Monday, February 23, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

What do you do when the Super Bowl happens to have the Patriots in it, and it also happens to fall on your sports-obsessed sister's birthday?  Obviously the answer is that you throw her a party, even if you weren't feeling the greatest.  And it also means that you probably have to put on some plastic gloves and make buffalo chicken meatballs.

The cool part about these is that they are actually healthy (I got the recipe from Skinny Taste).  There are lots of "hidden" vegetables that you can sneak in there for the carnivores, like celery, carrot and scallion.  They get minced up tiny and mixed in with the meat, garlic and panko.  Then they get baked and slathered in your choice of buffalo sauce.  Nick, being a buffalo sauce expert, requested two different batches, one with regular buffalo and one with some sort of sweet and spicy sauce.  Hey, what did I care?  I wasn't eating them, so I agreed.  The recipe calls for a drizzle of bleu cheese on top of the meatballs, but I left out dipping bowls in case people didn't like it.  This made for some messy bowls, but I think it was still a good decision.

Considering there were only 3 meatballs left after the party - and they had to compete with wings from The Hangar - I'd say they were pretty popular with the birthday girl and her guests!

Recipe:

buffalo chicken meatballs
from Skinny Taste

Servings: 26 • Size: 1 meatball  • Old Points: 1 pts • Weight Watcher Points+: 1 pt 
Calories: 37 • Fat: 2 g • Carb: 1 g • Fiber: 0 g • Protein: 4 g • Sugar: 0 g
Sodium: 135 mg (without salt)  • Cholest: 26 mg


Ingredients:
oil spray
1 1/4 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup panko crumbs
1 large egg
2 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup finely minced celery
1/3 cup finely minced carrot
1 clove crushed garlic
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/3 cup buffalo hot sauce of your choice
1/4 cup blue cheese dressing

Instructions:

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly spray a non-stick baking sheet with oil.

2) In a large bowl, combine the chicken, panko crumbs, egg, scallions, celery, carrot, and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Using clean hands, mix until combined.  Roll the mixture (1/8 cup each) into 26 meatballs.

3) Place meatballs onto prepared baking sheet and bake until cooked through and golden, about 16 to 18 minutes.

4) Place meatballs in a bowl, add the buffalo sauce and gently toss to combine.  Serve immediately, drizzled with bleu cheese dressing if desired.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce and Cumin-Crisped Chickpeas

I don't know what happened with this poor recipe.  I think I made it back in December, but for some reason I forgot about it and posted lots of newer recipes first.  I don't want you to get the wrong impression about this recipe, because it's not forgettable.  It's delicious and healthy and vegetarian, and it's a three-for-one: not only do you get perfectly roasted eggplant, you also get extra yogurt-tahini dressing which is heaven, and extra roasted chickpeas, which I happily ate as a protein-packed snack for weeks after.

Okay, let's get down to business.  The chickpeas come first; they are roasted with olive oil, cumin, and salt and pepper until they get hard and tasty and wonderful.  Then you cut those adorable little Italian-style eggplants in half and roast them (the secret is to brush your baking sheet with oil so the eggplant doesn't stick).  They'll come out of the oven creamy, tender and amazing.  Meanwhile you make the dressing, which you will want to drink, because: yogurt, lemon juice, tahini and garlic.  That's why.

Then you put it all together: dollops of the dressing go on each eggplant half, topped with crunchy chickpeas.  Each bite is spiced, creamy, crunchy, tender, and bright.  I was very excited about these - so excited that I brought some to Susie and Maggie, who then fought about who got to eat the last once.  Then there was my family who all refused to try it.  Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.  But if you are an eggplant person, give this a try ASAP.  If you are a meat-and-eggplant person, there is the option to add ground lamb, but that is infanticide and I'm sure you aren't interested.  If you are, leave me a comment and I can share the meaty option!

Recipe:

roasted eggplant with yogurt-tahini sauce and cumin-crisped chickpeas
from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
serves 4 - 6

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups (from a 15.5-ounce can) cooked chickpeas, drained, patter dry on paper towels
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
coarse or kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 pounds small eggplants (Italian-style if you can find them), 4 - 7 ounces each
for yogurt-tahini sauce:
1/3 cup tahini paste
2/3 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon table salt
about 1/3 cup cold water
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Instructions:

1) Crisp chickpeas: preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Toss the chickpeas with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and ground cumin.  Spread them on a baking sheet, and roast on top rack for 30 to 40 minutes, rolling them around on the tray from time to time, until they are browned and crisp.  If you're using freshly cooked chickpeas rather than canned, they may need less time.

2) Roast eggplant: brush a large baking sheet or roasting pan with a generous tablespoon of oil.  Halve the eggplants lengthwise, and arrange them, cut side up, in one layer on oiled sheet.  Brush the cut sides lightly with a tiny amount of additional oil, and sprinkle them generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Roast for 15 minutes, until lightly browned on top.  Carefully flip the eggplants so that their cut sides are against the pan, and roast for another 15 minutes until they are bronzed underneath and tender throughout.

3) While eggplants are roasting, make the yogurt-tahini sauce.  Whisk together tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt.  The mixture will become very thick and stiff.  Add water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture is smooth, with a thick but pourable consistency.

4) To serve, arrange the eggplant sections, cut side up, on a large platter.  Dollop each piece generously with yogurt-tahini sauce.  Sprinkle with crisped chickpeas and parsley.  Serve immediately, passing extra chickpeas and yogurt-tahini sauce.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chilean Lima Soup

I don't know what it is about lima beans but they are awesome.  They're creamy and tasty and soak up whatever lovely sauce or broth you put them in.  I have fond childhood memories of the lima beans from Bishop's in Lowell (a Lebanese food place that is sadly no longer in business; see, I have always loved Middle Eastern food!).  They were served in a thick and flavorful tomato sauce and I have never found a recipe that matches it.  The struggle is real.

But there was no struggle with this soup.  Back to the beans: can we talk about how healthy they are, besides being so delicious?  They have fiber, protein, potassium, zinc, iron, copper, magnesium and manganese.  I don't even know what half of those things are but I know you need them.  Oh, and they can help stabilize blood sugar, which is good since the doctors all thought I had diabetes a few weeks back (I don't).

Besides the amazing lima beans, this soup has a lot going on.  It's more flavorful than you can imagine, what with dried sage, basil (both fresh and dried) parsley, rosemary, not to mention garlic and onion powder.  Besides the beans, there is corn, onion, butternut squash, and tomatoes.  Basically everything good you can imagine is there in the soup.  It was delicious the first night, and reheated very well (I would know, because I brought it to lunch at work all week long).  It made a pretty big batch.

Apparently, April 20 is Lima Bean Appreciation Day.  But I wouldn't wait that long to make this soup.  It's like 20 below zero out there tonight; it's soup weather now.

Recipe:

Chilean lima soup
from Jennifer's Kitchen

Ingredients:
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
1 16-ounce package frozen green baby lima beans
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon packed fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1.4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen corn

Instructions:

1) In a large soup pot, saute onion in oil over medium heat until onions begin to turn translucent.

2) Add squash and garlic and sauté for two more minutes or until garlic softens.

3) Add water, tomatoes, lima beans, and seasonings except for salt.  Cover and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

4) Stir in corn and add salt to taste.  Cook until heated through.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cabernet Braised Short Ribs with Chard and Orecchiette

Braised short ribs are something that I used to eat in my carnivore days, and I haven't met anyone who doesn't love them.  We had them served at our wedding and Mark ordered them; he even tried to browbeat everyone who ordered chicken to change their minds!  So for all these reasons, when Annie's Eats posted a pasta dish with braised short ribs and chard, I knew I had to try it out.

The short ribs are slow cooked in a bath of cabernet (can you imagine a better idea?) with fresh thyme and parsley, onions, carrots, celery and garlic.  Some tomato paste adds color and flavor to the broth.  After the ribs are done, you tear them into pieces (I threw out probably way more than I needed to, but I was very critical of every piece!) and reduce the sauce a bit to make it thicker.  The recipe suggests straining the sauce, but I kept it the way it was because I wanted the vegetables in it (mainly for me!).  Then everything gets mixed together with some wilted chard and hot pasta, and voila!  Dinner.  It's a fairly easy dish but a bit time consuming, with the 2 1/2-hour braising time, so it's a good weekend meal.

The end result was just as fabulous as Annie said on her page ("gush-worthy", was her term).  Mark ate so many bowls of it, it was crazy.  Nick and my mom ate the leftovers the next day, and this was the message I got from Nick:

So, yeah, I'd say it went over pretty well :)

Recipe:

cabernet braised short ribs with chard and orecchiette
from Annie's Eats
yields 8 - 10 servings

Ingredients:
about 4 pounds meaty short ribs, excess fat trimmed
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup coarsely shopped onion
1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (750 mL) bottle cabernet sauvignon
6 sprigs fresh parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken or beef stock
1 pound pasta shapes, such as orecchiette
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 bunch Swiss card, ribs removed and coarsely chopped
freshly grated parmesan, for serving

Instructions:

1) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Season both sides of the short ribs generously with salt and pepper.  In a large pot with a lid, such as a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add a few of the short ribs to the pot (as many as can be easily fit in a single layer).  Sear on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove seared ribs to a plate and repeat with remaining short ribs.

2) Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.  If you do not have enough fat, add in more olive oil.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 - 7 minutes.  Stir in half of the minced garlic and the tomato paste.  Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and the tomato paste begins to caramelize, 1 - 2 minutes.

3) Increase the heat to high.  Add the wine to the pan slowly, scraping the bottom to deglaze the pan.  Maintain the heat at a low boil and let the wine reduce down to half the volume, about 12 - 15 minutes.  Return the seared short ribs to the pan along with the herbs.  If necessary, add the chicken or beef stock so that the short ribs are half submerged in liquid.  Bring to a boil.  Cover the top of the pot with a piece of parchment paper, then top with the lid to securely hold the parchment paper in place.  Transfer the pot to the oven and let cook until the meat falls off the bone easily, at least 2 1/2 hours.

4) When the meat is finished cooking, remove the short ribs to a platter.  Once cool enough to handle, shred into bite sized pieces.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.  Cook until al dente, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.

5) Strain the sauce left in the pot to remove the solids.  Return the pot to the stove over medium-high heat and let the sauce reduce to a thicker consistency, 5 - 10 minutes.  Once reduced, set aside to cool for a few minutes.  Skin the excess fat from the top of the sauce.

6) In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Saute the onion and remaining 2 cloves garlic briefly, about 2 minutes.  Add the chard to the pan.  Stir briefly, then cover to let wilt  Stir if needed to evenly wilt all of the chard.  Once pasta is cooked and drained and the greens are finished wilting, combine them together in the largest pan.  Stir in a small amount of the reserved pasta water (about 1/4 cup).  Then toss in the shredded short ribs and the cabernet reduction.  Mix gently until thoroughly combined.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and if needed, add additional pasta water for more moisture.  Serve warm with freshly grated Parmesan.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions

I like to make meat dishes in the slow cooker, because it usually involves minimal touching.  This one has even less than some recipes that call for the meat to be browned in a skillet; you just have to rub some spices into it, like garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and then throw it in the Crockpot and call it a day.  Well, not a day, but half a day (9 - 12 hours).  It gets slow roasted in beef broth until your house smells like beef.  Maybe some people like that?

The sandwiches get made with freshly caramelized onions and peppers, slices of melty provolone cheese, and whole wheat rolls.  Oh, did I mention that these sandwiches are low fat?  308 calories for a big, meaty, cheesy sandwich?  And that includes serving the sandwich with a little ramekin of the beef broth the meat cooked in.

Now here's the problem.  I didn't have a sandwich, obviously, but even as I was cutting the meat, I could tell it was pretty dry.  Luckily my meat eaters got to dip their sandwiches into the broth, so they didn't know how dry it was.  But it was dry, and I am not sure why that happened.  I agree that 9 - 12 hours felt like a long time to cook the meat, so maybe lean more towards the 9 hour mark.  Because Mark refuses to eat reheated meat and I don't eat it at all, the leftovers were given to Laura and she made quesadillas with them.  She agreed that it was dry.  If you try this recipe out, let me know what you think about the meat itself.

Recipe:

slow cooker French dip sandwiches with caramelized onions
from Skinny Taste

Ingredients:
for the beef:
3 -4 pound lean bed round roast, trimmed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dry)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dry)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 to 3 (14.5-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
10 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/2 large onion, cut into chunks
for the caramelized onions (makes about 1 cup):
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
for the peppers (makes about 2 cups)
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced into strips
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced into strips
for the sandwich:
reduced fat provolone or mozzarella slices
whole wheat baguette or rolls, cut into 2 ounce pieces

Instructions:

1) In a small bowl, mix the garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Rub the spice mixture onto all sides of the roast, then place in the allow cooker.

2) Pour the broth into the side of the roast until it just covers the meat.  If the broth doesn't cover the roast, you can add water. Top with onions.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, peppercorns and bay leaf to the broth.  Cover and cook on low until the meat flakes apart easily with a fork, about 9 to 12 hours, depending on the size of your roast.

3) An hour before the meat is done, prepare the onions and peppers.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and salt and cook until golden, stirring often, reducing heat as needed if the onions are burning too quickly, about 30 to 35 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan if it becomes too dry.  The onions should turn golden and the flavor should be sweet.  Transfer to a serving bowl and then add the peppers to the skillet and cook, stirring often until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

4) Remove meat from the slow cooker to a cutting board and shred with a fork or slice with a knife.  Strain the broth through a fine sieve, then place in a gravy separator to remove any fat.  Pour 1/4 cup broth into each small ramekin.

5) Preheat the oven to broil.  Split the bread open and top with 2 ounces of beef. Top with onions, peppers, and cheese and broil until the cheese melts.  Place on a plate with broth for dipping.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Oven "Fried" Breaded Pork Chops

These pork chops were interesting.  I never like making meat, but with my plastic gloves on, even I have to admit that the process of breading and then baking these little guys wasn't too bad.  It was quick and easy, as far as meat goes.  They are kind of like a healthier, low-fat version of Shake and Bake (apparently.  I've obviously never tried either!): only 378 calories per chop.

The pork chops are dipped into egg, and then into a mixture of crunchy panko and crushed cornflakes flavored with parmesan, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and pepper.  They are then baked, not fried, but they still come out golden brown and crunchy on the outside.  The inside, of course, is juicy and flavorful while the outside packs it own punch.  I wasn't among the crew who gave them a shot, but everyone else was a big fan.  It almost made trimming the pork chops worth it ;)

I am not going to give it its own post, but I do want to share the salad I served with these pork chops. I had a most of a head of cabbage left from another recipe and no clue what to with it.  I did some research and decided to shred the cabbage and toss with with some olive oil, lemon juice and a clove of minced garlic.  It was so bizarrely delicious, I even got Nick to eat it.  It was bright and peppery and crunchy and tangy... and honestly I ate forkfuls of it out of the Tupperware for days after when I was looking for a snack.  If you're going to try the pork, at least promise me you will try the cabbage too.

Recipe:

oven "fried" breaded pork chops
from SkinnyTaste
serves 6

Ingredients:

1) 6 3/4-inch thick center cut boneless pork chops, fat trimmed (5 ounces each)
kosher salt
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1/3 cup crushed cornflake crumbs
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a large nonstick baking sheet lightly with oil.

2) Season pork chops on both sides with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.  Combine panko, cornflake crumbs, parmesan cheese, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and black pepper in a large shallow bowl.

3) Place the beaten egg in another bowl.  Dip the pork into the egg, then crumb mixture.  Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chops.

4) Lightly spray a little more oil on top of the pork and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  Serve with cabbage salad!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Slow Cooker Rosemary Cranberry Mulled Cider

This recipe was one I made for New Year's Eve, so I know I am super late in posting this.  It's not even January; in fact we are already on February vacation after today!!  But trust me, it's better late then never with this cider.

First of all, your house will smell amazing when you make this.  It cooks for a few hours, so it's a good smell that lasts.  Second, it's in the slow cooker, so it's simple.  The most difficult part is putting the cloves in the orange.  And that's not so hard.

Third, and most importantly, is how delicious this cider is.  It's sweet but not too sweet like cider can be because of the addition of fresh cranberries, most of which burst after cooking for 4 hours.  It has a pleasant slight rosemary taste, but it's not overwhelming.  The cinnamon, cloves and orange spice it up beautifully.  And okay fine, you can add some spiced rum, because I did.  Hey, it was New Year's Eve.  I frankly added half a small bottle to a double batch, so it was weak enough to drink tons of it all night long - which is what I did.  And lots of other people as well.  In fact, all of it went, and that was a lot of cider.  Actually, my slow cooker was so full that a lot of it got spilled on my mom as we drove the very short way from my house to Ross', burning her and turning her sticky, but even she agreed that it was worth it once she got to drink it!

Happy February vacation  :)

Recipe:

Ingredients:
8 cups apple cider
1/4 cup honey
1 orange
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 5-inch cinnamon sticks
3 5-inch rosemary sprigs
additional rosemary and fresh cranberries for garnish

Instructions:

1) Pour apple cider into 2.5-quart or larger slow cooker.  Stir in honey.  It may remain clumpy but that's okay.  It will dissolve when the mixture heats up.

2) With a toothpick, poke holes in the orange, about 1/2 inch to 1 inch apart.  Carefully stick the cloves, pointy end down, into the holes.  Add the orange to the cider along with the cranberries, cinnamon sticks, and rosemary.  Push the rosemary down to help make sure it is submerged.

3) Cook on low until hot and the cranberries have started to burst, 3 - 4 hours, taking care not to let the cider boil.  Very carefully with a fork or masher, gently crush the remaining cranberries to pop them.  They might spurt, so be careful.

4) Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl (I skipped this part to be honest).  Add the strained cider back to the slow cooker.  Add the cinnamon sticks and orange back as well for a festive touch.  This is when you would stir in rum if you so choose. Serve immediately or keep the slow cooker on the warm setting to keep cider hot.  Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs and fresh cranberries.