Friday, November 21, 2014

Cozy In A Pot

In our house, we eat whole, real foods at least 85% of the time.  Sometimes, OK, maybe twice a year I include something a little less favorable in the form of kielbasa.  Unfortunately I have not found (because it probably doesn't exist) a healthy version of kielbasa.  It's high in sodium and contains nitrates (like most lunch meat) but like most things, I think once or twice a year is probably not going to be the end of us.  So, with that said, I'd like to share this delicious cassoulet recipe which is perfect on a cold winter's night.  (If anyone has a substitution for the kielbasa, please share! Unfortunately I think its hard to get that fabulous smoky meat flavor without the evils of nitrates and nitrites.)  This recipe is a mix of a couple of recipes that sounded good to me and here's where I ended up...
OK, so I started with a cup and a half of sliced carrots.
About a cup, or one whole chopped onion comes next.
And of course, a giant parsnip.  I didn't measure it because I was going to use the whole thing no matter what.  I have a surplus of giant parsnips at the moment so I'm going to have to start fishing around for some more ways to use them.    
 This was probably about two cups chopped (the carrots and onions are in the bowl as well!).
We must not forget the garlic!  Never forget the garlic.  I used two cloves but one is huge so I'd call it three, minced.
Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan.  Add the chopped veg along with 1 teaspoon or dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Cook over medium heat for five minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, rinse and drain two cans of great northern beans.
Add half of the beans to a large bowl and smash (I used the bottom of a glass to get the job done).
Trim and cut a 1 pound pork tenderloin into 1 inch pieces.  Chop 1/2 pound of smoked sausage into 1/2 inch pieces.
Add the meat and the rest of the beans to the bowl and mix well.
Once the veggies have softened add two cans of diced tomatoes to the pan.
Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
Add half of the meat and bean mix to the slow cooker, top with half of the veg mix and repeat.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
Don't forget to build a nice salad to eat with the cassoulet!
Serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese and some fresh parsley.  Enjoy, and stay warm!

Slow Cooker Cassoulet

1 Tbs olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
1 1/2- 2 cups sliced parsnips
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
2 cups great northern beans drained and rinsed
1 lb pork tenderloin cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 lb smoked sausage cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add chopped veg and seasonings, cook for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse two cans of great northern beans.  Add half of the beans to a large bowl and smash until creamy but with some chunks remaining.  Add the meats and rest of the beans to the bowl and mix well.

Add canned tomatoes to the pan and bring to a boil, remove from heat.  Place half of the bean and meat mixture to the slow cooker, top with half of the tomato veg mixture and repeat.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.  Scoop into bowls and top with grated Parmesan and fresh parsley.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Little Somethin' To Warm Your Bones

I'm not sure what kind of weather you're experiencing today but outside of my house it is pure yuck.  Its about 46 degrees, raining like crazy, windy, dark, yucky.  It's the kind of day that leaves a chill in your bones that's tough to shake off making it the perfect day for a hot bowl of soup that requires little effort (so you can maximize your time spent being cozy with your favorite people or pets watching football or movies or whatever strikes your fancy).  This recipe for Salmon Chowder with Dill is from Food Network Magazine.  It's a Crock Pot meal that doesn't involve a can of soup or an envelope of seasonings or any of those things that drive me nuts.  This is real food made super easy.
It all begins with some clam juice. The recipe calls for 3 cups of clam juice or chicken broth.  I used a combo of the two, more clam than chicken.  You put it in a bowl in the microwave and get it good and hot.
Get a pound of red skinned potatoes and dice them up.
Place them in the bottom of the slow cooker.
Chop two stalks of celery, I recommend chopping the leaves up too, they really add a nice flavor to any chowder, if you you ask me...
Toss the celery and and two sliced carrots in with the potatoes.
Next comes half of a white onion chopped and two cloves of garlic, minced.  Right into the crock it goes.
Now you gather up your fresh herbs.  This is dill, parsley, thyme and a couple of bay leaves.
Peel off a wide strip of lemon zest from a lemon...
find some twine...
and tie it together in a nice little bundle.
Place your bundle (of joy) on top of the veggies.
Pour in the hot clam juice, cover and cook on high for 3.5 hours.
After the 3.5 hours you'll get your fish ready.
Season one pound of wild caught salmon with salt and pepper.
Stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream into the Crock Pot...
and partially submerge the salmon.  Cover and cook for 30 more minutes.
Chop a little more dill and some green onion for garnish.
This is the perfect time to throw a salad together.
Now you go enjoy that nice soup and salad on a bone chilling fall day! Click here for the full recipe.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

No Crust Required

I'm sticking with my mission to provide easy and relatively quick weeknight recipes to help take the pressure off all you busy people.  I go about my menu planning for the week in a variety of ways but sometimes it's all about using up what we have an abundance of.  We belong to a CSA for our beef and pork (and occasional chicken).  Each month we pick up our insulated bag of goods and see what we got.  Since we aren't eating beef and pork everyday (as no one should) sometimes we have a little stockpile going.  At the moment I have three roasts in my freezer!  Anyway, last week I dug around to see what meat and veggies we had stored up in the freezer and decided to make a fritatta for dinner.  A fritatta is basically a quiche without the pastry crust.  This makes it easier and healthier right there.  What I love about this dinner is that you can use anything you like, whatever is on hand. Change up the veg, change up the meat, or skip the meat all together.  If you like a little cheese, use whatever strikes your fancy.  Here's what I came up with...
I started with a medium onion and half of a red bell pepper chopped.  I cooked them in a tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet until softened.
While those were cooking I thawed and chopped some kale, about 2 1/2 to 3 cups worth.  Until recently (last week) none of us were crazy about eating kale.  We love it in our smoothies but couldn't get a taste for it otherwise.  After this dinner, I served it up again in....something....I can't even remember what right now but I do remember being shocked that we ate kale twice in one week and we all liked it!
 I also chopped a couple of tablespoons of parsley and grated a little sharp cheddar.
Next I beat 8 eggs with a splash of milk (1/4 cup) and salt and pepper.
Then I added the kale and about a cup of chopped ham steak (from the CSA) and continued cooking until the kale softened a bit. Then pour the eggs in and give it a stir.  Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of that part but just let it cook it until the eggs start to set but are still runny on top.  Top with a little cheese and put it under a broiler on high for about 13-15 min (keep an eye on it).
Now doesn't that look good?
You just slice it up and serve.  We usually have this with a side salad but since we were in "use stuff up before it goes bad" mode, I made some potatoes instead.  Salad would've been better.  Just so you know.  This served the four of us and we had a couple of slices left over for an awesome week day breakfast.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sticking With The Plan

It's now Thursday, I'm still keeping with this week's meal plan.  I thought I'd keep you posted so you can see that it is doable to have home cooked dinners even during the busy week nights.  The salmon on Monday was great, but keep in mind, if you don't like salmon, use a different fish.  There were a bunch of veggies left over and I ate the for lunch on Tuesday.  Tuesday we had a few things going on in the evening so we had the Cauliflower Mac and Cheese for dinner.  It only took 30 minutes to get on the table.
You could even cut time down by buying chopped cauliflower or cutting it ahead of time, like when you're putting the groceries away.  You can rinse the cauliflower, cut half of it up and put it in a zip lock bag in the fridge.  I used parsley and chives this time.
 I get everything together while the water for the pasta comes to a boil.  Again, you could shred your cheese ahead if you think it will save you a few. Once the water boils I melt the cheese into the sauce while the the pasta cooks so they're done at the same time.  9 minutes!
Serve with a nice big salad.  I'm still working on the switch to whole wheat pasta.  I like it with some things but somehow I just can't mess with my mac and cheese.  I'll keep working on it though!
Wednesday morning I got up and got my chicken in the crock pot for chicken tacos.  This is the recipe from 100 Days of Real Food that is the best thing ever. Chop and onion and throw it in.
Lay the chicken on top and season.  I used salt, pepper, garlic, cumin and chili powder.  Put the lid on, turn it to low and walk away for 7 or 8 hours.  Who doesn't love a chicken that cooks itself while you're at work?
Come home to a cooked chicken ready to shred for a variety of uses.
When I pulled it out the breast detached itself from the legs and wings.  This is handy if you like to keep the white meat and dark meat separate for different uses.
The meat shreds easily with a fork or keep it in larger pieces if you like.
There is plenty for tacos, chicken salad and maybe a green salad or two.
I pulled out the bones and removed all the skin and meat.  I put the bones back in the crock with some celery, carrot a fresh onion and some salt and pepper (didn't have much for herbs on hand).
Fill almost to the top with water and turn it on low and let it go over night (if you like to make homemade stock).
I got 5 pints out of it.  I put these in the freezer and use later.
But back to dinner....Chicken and black bean tacos on the whole wheat tortillas we made on Sunday.  They were pretty good but decided the tortillas need to be rolled out thinner.  Not bad for a first attempt.
So that brings us to today, Thursday.  We're having Slow Cooker Pork with Noodles tonight.  I usually make this with a pork shoulder but I had a bunch of pork steaks from our meat CSA so I'm using those instead.  I chose this one for tonight because nobody has to be anywhere tonight (whaaat?).  Not that this requires a lot of attention but I like to add more veggies than the recipe calls for so I'll probably stir fry some carrots and pea pods to go with it. So far so good! I love when a plan comes together!