Archive for September, 2010

September 28, 2010

Pot Roast (in the slow cooker)

As a kid, my mom’s pot roast was my and my brother’s favorite dinner! Anytime she would ask us what we wanted for special occasions we always opted for the Pot Roast. The tender meat with buttery potatoes topped with gravy make my mouth water just thinking about it. When I came home from school the house would smell so good and feel warm and cozy. Now I can have the same experience by cooking the roast in my slow cooker. My mom would make it on the stove and cook it for an hour and a half, but I cook mine in the slow cooker so I can put it on my menu during the week.  Coming home from work on those days is a treat. The house is filled with the wonderful smell of a dinner that is essentially ready, with just a few finishing touches. It is a comforting and warming feeling in the fall and winter.

This is my mom’s recipe, but of course I have altered it just a bit. I just can not seem to make a recipe without changing something up. However, it stays true to my mom’s version. 

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I use small whole potatoes when I can find them, if you cook potatoes in liquid with the skins on, the potatoes do not dry out and get too starchy. If you do not have whole potatoes cut your potatoes into quarters.

1 Chuck Roast (any size that will feed your family 2-3lbs)
1 yellow onion (quartered)
3 large carrots (cut into thick coins)
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. of potatoes (I use the small yellow potatoes and leave them whole)
2 sprigs of thyme
3 cloves of garlic, left whole
1/2 cup red wine
4 cups beef broth
flour for dredging
salt and pepper

Dredge all sides of the roast with flour seasoned generously with salt and pepper. Brown the meat on all sides. Deglaze the pan with the wine and a little of the broth. Simmer for 2 minutes then pour the liquid into the crock pot.

Place the potatoes and carrots in the bottom of the crock pot. Lay the roast on top and place the onion and garlic cloves around the roast.  Pour the remaining broth and sprig of thyme in the crock pot.

Cook on Low for 8 hours.

GRAVY – My mom would always make the broth into gravy using this method, it’s quick and easy. Place 2 cups of the broth in a sauce pan and bring it to a boil. Add some salt and pepper. Using cornstarch and cold water (about 2T cornstarch and 1/4 c. cold water) whisk into the boiling broth, it will thicken pretty fast. Add a little more cornstarch/water if you want a thicker gravy.

Serve with your favorite type of bread – garlic bread, croissants, bread sticks, or rolls.

Alternate stove-top method: Follow the first step and brown the meat and remove it from the pan, then deglaze the pan with the wine. Add the onions, garlic, and thyme to the pot and add enough broth to just cover the meat. Simmer for an hour and a fifteen minutes, then add the carrots and potatoes and cook for another 30-40 minutes until the potatoes and carrots are tender and the meat falls apart.

September 27, 2010

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

 

In my office I self appointed myself to make cupcakes for the office birthdays. It was a reason to practice baking, I can get creative with cupcakes, and everyone loves cupcakes. This month the request was for a simple vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. So to make plain vanilla a little more exciting I chose vanilla bean. I used my favorite cake recipe (see also lemon raspberry cupcakes). I had been looking for a butter cream frosting that tasted like something you would get from a local bakery that was not greasy like the buttery recipes I always came across.  Alas, I found one!! It’s actually from Wilton cake website, and several of my favorite baking blogs use the recipe as well.

This cupcake recipe can be altered for any flavor your heart desires, for chocolate I would add chocolate pudding powder and a 1/4 cup of cocoa powder (and bump the amount of milk to 1 1/4 cup). For the lemon recipe on my blog I experimented with vanilla pudding and lemon pudding it was good either way the lemon zest and juice really is what makes the lemony flavor. I haven’t tried other flavors yet, but you can be sure I will be experimenting.  This recipe will likely remain my staple cupcake recipe.  The pudding cake comes out so good!

Cupcake Recipe

2  cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 package of instant vanilla pudding (only the powder)
1 1/4 c. milk
2 t. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk together flour, baking powder, pudding powder and salt. Cut vanilla bean lengthwise and then using the blunt edge of your knife scrape out the vanilla bean. Separately mix milk and vanilla bean and extract, set aside.

With an electric mixer in a large bowl combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate well before moving on to the next ingredient.

Incorporate the dry ingredients and milk by alternating – half of the dry ingredients and half of the milk.

Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter. It makes the perfect size cupcakes.

Bake for 18 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Frosting Recipe   

1/2 cup shortening (used the Crisco stick because it’s easier to measure)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together, add the vanilla bean and extract.  Incorporate the sugar gradually – 1c. at a time. Once sugar is incorporated (it will look dry) add the milk 1 T. at a time until you get the consistency you like. It will be about 2-3T for a medicum consistency.

Cover with a wet cloth while not in use, or place in the fridge if you plan on using it much later.

Behind the scenes – mini food blogger in training, (in dress up).

The new cupcake carrier! SO much more convenient – Target for about $20
September 22, 2010

Make Your Own Flatbread Pizza

Homemade pizza is a great weeknight meal which the kids can participate in making. Kids take pride in making things on their own and helping to make the food they will eat is also a great way to get them interested in food and will be likely to eat a larger array of foods. Sometimes it is hard to come home from work and get time in with the kids, dinner made, homework, baths, and bed time routines.  Cooking is such a great way to get in one-on-one time with your kids, plus you all have to eat! Plus I think it is really important to involve your kids in preparing the food they eat. They have to learn how to cook anyway and the more you cook together the more you can teach your children how to eat well, while bonding with them.

Flatbread pizza is a great fast weeknight meal. While looking at a baking blog I saw a recipe for flatbread, I will attempt to make it and share it with you. Otherwise just buy some Naan bread from your local grocery store. (Savemart carries it in the bakery).

White Sauce (Or use your favorite pizza or marinara sauce)

2T butter

1T flour

1 clove garlic, halved

1/2c. heavy cream (room temp)

1 c. milk (room temp)

1/4 t. salt

1 t. oregano

1/8 t. cayenne pepper

1/4 c. parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a pan and saute the garlic in the butter until fragrant.  Whisk in flour and cook about 2 minutes.  Slowly pour in cream and milk and whisk, while adding cayenne, salt and oregano. bring to a boil and add the parmesan cheese and whisk. Allow to thicken and boil a few minutes.

Spread the sauce on the flatbread. Top each flatbread with 1 cup of shredded mozzerella cheese.

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Add your toppings. My daughter choose “marshrooms” and “salami” (pepperoni). Her two favorites.

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I put tomatoes and red onion. My other Favorite is sundried tomatoes and artichokes.

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees and cook for 10-15 minutes on the top shelf. I actually have an oven stone so I cooked the pizzas on my stone for 10 minutes (which crisps the bread) and finished them off on the top rack for 5 minutes to finish cooking the toppings.

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Alternative: saute a clove of garlic cut in half in olive oil until fragrant. Brush the oil on the bread. Add shredded Fontina cheese, chopped artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes and thinly sliced red onion.  (Superb!)

September 20, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup w/Homemade Noodles

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There is something about the smell of onion, celery, and carrots cooking (“mirepoix”) that is comforting and soothing to the soul. The combination is used as the base for so many comfort foods like soups, stews and stocks. The combination is usually 50% onion and 25% each of carrots and celery.  Other vegetables and garlic can be used as well. In the culinary world there is a name for that but I will save you the details.  Even though we are still in 80 degree weather, I am feeling Fall in the air.  Last weekend was the last Farmer’s Market and that is when I really know Fall is coming. Fall is my favorite season, so my motivation is really kicking in. So far I have received a few requests for Fall friendly recipes, so I figured I should start now.  So here is the first Fall recipe of the season. Chicken noodle soup is a classic so why not start with that? 

1/2 white onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrot, diced
2T butter
1 spring thyme
2T Italian parsley, finely chopped (plus more for garnish)
1 clove garlic
4c chicken stock (I use “Better than Bullion” according to the jar plus 1 extra tsp, if I don’t have homemade chicken broth)
2 bullion cubes (use only if you use homemade chicken broth)
2c. cooked shredded chicken (rotisserie chicken works well or left over roasted chicken)
1c. Noodles (see recipe below)
1/4 c heavy cream

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Make the noodles and lay out to dry a bit. I usually make the noodles an hour or so before.

Saute the mirepoix (celery, onion and carrots) onion is translucent. Add garlic until fragrant.  Add the thyme, bullion and broth.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the shredded chicken and noodles and simmer for 8 minutes. Add the heavy cream, stir and turn off the heat.

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Top with with shredded parmesan cheese and roughly chopped Italian parsley. Serve with some yummy crusty artisan bread and salted butter.

NOODLES – this recipe makes enough for two batches of soup
2 c. flour
¾ t. salt
1 egg
1/2c. milk

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Mix the flour and salt. Lightly beat the egg then make a well in the flour and pour the milk egg mixture in the middle. Gradually incorporate the flour into the milk mixture. You will have to use your hands to knead the dough at the end.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle about a 1/4 inch thick. I find a pizza cutter works really well for this part, cut the dough into long skinny strips,then cut noodles to about an inch in length.

September 9, 2010

Guacamole and Mediterranean Salsa

My first “official” gig in which I wasn’t making food for an event I was planning myself. I was asked to make a few dips for a party of about 40 people.

I was a little scared at first, not knowing how much food to estimate or how much time I would need to make that amount of food. How to keep the guacamole from turning color. Things that I did not ever put too much worry into. I guess when you are making food for someone else’s event it is just more stressful. Probably questions everyone asks when they first start making large quantities of food for OTHER people! It was not as bad as I anticipated! Whew!

It was a fun and exciting new challenge and hope I get the opportunity to do this more often! I love to feed people’s bellies so this was a privilege for me!

Here is what I made:

Guacamole – this recipe is on my site already, but I’ve updated it with a photo

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Next was Mediterranean Salsa which in a previous blog I promised quite some time ago…sorry for the delay! This recipe doesn’t make enough for 40 it makes enough for probably a crowd of 15 or so.

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Mediterranean Salsa

1 lb. tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 English (seedless) cucumber, diced

1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped

2 sprigs of mint, finely chopped

3 green onions, thinly sliced in rounds

juice of  1/2 lemon

1 clove of garlic

3T olive oil

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 c. feta cheese

Toss the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix lemon juice, minced garlic, olive oil and salt. Pour over tomato and cucumber mixture and toss.

Serve with Pita chips or toasted Lavash Chips.