard, then gave it a good whisk to make sure all the good bits got scraped up off the bottom of the pan and everything got combined well. I turned the heat down to low and added the chops back to the pan along with their accumulated juices. I let them cook on low for about 6 more minutes while I quickly steamed some broccoli. The chops then came out of the pan and the sauce was spooned over, and voila! Quick, easy, healthy dinner.

yay, facebook!

I've finally made a Facebook page for One Girl Cooks! Yay! Please come visit at http://facebook.com/onegirlcooks for pictures, updates, and general stroking of my ego. Also, I've put a neat little Facebook "like" button at the end of my posts so that you can now officially "like" my recipes, pictures and posts. You know, because that's terribly important. Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 13, 2012

shrimp and asparagus with garlicky lemon butter sauce - now with a real recipe!

This is very easily one of my favorite things I've cooked since I started this blog, and I just totally made it up as I went along so I'm super proud of myself!

I started with some butter in a pan, added a couple cloves of chopped garlic, and added a big bunch of asparagus that I had rinsed and chopped into 3rds. After a few minutes, I added about a cup of white wine, some salt, black pepper, and the juice and zest of one Meyer lemon. I tossed the shrimp into the pan (I had a bag of frozen peeled raw shrimp that I'd thawed and taken the tails off earlier) and let it all cook for 3-4 minutes until the shrimp just started to turn opaque. I added another small pat of butter to thicken the sauce up a bit, then spooned it over some spaghetti squash I'd prepared previously.

The combination of lemon, garlic and butter is one of my favorite tastes anyway, but the slight sweet nuttiness of the spaghetti squash and the shrimp elevated the sauce to another level. It was really good, and I'll definitely be making it again!

2/14/2012 NOTE:

Due to several requests, I have cobbled together an actual recipe for this meal, found below. Just in case you're a measure-y type of person. ;) I'm doing this from memory way after the fact, so if you follow this to the letter and it explodes into a pile of epic suckitude, I apologize.

Shrimp and asparagus with garlicky lemon butter sauce

1 lb of UNCOOKED, peeled & de-veined shrimp (I took the tails off mine before cooking but you don't have to)
1 large bunch of asparagus, trimmed of woody bits and chopped into 3rds.
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup white wine (I used chardonnay)
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
juice of 1 Meyer lemon
3 cloves of garlic (or more, to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
3 - 4 cups of prepared spaghetti squash (or pasta if you like) - directions below!

Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic, let cook for about a minute or until fragrant. Be careful not to burn garlic - if it seems like it's cooking super quick, turn your damn heat down a little.

Add wine, lemon juice, a little salt, and asparagus to pan, tossing / stirring to coat. Let cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, until asparagus starts to soften just slightly.

Add shrimp to pan, toss to coat, cook for 3-4 minutes until shrimp JUST BARELY begins to look opaque and pale pink.

Add lemon zest, black pepper and 2 tbsp of butter, mix well, cook another 3-4 minutes until asparagus is tender and shrimp is done (it will be totally opaque when it's done). Taste sauce for seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve mixture over 1 cup of prepared spaghetti squash.

To prepare spaghetti squash:

There are multiple ways to do it. I prefer the quick method, which is to wash and halve a small to medium spaghetti squash, scoop out the seeds and pulp, add a few tablespoons of water to the cavity in each half, place halves on a plate / microwave-safe baking dish, add another tablespoon or so of water to the plate / baking dish, and microwave on high for about 20 minutes. You'll be able to tell when it's done by drawing a fork along the inside of the squash - if it comes off in spaghetti-like shreds, it's done! Carefully remove from the microwave, drain any remaining water, and use a fork to scrape the flesh of the squash out. I usually wear an oven mitt on one hand, hold the squash, and scrape the flesh into a bowl with the other hand, since I'm impatient and can't handle waiting for it to cool. The flesh can be further drained via a fine-mesh strainer or a colander lined with a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth if it seems really watery.

lemony chicken stirfry

I went grocery shopping at a different store than usual on Saturday. The place I went had a more extensive produce department than I'm used to, so I had fun picking out some things I don't usually cook with. I also made an impulse purchase: a bag of 8 Meyer lemons for $2.99! Nevermind that I've never used a Meyer lemon in my life...I had to have them. On the back of the bag of lemons, there was a recipe for a meat marinade. I had all the other ingredients on hand anyway, and half a package of chicken thighs to use up, so things worked out nicely!

The marinade consisted of lemon juice and zest, garlic, ginger, sugar (I used agave nectar instead), salt, black pepper and olive oil. I mixed up the marinade and put my chicken thighs in it for 4 hours or so. When it was time to cook, I put the chicken thighs in a hot pan and let them brown up. Meanwhile, I sliced up a head of bok choy, a red bell pepper and half a head of cauliflower. I tossed them into a big pan with some coconut oil, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. Once the veggies were crisp-tender, I pushed them to the sides of the pan and added a cup of water (I had no stock!) with a tablespoon of corn starch dissolved in it. I let that cook until it was thick and bubbly, then tossed my veggies in it and turned the heat off. I roughly chopped the chicken into bite-sized bits and tossed them into the veggie mixture. I spooned it over some left-over jasmine rice that I'd reheated in the microwave. Yum!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

beef with onions, garlic, carrots and allspice

Pretty much what it says on the tin. I threw a beef chuck roast in the crock pot with a handful of baby carrots (wish I'd had more, honestly...but I ran out), half a sliced onion, three sliced cloves of garlic, some allspice, salt, pepper, a bottle of beer and a cup or so of water. I let it simmer on low all day. When it was done, the beef was literally fall-apart tender. The allspice gives the meat a nice hint of warmness. Not heat, really...but just a warm spicy note. I steamed some broccoli to go with it, which was a nice match. Yummy!