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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Perfect Picnic Picks From Your Farmers Market

Perfect Picnic Picks From Your Farmers Market.

As we get into spring and see the local farmer’s markets start to open up again here in New York, I came across this article on Marcus Samuelsson’s website about some great ideas of things to pick up at your farmer’s market. Check it out!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Cooking Websites

 

That’s a Wrap… And Next Week’s Menu

I don’t know why I don’t make more wraps. I love sandwiches (even though I don’t eat cold cuts or cheese myself) and could eat one every day, no problem, and wraps a great alternative. They make a great lunch, or even a great dinner, and what’s even better is that you can put just about anything in a wrap. You can use any kind of fish, poultry, meat, vegetables or condiments, it’s really up to you. Today I made just a simple Tuna Wrap, so you can really vary this in so many ways.

Simple Tuna Wrap

1 5 ounce can solid albacore tuna packed in water, drained

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 rib celery, diced 

2 flour tortillas

1/2 cup mixed greens

2 slices red onion, chopped

2 slices tomato, seeded and chopped

4 slices English cucumber, sliced into sticks

1/2 yellow pepper, seeded and cored, sliced into sticks

Place the tuna in a bowl and crumble and mix until it is fine. Add the mayonnaise and celery and mix until well blended. Place one tortilla on a plate and lay some greens down the center of the tortilla. Scoop about half the tuna on top of the greens. Add a portion of the onion, tomato cucumber and pepper on top of the tuna, spreading evenly over the middle. Fold the tortilla, folding in both sides, then fold the top half of the wrap to the center and then fold the bottom half to the center. Repeat the process with the second tortilla. Slice the wraps in half and serve.

This easily made two large wraps, one for me and one for Michelle. You can add so many different things to this sandwich, like using sliced chicken, turkey or shrimp or a seafood salad instead of tuna, adding things in liked crumbled bacon, sliced olives, bean sprouts, avocado, toasted nuts, radishes, fresh herbs, or some crumbled hard boiled egg. The choices seem endless. You can also perk up the mayonnaise by adding some chopped garlic, paprika or some chili powder.

We do still follow our weekly meal plan even though things have been crazy around here with work lately. This week’s menu is:

Sunday: Roasted Chicken, Roasted Potatoes, Asparagus

Monday: Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Tuesday: Warm Chicken Salad

Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner

Thursday: Pub Style Burgers

Friday:Sizzling Shrimp With Garlic

Some of these things I have made before so I will try to do some variations along the way. If you want to follow along or make your own meal plan, here is the planner I use: family_meal_planner. As always, if you have any questions, comments or recipes of your own, please feel free to send along a comment.  Enjoy a nice relaxing Sunday and enjoy your meal!

 

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Lunch, Meal Plan Menu, Sandwiches

 

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Who Wants Chicken and Rice?

Well that’s what I decided to make tonight for dinner. I have a pack of chicken thighs to use and I am going for a version of arroz con pollo that  I got from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything.” It’s a very straightforward recipe, cooks all in one pot, and promises to taste delicious. Add a little vegetable or a salad, and you are all set for dinner tonight.

Arroz Con Pollo

3 cups chicken stock

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups white rice

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 chopped bell pepper (your choice of color)

1 tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped

Pinch of ground allspice

1 bay leaf

Pinch of saffron threads (optional)

1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces, or any combination of parts (I am using just thighs, since that is what I have)

1 cup frozen peas

 Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Warm the stock while you cook the onions. put the olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and become translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the rice to the onions and stir until its coated with oil, a minute or two; add garlic, pepper, tomato, allspice, bay leaf and sprinkle with the saffron, if using, and stir again. Nestle the chicken pieces in the rice, add a little more salt and pepper, and pour in the warmed stock. Bring the mixture to a boil; adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles gently but steadily. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, then add the peas. Cook for another 10 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the chicken is cooked through; the chicken is done when an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 155-165 degrees. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Just a couple of quick notes on this recipe. I am using the saffron because I have some on hand. it’s not something most people have around, and it’s super expensive as far as spices go. If you just want the yellow coloring that saffron will give to the dish, you can use turmeric instead, which is much cheaper and will give you the color you want. Secondly, I am using homemade stock (I always do if I have it) but you could also just use water here if you don’t have any stock to use. The stock works with the chicken to give a really nice flavor to the dish that you might miss out on if you just use water. Finally, all the extras, like the garlic, pepper, tomato and the seasonings aren’t essential to the dish You can just make a stripped down version and use the onion, chicken and rice and it would be great. You can’t go wrong with this one either way.

That’s today’s meal. Tomorrow is Friday and we haven’t done a pizza Friday in a while, so I think we’ll do that and then I’ll go shopping this weekend for next week’s meals. I know Sean wants to do a breakfast for dinner this weekend, so we’ll be doing that one day, and probably a roasted chicken recipe as well since I could stand to make some more stock. The rest of the week I am not too sure about yet. Any suggestions? I’d be happy to try something out. Let me know! Until then, enjoy your evening and enjoy your meal!

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Poultry

 

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This is a great post about things made at home that I received as a re-blog post from chefconnie at Marinating Online. Check at her blog as well, it’s great!

The Adventures of Thrive Farm

Nix those suspicions that good, homemade food comes with an exorbitant price tag. We found exactly the opposite, actually. If we roll up our sleeves and make homemade pasta, cookies, or just about any other food, it costs a whole lot less than buying the pre-made versions. Not to mention the pride of putting a from-scratch meal on the table.

Breakfast

1. Granola bars
$0.48 each for homemade  | $0.69 each for Kashi brand
Who doesn’t love a crunchy, chewy grab-and-go snack? But there’s no need to shell out big bucks or entrust our health to unpronounceable ingredients. Oats, nuts, berries, and honey star in this recipe and significantly cut back on costs.

2. Granola/Breakfast cereal
$0.37 per ½ cup homemade | $0.41 for Arrowhead Mills brand
Skip the boxed stuff and DIY it for a personalized cereal. These homemade bran flakes rival the…

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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Orange You Glad I Did Two Posts Today?

Okay, that was a bad pun, but I was trying to think of something funny to start out about the dinner I made last night. I wanted to make something simple and use what I already had in the house, and I came across this recipe from Bon Appetit for Orange Broccoli, Beef and Mushrooms. It was quite a simple stir fry with a nice refreshing flavor. The orange taste didn’t overpower anything (as a matter of fact, Sean didn’t even know it was in the recipe) and gave the stir fry a different twist to it.

Orange Broccoli, Beef, and Mushrooms

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

5 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon grated, peeled ginger plus 2 1/2-inch pieces peeled ginger, julienned

4 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, divided

1 bunch of broccoli, cut into small florets

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/2 pound flank steak

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large shallot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 ounces shiitake or other mushrooms, stems removed, caps quartered

Steamed white or brown rice

Stir the orange juice, soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of the grated ginger in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Place a large plate or platter on the work surface near the skillet. Stir the julienned ginger into the oil; add the broccoli and cook, tossing to coat, for 1 minute. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and the sugar; add 1/4 cup of water and cover. Steam, lifting the cover and stirring once, until the broccoli is bright green and crisp-tender, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer the broccoli mixture to the plate and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet, then heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Season the flank steak with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes; turn and cook for 1 1/2 minutes longer. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 3 minutes. Slice the steak against the grain into 1/4 inch slices.

Wipe out the skillet, then heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt; cook stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes. Add the reserved broccoli and the orange juice mixture; increase the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pan is almost dry, about 1 minute. Add the flank steak slices and remove the skillet from the heat. Season with additional soy sauce, if desired, and serve with steamed rice.

I used the leftover rice we had from Sunday’s duck dinner, but you can easily make a fresh pot of rice to go with the dinner. I think you’ll really enjoy the flavor of this one and it takes almost no time at all to cook, which is perfect for a weeknight meal.

Tomorrow night, I am thinking chicken. i have some boneless chicken thighs and haven’t decided what to do with them yet, but I will come up with something (and hopefully it will be delicious!). Until tomorrow, enjoy your evening and enjoy your meal!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner

 

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Some Delightful (and Easy) Desserts

I had promised a couple of days ago to write about desserts I made on Sunday, but my new freelance job has been taking a lot of time so I haven’t had much time to do it. Tonight, I have the time. I made two things for dessert Sunday to go after the duck dinner, and I tried to make them things that weren’t too heavy since it was a heavy meal. The first thing I made was a quick coffee cake. it was simple and easy, no mixer required, and only took about 30 minutes to bake.

Quick Coffee Cake

Topping

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped coarse

Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups sour cream

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

7 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch cake pans. For the topping: Using your fingers, mix the sugars, flour, butter, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl until the mixture resembles wet sand. Stir in the pecans and set aside.

For the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the sour cream, sugars, eggs and melted butter together until smooth. Gently fold the egg mixture into the flour mixture until smooth (do not overmix).

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of both cakes. Bake until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes with just a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving.

The cake comes out nice and moist, not too dry like some coffee cakes. Since the recipe makes two cakes, we’ve been having a little in the morning with coffee or after dinner all week long.

The second dessert I made was a simple fruit salad using some of the fresh fruit I had just bought.

Gingered Honeydew, Mango and Blueberry Salad

1/2 honeydew melon, peeled, seeded and chopped medium

2 mangoes, peeled, seeded and chopped medium

1 cup blueberries

2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

Pinch salt

Toss all the ingredients together, cover and refrigerate to blend the flavors, about 30 minutes.

I also had some fresh pineapple that I added to the salad, but the beauty of fruit salad is that you can pretty much add whatever fresh fruit is in season and you have at the time.

So those are the desserts I made, which for me is quite a feat since I am not a dessert person. I have another post that will follow this one shortly about last night’s dinner, so check back for that one shortly!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Dessert

 

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Feeling Ducky This Weekend

Every once in a while, I like to go overboard and cook a really elaborate meal. While this meal wasn’t really elaborate, it was very tasty. I wish I had taken pictures of it, because everything turned out perfectly and tasted great. I had decided early in the week that I wanted to make a roast duck for dinner this weekend and began gathering recipes early in the week and reading them over. When I finally settled on one, then I needed to add some side dishes. Through the world of Twitter, I asked some renowned chefs what they would recommend to make with the duck. Geoffrey Zakarian replied back with what they make at his restaurant, The Lamb’s Club, in NYC:

RT @IguanaFlats: “@gzchef Roast duck this weekend. Suggestions for side dishes?” Served at @thelambsclub w/French Prune, Pistachio, Madeira

Well I looked up his menu online and it was little more work than I wanted to get into, so I waited to see if anyone else would reply. Christopher Kimball, founder of America’s Test Kitchen, came back with this answer:

@IguanaFlats The French love lentils with duck — we have a few very good lentil salads at Cook’s.

So I looked up the recipes at Cook’s Illustrated and found one that I really liked and went with it. I was glad I even got a few responses as I wasn’t sure I would hear back from anyone at all. I then found a roast duck recipe I liked through the New York Times and I had my meal. First, I had to make some appetizers and I had been promising Sean I would make homemade mozzarella sticks for a while, so I knew I had to make them. I am not a cheese eater, but these actually turned out pretty good and they weren’t hard to make. This recipe, from Giada De Laurentiis, makes a lot of mozzarella sticks, so I cut it in half.

Mozzarella Sticks

1 1/2 cups dried breadcrumbs ( I used homemade and added a little bit of Italian seasoning; I think homemade makes a big difference here.)

1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan

1 teaspoon salt

2 (16-ounce) blocks of pasteurized mozzarella cut into 4 by 1/2-inch sticks

4 large eggs, beaten to blend

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

Stir the bread crumbs, 1 cup of Parmesan and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl to blend. Dip the cheese in the eggs to coat them completely and allow the excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Coat the cheese in the breadcrumb mixture, patting to adhere and coat completely. Repeat dipping the cheese sticks in the egg and breadcrumb mixture to coat a second time. Place the cheese sticks on a baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet and freeze until frozen, about 2 hours and up to 2 days. (I did it for about 4 hours and they were well frozen)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the cheese until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Transfer the fried cheese to plates. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and serve with marinara sauce.

I served the mozzarella sticks and some calamari as appetizers (I have made the calamari before, and you can get the recipe here). Then it was on to making the main course. I can tell you, I was cooking most of the day, so it was some work, but it was worth it for the dinner.

Roast Duck With Blueberry Sauce

1 Granny Smith apple

1/2 onion, peeled

2 cups blueberries

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

2 whole star anise or 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise

Grated zest of 1 lime

Grated zest of 1 orange

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

2 whole ducks, trimmed of excess fat, giblets removed

Prepare the blueberry sauce: Peel, quarter and core the apple. Place the apple in a food processor with the onion and finely chop. Place in a saucepan with the blueberries, sugars, star anise, zests and vinegar. Place the mixture over high heat to bring it to a boil, then simmer until pulpy and beginning to thicken, about 30 minutes. (The mixture will be quite liquid after about 20 minutes, but begins to thicken up by 30 minutes, and will thicken even more once cold.) If whole star anise was used, remove and discard them. Transfer the sauce to a container, cover and allow to cool. For the best flavor, allow it to rest one day before serving (I just served it and it tasted fine to me).

Prepare the ducks: Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Score the duck skin all over to help fat drain off  while cooking. Place the ducks on a rack in a roasting pan. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours, periodically draining off the fat. Raise the heat to 400 degrees and roast an additional 30 minutes to crisp the skin. Remove the ducks from the oven and place on a carving board. Cut each duck into 4 pieces. Cut away the meat from the rib cage, discarding the rib bones. Arrange on a serving platter, crispy skin side up. Serve with the blueberry sauce.

I made three side dishes with the meal: some jasmine rice, the lentil salad and sautéed carrots and parsnips. Here’s the recipe for the lentil salad recommended by Christopher Kimball.

Lentil Salad with Olives and Mint

1 cup lentils, rinsed

8 cups water

5 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed and peeled

1 bay leaf

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/2 cup (roughly 10) coarsely chopped, pitted Kalamata olives

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

In a bowl, place the lentils and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover with 4 cups of warm water and soak for 1 hour. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the lentils in a heavy pan with water to cover by about 2 inches, garlic, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cover and bake for 40 to 60 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils. Whisk the oil and vinegar together in a large bowl. Add the drained lentils, olives, mint and feta (if using) and toss. Serve, topping with salt and pepper to taste.

These lentils turned out delicious. They were tender and had great flavor, and complimented the duck very nicely. Now for the carrots and parsnips.

Sautéed Parsnips and Carrots with Honey

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound carrots (about 4 large), peeled and cut into sticks

1 pound parsnips, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored and cut into sticks

Salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and parsnips. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until the vegetables are beginning to brown at the edges, about 12 minutes. Add the butter, honey and rosemary, if using. Toss over medium heat until heated through and the vegetables are glazed, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired.

It was a lot of cooking but it was very good. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal and we were all full afterwards. However, I did make dessert too! I know, I am not a baker, and not a dessert person, but I did make a couple of things yesterday. I promise to post the desserts I made a little later on today since this post already is quite long. I will say they are both quick and easy desserts and only one of them involved actually baking. I will be back later to tell you about them, so until then, enjoy your day!

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2012 in Appetizers, Cooking, Dinner, Poultry, Rice, Vegetables

 

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