Thursday, October 29, 2009

Roast Beef and Vegetables

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I recently was browsing my Betty Crocker cookbooks for something that I could make in a short period of time but make it look like I spent all day. I came across the recipe for Roast Beef. Betty Crocker says to look at the meat chart and roast your meat until it reaches the temperature on the chart in a 400 degree oven. The recipe is literally 2 steps long and has no further information except that it is "fast" and "low fat." I had also recalled reading a recipe for Roast Beef in one of my magazines possibly last year for roast beef and learning that it only takes an hour. I couldn't believe it so I put it out of mind.

Joey did the grocery shopping this week and suggested we do one of those one-bag weeks that they feature in Food Everyday. one of Martha Stewart's magazine. The idea is that you buy only a couple of ingredients and rely on staples and then make something one day and use the leftovers to make something different another day. Joey thought it would fun for us to make roast beef and then French Dip Sandwiches later. I thought that sounded like a great idea!

My favorite place to look for recipes is Martha Stewart's website. It turns out, all her recipes aren't crazy-hard, but are actually made for the home cook. This dish was so quick and easy! I got home from work around 5:30pm. The most time consuming part was peeling all the shallots, but if you wanted you could do those in advance. Then I cut up some carrots and potatoes and threw it all in the oven. It really did take about 15 minutes to prep and about 50 minutes to cook. That may sound long to you, except if you think about what you might have done instead of cooking--in the long run you would probably save time and money. If instead, Joey and I decided to go out for dinner. The whole affair, if we went to a sit down restaurant would probably take more than an hour and be much more expensive.

Roast Beef with Vegetables
1 1/2 pounds eye-of-round beef roast, tied (mine came tied)
1 1/2 pounds small red new potatoes halved or 3-4 medium sized yellow potatoes quartered
5 carrots, cut into chunks about the same size as the potatoes
1 lb shallots, peeled and halved
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
1. Cut potatoes, shallots and carrots. Place them on a jellyroll pan with edges and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
2. Move vegetables to the short edges of pan and place the roast in the middle. Rub the roast in the oil on the pan. Salt and Pepper generously.
3. Place the pan in the middle of the oven and roast for 40-50 minutes until a thermometer entered in the thickest part of the meat registers 130 for medium rare. (mine took about 50 minutes and then ended up being 135 which was actually still pretty rare).
4. Slice and serve with vegetables

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Instant Mashed Potatoes (and rutabaga)

This evening while driving home with the crisp fall breeze that is rarely a candidate of LA weather, I started to crave chicken thighs. There were two recipes I had in mind--Braised Chicken and Prunes (recipe under Chicken tag) or Baked Chicken with Rosemary. I went to the store still not knowing which it would be.

The grocery store was packed. I chose my chicken thighs and tried to recall if the braised recipe had anything else in it that I didn't have. I have recently been working on keeping a stocked pantry. I was pretty sure the recipe called for wine (if you don't drink wine, those little picnic bottles are perfect for cooking..they come in the size most recipes call for so you're not left with an open bottle), dried plums, and chicken...but I was sure something else was hiding from me. I also recalled that the braised chicken was best over mashed potatoes. I browsed the pre-made section and saw that in order for me to get potatoes pre-made I'd have to buy enough for four. Dinner was possibly just for me. Finally I recalled that I had a potato, milk and butter at I reasoned I could just make them myself.

Mashed potatoes are easy! I don't know what all the fuss is about! I will share with you the recipe I made up so that you too can make just a little instead of family-size. I added rutabaga to my potatoes for the satisfying bitterness that I love, but you could omit that

1 - 2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into small even chunks
1 small rutabaga, peeled and cut into small even chunks (optional)
1 1/2 T butter +
2/3 C milk or cream, any variety
Lots of salt

1. Boil water in a pot big enough to fit all the potatoes
2. Add potato chunks to pot and boil until fork-tender (about 20 minutes)
3. Drain potatoes and return to pan
4. Add butter and milk and mash with a potato masher or hand mixer until the texture you prefer. Salt to taste (I used a lot of salt but it all came from the salt shaker so, no measurement) and serve warm.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pan-Roasted Pork Loin and Leeks

On Sunday we decided to have Gavin over for dinner and games. In the fridge I have a big pot of swoop er soup, but I had the time to make something different and equally as good. So, I pulled out my big recipe binder and started flipping through the pages. It finally landed on a recipe for Pan Roasted Pork and Leeks from the September 2007 issue of Cooking Light. I saw that, like most recipes in that binder, I had never tried it. I scanned the details to find that the recipe was unbelievably simple and required barely any ingredients. I expected the final product to be tasteless. As it turned out however, it was divine. The pork was moist and delicious and the leeks, after simmering for hours, turned sweet with a texture of cooked cabbage but a taste of something more like apples.

The recipe says this is worthy of a special occasion...and it could be, but it is simple enough for a nice weekend meal, especially if you're going to be home anyway tending to other things.

Pan-Roasted Pork Loin and Leeks
  • 4 large leeks (about 2 1/4 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 (2-pound) boneless pork loin, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • *Large Pot big enough to fit the pork, or cut the pork into chunks so that it fits in the pot
1. Prepare leeks according to this video, slicing the light green and some white parts into 1/2 inch thick.
2. Fish leeks out of bowl of cold water with your hands and add with, 1/2 cup water, 1 t butter (it appears that 1 TBSP butter is equal to 2 1/2 t), 1/4t salt, 1/4 pepper to a large pot.* Saute for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.
3. Pour leek mixture into a bowl and set aside.
4. In the same pot, heat the remaining 2 t butter. Add pork and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes of cooking.
5. Add remaining salt and pepper and wine. Cook for 15 seconds scrapping brown bits from the bottom of the pan
6. Return leek mixture to pan, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for 2 hours.
7. Slice pork in thin slices and serve with leek mixture.

I don't have a picture, but Cooking Light does.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tex-Mex Stuffed Acorn Squash


I pulled this recipe from Prevention Magazine's Flatten your belly with food... (Intriguing, I know..)

It needs a little something, something. I'm not sure if it's just because I had eaten something spicy right before hand or not. Perhaps I just needed some salt on it.

Here it is:
(4 servings)

2 Acorn Squash
2 tsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed, drained
1/2 cup pine nuts (Fareway doesn't sell these, so I subbed sunflower seeds)
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat rimmed baking sheet with olive oil spray.

Brush cut sides and cavity of squash with oil. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Place cut-side down on prepared baking sheet. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until tender (don't pierce with fork). Turn cut-side up

Mix beans, pine nuts, tomato, scallions, cumin, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Spoon heaping 1/2 cup of bean mixture into each squash half, pressing down gently to get all filling in. Sprinkle evenly with cheese.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden brown

let cool and then eat :)
I did take a photo of it, but my phone and computer aren't cooperating with the blue tooth connections. My apologies

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pasta and Bean Soup

Bacon is one of my favorite foods, it adds a delicious flavor to beans and stews, it adds that salty crunch with sweet pancakes and it even adds quite a distinct texture to cookies (its true, I made bacon chocolate chip cookies last Christmas) but that's neither here nor there.  The problem I have with bacon is the size of the package it comes in.  Most recipes called for 4-6 strips of bacon leaving a sizable amount of unused bacon.  I have to admit, freezing stuff isn't currently an option in my house.  I freeze a couple of slices of bacon or an extra piece of chicken and then forget about it until it is unrecognizingly covered in ice crystals.

So my only alternative with leftover bacon is to use it in a number of recipes that are different enough from each other to not taste like we're eating bacon all week.  In my search for a second use of bacon (since the potato chowder), I found a recipe for Pasta e Fagioli.  This soup promised to taste "very similar to Olive Garden's soup."  Joey assures me that this is not true.  This soup was really tasty--but in Joey's words "Olive Garden's soup has two colors of beans which change the taste and it's beefier."  Indeed--every soup that has beef as one of the ingredients is beefier than this one ;). 

This soup was posted by someone else..who you ask? I don't have that in front of me...oops.  It is really easy to make and tastes great.  This recipe makes a LOT of soup, so you may either want to cut the recipe in half or do that thing people call "freezing" for a rainy day.

Pasta and Bean Soup

6 slices bacon, diced *I recently discovered that a serrated bread knife is a great tool for cutting up bacon*
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 14oz cans cannellini beans, drained *or 1 can red kidney beans and 1 can cannellini beans
1 10oz package frozen spinach, thawed for 2-3 minutes so it's not in a huge brick
6 C chicken broth
3 C water
1 8oz can tomato sauce
3 t Italian seasoning
1 scant t cilantro
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 t oregano
8oz small pasta of your choice, uncooked *I used this new mini rotini that was on sale

1. Heat a very large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add bacon and fry until just crisp.  Add onion and sauté until soft (about 8 minutes).  Add garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes.
2. Add all other ingredients except pasta to the pot.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally. 
3.  After simmering, bring soup to a boil.  Add pasta and cook until al dente as shown on the pasta directions.  Serve with bread.