Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mostly for Chocolate Lovers

I promised 2 things last week: Chocolate and Paula Deen recipes. Well that is sort of true. Two of the 3 recipes came from one of Paula's shows when she had a guest. There is no butter in either recipe and the chocolate is actually cocoa powder. The dessert I had planned was scrapped after I came across something fun and interesting in the food section of the Chicago Tribune.

Roasted Beet Salad with Cocoa Vinaigrette
Chocolate Spiced Pork Chop
Spiced Mousse Minis

I've spoken before of my preference to roasting vegetables. Beets roast extremely well brushed with oil and salt/pepper and wrapped in foil. They were cooled and sliced. They top a mix of spring greens and are joined by orange segments, goat cheese, red onion and toasted pecans. The vinaigrette is made of red wine vinegar, cocoa powder, sugar, salt and pepper and EVOO. A nice dressing for the colorful salad. Will do this one again.

The bone in chop is rubbed with a mixture of Italian seasoning, onion powder, cocoa powder, garlic powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, cumin and salt/pepper. Let rest for 10 minutes and sear 3 minutes per side and finish in the oven; about another 3 minutes depending on the thickness of the chop. Nice crust and the cooking time left the chop moist and full of flavor. Will try this rub on other meat as well.

The original dessert I planned was Chai Spiced S'mores, but the mousse minis caught my eye and turned out to be a fun bite sized way to end the meal. The mousse is made up of cream cheese, pumpkin pie spice, sugar, coconut milk and a bit of heavy cream. There were 4 different minis, but the same mousse is used in each. I chose the chocolate and strawberry ones. There were also banana cream and Pina Colada options. The fun part of the mini is that they are prepared and served in 2 ounce shot glasses. The chocolate one started with crushed chocolate wafers, the mousse, more cookie and a tablespoon hot fudge sauce. The second one was crushed shortbread cookies and crushed strawberries. I had no shot glasses and all I could find at Jewel were blue plastic ones. Probably would have looked better in clear glasses, but the color didn't detract from the yummy concoctions. I could see this on a build your own dessert buffet.

All in all a great meal on Saturday. Since I plan to watch the hockey game, dinner for Sunday was something I could prepare ahead of time and cook at the last minute.

Healthy Steak Tacos

Jillian Michaels is one of the trainers on 'Biggest Loser's'. Have never watched an entire program, but have read some about Jillian. Her philosophy on food is "If it didn't grow out of the ground or did not have a mother, don't eat it". This preparation is the first time I have worked with flank steak that it didn't come out like an old shoe. The meat is rubbed with a paste of chipotle and oil and grilled 5 minutes per side and then rested for another 5 minutes. I use a stove top grill pan. The meat sliced beautifully and was very tender. A bit spicy however. Next time I might cut back on the chipotle. The salsa was grilled pineapple, cut up, diced red onion and red pepper, fresh cilantro and red wine vinegar. Love grilled fruit (peaches and plums are my favorites) This was my first experience with fresh pineapple. A great addition to the other ingredients of the salsa. I have enough left over for lunches most of the week. Will see how it holds up.

I hope you try some of these and next week I'm looking at braising. Perhaps lamb shanks. Will see what I find. Have a good week and THINK SPRING!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Double Header Meals

Round one this week involves brining. There are as many recipes for brine as there are proteins to brine. The brine I chose is the first one I ever used. I saw it a few years ago on Martha Stewart's show and did our Thanksgiving turkey in it. This week I chose a Cornish Game Hen (half on Saturday and half on Sunday)

Roasted Citrus-Herb Game Hen
Roasted Cauliflower with herbs

The brine basics are salt, sugar and lots of ice water. The rest of the ingredients are your choice. This one has whole cloves and black peppercorns and bourbon. Stir it all together until the salt and sugar dissolve. Submerge the hen and set a plate on top so it stays in the brine overnight in the fridge. If you are using a large turkey, an ice chest works just fine. Just be sure there is ice added to keep the brine cold. Remove the bird and pat dry. Prepare as usual. The hen is rubbed inside and out with lemon and orange zest, thyme and mint leaves, chopped, salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil to make a paste. It is roasted in a bath of chicken stock, Marsala wine, lemon and orange juice and dried cranberries. Save some of the broth to be used as part of a dressing for a green salad (day 2).

As I have said before, roasting vegetables has become my favorite preparation. The caulifloweretts are drizzled with EVOO and sprinkled with fresh herbs of choice, salt and pepper. Toss a couple of times during the roasting at 400 degrees. The leftover veggies were tossed with greens on day 2 with the broth for the dressing.

An excellent meal and I look forward to brining again with some other protein.

I mentioned last week that I was going to Kendall College Dining Room with friends. The menu featured foods from Chile and Peru. Having no knowledge of either cuisine, I did some research on the foods we were served.

Chilean Chick Pea and Chard Soup
Duck Escabeche with Quinoa Fritters
Mixed Greens with Charred Corn, Hominy, Chick Peas & Queso Fresco in a Vinaigrette
Peruvian Lomo por lo Pobre (Steak for the poor)
Almond Manjar Bianca with Berry Sauce

The soup was lovely. The peas and chard are lightly cooked and chopped. A flavorful broth is poured over the mixture table side. Escabeche is Peruvian and is a pepper and used to prepare the duck and served with the fitters (will need to find out how the fritters are prepared, excellent) The salad was a country combo, very pretty. The entree "steak for the poor' is a grilled steak served with an egg on top, on a bed of tomatoes, onions and potatoes. Dessert was a Peruvian dish as well. A custard that is more firm than I am used to and served atop the most amazing berry sauce. All in a all an excellent meal prepared and served by culinary students. Thank you Jane for the Chilean wine. We can do this again....anytime!

Next week is my first with Paula Deen recipes. All chocolate! Who doesn't like chocolate?? An entree, a salad and a dessert. I think you will be surprised how chocolate is used in all the recipes. AND each recipe does not begin with a pound of butter! Join me in the chocolate celebration!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Simply Fish

After the feeding frenzy last week, I thought I should lighten up the cooking. I chose to do fish two ways:

Mustard Roasted Cod with Red and Green Peppers, Onion and Thyme
Steamed Green Beans with Lemon and Dill

Pan Sauteed Tilapia with Capers and Thyme
Roasted Broccoli with Lemon Pepper and EVOO

I decided that cod is not my favorite fish. Bland even with the mustard and vegetables. Colorful however, and since green beans are a favorite, the meal was not a disaster. Will try it again with a different fish.

The Tilapia was a different story. Loved it. Dusted with a bit of Wondra, dipped in egg and sauteed in a bit of EVOO. Added a tiny bit of butter and white wine to the pan drippings along with the capers and thyme leaves for a nice light sauce. Toasted slivered almonds finished the dish. I think my new favorite way to fix vegetables is to roast them. Easy and they keep their color and crunch. Tossed the broccoli with EVOO, salt and pepper and roasted them until tender crisp. A bit of lemon pepper and they were good to go.

The two meals were pretty successful (except for the cod) and I didn't feel guilty eating them.

I think next week brining is on the table. Have not done it in a bit and really like what it adds to whatever protein used. Probably a Cornish hen or perhaps some pork....or both.

Also will let you know how my dinner with friends goes tonight. We are going to the Kendall College Culinary Arts dining room. The menu features foods from Peru and Chile. Don't know much about either so it should be an adventure.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Weekend!!

Well, this was a great foodie weekend. Saturday was exceptional!

OMG Meatloaf with Red Wine Glaze
Brussels Sprouts and Fingerling Potatoes Roast

I have had the meatloaf recipe in my 'to try' folder for a few weeks. The 25 ingredients was a bit off putting. It turned out to be one of the BEST I've had. Most ingredients were of minimal amounts. Lots of herbs and spices. The meat was the surprise; ground lamb, pork and veal? No beef...OK so veal is baby beef?? The glaze is excellent and perfect for the ending of the roasting time.

The Brussels sprouts/potato dish was quick and easy. I have not used fingerling's before (they are a bit pricey.) Both are washed and cut in half, tossed with EVOO, salt and pepper and fresh thyme. Very good; even if you are not a Brussels sprouts fan.

The Game:

Adobo-Seasoned Chicken Wings
Jackie Jet Killer Chili in Muffin Cups
Bananas Foster

I really tried to use Indiana recipes, but except for Amish there are minimal. Will do an Amish menu later on. I don't think they watch football? New Orleans is a fabulous foodie town. The Hurricane is a big drink there. Lots of variations, but the one I chose was very good. The muffuletta is a great sandwich with ham, salami, Swiss and provolone cheeses. The olive salad is one I have in the cabinet all the time. Boscoli in a jar is excellent.

The wings are a recipe from Bobby Flay. Spicy but not overwhelming. The glaze is made from mango/honey/hot sauce. Great dish!

Indianapolis has a chili recipe, but it has lots of sugar, not one of my favorite ingredients. I try new chili recipes often but always go back to Jackie Jet's. His is the best. Thank you John for sharing. This I served in muffin cups. The cups are made on the back of a muffin tin. A nice size for the chili. Topped with grated cheddar and crushed Fritos.

I was hopeful that a recipe from Indiana would be good for dessert. However, the two I came across were not ones I was interested in. The persimmon pudding is one I did several weeks ago and enjoyed. The other is something called 'sugar pie' It just sounded yucky! Way too sweet. So I did Bananas Foster (I had leftover rum from the hurricanes) Was a bit nervous about flaming food, but it was OK and I didn't start my apartment on fire.

All in all this was a great weekend.

Probably next week will be a gentler menu. Hope you enjoyed the game!