Saturday, January 29, 2011

Slow Cooker Sunday: Pork Chops Dijon

This is a recipe my mom used to make when I was little.  It was always a hit with both my brother and I.  She used to make it on the stove, but I tried to adapt it to the crock pot.  The combination of pork and mustard is almost always a win-win conbination, and this recipe demonstrates how well they go together perfectly.  I had a crock pot mishap in the middle of cooking this--the crock pot just shut itself off.  I ended up having to cook it for about 2 hours on high to ensure it was done. 

3-4 bone in pork chops or boneless center cut pork chops
3 Tbs of Dijon mustard
2 Tbs of Italian salad dressing
2 Tbs of EVOO
salt & pepper
chicken broth (about 6 oz)
1 medium yellow onion sliced and cut in half

1) Heat a frying pan on medium high heat and add the EVOO, allow to heat for a few more minutes.  Sprinkle each side of the pork chops with salt & pepper.  Place the pork chops in the pan and brown each side for 3-4 minutes per side.  Add the contents of the pan, including the oil to a crock pot and set it to low.

2) In a small bowl, mix the Dijon mustard and Italian dressing and then pour it over the pork chops.  Add the onions to the crock pot too.  Pour the chicken broth in until it completely covers the pork chops.

3) Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve with potatoes or something else that absorbs the delicious sauce.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Restaurant Review: Victory 44

On Tuesday night, we decided to give Victory 44 a try.  This little gem is located in the Camden neighborhood in Minneapolis, not an area we normally go to eat.  What enticed us to venture up there was the 2 for 1 tasting menu on Tuesday nights.  It was a great opportunity to see what the chefs were capable of, and they proved that they were capable of quite a lot!  Sorry for the lack of pictures, but my dining companions do not appreciate the flash. 

Food-- We had a five course meal, and every course was incredibly good.  We started out with a sweet potato bisque topped with marshmallow blended with a bit of jalapeno.  I am the girl who would never eat the sweet potatoes topped with marshmallow at Thanksgiving, and I have to say the flavors in this soup were interesting, complex and very tasty! I also liked the different textures from the soup to the marshmallows to the almonds on the better.  Our favorite course was the scallops crude.  I ate a raw sushi grade scallop for the first time and it was buttery and delicious.  The scallops were served with thinly sliced radish, bits of pork bellow, kumquat jelly and jalapeno puree and every bite had a unique and interesting flavor depending on what you scooped up with the scallop.  The dessert course was a dessert platter and our favorites were salted caramel topped with white chocolate flakes and a fudge brownie topped with peanut butter whipped cream.  The other courses were delicious and I could go on and on, but this post would be incredibly long!

Prices-- Victory 44 specializes in small plate dining, but all of the small plates are very reasonably priced, especially considering the care that goes into each dish.  I love trying food, so the small plates are ideal for me, however you are not going to get a massive plate of pasta at a place like Victory 44.

Atmosphere-- The best way to describe Victory 44 is unpretentious.  You seat yourself if there are available tables.  The decor is minimal and simple, which I really do no mind.  I really liked the chalkboard menu.

Service--  The service was the best part besides the food.  When the server or the chef (who delivered and inquired about one of our courses) asked how the food was, they genuinely wanted to hear our answers and cared about our response.  They were great about answering our questions and explaining what each course was.

Cons--  The wine list was a little short and I would make sure to sit towards the back of the restaurant as the doors opening and closing created quite the draft.  Other than that--I really have no complaints.

Would I go back?  Definitely.  In fact, I can't wait to go back and try a few different dishes on the menu.  I felt like it was the kind of place that I want to become a regular at.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cookbook Review: The New Basics Cookbook

The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins is probably one of my favorite Christmas presents ever.  My parents got it for me, after I had seen my mom using it for years.  It really meant a lot and it has been such a great resource for me as I learn more about cooking.

Difficulty--There is recipes that are remarkably easy to recipes that are fairly hard.  I like it for this reason.  It has been both accessible and challenging, which keeps it interesting for me.

Ingredients--You should not have any trouble finding the ingredients in this cookbook in your local grocery store.  Every now and then, I come across something that requires a trip to a specialty grocery store, but rarely.  It does not have a lot of suggestions for ingredients that are lighter or low fat, but you can replace things if you choose to do so.

Presentation--This cookbook does not have a lot of pictures.  I struggled with this at first, but at least I do not feel bad if it does not look exactly like the picture.  I like the way the cookbook is divided into chapters starting with appetizers and ending with desserts.  My favorite thing about the cookbook is the special sections which includes things like a spice chart which lets you know which spices go with what foods.  There is a similar section for wine, a conversation table, a table describing different cuts of meats, and a table for salad greens which makes it an incredible resource in the kitchen.

Taste--I have found a ton of recipes in this book I will make over and over again.  I admit there has been a few failures (usually relating to something not setting right or failing to thicken), but I blame them on myself and not on the cookbook.  My favorite recipes from this book are Beef Bourginon (better than Julia Child's, sorry Julia!), Marno's Chicken Noodle Soup (I have adapted this quite a bit to make it my own), and the Beef Vegetable Medley.

Overall--I think this cookbook is essential to any modern kitchen.  Whatever your culinary need--this cookbook will not fail you.  I have opened it up in a panic, needing a salad for a dinner party.  I have turned to it when I wanted to make something basic like deviled eggs.  It has been a guide for me as I try to perfect my chili and my marinara sauce.  

You can buy this cookbook inexpensively on Amazon

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Slow Cooker Sunday: Adobo Chicken

I got this recipe from my blog friend Shannon.  It is a Filipino recipe and not only was it delicious, but it was super inexpensive to make.  I did a few things different--I added frozen broccoli because I wanted to add a veggie to this one dish meal and I also put the peppercorns in a tea infuser because I do not like crunching on peppercorns.  Shannon suggested reducing the sauce, and although it was still good, I would recommend it for a more flavorful sauce.  Additionally, I would add the frozen broccoli about 30 minutes before the dish is done because if it sits in the stew all day, it will get mushy.  

1 lb chicken thighs ($2.50 on sale)
1 12 oz package of frozen broccoli ($1.99)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into half rings ($0.30)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce (stocked in the pantry)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (stocked in the pantry)
peppercorns (stocked in the pantry)
8 crushed garlic cloves (stocked in the pantry)
2 bay leaves (stocked in the pantry)
brown rice (stocked in the pantry)

1) Place the chicken thighs in the bottom of the slow cooker and cover them with the onions and frozen broccoli.  Put the seasonings over the veggies.
2) Mix the water, soy sauce and white wine vinegar in a separate dish and pour it over the veggie chicken mixture
3) Let it cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve over brown rice.

This meal is a little over $5 and for about 5 servings.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cupcakes? Muffins? Not quite--Mini Meatloaves

I have never been a huge fan of meatloaf, and no offense mom if you are reading this, but I always kind of dreaded it when it was on the menu for dinner.  However--lately I have been making meatloaf with ground turkey, and I like it a lot better.  A blog friend of mine, Robin, shared this recipe and I had to try it.  Instead of making a loaf, you make mini turkey loaves in muffin tins.  It works great because 1-2 of them is the perfect portion size.  I made the Italian version, but you can easily switch it up a bit and use taco seasoning, cheddar cheese and taco sauce instead.  You could also do just salt & pepper, with some barbeque sauce and cheddar cheese.  I thought about making a Greek version with spinach, feta cheese and greek seasoning.  Be creative! These are kind of fun and pretty kid friendly. 

1 lb ground turkey or beef
2 eggs
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (or plain bread crumbs)
Italian Seasoning
Garlic Powder
Salt & Pepper
1/2 to 3/4 jar or marinara sauce
mozzarella cheese

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix ground meat, bread crumbs and eggs together in a large bowl.  Add your desired amount of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt & pepper.  Mix well.
2) Fill each muffin tin 2/3 full and make a little indentation with a spoon.  Add a spoonful of marinara to the indentation and sprinkle mozzarella cheese over it.  The recipe should make about 12 "muffins."
3) Bake for 30 minutes. 

This works great served with potatoes or pasta and a green veggie.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Superfood: Quinoa Burgers

Superfood? What do I mean by that? Quinoa is an ancient grain, that is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.  It is packed full of protein, fiber, maganese, and calcium and it is also a complete protein, meaning that you are getting all of the essential amino acids needed for building muscle.  In an effort to add more vegetarian dishes to my diet, I made quinoa burgers.  They were full of flavor, and honestly, not that much different in texture than a hamburger.  The best part, the next day I cut up the leftover quinoa burgers, warmed them up along with some marinara sauce to dip them in, and served them as an appetizer.  This recipe is from Gather--Food Talk

1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa (about a cup of dry quinoa)
1/2 chopped onion
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs of EVOO
3 Tbs marinara or tomato sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp yellow mustard
6 deli flats or rolls

sliced cheese
lettuce or spinach
sliced tomato
ketchup & mustard

1) Cook the quinoa.  In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of vegetable broth (or water or chicken broth) to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.  Pour into a large bowl and let it cool for awhile.
2) Mix all of the ingredients in the bowl except the deli flats of course and stir well.  I add the eggs last, as I do not want the hot quinoa to cook them.  
3) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cover a pan with tin foil and spray it with non-stick spray.  You can use parchment paper and skip the non-stick spray if you would like.  Shape the quinoa mixture into six patties.
4) Cook for 25 minutes.  Flip the burgers and cook for 15 more minutes.  If you are adding cheese, you might want to do that about 5 minutes before they are done.
5) Make your burger. Add spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and whatever else you might normally put on a burger and enjoy!
**served on the side are oven fries with sea salt, pepper and fresh thyme**

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Slow Cooker Sunday: Azorean Spiced Beef Stew

Beef stew is a pretty regular recipe that I throw in the slow cooker.  When I saw this recipe for a spiced beef stew I was excited to add a little zip to an old classic.  I got the recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking, which by the way is a great resource if you are looking to use the slow cooker a little more.  I made the recipe on Wednesday morning, and when I came home at 5 PM, I immediately wanted to eat because it smelled unbelievably good.  A few hours later--it tasted as good as it smelled.  I pretty much followed the recipe exactly, but I did not have green onions, so I threw a yellow onion in.  I also used venison since I did not have beef stew meat on hand.  Some changes I am going to put in the recipe--more crushed red pepper and less salt.  The recipe called for 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, and 2 teaspoons would have been much better.  Remember, people can always add more salt on their own, but it is really hard to take it away and involves diluting the stew with water, which takes away from other flavors.

1 lb beef stew meat (I used venison and it was great)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 green onions chopped (I used yellow and added them with all of the other veggies)
3 cups of beef stock
1 cup of grape tomatoes, quartered (if you need to you can use a can of diced tomatoes)
1 cup sliced carrots
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 Tbs of crushed red pepper
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cumin
2 cinnamon sticks
1 bay leaf

This one could really not be an easier.  Add all of the above ingredients except for the green onion to the slow cooker.  Give it a good stir, set your crock pot to low and cook for 6-10 hours.  The longer this recipe cooks, the more tender the meat gets and the more flavorful the stew will be.  If you are short on time, you can easily do 3-4 hours on high.  


Slow cooker fun fact:  You can almost always throw in frozen meat.  You will just have to cook it a bit longer than normal.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Manhattan Clam Chowder

In case you can't tell, I love soups and stews in the winter.  My mom made Manhattan Clam Chowder when I was young, and I loved it.  This is a tomato rather than cream based soup, which makes it more appealing to me.  I love the way the flavors and spices come together.  I used parts of the recipe from my mom's Eat at Joe's cookbook and some parts of the recipe from Epicurious.  My mom's recipe was a bit too involved, and the Epicurious one was meant for a single serving and I felt it was missing a few ingredients.  I could not find fresh clams in Minnesota.  If you are hesitant about canned clams, just skip them.  The flavor of the soup will still be great! This soup should make about four servings.

4 slices of bacon, chopped
2/3 of a yellow onion
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 potatoes chopped into eights (yellow or a baking potato)
1/2 a green bell pepper, chopped
(2) 8 oz bottles of clam juice (you can find it by the canned tuna at the grocery store)

(2) 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/3 cup of ketchup
1/4 cup of tomato paste(2) jars of 6.5 oz canned clams (If you can get fresh, about 3/4 pound, shelled and chopped), drained
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley

1) Brown the bacon with the onions and celery.  When it is brown, add the carrots, potatoes, the thyme, the canned tomatoes, the clam juice, ketchup and tomato paste.  Stir well and let this mixture simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the carrots are soft.
2) Add the green pepper and the claims and let simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to your liking and garnish with fresh parsley.

* I was feeling frugal and used the juice the clams were in in place of one jar of the clam juice.
* If you want to half, double or triple this recipe, the most important proportion is between the clam juice and canned tomatoes.  For every bottle of clam juice, you should add one can of tomatoes.  Make it more or less tomatoey with more or less ketchup and tomato paste.
*Skip the bacon and use EVOO if you are a pescatarian.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Slow Cooker Sunday: Sweet & Sour Stew

On Sundays, I am going to try to post a slow cooker recipe that you can use during the week.  In my opinion, when your time is limited, when it is frigid outside, there is nothing better than coming home to a warm dinner in the crock pot.  Crock pot cooking can be extremely easy to challenging.  I find making healthy meals is a bit more difficult, and there is nothing worse than coming home to something that just did not work.  I am going to try to make traditional recipes a bit more healthy and everything I post should turn out as long as your follow the instructions.

This first recipe is an old family recipe.  I believe it might be my great-great grandmother's.  Although it is not the healthiest, it is definitely fits the definition of comfort food as the stew is served over creamy smashed potatoes.

Ingredients for the Stew
2 lbs of beef stew meat
2 tbs of flour
salt & pepper to taste

1 cup of water
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, cut into chunks
3 stalks of celery sliced (optional, I had it on hand so I threw it in)

Ingredients for mashed potatoes
6 baking potatoes or yellow potatoes, cut into eighths 
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup unsalted butter
salt & pepper to taste

1) Heat a frying pan to medium to high heat.  Add meat, flour and salt & pepper and cook until the meat is brown (about 5-7 minutes).
2) Add the browned meat to a crock pot.  Add the water, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire Sauce, and cut up veggies and stir until the veggies and meat are covered in the sauce.
3) Set the crock pot on low and let it cook for the day, at least 4-5 hours.  If you only have 2-3 hours, cook it on high for at least an hour.
4) About 30 minutes before dinner, boil the potatoes until they are soft.  Drain the water.  Add the butter, milk, salt & pepper and mash until they are to your liking.  (I know there are a million ways to make mashed potatoes, so do so however you like!)
5) Serve the stew over the mashed potatoes.

I also like to have a salad on the side, just to make sure I get some green veggies.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Spinach: Economical, Healthy and Adaptable

In the winter especially, fresh spinach is a pretty regular resident in my fridge.  I love keeping it around because it is pretty inexpensive, it is healthy, and it is extremely adaptable.  I usually purchase a big tub from Costco for around $3.00 a pound.  While that might sound like a lot--a pound of spinach goes a long ways!

Spinach is very healthy and according to Livestrong it is one of the most nutrient dense foods available.  In addition to containing fiber, calcium, and protein--it contains essential nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin K, maganese and folate.  It is also very low in calories.  Eating spinach is a win-win situation.

Spinach is also very adaptable.  You can make a salad, sautee it in EVOO with salt and pepper, toss it  some sauteed spinach with pasta, cous cous, orzo or brown rice, or you can put it in some marinara sauce. 

Popeye was not kidding when he said to eat your spinach!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dinner in 30 Minutes (maybe a few more)

It is after Thanksgiving break--and I am officially in crunch mode for upcoming finals.  I look at my fridge--and there really is not a lot to eat.  Look in the pantry--and then I start to come up with some ideas.  I have a time constraint too--I need to cook something fast in order to stay on my study schedule.  The meal I came up with--herb crusted chicken breasts, cous cous with sauteed spinach and tomatoes, sliced cucumbers with Newman's Own Olive Oil & Vinegar.

Ingredients for Chicken
2 tbs of unsalted butter
3 tbs of EVOO
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup panko break crumbs
1 tbs Italian seasoning
salt & pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter & EVOO in a small frying pan.  Let it cool slightly. In the meantime, mix the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning on a plate.  Dip each side of the chicken breast into the butter mixture, and then each side in the bread crumb mixture.  Place in a pyrex pan (or a glass pan) and bake for about 25 minutes until thoroughly cooked.

Ingredients for cous cous
1 cup of whole wheat cous cous
2 cups of water
1 tbs EVOO (for cous cous)
2 tbs EVOO (for tomatoes and spinach)
1 cup chopped tomatoes
3 cups of baby spinach

1) Bring 2 cups of water and EVOO to a boil.
2) Keeping in mind that a watched pot never boils, sautee the spinach and tomatoes in a frying pan with EVOO.  Cook for about 5 minutes.
3) When the water is boiling, add cous cous and cover.  Let it sit for about 2 minutes so the cous cous fully cooks.  Fluff the cous cous and add the tomato spinach mixture.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mahi Mahi Tacos For the Rose Bowl!

Normally, I am not a Rose Bowl watcher.  I do not really have a reason to, since the Minnesota Gophers struggle to get in even a minor bowl game.  However-this year my friend Leanne got to cheer for her Alma Mater, the Wisconsin Badgers.  This event called for celebrating the New Year with a special request of Leanne's--Mahi Mahi tacos.  I have never made them, and truthfully was a little weary, but they were a success and healthy too!  I used the fish tacos recipe from Epicurious.

1/2 red onion
1 1/2 cups of red wine vinegar
1/4 cup of EVOO
1 1/2 tsp of chili powder
1 1/2 tsp of dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp of cumin
1 jalepeno seeded and diced
1 lb of any white fish cut into four pieces
8 medium sized tortillas
sour cream
grated cheese (I used pepper jack)
pico de gallo

1) Cut up half the red onion into rings and marinate them for at least 30 minutes in the red wine vinegar.  This will take the bite out of the onions.

2) Combine the EVOO, chili powder, oregano, cumin and jalapeno and spread over the fish.  Let it marinate for about 30 minutes.
3) Heat a non-stick pan under medium to high heat.  Once hot, add the fish and the marinade.  As the fish is cooking, use a fork to flake it.  Once cooked (about 4-6 minutes, remove from heat).

4) Heat the tortillas by wrapping them in a wet paper towel and putting them in the microwave for about 45 seconds.
5) Fill the tortillas with the fish, onions, pico, sour cream, cheese and lettuce.  Enjoy!