Wednesday, April 30, 2014

No Recipe- recipe veggie edition!

You may remember roasted veggies from my Bonus veggie post a while back.   I was making roasted veggies the other day and thought I'd make a video for ya'!

All you need are roasting veggies and olive oil.   See the veggie post linked above for more details about which veggies roast well.  Use a nice size pan or large baking dish.  If your veggies are in a single layer they take less time to cook.  My baking dish was a bit overloaded but it works.  Coat the veggies with a little oil and bake at 350 until done- about an hour.

Here are the veggies out of the oven.  You'll see how I added the green beans and mushrooms after about 30 minutes of cooking.  The veggies weren't done when it was time to pick up my little guy from school.  I just turned off the oven and left the veggies as is.

To make the yummy beet salad I mentioned in the video simply top salad greens with cooled roasted beets, a little goat cheese, and toasted walnuts.  (How to toast nuts?  Spread them in a single layer and put in a 425 degree oven.  Check every 5 minutes until they're fragrant and dark as you like.  Let them cool and store in the fridge or use immediately.)  Top with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  YUM!!!!

Now what about the tops of those beautiful beets?  That's right- when you buy beets with the tops attached you get two side dishes in one!  Beet greens are not only high in nutritional value but are delicious.  It's best to plan on eating them the day you buy them but if you can't cut them off and put in a bowl of water in the fridge.  This will keep them fresh for another day or so.  Here's a video that explains how to cook them:

Here's the beet greens when they're done:

It makes 2 small servings.  Yum!!!  You can also simply use them mixed with lettuce in salad.   I prefer them cooked though.  My dad told me how when he was a kid growing up during the Great Depression his mother, wasting nothing, would insist he and his brothers eat beet greens.  He hated them!  When I first received beets with the tops from our CSA my dad was visiting and couldn't believe I was so excited to try beet greens.  Go figure!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

No Recipe- recipe: Chicken Soup

Chicken broth/soup is one of those staples that is the basis for many meals.  It's easy to make (with a little time and planning) and freezes well so it's ready to go for all those recipes that call for store bought chicken broth.

Here's what you need:

Simply put the chicken and/or bones in a large pot (I used my favorite LeCreuset-mustard yellow oval.  I kinda feel bad for the blue round pots.  They're the workhorses of my kitchen.  The yellow oval is only for big time cooking so it's not stained beyond my scrubbing capabilities and the cover isn't dinged.), cover with water -about 2-3 inches over the chicken,  add 1T vinegar, roughly chopped onion, carrots, celery, and parsnips.  Simmer on the stove, covered, over a low heat for at least 4 hours.  Here's look at the simmering soup:

Once the soup has been simmering for 4-5 hours (Or longer- it only gets better with time!) Let it cool and either refrigerate (Covered in the cooled pot.) overnight or strain.  To strain take a large mixing bowl and put a large colander inside. Using tongs take the solids out of the soup a little at a time and put into the colander to drain.  Periodically mash the solids with a large spoon to squeeze out all the yummy broth.  Toss the solids removing the meat first if you want it for chicken salad or to put back into the soup.  Pour the broth in the bowl back into the pot.  This sounds more complicated than it really is. I made a video showing how I do all this but I'm not sure what happened to it.  That's what happens when your child's cell phone dies and he/she is bored because you're all at the eye doctor.  Anyway...

Skim the broth with a fine mesh hand held strainer or use a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.  The idea is to remove all the little floaties so the broth is "clean".  (Of course it's clean but you know what I mean.)  Using a hand held strainer dip it in the broth and pull thru collecting what you can.  Dump the gunk and rinse the strainer occasionally with clean water so you don't make more work for yourself.  If you're using a strainer over the bowl use a ladle to move the broth from the pot to the strainer.  Either method takes time.  And patience.  But it's totally worth it if you're like me and a bit freaked out by unidentified soup floaties.  

If you've refrigerated the broth overnight remove the solid fat that's hardened on the top with a spoon before straining.  If you're straining first it's a good idea to put the soup into the fridge (Again, covered in the pot if it will fit in your fridge.) for at least an hour afterwards so you can easily remove some of the fat before you dig in.  It's ok to have some fat but I find overly fatty soup to have a slimy feeling.  This is one reason why I prefer my homemade floatie-free soup to most restaurants' offerings!

Here's the "clean" broth.  (Notice it's a bit cloudy?  Impatient me let it simmer too high.  Again.  Sigh... But it still tasted great!)  It's ready to freeze if you want.  

When you plan to use the broth reheat on the stove over a low heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I also like to add my pot herbs.  If you're interested in trying them yourself you can buy them here.

Now you can add veggies, noodles, rice, matzo balls,  dumplings, shredded cooked chicken, or anything that sounds good.  If adding veggies cook them in the pot over a low heat or toss in leftover cooked veggies.  If making noodles or rice cook first according to the package directions and then add to the broth.

As I said in the intro this freezes very well.  I usually put some in small 1-2 cup containers to use when making rice and other recipes.  The rest I save for soup night in a really big container.  What kind of containers?  I use my glass or ceramic bowls, casseroles, or little vintage refrigerator dishes if they're not already in use.  I worry about the plastic so I only use those when I'm out of the others.

I hope you and your family like it as much as we do!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Easter!

Sorry I've been AWOL.  It's been a busy couple of weeks!  I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday.  And if you don't celebrate Easter have a great Sunday relaxing with your friends and family.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"No- Recipe" Pot Roast and first ever video!!

Pot Roast is one of those dishes that used to be a standard fare due to its simple preparation, tastiness, and high nutritional value.  Somewhere along the line pot roast developed a nostalgic following and became more complicated than was necessary.  So it became a comfort food made only on long winter weekends.  But your grandma's pot roast was just fine - no need to make a special trip to Williams Sonoma for new pots and 22 specialty ingredients.  I say keep it simple and enjoy it more often.  It's a one dish meal with meat, veggies, and an optional starchy vegetable.  What could be simpler on a busy weeknight?

I make my pot roast by memory and usually with what I have on hand, except the meat. I buy it fresh.  So if I'm at the grocer or the butcher and the pot roast meat looks good I'll buy it knowing that I usually have everything else at home and can make it without a lot of prep time.  My "recipe" is based on various pot roast recipes I've made over the years.  I've made it so often that I no longer need an actual written recipe and I can improvise with the ingredients.

This and a nice fresh roast is all you need!

Basic pot roast consists of either chuck roast, rump roast, or another cut of beef your butcher says will be tasty with long and low heat cooking.  Tougher cuts of meat are very flavorful and are less expensive than tender cuts. See, pot roast is economical too!  Then you need some liquid.  Water will do but using beef broth (either store bought or homemade is fine) and red wine adds a complexity to the flavor.  Some people use vinegar or Coke.  (To each his own!)  Then you need seasonings- salt, pepper and herbs.  Some recipes coat the meat with flour before browning but I find this added step to be easily skipped.  The flavor is different but both ways create an excellent meal.  All you need to complete the dish is vegetables.  Root veggies work well and onions add an excellent flavor.  But use what you have.  Potatoes give pot roast a "stick to your ribs" feeling but I'm trying to have less starch in my diet so I often leave them out.

Here's a pot roast recipe I found slipped between the pages of the 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking I bought from the estate sale of a lady in my neighborhood.  I don't know if Mrs. Mather ever made this recipe but from the stains on the paper I assume she tried it at least once.  She chose to use sirloin tip roast and uses vinegar and water for the liquid.

Here are two versions of pot roast from my mother's 1951 edition of The Settlement Cookbook.   Number 1 is a simple version while number 2 adds tomatoes.  Both are pretty simple.

And here's my "no recipe" pot roast:

1 3-4 lb Chuck roast
Salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs- thyme, bay leaves, chives and parsley work well
1/2 to 3/4C Beef broth
1/2 to 3/4C Red wine
Veggies- about 3 carrots, 1/2 a large onion, 6 mushrooms
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 300 or 325.  (See slow cooker cooking directions below.)  Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pot over a medium high heat.  Rub the herbs and salt and pepper on all sides of the roast.  Brown on all sides.  Add the liquid.  Bring to a boil. Then put the covered pot into the oven.

I thought a video would be helpful so here you go!

After at least an hour of cooking time (and about 1 hour before you plan to eat) add the vegetables.  Submerge some under the liquid if you can.  Also spoon some of the juices over the meat.  Cover and put back in the oven for an hour or more.  Cooking times can be loose based on your needs.  When I made this is was a busy night so total cooking time was about 4 hours.  2 hours is fine though.

An optional step is to boil the liquid to make the juices thicker and stronger in flavor.  Simply put the pot over a medium heat on the stove and leave uncovered until boiling.  Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes or so.

Here's what you get!!

You can also make this pot roast in your slow cooker.  Just brown the meat with the seasonings and then put it into your slow cooker.  Add the liquid and the onion.  Turn your slow cooker to low for 8 or more hours or high for at least 4 hours.  If you're home add the other veggies during the last hour or 2.  You can add them in the beginning of the cooking time but they may get too mushy for your liking.  If that doesn't appeal to you just have steamed veggies or a salad with the pot roast.  The taste of a slow cooker pot roast is different than one made in an oven but it's still delicious.  If you want a thicker and richer broth you can put it all back into your pot on the stove top and boil as directed above.

Here's a bit about the herbs I used:

As always the leftovers were great for lunch today.   If there's a lot of solidified fat on top of the juices you can scrape it off just as you would with refrigerated chicken or beef broth.  I find the meat juicy enough without the extra fat.

I may do more "no recipe" posts if you, dear readers, are interested.  Let me know in the comments below.  Also tell me if the videos are helpful!