Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Coffee-Rubbed Steak

Coffee-Rubbed Steak

Once a year - usually in December - I clear out my stack of food magazines.

I typically keep the current year under the coffee table and the prior year stacked on the bookshelf. At the end of the year, I go through the issues on the bookshelf, tear out the recipes I want and recycle the rest. Then, I move the current year to the bookshelf to make room for the upcoming year's issues.

While I'm going through the magazines from two years ago I often find recipes that I bookmarked to make back when the magazine was new, but for whatever the reason, never got around to making.

This coffee-rubbed steak was one of them. Leaner cuts of beef were on sale last week, so put it on for last week.

For the most part I really liked this. The potatoes were just OK, and I accidentally cooked my steak longer than I should have, but the rub was delicious.

I love coffee, and mixed with the chili powder and the Mrs. Dash Spicy Blend that I used as a swap for the steak seasoning, it gave what would have been boring piece of steak a nice kick.

I even made the parsley butter, but that didn't add anything to the final dish. I love butter, but with all the spice you couldn't even taste it. If I'm going to add a lot of extra fat/calories to a dish it has to be really worth it. And honestly, it wasn't in this case.

Lastly, instead of the succotash that came with the recipe I did a bastard-ized version with black beans and jalapeno. I followed the same method, but used an entire jalapeno with some of the ribs left intact and left out the thyme. Worked well and was great on lettuce with the leftover steak the next day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Thai-Style Chili

Thai-Style Chili Take Two

As much as I hate to say it, winter is definitely here. Ice-crusted cars, snow, wind and highs in the teens. Fun.

Every year at this time I start swearing I'll do one of two things:
  1. I'm moving closer to work.
  2. I'm going to stop renting and buy a house with a garage.

I do neither. Instead I hole up in my apartment as much as possible and eat soup.

The other night I tried this Thai Chili from Clean Eating Magazine. I liked that it was meatless and used some of the red curry paste I still have sitting in my fridge door. I also liked the addition of bulgur.

The recipe still needed a bit of work, in my opinion. I added a bit of salt, hot sauce and needed to thicken it up in the end. It came out WAY too soupy to be a decent chili. It's amazing how just three simple things turned a chili that was just so-so into something delicious and filling.

Thai-Style Chili Take One

Thai-Style Chili
Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine
Serves 4

1 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
2 cups peeled, cubed sweet potato
2 cups chopped bell pepper (any color)
2 cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup light coconut milk
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
About 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Hot sauce (such as sriracha) to taste
Chopped scallions for garnish

In a large dutch oven, add curry paste, cumin, salt and pepper and dissolve in a bit of broth until it's no longer lumpy. Add the rest of the broth, bulgur, sweet potatoes and bell pepper. Bring to a boil.

Cover tightly and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Add beans, coconut milk and crushed tomatoes; cook uncovered for 7 minutes or until the bulgur is tender.

If the chili isn't thick enough at this point (mine wasn't) dissolve the cornstarch in a couple tablespoons of water to created a slurry. Add the slurry to the chili and stir. Let simmer a few minutes or so until the chili thickens up. Add hot sauce to taste and garnish with chopped scallions.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I really don't like beets.

Goat Cheese and Vegetable Sandwich

I'm in a cooking slump.

Each night, I pull out my cutting board and knife — promising myself tonight's dinner will turn it all around. But it doesn't.

Instead, it becomes another in a list of meals that were either just so-so or destined for the trash can.

As much as I hate turning out one disappoint meal after the next, I've learned a bit this past week:

1. I hate beets. Really, I do. I've tried to like them. they're tolerable in risotto, but that's about it. I've tried them in salads and even in this Goat Cheese Vegetable Sandwich. I just can't do it. I wanted to love the sandwich, but the beets ruined it for me.

Brunswick Stew

2. Read the recipe carefully — even if you've made the dish before. If I had taken them time to read the ingredients a little more closely, I would have realized when dividing a recipe in half you shouldn't use the full 3 cups of broth the recipe calls for. Otherwise your Brunswick Stew comes out like a watery, boring soup instead of the chunky, satisfying stew you remember it being.

There were other undocumented failures, but trust me when I say I was ready for some redemption at the stove.

So, last night I brought out the big guns. The no-fail dinner. The one meal I can always count on.

Pepper Jack Risotto with Corn and Red Peppers


Specifically, Monterey Jack, Corn and Roasted Red Pepper Risotto. I love this risotto. It's especially good with blackened shrimp or seared scallops.

Hopefully, better meals are to come.

How do you overcome a cooking slumps?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Portuguese-Style Chicken


So, this looks a little messy. Truthfully, it was pretty messy to eat, too.

But, oh, was this good.

It's been so cold the past few days and this really warmed me right up. I really like the vegetable and chorizo stew that went along with the chicken. Mushrooms, kale, potatoes, chorizo, roasted red peppers and crusty whole grain to mop up the sauce.. YUM.

I stuck to the recipe, but kept it a bit leaner with a lean chorizo and less oil. You could also remove the skin from the chicken.

The recipe also calls for you roast your own peppers. If you don't want to fuss, jarred will work, too.

Get the orginial recipe at Everyday with Rachael Ray.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Sage Breadcrumbs

Macaroni and Cheese

This, my friends, may go down in history as one of the best macaroni and cheeses I've made to date.

Not kidding.

It all started with a serious craving for macaroni and cheese. Then, I was thinking how awesome it would be to put crumbled bacon in my macaroni and cheese.

In fact, that's what went on my meal plan this week — Macaroni and Cheese w/ Bacon. I figured I'd cook up some bacon, stir it into a basic roux based cheese sauce, top with some dried breadcrumbs and call it a day.

Then, inspiration struck. Later in the week I have Tilapia with Mashed Yams and Bacon Sage Breadcrumbs on the menu. I've made it once before and I remember LOVING the breadcrumbs. They were lick the plate good.

So, wouldn't it be great to top with macaroni and cheese WITH the Bacon Sage Breadcrumbs? Yes, it would.

I made the bacon, used the bacon drippings to toast up the sage and fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs, then stirred the bacon into the macaroni and cheese as planned and topped it with the sage breadcrumbs.

It was pretty much over the top deliciousness.

And get this — it's actually pretty healthy! It's still not exactly a low calorie dish, but I used low fat cheese, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, 1% milk and center cut bacon to make it a better-for-you splurge.

Then, so I wasn't tempted to dig into the second serving, I baked it in individual ramekins. But, if you have willpower of steel, go ahead and bake it in one casserole dish.

Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Sage Breadcrumbs
Inspired by Bon Appetit
Serves 2

For the macaroni and cheese:
4 oz. short cut pasta (mine was a mix of medium shells and whole wheat penne)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup 1% milk
1/2 cup of any good melting cheese, shredded (I used half 2% cheddar and half swiss)
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper

For the breadcrumbs:
2 slices center cut bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from whole wheat bread pulsed in a food processor
1/2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

Preheat the oven to 350° and bring a large pot of water to boil.

Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta just short of al dente, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, crisp up the bacon in a small skillet over medium heat. Once crisp, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Add the breadcrumbs and sage to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the breadcrumbs start to toast up - about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on them though! They burn easily. When done, remove from pan and set aside.

In the pot you made the pasta in, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Then, stir in the flour, whisking to combine completely. Let cook for a minute or two, but don't let it darken. Gradually stir in the milk, whisking to combine. Cook over medium-low heat until it thickens up (mine took a minute or two.. it thickened up really fast!), then add the cheese stir and until just melted. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.

Then, add the reserved pasta and bacon crumbles to the cheese, stirring to mix everything up. Divide the macaroni and cheese between two 8 oz. ramekins and top with the reserved breadcrumbs.

Put the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until the cheese is warm and bubbly and the crumbs are crispy — about 15 to 20 minutes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Almond-Crusted Chicken

Almond-Crusted Chicken

Earlier this week I was running out of food in my fridge. Our Thanksgiving Day was actually celebrated on Saturday, so I didn't have much time to get my normal grocery shopping done over the weekend.

Almond-Crusted Chicken is a great option when the pantry is beginning to look a little bare. It takes only a handful of ingredients and bakes up quickly.

If you don't have almonds you could use just about any toasted nuts. It's flexible like that. The original recipe actually calls for pecans, but I had almonds on hand. Dijon mustard helps keep the coating in place, but using beaten eggs or egg whites would probably also work.

It didn't get as crispy and toasted as I would've liked. To make it crispier, try putting a cooling rack over a cookie sheet.

Despite a lack a crispiness, it was still pretty tasty! Steamed frozen green beans and whipped sweet potatoes rounded out my meal.

Almond-Crusted Chicken

Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray

1 cup toasted almonds, pulsed with a food processor into fine crumbs
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp basil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Mix together the almond crumbs, breadcrumbs and basil in a shallow bowl.

Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken, rub with the Dijon mustard (a silicone pastry brush works wells for this), then coat with crumb mixture.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a cooling rack coated in cooking spray over a baking sheet for crispier chicken.

Coat the top of the chicken with olive oil cooking spray and bake 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chicken and Whole Wheat Dumplings

Chicken and Whole Wheat Dumplings

Ugh. I'm still sick, but feeling a bit better at least.

I took yesterday off work to rest up a bit after being up through the night several times. My stuffed up nose kept waking me up and I couldn't get back to sleep. Plus, I sound worse than I was on Tuesday and people give you the stink eye if you come to work with a cold.

Since I was feeling a bit better last night, I decided to make myself some soup. Nothing better than chicken soup for a cold, right?

I've made this soup before, but haven't made it in a couple of years. This time, I experimented a little by using whole wheat pastry flour to make the dumplings. The texture was fine. Very similar to the all-purpose flour I used the first time.

But, the flour gave the dumplings a nuttier flavor that I'm not sure I liked all that much. I'll think I'll definitely stick with white flour in the future.

I followed the recipe otherwise, but it's an easy soup to experiment. Use different fresh herbs in the dumplings. Switch chicken breast meat for the chicken thighs (although the dark meat does give it richer flavor), or even use up some leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.