Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winter Storm Pot Roast







It seems that every week since late January, we get a huge snow storm or blizzard. Looking out at my back yard, where just a few months ago Teddy B. ran around and chewed on sticks atop a nice bed of grass, I see this:



My city, Worcester, MA, is now the snowiest city in the United States.  That means we have more snow than Buffalo, Aspen, Alaska.  

To occupy my time while I'm confined to the house, and feel warm and cozy on the inside, I've been cooking a big pot of something every week during the storm.  Still feeling the need to stay away from chicken, I searched for a beef recipe and happened upon one called Company Pot Roast in Cooking Light Magazine.  It had an ingredient that I've never used before--morel mushrooms (in dry form). I've always wondered what they were like. They are an interesting-looking mushroom.   They sold them at my grocery store in 1/2 oz. packages. This is likely the brand that you will come across:



What did I think of them?  Well, they looked interesting.  But if they had a special flavor, it was lost.  The other flavors were very strong.  You could use them, they certainly look interesting.  If you decide you'd rather, I think you could just go with cremini mushrooms, fresh ones, perhaps halved.  If I were to go that route, I'd saute them and add them in the last 2 hours.  Why?  because I think if you added them in early, they'd shrink to the size of peppercorns.  

I did think the morels looked cool, and I'd love to try them, fresh perhaps, in a recipe where their flavor would come through more.



Other than the morels, you might wonder about the sundried tomato paste.  I keep thinking that I the brand of tomato paste that comes in the tube has it.  But not at the store where I did my shopping.  I found and used this:



Let's talk about the part of the recipe that I changed.  

A lot of recipes online tend to have reviews and comments from the people who have tried them. They can be really helpful when you are deciding what to do about making the recipe.  You can see where others felt the recipe felt short, and therefore fix it ahead of time.  You can look at the interesting things others did to the recipe and decide if you want to try them too.  For me, with this recipe, I liked the person who added in extra sundried tomato flavor by adding chopped, sundried tomatoes out of the bag.  This is what I'm talking about, and yes, I did add them:



Something interesting came up in the comments.  Quite a few of the people who responded said that they felt the recipe lacked something in the way of flavor.  They did things like adding salt or bullion cubes.  Other commentors felt that was foolish, and recommended that they learn to like less salt.

Me?  As I've mentioned before, I tend to go easy on the salt.  I used unsalted beef broth.  I figured that the low-sodium soy sauce was going to be plenty of salt.  And it was.  Those people who added salt are nuts!  In fact, if I were to make it again, I'd use less soy sauce and replace that liquid with more of the unsalted beef broth, or water.

Oh, and on the morning that I started making the roast, I realized their was a key ingredient that I'd forgotten to get--the potatoes.  Whoops!  It's a good thing I had parsnips in the refrigerator.  Before I realized I had parsnips, my plan was to double the carrots, or maybe add squash, but the parsnips saved the day.  Yay!

I had close company while I peeled and chopped the carrots and parsnips.  My Teddy B. has learned that if he stands underneath me when I'm cooking, something is bound to drop into his territory.  He kept making off with my dropped veggies, and it made me smile.  He's so cute, my little thief.  



I don't know red meat very well.  In fact this was the first time I cooked a pot roast.  It was more expensive than I imagined, and it went from a little too small, to way too big at the store.  I got the one roast that was a little too small.  I cut a big hunk of fat off of it too.  It cooked down a lot.  So I hope you learn from my mistake.  Don't get a roast that isn't big enough.

One last thing:  I didn't make the gravy.  I just used the liquid in it's state.  Nothing seemed to need moisture.  But I'll leave the instructions for it.  It probably would have been nice.

Winter Storm Pot Roast 

(2-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut in half 
1/4 cup lower-sodium soy sauce 
garlic cloves, minced 
1 cup beef broth 
(.5-ounce) package dried morels
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste 

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
medium onions (about 3/4 pound), quartered 
(16-ounce) package carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces 
16 oz parsnips, chopped 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons water


Use a pepper mill to pepper the roast on both sides.  Combine the soy sauce and garlic. Add it to a large zip-top plastic bag.  Place the steak in the bag with the liquid. Seal the bag and marinate the roast in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, turning bag occasionally.  

If you like prepping ahead, you could be cutting your veggies now.  Another opportunity would be during the next step, where you reconstitute the morels.

Bring broth to a boil in a small saucepan; add mushrooms. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 20 minutes. Drain mushrooms.  If you have a cheesecloth, drain the mushrooms with it. I didn't have a cheesecloth, I squeezed the liquid out with my hands. They were clean, so there's nothing wrong with that!  ;)


Remove roast from bag, reserving marinade. Sprinkle roast with pepper, gently pressing pepper into roast. Combine reserved marinade, mushroom broth mixture, and tomato paste; stir well, and set aside.

Place mushrooms, onion, carrot and parsnips in a 6-quart electric slow cooker; toss gently.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add roast, browning it well on all sides. I used tongs to help brown the edges.



Place the roast over the vegetables in slow cooker. Pour the tomato paste mixture into pan, scraping to loosen browned bits. Well, since my pan was nonstick, I stirred with a plastic spoon and loosened the bits with the plastic spoon. 

Pour tomato paste mixture over roast and vegetables. Cover with lid; cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce to low-heat setting, and cook 8 hours or until roast is tender. Place roast and vegetables on a serving platter; keep warm. Reserve liquid in slow cooker; increase to high-heat setting.

Place flour in a small bowl. Gradually add water, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add flour mixture to liquid in slow cooker. Cook, uncovered, 15 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring frequently. Serve gravy with roast and vegetables.



Monday, February 2, 2015

Lamb Meatballs with Zesty Chutney Sauce




Sometimes, you just get sick of chicken. I'm having one of those times.  Superbowl Sunday was bringing another big winter storm, and that calls for a nice, hearty, belly-warming recipe.  But not chicken this time.  I’ve made about 5 versions of chicken soup so far this winter, grilled chicken on salads, frozen chicken strips, frozen chicken entrees.  Enough.

I found this recipe for Meatballs with Chutney Sauce on Cooking Light's website.  It has a 5-star rating, and how can you go wrong with that.  Well, I guess you could, since only 2 people reviewed the recipe.  But they loved it!  Lol

I ran to the supermarket and found ground lamb at Wegman’s.  It’s organic, and they only sell it in 1-lb packages.  I decided to get two, with the thought that if I hate these things, maybe my roommate or coworkers would like them.  So the little modifications I made were to increase the recipe size proportionally. And there was the little mistake with the liquid from the jalapenos....

I got the smallest little can of sliced, pickled jalapeno peppers.  It’s a 4-oz can I found in the Mexican foods section, and is labeled for making nachos.  Don’t toss the liquid—you’ll need it!  And I accidentally poured the amount into the lamb mixture, so was glad to have enough left over for the sauce.

The other prepared item I bought for this recipe was the chutney.  I turned around the jar so you can see how much of it I used.


I’ll admit, as I was browning the meatballs, I was a little nervous.  Lamb is a strong smell as it cooks, and even with my fan on over my stove, the house was full of smokey, lamb-filled air for a little while. But once they cooked in the slow cooker for a couple hours with the sauce, my fears were put to rest.  These meatballs are tasty!

I served my meatballs on top of a bed of whole wheat couscous. But I bet they would also be tasty on top of a bed of roasted spaghetti squash.  As for the couscous, I used the Near East brand.  It's really easy to make - you just boil water with a little olive oil and salt, add the couscous, remove it from the heat, cover it, and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Easy Peasy!

Ingredients (meatballs)

1.5 ounces of white bread, torn into pieces (I used italian bread - you can use any white)
2 pounds lean ground lamb
1/2  cup finely chopped green onions
3 tablespoons minced seeded pickled jalapeño peppers
1 tablespoon pickled jalapeño pepper liquid  
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
garlic cloves, minced 
1.5 large eggs (scramble the 2nd one and only use half of it)

Ingredients (sauce)

2/3 cup mango chutney
4 Tbs tomato paste 
4 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce 
1 tablespoon pickled jalapeño pepper liquid 
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint

For the meatballs:

Add all of the ingredients to a bowl.  I suggest mixing them by hand.  You'll never get a good distribution of the ingredients otherwise.  


And make all of your meatballs the same size so they cook the same amount.  Wouldn't it be awful to have some raw and some cooked?  Yes, it would!


Brown the meatballs in a nonstick pan with some vegetable oil spray.  Turn the meatballs over from time to time so you brown all sides.  Then, transfer them to an already-heated slow cooker.

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce and pour it over top.

I cooked it on high for one hour, and then on low for another 1.5 hours.  Those little suckers really cooked down!



Serve on top of your choice of starch.  While I used couscous, you might put them on top of something else--the suggested spaghetti squash, pasta, orzo, or rice. Maybe they'd be good on top of fresh, Italian bread (the part that you didn't use to make the meatballs). That's totally up to you!  

Since you might change the startch, or omit it completely, I didn't include the calories from the couscous in the nutrition facts.  

Nutrition Facts
Servings 8.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 390
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 28 g43 %
Saturated Fat 12 g59 %
Monounsaturated Fat 11 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 122 mg41 %
Sodium 355 mg15 %
Potassium 375 mg11 %
Total Carbohydrate 14 g5 %
Dietary Fiber 1 g2 %
Sugars 9 g
Protein 21 g41 %
Vitamin A8 %
Vitamin C7 %
Calcium4 %
Iron15 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Smokey-Spicy Black Beans with Ham


Boy, does my kitchen smell good right now!

Last week, I got the Penzey's Spices catalog in the mail.  I do love Penzey's Spices--everything is super-fresh. What a difference fresh spices and herbs make when you cook and bake with them.  And surprise--it costs less than supermarket spices.  There are some, limited Penzey's Spices locations, but they also are available in other stores and by mail order.  But really, the Penzey's online catalog is vast, and a visit to a store is fun.  


Mixed among the list and pictures of the herbs and spices, is a good selection of recipes in each release of the catalog.  A recipe for Carolina's Cuban Black Beans gave me the inspiration to make this dish.  The original recipe was vegetarian, but I wanted to add ham.

I ended up adding supermarket ham steak.  It actually wasn't my first choice.  I wanted to add a ham hock, which would have been much more fatty and smokey. So I guess I'm glad I couldn't find one.  It was due to the lack of the smoked ham hock that I added the chipotle peppers.  Good move!  (pats self on back)

Chipotle peppers start out as jalapeños. The manufacturers dry them and smoke them.  You can buy them that way, but you can also get them canned in adobo sauce, which is what you need for this recipe.  The adobo sauce rehydrates them, and quite frankly, makes them amazing!   You can find cans of chipotles in adobo sauce in the Mexican foods section of the grocery stores.  I think they are pretty widely available.  I put them next to the tablespoon so you can see the size.  But don't be fooled, these things pack a serious punch! I started out this recipe with two.  I ended up adding a third, but you might not like it that way, so start small.  As the beans cook down, you can always add more.  And if you want to cut down on the spice, slice them down the middle and scrape out the seeds. That would help.  But keep it all off of your fingers.  The heat stays on your skin for a while, and if you rub your eyes after touching them, that would hurt.

  



The recipe in the catalog called for putting the garlic cloves, cumin, and a little salt into a mortar and pestle.  I don't know about you, but I don't keep those in my kitchen.  So, instead, I minced the garlic, added the cumin and a pinch of salt, and then minced the crap out of it for a while.  I ended up with this:




I used dry turtle beans (as opposed to canned).  I had plenty of time, so I soaked them overnight.  In fact, I ended up going out to see a movie and came home really late, so they soaked a second night.  That was not a smooth move.  If you ever find that happens to you, remove the beans from the liquid after the first night.  I saved the dish, cooked it less, reduced liquid, and cooked uncovered to get some of the liquid to cook down.  That worked.

Oh, the Penzey's recipe used a shortcut to soaking the beans--just in case you want to do it all in one day.  Cover them with water i a large pot and boil for 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, for one hour.  Then drain them.

Onto the results:  Those are some mighty delicious beans!  I'll definitely make them again. In fact, I could see making them several times a year for the rest of my life.  I'm highly recommending this recipe!


Smokey-Spicy Black Beans with Ham  
(serves 8)

1 16-oz bag of dried black beans (aka: turtle beans)
water for soaking
4 cups chicken stock (I used unsalted)
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbs ground cumin
pinch of salt
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped 
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
jalapeño, chopped, seeds removed
1 Tbs distilled white vinegar
2 whole bay leaves
1 1/2 Tbs herbes de Provence 
14 ounces hickory smoked ham, chopped
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
sea salt to taste (maybe 1/2 teaspoon)

Wash off the black beans and soak them in a large bowl overnight.

Mince the garlic.  Add the cumin and pinch of salt, and mince it as much as you can. Optionally, you can make a paste, crushing the garlic, cumin, and salt using a mortar and pestle.

In a large pot, heat the chicken stock, soaked beans, vinegar, bay leaves, and herbes de Provence.

While the beans, liquid, and herbs heat up, add the extra-virgin olive oil to a large skillet. Heat it on medium-high and add the onions, bell peppers, jalapeño, and garlic mix.  Saute until the onions and peppers brown some. browned.  Transfer them to the pot of beans.

Add the ham, chipotles, and salt.  

Cover and simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.

It's great on top of a bed of white rice, but if you don't do rice, put the beans in a bowl and enjoy!

The Nutrition Facts are just for the beans and ham.  I didn't add in the rice since you may not, or if you did, you might use less or more than I would.
Nutrition Facts
Servings 8.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 185
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7 g10 %
Saturated Fat 2 g8 %
Monounsaturated Fat 2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 14 mg5 %
Sodium 411 mg17 %
Potassium 399 mg11 %
Total Carbohydrate 20 g7 %
Dietary Fiber 6 g23 %
Sugars 2 g
Protein 13 g26 %
Vitamin A4 %
Vitamin C29 %
Calcium2 %
Iron9 %