Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shrimp, Mark Bittman's Way

Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything has been one of my favorite cookbooks for years. He's known in the NYT as the Minimalist, because he writes recipes with just the basics of ingredients. This doesn't mean his recipes are necessarily short or super easy, but they aren't overly fussy. People used to have a Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens cookbook so if they wanted to know how to cook lima beans or brisket, they'd have one source that answered all basic cooking questions. I think HTCE is that source for our generation of cooks.

This is maybe our favorite way to have shrimp. It is actually very easy, especially if you buy already peeled and deveined raw frozen shrimp. In fact, Jack has made this recipe all by himself when he was five! You can serve it with crusty bread or rolls, pasta, or rice if you want to make the most of the garlicky sauce. I don't use the full 1/2 cup of olive oil - I just lightly cover the bottom of the pan. I often use a 9x13 pan over two burners for the first part of the recipe. Finally, I usually use about a pound of shrimp for the four of us and adjust the spices by about 1/3.

Shrimp, Mark Bittman's Way

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 or 4 big cloves garlic, cut into slivers or minced
1 1/2 to 2 pounds shrimp, in the 20-30 per pound range, peeled, rinsed, and dried (thawed if
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika (spicy is best, but sweet is okay too)
Minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat the broiler and slip an oven rack into the closest possible position.

2. Warm the olive oil very gently in a large, broad, ovenproof skillet or baking pan. There should be enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan; don’t skimp. Put the garlic in the oil and cook for a few minutes, still over low heat, until it turns golden. Be careful not to let it burn.

3. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp, salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika. Stir to blend and immediately place under the broiler. Cook, shaking the pan once or twice and stirring if necessary, but generally leaving the shrimp undisturbed, until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly. This will take from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your broiler.

4. Garnish and serve immediately.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Teacher Cake

Jack's teacher's birthday was yesterday, and we had a little party for her in the classroom. The children were so excited to give her the cards and gifts they made for her!

I got the idea for the cake from one I saw on a website. This was my first time making homemade fondant, and it was really fun! I'd like to cover a layer cake with it next.

The chocolate cake was a Texas sheet cake, but it wasn't as good as the one I made last year for a beach cake. When I tasted it, I didn't think it had enough salt, and sure enough, it only has 1/4 t. vs. the 1/2 teaspoon in the beach cake. Here's the one I'd recommend:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What We're Eating - Week of 2/23/09

I skipped a week with our menu planning because we were out of town last week for a long weekend. Here's what I have planned for this week.


Spaghetti Marinara

This is one of my last-minute meals. While the spaghetti is boiling, put 1-2 T. of olive oil in a 10-12 inch pan. Add salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and 4-5 minced garlic cloves. Stir for about a minute until garlic starts to brown. Add one 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen are my favorite). Let simmer until spaghetti is cooked; then add fresh basil to taste. Serve with Parmesan or Romano cheese.


Cream of Broccoli Soup

Whole Wheat Popovers

I have a lot of fresh broccoli I got on sale, and I don't want it to go to waste. I'm not sure what recipe I'll use, but if it's good, I'll post it.


Giant White Beans with Chipotle

We never ended up having this a few weeks ago. I soaked the beans, though, and put them in the freezer, so this should come together easily.


Beef tenderloin, red bell pepper, and sweet onions on the grill
Crash Hot Potatoes (recipe on this site under "Sides")


Fish tacos

Friday, February 13, 2009

Garden Muffins

I found this savory muffin recipe on the Cooking Light boards, though it originally came from a cookbook called The City Gardener. They are delicious and wonderful with soup or salad. I wouldn't substitute whole wheat flour because the cornmeal is already a whole grain and the muffins might become too heavy. I made a few changes to the original recipe based on recommendations and our preferences.

Garden Muffins

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels (original recipe called for chopped tomato)
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup chopped green onion
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix well. In a small bowl, beat together the egg, milk, oil, and butter. Stir in the dry ingredients. Add the corn, zucchini, carrot, and green onions, blending thoroughly. Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins, filling about three-quarters full. Top with a little grated Parmesan, if desired. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm. Makes 1 dozen muffins.

Per Muffin (assuming 12 muffins): 161 Calories; 8g Fat (42.6% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 23mg Cholesterol; 205mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How to Cook Brown Rice

For the most part we try to eat whole grains for non-dessert starches: whole wheat bread, tortillas, Barilla Plus pasta, etc. I bake a lot from King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking, and I often add half white whole wheat or whole wheat flour to quick breads, muffins, and pizza dough. We also eat mostly brown rice. Some meals just go better with white, though!

If you like brown rice, you might be turned off because it takes about an hour to cook. The good news is that you can make a big batch and freeze in individual or family-sized servings. It heats up very well.

This technique for making brown rice came from Saveur magazine, and it's great. Even though there is no fat added, it ends up almost buttery tasting - like popcorn. The boys like it, too - though I usually add a little butter to theirs. This recipe is more like making pasta than rice - you don't want all the water to absorb.

Brown rice doubles in size while cooking. Last night I made 3 cups dried and ending up with 6 cups cooked. We ate two cups, and I froze the rest in two cup portions.

Perfect Brown Rice

Fill a large pot with 12 cups of water and bring to a boil. Using a fine-mesh strainer or a regular strainer lined with paper towels, rinse one cup of brown rice. Add to the water when it is boiling and cook for 30 minutes. Remove rice from water and drain again briefly. Add the rice back to the hot pot, cover, and let steam for 10 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork, add salt, and serve.

Note: When I made the rice last night, I filled a stock pot with enough water to cook a pound of spaghetti. I wanted to be sure I'd have enough water so it wouldn't be absorbed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spinach/Orange Salad with Maple/Mustard Dressing

This salad is one I made up. It's easy for a weeknight salad, and I often leave out the almonds if I don't have them. It's also good with feta.

Spinach and Orange Salad with Maple/Mustard Dressing

1 bag baby spinach or romaine (10 oz.)
sliced oranges, clementines, or mandarin oranges
1-2 oz. sliced almonds
feta (optional)
1-2 T. olive oil
1-2 T. real maple syrup
1 t. stone ground mustard
1 T. mild vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
salt and pepper

In the bottom of the salad bowl, whisk together oil, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper until emulsified. Taste the dressing on one piece of spinach to correct seasonings, if necessary., Add as much baby spinach as desired, along with oranges. Toss the salad, and top with almonds and/or feta.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What We're Eating - Week of 2/9/09

Smokey [sic] Black Bean soup
Garden Muffins
(will post both soon)

Mahi-Mahi with Mango Sauce
Brown Rice
I intended to make this last week, but I was sick and we ended up eating leftovers.

Parmesan Sage Pork Chops
Sweet potato fries

Leftovers or breakfast

Baked potato bar

Strawberry Feta Salad

I know some readers of this blog have issues with "fruit and savory abominations" or "salt and sweet violations," but you'll have to believe me when I tell you this is a very well-received salad. It's very easy, too - mostly just opening things and pouring them into a bowl. It's best, of course, in spring and summer when strawberries are in season.

Strawberry Feta Salad

1 bag Romaine hearts (10 oz.)

crumbled feta (to taste: between 1/2 - 1 cup)

2 oz. pine nuts (toasted in a dry frying pan until they become fragrant, if desired)

1 16 oz. package fresh strawberries

Newman's Own Light Raspberry Walnut Dressing

Put lettuce greens into salad bowl. Wash, hull and slice strawberries; add to bowl. Scatter feta cheese over the top, then add pine nuts. I usually wait to dress the salad until right before eating.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Splendid Table's Supper Salad

Since everyone in our family likes salad, we eat it quite often, though not every night as I did when I was growing up! When I'm in a hurry, it's usually mixed greens or romaine hearts with one or two veggies and salad seasoning. I usually prefer a quick vinaigrette mixed up in the bowl, but all three boys like to *see* the dressing on top of their salads, so we alternate. I have about four other recipes I like to use when I have the time or need to take a salad somewhere. I'll be posting them all shortly; here's one we've been making a lot lately.

This salad comes from The Splendid Table's cookbook, How to Eat Supper. It's just the kind of cookbook I like, with lots of opinions and asides, as well as great food, gorgeously photographed. This recipe is a formula for an entree salad, but we adapt it to be a side salad. If I were making it for our family of four as a side, I would halve the ingredients.

Dressing-In-A-Bowl Supper Salad

1/2 medium red onion, thin sliced
3-4 T. red wine vinegar (or other vinegar you like)
salt and pepper
2 T. grainy mustard
1/2 cup canned chickpeas or black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups raw vegetables (cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, snow peas, corn, jicama) chopped
herbs (1 t. if dried; 1 T. or more if fresh - basil, thyme, cilantro, parsley are all good)
protein: I usually use about 1/2 cup feta cheese - if this salad is for dinner, 1-2 cups of cooked
chicken breast, shrimp, or steak would be good
12-16 oz. salad greens
4 -6 T. olive oil

1. In a large salad bowl, stir together the onion, 3 T. of the vinegar, some salt and pepper, and the mustard. Add the chickpeas, moistening them with the mixture. Let stand about 30 minutes.

2. When you are ready to serve, add the vegetables, herbs, protein, and salad greens along with 4 T. oil. Toss the salad together. Then taste, and adjust the seasoning as you like with more oil, vinegar, salt, and/or pepper.

Note: if you want a Mexican-inspired salad, choose black beans, seasoned chicken, and cilantro. Use your favorite Mexican cheese, whether that's a cheddar/jack blend or queso anejo.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Breakfast Sandwich

I got the inspiration for this sandwich from the Pioneer Woman's website. This version is a bit healthier, but unfortunately, that's not saying much. 

Spicy Breakfast Sandwich
4-6 oz. breakfast sausage, sliced into patties
1/4 cup or more sliced pickled jalapenos
4 eggs or 1 cup Egg Beaters
salt and pepper
cheese: Amercian, pepper jack, or cheddar work well
4 slices wheat bread

Cook breakfast sausage according to package instruction until done. In a small frying pan, melt about 1 T. butter. Grill jalapenos until softened and lightly blackened. Scramble eggs with milk, salt, and pepper (I always add a few drops of Tabasco). Add cheese to the scrambled eggs. Toast the wheat bread. Layer the sausage, jalapenos, and scrambled eggs on one piece of toast and top with another. Serves 2.

To take this meal over the top, serve with the Crash Hot Potatoes I have posted under "Sides." Then get on the treadmill for two hours!

Tortellini Salad Update

I've added the antipasto variation to my tortellini salad recipe - you can find it by clicking on the "salad" category on the right side of the screen.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cheddar Chicken Chowder

You'll have to not judge me when you read this recipe: it contains Velveeta. So the "cheddar" in the title is misleading, but sounds nicer than, say, Cheezey Chicken Chowder. The sad truth is that no other cheese melts smoothly like Velveeta does for soup - real cheddar gets stringy.

This soup is a favorite. It is completely satisfying, filling enough on its own but really good with a brightly-flavored salad on the side as well. I found it on the Cooking Light forums, and while it is not actually low calorie, it is reasonably healthy. It makes a lot and reheats well, but I wouldn't freeze it.

One caveat: this soup uses several pots and pans. An easy way to cook the chicken (other than using leftovers or rotisserie chicken) is to put the breasts in a crock pot with salt and pepper - no liquid necessary. You can put them in frozen or not. I cooked frozen breasts for about two hours in the crock pot on high; unfrozen ones could be cooked on low or high, depending on how much time you have.

Cheddar Chicken Chowder

5 cups chicken broth or stock
4 cups diced red potatoes
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced onion
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3 cups skim or 1% milk
3 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 lb Light Velveeta, cubed (half of loaf)
Fresh chives/green onions (optional)

1) In a large stock pot combine chicken broth, potatoes, celery, carrots and onion. Cover and bring to a slow boil for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

2) In a medium sauce pan over low heat, melt butter, add flour, and whisk until smooth. Let simmer for one minute, then increase heat to medium. Stir mixture constantly while gradually adding milk. Continue to stir until thick and bubbly.

3) Add milk mixture to vegetables. Add soy sauce, crushed red pepper, and cayenne. Gently stir in cheese, and continue to stir until completely melted. Add chicken, heat thoroughly, and serve garnished with fresh chives.