Thursday, March 26, 2009

Corned beef -- tastes like ham

I know this is a bit delayed, but I wanted to mention the lovely corned beef we had for St. Patrick's Day. I may have had it once before, but I've certainly never made it. It got mixed reviews at our house. I absolutely loved it; Uchenna tried to pretend it didn't exist and only ate colcannon (the mashed potatoes-cabbage side dish).

Here's how you make it:

  • Buy the ready-to-boil beef brisket that has already been brined.
  • Rinse it, put it in a pot and barely cover it with water.
  • Dump in the little spice-peppercorn packet that comes with it (is it called corned beef because of the peppercorns? I never could figure out what corn had to do with anything).
  • Boil it for about two hours (just make sure the water doesn't completely boil away), and voila!

It's very greasy-fatty, just so you know. And red. I was a bit surprised that it was fully cooked but red. Actually it looked, smelled, and tasked somewhat like ham, but with a beefy texture. Yummy. Hmm, maybe that ham resemblance is what put Uchenna off.

When only one person eats the corned beef, you have to figure out what to do with the leftovers. I snuck them into a (also lovely) pasta dish and hoped he wouldn't notice. I think he noticed. He ate some, but not much, and went rummaging for snacks an hour later.

But for people who do like corned beef and/or ham, here is the pasta recipe:

  • Cook and drain pasta (I used penne. Bowties or egg noodles would probably be just as good).
  • Dice the left-over corned beef. Sauté with diced onions and sliced mushrooms (since the beef is fatty all on its own, don't add any extra oil) until the onions are soft, the mushrooms are browned, and the beef is warmed through and somewhat browned (this may take some tasting to make sure the beef really is hot all through--a cook's gotta do what a cook's gotta do).
  • Add a little garlic and green beans and cook another minute or two (asparagus might work in place of the green beans, if you're into that sort of thing).
  • Sprinkle the sautéed mixture with a tablespoon or so of flour and stir until everything is evenly coated.
  • Add enough milk to make it all saucy (two cups or so, depending on how much you're making). Stir and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce cooks down and thickens up a little.
  • Add the cooked and drained pasta to the sauce. Add green peas.
  • Mix until the sauce and pasta are well combined. Turn off the heat (quick, before the peas start to lose their green, and get that awful cooked-peas color!). Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.
  • Serve immediately with a crisp salad.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale and Fontina

Every time we have this, I love it. I pick in it while it's on the stove, eat too much at dinner and am all over the left overs. Jason thinks it's nothing special and would prefer it only occasionally. We have it now and then. It's from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

4 slices of bacon (not pre-cooked)
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 bunch kale ( 1 pound) thick stems trimmed and chopped
salt and pepper
2 cups chicken broth (It says low sodium but then why add the salt? Last time I used salt and normal sodium broth and it was too salty. I'm thinking next time I'll not add the salt and use regular broth)
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese

Cook bacon in a large skillet and set aside. Pour off most of the grease. It says to leave three tablespoons but I can never tell that so I just leave a little bit. Start the water for boiling the pasta. Cook garlic in the grease until golden. Add the kale in batches and cook until wilted (2 minutes). Add broth, cover and simmer 10 minutes (until kale is tender). Meanwhile, cook the pasta. The recipe recommends reserving some of the water to add later if you want but I don't usually do/need that. Toss the cooked pasta with the kale, fontina and bacon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Saint Patrick's Day dinner

Did anyone else have fun with their Saint Patrick's Day dinner? I know that the traditional meal is corned beef and cabbage, but I made that one year and wasn't too impressed. So I like to have fun with green food coloring instead. Yesterday I made green chicken nuggets (recipe to follow), green mashed potatoes (simply added the food coloring at the end) and green peas. I didn't know how green the chicken nuggets would end up, and they turned out very green. The kids loved it!

Chicken Nuggets

vegetable oil (enough to barely cover pan, adding as necessary)
boneless skinless chicken breasts (I defrosted 4 large ones for my family, and there was more than enough)
corn starch or flour
2 beaten eggs (optional: add a few drops of food coloring)
Italian bread crumbs

Heat thin layer of oil in large skillet over medium heat. Pound chicken until uniformly thin. Cut into nugget-sized pieces. Dip in corn starch or flour, then dip in egg, then coat with bread crumbs. Fry in batches, turning over when golden brown. They will cook quickly if you have pounded them thin enough. Drain on paper towels. Serve with dipping options: BBQ sauce, ketchup, honey mustard, and hot sauce (my family's favorite). These are a huge hit with adults and kids alike.

Monday, March 9, 2009


This is a question for Ellen, but I thought we would all benefit from the answer, so I am posting it. I made the honey butter pork loin tonight for dinner. It was very good, but I wonder if the sauce I made is the actual sauce. I put the honey and the butter in my cast iron skillet and browned the pork in it. Then I was waiting for oven space, so I just put my stove top on low for about 7 minutes until what was in the oven was done. But when I took the lid off the pan to check on it before I put it in the oven, the sauce was burnt. I poured it out and started over again. I put the pork in the oven for 25 minutes with a lid on and when I took it out, the sauce had a burny flavor to it and was a dark brown color. It tasted good on the pork, but I'm wondering if this was just a bad experience with it, if that's what it's supposed to be like, or if I have done something wrong. (Aaron would like to note that the sauce did not taste burny to him when he ate it.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Turtle Cake

This is one of Dominic's favorite cakes, which translates to very rich and chocolaty.

Note: For ease of transcribing recipes, I'll just write milk. For those with a milk allergy or intolerance, I replace the milk in all my recipes with a non-dairy coffee creamer, which works fine.

1 chocolate cake mix
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
5 T butter
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup caramel topping
1 cup pecans, crushed

1) Bake cake mix according to the package directions, using a 9x13" pan.
2) Toast pecans on a cookie sheet in a single layer @ 400 degrees for about 8 minutes. Put chocolate chips in a bowl; set aside.
3) In a small saucepan, mix sugar and milk over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add butter and bring to a boil; pour over chips. Stir until smooth.
4) Spread warm chocolate mixture over the cooled cake. Drizzle caramel over the chocolate. Sprinkle with pecans.

Serve warm or cooled.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Other White Meat

Note: I have opened up posting on this blog to my sisters. Not everything will be from me.

I love a good pork tenderloin. Sometimes they can be hard to find in grocery stores and harder to find without some kind of marinade already on them. I've noticed it's not uncommon to find them to packs of two so here are the two things I make with them.

Pork Tenderloin with Honey Butter
(from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food)
4 T butter
2 T honey
pork tenderloin
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. In an oven proof skillet, melt butter and honey over medium heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Turn the heat down if the honey starts to burn. Transfer to the oven. I usually cover it and it takes at least 25 minutes (or more) to cook. In looking back over the recipe on Martha's website, she doesn't say to and seems to think it will cook in 7-10 minutes. I think she's crazy but will try not covering it next time, the honey butter mixture left over is usually pretty thin. Transfer the meat to a plate. Add a bit of water to the pan and simmer over medium heat, scraping the brown bits off of the sides. Add the juices that have ended up on the plate and simmer until it is reduced to half a cup. Slice and drizzle the sauce over the meat.

I like to serve it with something green and mashed potatoes which are also very good with the sauce drizzled over them.

The next port recipe is from a cookbook I have from Costco. It has a picture for every page and specifies Costco products in the recipes. Plus, the food is really good.

Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Lime Pesto and Smokey Bacon Bits
1 T minced garlic
2 T minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup minced green onions
1 T minced fresh cilantro
1 tsp minced jalapeno pepper (I never add it but you can if you want it spicier)
1/2 tsp pepper
2 T lime juice
2 T orange juice
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 - 2 lbs pork tenderloin
1/2 cup grated jalapeno jack cheese
1/4 cup chopped sunflower seed
1/2 cup crumbled bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the first 8 ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree. Slowly add olive oil until mixture thickens.
Cut tenderloin in half lengthwise and lay out flat. Spread half of pesto over tenderloin and sprinkle with half of the cheese, seeds and bacon.
Close the tenderloin and tie with string to hold together. Top with the rest of the pesto, cheese, seeds and bacon. The recipe says to refrigerate it for several hours or overnight but I never have.
Place tenderloin on a rack and bake until firm 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.