Monday, July 29, 2013

Slow Cooker Asian Beef and Broccoli

I have too many things to say about Asian Beef and Broccoli, so I'm going to list them in a total stream of conscious manner. My apologies in advance for the rambling.

  1. I made this for my mom and dad who were visiting from Buffalo. They LOVED it. 
  2. You could stretch this meal even further by adding more veggies. I'm thinking snow peas or water chestnuts would be divine. 
  3. This is my favorite recipe that I've made in a while. 
  4. Why is this my favorite? Because it's absolutely delicious and ridiculously easy. (If I'm completely honest, the easy part might be why it's my favorite. I'm lazy.)
  5. You make Asian Beef and Broccoli in the slow cooker.
  6. Whenever I cook dinner in the slow cooker, I think of my crockpot-loving friend, Amy. She has a goal to make 100 new recipes in 2013 and is chronicling her adventures at Chez George. 100 new recipes in one year...I'm totally impressed.
  7. I like the slow cooker because it makes my life easier. I have been a little too honest on this blog about how much I like to watch TV. If I have an appliance that allows me to sit on my duff while dinner perks away, I'm totally on board with that. 
  8. I have an episode of Catfish on my DVR, and I think I'm going to watch it now. 

Slow Cooker Asian Beef and Broccoli
Adapted from Table for Two
Serves: 6-8

1 1/2 cups beef consomme*
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 1/2 pounds boneless rump roast (I trim off any big chunks of fat.)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 heads broccoli**, cut into florets
Hot cooked rice, for serving

Mix together beef consomme, soy sauce, dark brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Place roast in the slow cooker and pour liquid mixture on top. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until beef is tender and shreds very easily.

Remove beef from the slow cooker and use two forks to shred into bite-sized pieces. Put a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid in a little bowl and mix in cornstarch until it's dissolved. Pour cornstarch mixture back into the liquid in the slow cooker and stir to combine. Add in shredded beef and broccoli florets. Stir until everything is evenly coated. Cover and turn heat to high. Cook on high heat for 30-45 minutes, until broccoli is crisp tender. Serve over cooked rice.

*I did a bit of official research to find out what beef consomme is. (Ahem, I Googled it.) It's basically fancy-pants beef broth cooked with egg whites and beef to help thicken it. Apparently, real beef consomme is quite time consuming to make. You know what isn't time consuming? Picking up a can of Campbell's Beef Consomme in the soup aisle. If you can't find beef consomme or don't feel like using it, substitute beef broth.
**You could absolutely substitute frozen broccoli.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

This salad is bursting with fresh herbs that scream "SUMMER!" I've mentioned before that I'm a terrible gardener, but I manage to keep a little pot of herbs alive on my back porch. My mint and basil plants are growing like gangbusters; this is the perfect way to keep my crop at bay.

If you've never had Israeli couscous, it's high time you give it a try. The little pearls of pasta are larger and a little bit chewier than regular old couscous. It's different and fun and brings some pizzazz to the dinner table. And who doesn't want more pizzazz at the table?

Mediterranean Couscous Salad
Adapted from The Food Network
Serves lots!

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 pound Israeli couscous
3 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
2 lemons, divided
Salt and pepper
1 cup chopped basil
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan over medium. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in couscous and cook until toasted and lightly browned, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add broth and juice from one lemon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the couscous is tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain any remaining liquid. (There might not be much excess.)

In a large bowl, toss the cooked couscous with remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, zest and juice of the remaining lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Let cool to room temperature then stir in fresh herbs, cranberries, and almonds.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Carrot Zucchini Bread

Confession: I didn't use actual zucchini when I made this Carrot Zucchini Bread. Here's how it went down...

I went to the farmers market to get zucchini, but I didn't arrive until the produce party had been in full swing for a few hours. I made several laps around the grounds, peering into every stand in search of the green veggie, and, alas, there was none to be found. One farmer had some sort of green and yellow colorblock summer squash (Did I just describe a squash in fashion terms??), and he told me it would be just fine to use in a bread recipe. He was right. Always trust the farmers.

I did a bit more research on the vegetable I used, and discovered that it's called Zephyr squash. According to the gardening aficionados who post such information on the interweb, it's a hybrid summer squash. Some seed master in the late 90's crossed a yellow crookneck squash with a hybrid delicata-yellow acorn squash, and the Zephyr was born. If you want to give it a taste, look for a summer squash with a buttercup yellow neck and a light green blossom end.

Once you have your hands on a Zephyr squash or zucchini, shred that baby up and bake it into a sweet, tender bread.

Carrot "Zucchini" Bread
Makes 2 loaves
Adapted from Nicole's Nutrition and others

3 cups flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar*
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups grated zucchini (or Zephyr squash)**
1 cup grated carrots
2/3 cup raisins (Optional. You could totally substitute chocolate chips.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9" x 5" loaf pans and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate large bowl, mix together egg, egg whites, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Then stir in zucchini, carrots, and raisins.

Evenly divide batter between prepared loaf pans. Bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

*I haven't tested it, but I bet you could reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe for a slightly less sweet result. If you experiment with the sugar, let me know how it turns out.

**Just leave the skin on when you're grating the zucchini.

P.S. Don't forget to get some help from your kid. Some of the ingredients might end up on the table, but he'll think baking is fun. (Sorry, I couldn't help but share this photo. Proud mama here.)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Asian Chicken Salad

Today we're making Asian Chicken Salad. Not in the mood for salad? Don't be deterred! This star of this recipe is the grilled chicken. A fast, Asian-inspired marinade adds tons of flavor to boring old chicken breasts. You can just make the chicken and serve it with rice and Sesame Green Beans if that suits your fancy.

But the salad is really great! So refreshing and crunchy and summery. Don't let the ringing endorsement of the chicken in the previous paragraph keep you from making the salad.

And now I'm blabbering. Good gosh. Just make some dinner. Cheers to salad. Or not salad.  

Asian Chicken Salad
Serves: 4
Adapted from Menu Musings

1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon (or more to taste) red pepper flakes
2 chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 large head Napa cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
3 large carrots, shredded
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup sunflower seeds*

In a jar or small bowl, mix together soy sauce, ginger, oil, hoisin sauce, salt, and red pepper flakes. Place chicken in a baking dish or a Ziploc bag and pour 4 tablespoons of the marinade over the chicken. Turn to coat the chicken and allow it to marinate for about 30 minutes.

Add vinegar to the remaining marinade and set aside. This will be the dressing.

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high. Grill chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Once chicken is fully cooked, allow it to rest for about 10 minutes so the juices redistribute. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.

In a large bowl mix cabbage, carrots, cilantro, sunflower seeds, and chicken. Drizzle with dressing to taste and toss to coat.

*Don't have sunflower seeds sitting in your pantry? Feel free to substituted toasted slivered or sliced almonds.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mexican Chicken and Rice

True confession: I have a hard time cooking in the summer. The heat makes my taste buds go a little crazy. I could subsist on ice cream, cereal, fruit, PB&J, yogurt, and the Culver's Cranberry Bacon Bleu Salad with Chicken. Seriously. I want one (or all) of those items for every single meal, every single day.

Since a giant bowl of ice cream doesn't make a very convincing hot dinner, I've been pouring over my Pinterest boards in search of something easy and delicious. When I stumbled upon the recipe below, it was like the angels burst into song. This is my kind of summer cooking! You just have to stir a bunch of stuff together and dump it into a casserole dish. And it's the kind of stuff I usually keep in my cupboards. Bonus for not having to go to the grocery store for the seventh time this week.

Next time you feel like feeding the family PB&J for dinner, do it. (Everyone needs peanut butter and jam sometimes, am I right??) And the night after that, make Mexican Chicken and Rice.

Mexican Chicken and Rice
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Serves: 8

3-4 ears corn on the cob*
2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (Use those leftovers!)
4-ounce can of diced green chiles
15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups cooked brown rice (I used the kind that cooks in 5 minutes. Easy.)
1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
12 ounces Greek yogurt
1/2 cup salsa
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
A couple handfuls of tortilla chips
Extra salsa and sour cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add corn and cook for 4 minutes. Remove corn and allow it to cool until you can handle it. Use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off the cob.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except tortilla chips, extra salsa, and sour cream. Pour into prepared baking dish. Crumble tortilla chips and sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden around the edges. Serve with extra salsa and sour cream

*I used 4 ears of corn because fresh summer corn rocks my world. Feel free to use less if you're not as gung-ho about corn as I am. And if you don't feel like dealing with cutting kernels off the cob (there is no shame in looking for short-cuts), feel free to substitute about 2 cups of frozen corn.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Teriyaki Glazed Salmon

Tell me I'm not alone in this: You have a plan for dinner. You are positive, 100% positive, that you have all the ingredients on hand. You consider going to the grocery store, but, no. You're really, really sure you've got everything. Once you're preparing the meal, however, you realize you're missing one of the key ingredients. So. Annoying.

That's what happened when I went to make this salmon, and I was peeved. The original recipe called for hoisin sauce. I usually have a bottle open in my fridge and two in the cupboard because every time it goes on sale I think, "Well, gee! I think I need some hoisin sauce!" So I stock up. Until I actually need it. Doggone hoisin sauce.

Anyway I made a quick switcheroo and used teriyaki instead. The substitution worked wonderfully and my salmon was glazed with a golden, slightly sweet crust. I propped it up on a pillow of sticky rice and served some edamame on the side.

Give Teriyaki Glazed Salmon a try. But if you're fresh out of teriyaki sauce, just go ahead and use hoisin. And let me know how it is!

Teriyaki Glazed Salmon
Serves: 4
Adapted from: Simply Recipes

2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
4 6-ounce salmon fillets

In a small bowl, whisk together teriyaki sauce, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and ginger. Place salmon in a baking dish or a Ziploc baggie. Pour marinade over salmon and turn to coat. Allow to marinate a few minutes or up to an hour.

Heat the broiler to high. Adjust the oven rack so it's about 6" away from the heating element. Line a broiler-safe (not glass!) pan with aluminum foil and place salmon on the foil. Drizzle marinade over salmon. Broil salmon for about 10 minutes, until it flakes easily with a fork. (Real life cooking here: I can adjust my oven rack so it's 4" or 8" away from the broiler. I put it 8" away for 10 minutes then moved it closer for 2 minutes, to help the top caramelize. Worked like a charm.)

Monday, July 8, 2013

How To Refresh Stale Tortilla Chips

I admit some things on this here blog that I shouldn't proclaim to the entire world wide web. Things I should be embarrassed by, but, really, I have no shame. This is another one of those things.

Recently, the husband and I had a couple pals over for dinner. We were going to serve chips and guacamole to get things started. Thankfully, I had purchased a giant bag of tortilla chips from Costco. There was one little problem with the chips, though. I wasn't exactly sure when I had purchased that giant bag. And I wasn't exactly sure when the husband opened it in search of a little snack. What I was sure of...those chips were stale. 

If I was a really good hostess, or a person with moral scruples, I would have purchased a fresh bag of tortilla chips for my guests. But these are really good friends and the kind of folks who would be willing to be guinea pigs for a little experiment I had in mind. 

You see, those stale chips reminded me of a conversation my pal Shivani and I had many years ago. She told me that you could pop tortilla chips in the oven for a few minutes, and they'd taste like the ones served at Mexican restaurants. I don't know what took me so long to try it out, but it was high time. I baked those stale suckers and served them to our guests. I totally admitted this, mind you, and asked for their honest opinion about the freshness of the chips. It was unanimous; the chips were delicious!

So here's the secret...

How to Refresh Stale Tortilla Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread tortilla chips on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for about 10 minutes, stirring them halfway through if you remember. Serve warm.