Monday, September 25, 2006

cooking light's beef carnitas

wow. i rarely cook red meat. usually we eat one poultry meal a week, one fish, and the rest vegetarian (eggs, cheese, beans, etc.). maybe it's the shift in the weather or my healing muscle tissue (i've been suffering from a running injury for the past several months, have finally found a doctor that is diagnosing and treating it correctly, and am on the mend!), but i've been eating lots of meat-based protein in the past few days!

in addition, the lovely t has a big day on tuesday, defending his topical (pre-dissertation), so i wanted to make it a good week for him. meat seems to do the trick. i made the carnitas on sunday night, and threw it into tortillas for tacos tonight. i would have loved to serve them with a salad, but i'm still freaked out by greens. instead, i served them with fruit.

Cooking Light's Beef Carnitas
Cooking oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces (i used extra-lean)
1 cup less-sodium beef broth
1 t. sugar
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. crushed red pepper (i used much more)
1 large unpeeled orange wedge

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; saute 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. Add beef (a bit at a time, so as not to crowd the pan); saute 5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Stir in broth, sugar, salt, and pepper. Nestle orange section into beef mixture. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beef is tender. Remove and discard orange. Continue simmering, uncovered, 8 minutes, or until liquid almost evaporates (much longer than 8 minutes for me), stirring frequently.

Cooking Light's Beef Carnitas Tacos
2 cups chopped plum tomato
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup diced peeled avocado
2 T. minced fresh cilantro
1 T. fresh lime juice
1/8 t. salt
1/8 t. black pepper
8 6-inch corn tortillas
2 cups Beef Carnitas
1 lime, cut into wedges

Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl; toss well. Warm tortillas. Spoon 1/4 cup beef onto each tortilla; top with 3 T. avocado mixture. Fold in half; serve with lime wedges.

irish brown bread

my mother's irish soda bread is legendary. not wanting to compete with her, i went a different route this weekend. i adapted a recipe from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider (thanks, ODP!) to be 100% whole grain, and even added some flax meal for omega-3s. you could easily use oat bran or wheat germ in place of the flax meal.

the bread was flavorful, tender, and delicious - a bit crumbly, but perfect for breakfast with a bit of blackberry jam. next time i would make the slashes on the tops of the loaves much deeper for more even rising.

Irish Brown Bread
(from A New Way to Cook)
About 2 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour, if you must)
1/3 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/3 cup flax meal (or oat bran, or wheat germ)
2 t. dark brown sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
3 T. unsalted butter, melted
about 1/2 t. canola oil to grease baking sheet

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together 2 1/4 cups of the whole wheat flour, the pastry flour, rolled oats, flax meal, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and paking soda. With a fork, stir in 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk and the melted butter. Add more buttermilk, little by little, just until a soft but not too wet dough forms. Knead the dough in the bowl until smooth, about 2 minutes. If the dough is too wet, knead in up to 4 t. more whole wheat flour, 1 t. at a time.

Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball and place 4 inches apart on an oiled baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Using a sharp knive, make 2 crisscrossing slashes on top of each loaf.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place on a rack to cool.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

first day of fall

sorry for the lack of recent posts; i was out of town from this past monday through thursday for work. unfortunately, no food of note on the trip out of town. having very little non-work time to explore denver, more meals than i’d like to admit were provided by the hotel where i stayed. hence, the food was boring, criminally overpriced, and the “healthful” alternatives included a yawn-inducing salad bar and $9 fruit plate with a container of yoplait strawberry yogurt. ech.

thursday night, after a buddy picked me up from the airport, was spent at a rehearsal dinner for two dear friends’ wedding. friday, of course, was the wedding itself. it was a whirlwind week, and last night i was thrilled to prepare and eat my own cooking for the first time since monday lunch (leftover black beans and rice).

though it’s still comfortably warm here in mytown, fall is certainly in the air and in the market. to celebrate the first day of autumn, i decided to cook a quintessential early fall meal. i didn’t grow up eating pork. in fact, believe it or not, i can probably count the numbers of times i’ve eaten pork chops, roasts, or loins on one hand. after many encouraging remarks from fellow “foodies” regarding the beauty of the pork tenderloin, i decided to take a chance on it (for t’s sake). i prepared a lovely dinner of pork tenderloin with roasted apples and onions (thanks Everyday Food) and mashed sweet potatoes (my own recipe). i must admit it was tasty.

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Apples and Onions
(From Everyday Food)

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 T. maple syrup
3 medium red apples, halved, cored, and cut into 8 wedges
1 large red onion, halved and sliced into ½ inch-thick pieces
1 T. olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 pork tenderloins (12 oz. each)

Place one oven rack in the top third of oven, and another rack in bottom third. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Make glaze: in a small saucepan, bring vinegar and maple syrup to a boil over high heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture has reduced to ¼ cup, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat; transfer 1 T. to a small bowl for drizzling and set aside. Reserve the rest of the glaze in saucepan.

On a large rimmed baking sheet (or roasting pan) toss apples and onion and oil. Season with salt and pepper; arrange in a single layer, and roast until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and toss.

Meanwhile, line another rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place pork on foil. Season generously with salt and pepper; brush with glaze from saucepan. Return apples and onions to oven, on bottom rack. Place pork on top rack; roast 10 minutes. Remove pork from oven; brush with remaining glaze in saucepan. Roast until pork registers 150 degrees internal temperature, and apples and onions are tender, about 10 minutes more.

Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. Slice ¼ inch thick; drizzle with reserved T. glaze. Serve with apples and onion.

Wellunderstood's Best Sweet Potato Mash
(you can make this ahead and reheat – it’s actually better)

3 large sweet potatoes
½ cup lowfat buttermilk
2 T. light sour cream
1 T. butter or trans-fat free margarine
Salt and pepper
3 T. chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub potatoes and place on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake one hour and let sit until cool enough to handle. Remove skin and discard. Combine potato flesh, buttermilk, sour cream, margarine, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mash together with a fork or puree with an immersion blender if desired. Stir in chives.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

granola morning

didn't feel like i had the time for muffins this morning (and as i am leaving town for work on monday i won't be around to eat them), so i whipped up some maple-pecan granola, courtesy of Cooking Light.

Maple-Pecan Granola
2 cups oats (i used scottish because they are what i like for breakfast)
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 T. canola oil
1/8 t. salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients on a large jellyroll pan lined in foil. Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely. Makes 4 cups, serving size 1/4 cup. Keeps for a week. For those of you freaked out by granola, this has 129 calories per serving and 5.2 grams of fat. Not too shabby for a bit of crunch over yogurt. I will probably stir in some craisins and chopped dried apricots.


for those of you who know me, you know i've been a busy bee this past week, leaving me little enough time to cook, let alone post. tonight is the "bachlorette" party for a good friend getting married next weekend. we're beginning the evening with cocktails and potluck snacks at her sister's apartment.

i have an unabashed love for dips and spreads of all kinds, so naturally i pulled out a couple of favorite recipes as my contribution to the evening's nosh.

Southwestern Red Pepper Dip
(adapted from The New American Plate Cookbook)
1 3-oz. package of sun-dried tomato halves (not in oil)
2 12-oz. jars roasted red peppers
2 chopped garlic cloves
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
cayenne pepper to taste
1 T. lime juice
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped scallion
4 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese
salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste

Soak tomatoes in a bowl of very hot water to cover about 5 minutes. Blitz first eight ingredients in a food processor or blender. Add cream cheese and puree. Adjust seasonings to taste. Let sit for 6-24 hours for flavors to meld. Serve at room temperature. (I like it with baked tortilla chips).

Fig-Rosemary Spread
10 oz. log of soft goat cheese
1/4 cup milk
2 T. minced fresh rosemary
2 t. white wine vinegar
1/2 cup finely chopped black mission figs
Black pepper

Combine goat cheese, milk, rosemary, and vinegar in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Add figs and stir to combine. Season with black pepper to taste. Best served with toasted baguette slices.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

pantry pasta

i hadn’t planned on making dinner last night. i thought we’d grab something that was around, maybe pb&j or a salad for me, mac and cheese or a frozen pizza for our hero. but when i got home from the gym, i really felt like cooking. i’d bought a beautiful lacy savoy cabbage at the farmer’s market this weekend with no official plans to use it, so i made a quick pasta sauce from low-fat yogurt and lemon, adding some pecorino romano (which compliments the cabbage beautifully). threw in some shelled edamame for protein and voila! t liked it enough to eat approximately ¾ of the batch for dinner. seriously. in his defense, he’d just returned from a merciless racquetball match. this was easy to whip up and tasty. I’m a sucker for pasta dishes and a sucker for cabbage, so i’m really looking forward to leftovers for lunch.

Whole-Wheat Penne with Cabbage and Edamame
1 lb. bag good whole-wheat penne pasta (I use Bionaturae religiously)
½ T. unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ head savoy cabbage, cut into half again and sliced very thinly
Handful of fresh basil, sliced thinly (mint would also be delicious)
¾ cup low-fat plain yogurt
Zest and juice of one lemon
¼ cup pecorino romano cheese (plus more for serving)
1-1½ cups shelled frozen edamame or frozen green peas

Put a kettle to the boil on the stove. Spoon yogurt into a small bowl, and use a whisk to combine with lemon zest, juice, and cheese. Set aside. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. When melted, add cabbage and cover until reduced a bit in bulk (and until it becomes manageable to flip it about in the pan). Add salt and pepper to taste. When cabbage is tender, remove from heat and stir in yogurt sauce and basil. Cover. Cook pasta and edamame or peas in the boiling water according to package directions. If you use edamame, you might want to cook it first, then the pasta, as it takes a bit of time to shell the beans. If you use peas, just throw them in during the last few minutes of the pasta’s cooking time.

Drain, toss together, and serve with a sprinkling of cheese.

flaxseed-raisin muffins

adapted from The New American Plate.

every fall, i am torn. i painfully say goodbye to playing outside, to enjoying outdoor weather--but i can again turn on my oven, cook slow stews, and otherwise heat up the kitchen in ways that would be intolerable during summer in our steamy upper flat.

last weekend i decided that this fall would be the fall of quickbreads and muffins--treats i enjoy but seldom make, due to the science-y preconceptions i have about baking. don't get me wrong, i've baked my own bread, pizza crusts, cakes, but i always prefer the freedom of cooking that allows for impulsive additions and substitutions. in any event, these are healthy and delicious, though i might cut back on the sugar next time.

Flaxseed-Raisin Muffins
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup ground flaxseed/flaxseed meal
2/3 cup sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. salt
2 large eggs
2 T. canola oil
1/2 cup no sugar added applesauce
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease or spray a 12-cup muffin tin. In a large bowl, blend flours, flaxseed, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, applesauce, buttermilk, and raisins. Add wet to dry ingredients, mix until just combined. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.Bake 25-35 minutes, or until cooked through. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove muffins to rack to cool completely.

would be incredible with spicy autumnal butters--apple, pear, or pumpkin.

chicken with fresh plum chutney

veggies could use the chutney on any number of non-meat dishes. this recipe is from the latest issue of Everyday Food. i made it this week for dinner, and it was quick and delicious.

Chicken with Plum Chutney
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 T. olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeno chile (i used the whole dang thing)
4 red plums (about 1 lb.) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 T. cider vinegar
3/4 t. curry powder
1/4 t. ground ginger

Season chicken with salt and pepper, heat skillet with 1 T. oil over medium. Add chicken and cook until opaque, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

To make the chutney, add the remaining T. of oil to the skillet, onion, and jalapeno. Cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to med-high. add plums sugar, vinegar, curry powder, ginger and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until fruit is soft and liquid is a bit syrupy, about 8 minutes.

Add chicken and juices back to the pan. Simmer until heated through, about 4 minutes. Serve with chutney.