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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Banana Bread

I was sure I had already posted this recipe, but after searching for it I don't believe I have. So, here is my tried and true banana bread recipe. I've been making this recipe for years and always get tons of compliments on it. I even once had a college guy ask me for the recipe so he could give it to his girlfriend! However, I have to give credit to Karen Dotson since it is her recipe from the Rock Springs Baptist cookbook. I've never met her, but she knows how to make some dang good banana bread. I'll post the recipe as is, but I almost always alter it and use whole wheat flour, oat flour or some blend. You can even toss in a little flax seed or wheat germ to make it ultra healthy. I'll be making it soon and will toss in some fresh blueberries.

*Oh and a little tip about overripe bananas for you. Don't feel like if you have overripe bananas you have to use them right away. Simply peel them, break them in half and put in a ziplock bag and freeze until ready to use. Let them thaw a little when you do want to use them. They make for really moist banana bread! And, they're also ready to use in smoothies. I usually have a bag full of bananas in the freezer!*

Banana Bread

3/4 C. Sugar
1/2 C butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 C flour
2 eggs
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 C chopped nuts (optional)

Mix sugar and butter together; beat in eggs. Add sifted dry ingredients, vanilla, banana and nuts. Pour into well greased loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Red Curry Chicken

Holy moly, that was a long hiatus from my little ole blog here.
Well, surprise...I'm back!

Let's see, last time I was on here I was talking about Guatemala. That seems like a lifetime ago. Basically, the past 2 1/2 months have been, well, shall we say sketchy? We put our house on the market, we sold it, and we moved. It was NOT fun. But, considering the market we're in, we're thankful that it even sold. We consider ourselves blessed in this and we consider ourselves blessed with our new place as well.

Life has not been normal for awhile but we're working our way back and are almost there. Even my workout routine, which I've followed religiously throughout the year, has fallen by the wayside, but with my permission. I knew the move would be stressful so I gave myself a free pass to just not do it until I'm completely ready to jump back in. Today I finally hit the gym for what I lovingly call an "icebreaker" workout. Easy, basic, and something to just break past the mental barrier of not having been active. Although, I'd argue I've been very active with moving and all.

So, we're doing our best to turn this house into our home, and for me part of that is getting back to cooking and eating as a family around the table. We've had our fill of fast food, eating out, and thrown together junk and I'm loving the nights that I'm taking a break from setting up house to cook for my family. I'll admit, there's only been a handful of real meals, but we've only been here two weeks. I'd say we're doing pretty good.

One thing I've made twice already is a recipe I posted awhile back as Curry Chicken. It was an adaptation from a CL recipe, but I've tweaked it even further and have decided it's more like Thai Red Curry with Chicken than just plain old curry chicken, so I've renamed it. Here's my more updated (and no so light) version. My picky little Wyatt loves it, which is why I've made it twice.
And tonight it turned out so good, I'd say it was restaurant quality!

Red Curry Chicken

2 TBSP grapeseed oil
2 boneless skinless breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups green (or whatever color) bell pepper strips
half of a small yellow onion, cut into strips
small can bamboo shoots, drained
1/2 can baby corn, drained
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
2 TBSP reduced sodium soy sauce
2-3 TBSP red curry paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp brown sugar
one half of 1 (14-oz) can light coconut milk
one half of 1 (14-oz) can regular coconut milk
torn fresh basil

3 cups hot cooked jasmine rice

1. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pan fry in oil until lightly browned on all sides.
2. Add bell pepper, onion, bamboo shoots and baby corn to pan; saute 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken and vegetables from pan.
3. Combine juice, soy sauce, curry paste, garlic and sugar in small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add juice mixture to pan and let heat through for a minute.
4. Add 1/2 can of each coconut milk (light and regular) and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 12 minutes or until slightly thick.
5. Return chicken and vegetables to pan; cook 2 minutes or until heated through. Toss in some torn fresh basil. Serve over rice.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Eating in Guatemala

So I just returned last night from a short trip to Guatemala with International Justice Mission. And what an amazing trip it was!
I've been blogging and talking all about my experiences there, but one question that keeps coming up is "what kind of food did you eat?" I figure that deserves it's own post here on my little food blog. After all, so much of the experience of traveling is about the food. I've heard of some who dread getting out of their comfort zone, being forced to stretch their culinary palate. Poor souls. Live a little! Embrace where you're at! Get yourself out of your box!

So, here's what I had a lot of...

Pretty much everywhere you go, the coffee is good. Really good. I even had the opportunity to zip line over a coffee plantation. Seeing all the work that goes into it gave me even more of an appreciation for the people who harvest, wash, and roast it.

Another interesting drink that is quite popular in the restaurants is called "Fresco de Jamaica" (hibiscus flower drink). It's a refreshing, sweet, floral tasting drink that's really good. I wish I could find it here.

Probably the most popular fast food restaurant, Pollo Campero, just opened up a location here in my home city just outside of Atlanta.
These places are everywhere in Guatemala. Although we did not eat there on this trip, back in 1995 I ate there several times. One of the newest staff members of IJM is a native Georgian. He and his family just moved to Guatemala City and he said that Pollo Campero has the best fried chicken he's had at any restaurant. I plan to take the boys there sometime in the near future for the cultural experience!

A typical breakfast for me was "mosh". Mosh is similar to oatmeal, but more runny. I topped it with granola, papaya, strawberries and honey. It was really delicious and filling. I'd also have fried plantains, refried black beans (yep!), and papaya juice. On one of our visits to an IJM's client's house, she had worked hard all morning preparing her mosh for us. Her's was cooked with cinnamon and sugar and the sweet lady had been stirring it for SO long. She then served us the mosh in cups and we drank it as we left.

My last morning there I had this:

On the menu, it was called "Mexican Eggs." I SO want to recreate this. It was basically two fried eggs atop a corn tortilla, topped with salsa, avacado, crumbled queso blanco with a side of fried plantains and black beans. Simple enough, but I doubt I'll be able to make it just right because the salsa was very unique.

Beans for breakfast? I can tell you that that every time I had refried black beans they were always wonderful. They were very salty but in a good way. They were usually topped with sour cream or cheese. I've never had them like that in the states. I've heard that the way to prepare them is to cook them, run them through a food processor until they're very smooth, then fry them in a skillet to dry them out a little. I have no idea if this is truly the way it's done, and I don't know what seasonings are added but I figure it's worth a shot.

Other things on my menu: ceviche (first time having it...definitely won't be the last!), pumpkin ravioli in a Guatemalan herb sauce, shrimp in a curry coconut milk sauce with raisins and bananas, and chili rellenos. There was also an interesting marinated vegetable salad offered at the hotel with every meal that included cauliflower, carrots and peppers marinated in a vinegar sauce. Again, very tasty.

Dessert was a bit of a disappointment. I was never that impressed. They usually seemed so promising, but just didn't quite deliver.

If you're interested, here's a link I found on typical Guatemalan food.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Everything but the kitchen sink pasta primavera

I wish I had a picture to post tonight, but we didn't waste any time before eating, it was that good. If I rated my recipes here, I'd definitely give this one 5 stars! Filling, healthy, colorful and delicious. All the things a good meal needs.

This recipe was born out of a necessity to use up some produce and chicken and because I needed something quick that I could throw together. Plus, I love making pasta. I've listed the veggies I used, but what I love about pasta primavera is that you use whatever you have on hand or like.

So, instead of laying this out in a recipe format, I'll just let you know what I did as I went along, because that's pretty much how I made this baby up.

What I used:
1 lb. penne (Barilla, yellow box; healthier version)
1 chicken breast
olive oil
2 slices thick cut bacon, diced up
white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

A handful of the following (don't need too much of any):
onion (sliced)
orange bell pepper (sliced)
carrots (sliced)
zucchini (sliced)
broccoli florets
sundried tomatoes
2 roma tomatoes (diced and seeds removed)
fresh torn basil

parmesan cheese, grated
pana granada cheese (trader joe's)

Get the pasta cooking, according to package directions. I cooked the whole box, eventhough I didn't use all of the pasta in this dish.

I marinated my chicken breast for all of 10 minutes in some Greek salad dressing. Had to use it up. After that, I grilled it. While it was grilling, in the largest Le Cruset skillet I have (this baby's big!) I heated about a tbsp olive oil and fried the diced bacon until slightly crispy. I transferred the bacon to a paper towel lined plate, dumped the bacon grease, and used about 1/2 to 1 cup of white wine to deglaze the pan. Let that simmer a bit to reduce, then add about 2 tbsp of butter. Once melted, I tossed in the onion, garlic and carrots. I let those cook for a couple of minutes, then added the bell peppers, zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes and basil. I also added a little more olive oil to keep things moist. While the veggies cooked, I added several different seasonings I had on hand ( Italian among others). About this time the chicken was done so I removed it from the grill, let it sit a few minutes, then sliced it up and tossed it together with the veggies. Add in the bacon at this point as well. Season with sea salt, pepper and anything else you feel like. Toss in the cooked penne, top with the cheeses and dive in! Goes great with a good glass of red.
And don't skip out on the bacon...I think it makes this dish!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pie crust

I'm dreaming of the chicken pot pie from my last post. It was even better the next day as leftovers. This will definitely be put into rotation more.
I saw Rachel Ray making beef pot pie wedges where she rolled out two pie crusts (storebought), cut each in half making semi-circles, filled a little filling on each and folded over and pressed with a fork to make little pockets. She brushed and egg wash on top and baked until golden. I think this would be great with the chicken filling.

Per Sara's request, here's my pie crust recipe. Of course, store bought is easier, but I like to make mine because I've been using a blend of 1/2 whole wheat flour 1/2 regular flour to make it a little healthier. I like the flavor whole wheat adds as well.

Pie Crust:
In a small bowl, combine
1 1/3 C plain flour (I use the 1/2 and 1/2 blend)
1/2 tsp. salt

In a glass measuring cup, measure
1/3 C. vegetable oil
Add enough milk until it reaches the 1/2 C line
Mix well and add to the flour mixture, mixing well.
If mixture is too dry, add a little more oil or milk

Roll out for use in a pie. I usually roll mine out between two sheets of waxed paper.
Bake at 450 degrees until browned.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

Great. Snow...again. And it's the messy, wet kind of snow that gets brought in on little boy's shoes and the dog's paws. I'm not enjoying this latest bout from mother nature, but at least a day like today can be savored around the dinner table. Today's weather demands pie...chicken pot pie and blueberry pie for dessert.

Although I don't make chicken pot pie often, I enjoy making it for several reasons. One, it can be made ahead. I love meals that I can cook after lunch and assemble just before baking. Two, I love to chop up a bunch of stuff and saute it in a pot.That's why I love making soup and pasta sauces. I love the smell from onions and garlic sauteing in butter and white wine. I love to stand by the stove and stir and smell and taste. It's comforting, especially when it's cold and wet outside.

Today I adapted Pioneer Woman's recipe to my own liking. Not that her's wasn't good enough, I just needed to use what I had on hand and what I like. Here's what I came up with. It met the whole family's approval.

Chicken Pot Pie

1 yellow onion, diced
2 cups mixed vegetables (whatever you have on hand. I used carrots, peas, cut green beans, corn and 1 small potato). Can be fresh, frozen or canned. Make sure to dice up carrots, potatoes, green beans.
2 cloves pressed garlic
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
3 Tbsp butter (or olive oil)
3/4 c. all purpose flour
up to 2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
1 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp ground rosemary
kosher salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
1 pie crust (I make mine from scratch using a little whole wheat flour)

Preheat oven to 400

Heat the butter (or oil) on medium to low heat in a heavy dutch oven. Saute the onion for a few minutes, until clear. Toss in the other vegetables and garlic and continue sautéing for several minutes. You want the carrots and potatoes to be tender, but not mushy.

Add the chicken and stir to combine. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the vegetables and chicken and stir to combine. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring gently.

Pour in the chicken broth, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Make sure there's not too much liquid. You may not need to use all the broth. Stir in the wine. Pour in the cream and stir. If mixture is dry, add the rest of the broth. Allow mixture to cook over low heat, thickening gradually, about 4 minutes. If the mixture is watery, you may need to add a little more flour. Season with thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and taste, adjusting the seasonings if needed.

Pour into a deep dish pie pan or a small casserole dish. If making ahead, refrigerate until ready to use.

Roll out the crust so it's 1 inch larger than the pan. Place the crust on top and press the crust into the sides of the dish to seal. Cut small slits in the top to vent.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pico De Gallo, Guacamole and Curry Chicken

This has been one of those weeks that I've wanted to get in the kitchen and get cracking. Having a husband gone for 4-5 days of the week and living off the boys leftover mac and cheese, pb&j crusts and cereal makes me want to be productive by the time Monday rolls around. Throw in a big trip to Trader Joe's and I'm all set for some therapeutic chopping, sautéing and simmering. Yes, cooking is therapeutic for me.

So I'll cut to the chase. I had an insane craving for homemade pico de gallo and guacamole. I love good guac but I can't tell you the last time I made it. It's been years...maybe even a decade. Seriously. That streak is over thanks to Pioneer Woman's recipes for both. Her pico is super easy. Use equal amounts of:
1. diced yellow or red onions (I like yellow)
2. diced roma tomatoes
3. chopped cilantro
Add in some diced jalapenos (I cheated and used a couple spoonfuls of jarred diced jalapenos)
Stir all together in a bowl, add the juice from half a lime and season with salt to taste. Test it with a chip before adding more salt, since the chips usually have salt.

Pico only keeps for a day or so, so only make the amount you'd use in that time.

For perfect guacamole, simply mash a ripe avocado with a fork (not too mushy!) and toss in a hefty pile of the pico. Stir together gently, test to make sure the taste is how you want it and sprinkle with a little paprika to make it look pretty. If needed, add a little more lime juice. Both the pico and the guac are AMAZING with Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt Pita Chips. To me, they're way better than tortilla chips.

So that was lunch...pico de gallo and guacamole. Oh, and I forgot to mention a helping of Pioneer woman's Sherried Tomato Soup. This soup will knock your socks off, big time.

O.K, so moving on to dinner...

Thanks to Jen, I now have a subscription to Cooking Light again! The first recipe I wanted to try was Chicken Curry. I tweaked it a bit, and here's what I came up with. It was pretty good and didn't take long to throw together.

1 TBSP grapeseed oil
2 boneless skinless breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups green and red bell pepper strips
half of a small yellow onion, but into strips
small can bamboo shoots, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
2 TBSP reduced sodium soy sauce
2-3 TBSP red curry paste
1 tsp brown sugar
1 (14-oz) can light coconut milk
torn fresh basil

3 cups hot cooked jasmine rice

1. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pan fry in oil until lightly browned on all sides. Add bell pepper, onion, bamboo shoots and garlic to pan; saute 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken and vegetables from pan. Combine juice, soy sauce, curry paste and sugar in small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add juice mixture and coconut milk to pan, bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 12 minutes or until slightly thick. Return chicken and vegetables to pan; cook 2 minutes or until heated through. Toss in some torn fresh basil. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Super easy party treats

Is it just me, or is Valentine's Day becoming like another mini-Christmas season? It seems like this week has been filled with having to get lots of goodies, treats, Valentines, etc. together for the boys' Valentine's parties at school. I tell you, these elementary parties can be quite stressful! I need something easy as my "go to" treat for these things.

The following is not my own creation. I got this from my sister in law, who I believe got it from someone she works with. They are SUPER easy, the kids can totally help, and they usually get devoured at a party. And there's really NO baking involved, although you do have to turn on the oven.

What you need is this:

1 bag of small Snyder's pretzels (This brand works better than Rold Gold for this recipe)
1 bag Hershey's Hugs (the milk and white chocolate swirled ones...NO nuts)
1 bag colored M&M's (for whatever holiday you're celebrating)

Preheat the oven to 200.
Line a cookie sheet with waxed or parchment paper. DON"T skip this step! You'll regret it later if you do.
Place as many pretzels on the sheet as will fit. Don't use any broken pretzels. Top each pretzel with a hug. Pop in the oven for about 5-10 min. Stay close by and keep an eye on them. You want them to be soft, but not totally melted.
Remove from oven and immediately top with M&M's by lightly pressing.
I like to use a variation of 1, 2, or 3 on each pretzel. Put in the refrigerator to cool down and return to solid.
Once they are back to solid, put on a pretty plate, wrap with foil and keep refrigerated until party time.

Another variation...use a Rolo instead of a hug and a pecan half instead of a M&M. They're like mini-turtles and people go NUTS over them.

Imagine the possibilities...Spring M&M's for Easter, multi-colored for Summer, red and green for Christmas, etc.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Keeping it real

Just so you don't go thinking I'm some ultra healthy, feeding my family homemade meals every night of the week kind of gal, I thought I'd bring you down to Earth a bit. My usual "It's Thursday night and my husband is on the road for the next 4 nights and it's just me and the boys" dinner is this: eating what's left of the mac and cheese directly out of the pot while watching my kids watch the Suite Life. If I'm lucky, there might even be some crumbs leftover from the chocolate pop tarts they had for dessert. That's my totally glamorous rockstar wife's life. Sorry if I disappoint.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Root Vegetable Bake

I love my Aunt Kathy. She's my mom's baby sister and to me, she's a great mix of a cool aunt but also a motherly figure in my life. She never had children of her own (by her own choice) but you better believe that all her nieces and nephews claim her as one of their mothers. She's every bit a grandmother to my boys as their real grandmothers are. Kathy has an amazing gift of hospitality and can cook like nobody's business. I often go to her for recipe and entertaining advice and I love to cook for her.

She's mentioned her "Root Vegetable Bake" several times and I finally attempted it today. The rustic smell of root vegetables roasting and caramelizing in the oven made our house so warm and cozy on this rainy and dreary day. Although I originally made this as a side dish I decided to serve them atop a bed of mixed greens; making a simple yet hearty winter salad. I simply took some baby romaine lettuce, drizzled some homemade maple dressing over, topped with a hefty serving of the root vegetables and seasoned with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Add a few walnuts for some crunch. This is my favorite recipe of the moment! Soooo good. Listen up...don't be afraid of turnips, rutabagas and parsnips. They are SO delicious and tasty when roasted and all the vegetables take on a slight sweetness. You really want to vary your root vegetables, otherwise you won't have as flavorful of a dish! About the only root vegetable I didn't use was carrots, just because I wasn't in the mood.

Here's the method:

Root Vegetable Bake

Use an assortment of your favorite root vegetables. What I use:
1 red potato
1 turnip
1 rutabaga
1 sweet potato
1 onion (red or yellow)
1-2 parsnips
1-3 stalks of fresh rosemary
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt

Peel and chuck the vegetables (you may leave the skin on the red potato), making chunks of similar size, about 1-2 inches. Toss in a large bowl with several good turns of olive oil, rosemary leaves, and a few good splashes of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, or until caramelized and tender. Stir a couple of times while they're in the oven. Don't overcook.

Great fresh out of the oven or on top of mixed greens.

Maple Dressing:
1/4 C. Maple syrup
1/4 C. Olive OIl
2 TBSP Cider Vinegar.

wisk to combine all ingredients.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Super simple and delish sweet potatoes

Ever watched that show on the Food Network called "Healthy Appetite"? It's great and Ellie Krieger really has a lot of great recipes that are tasty and healthy. They are usually quite simple to prepare as well, using fresh ingredients.
I needed a good sweet potato recipe the other night and I found one of hers and decided to try it out. I like my sweet potatoes on the sweet side. If I'm at a steakhouse and I order a baked sweet potato, I'll usually ask for extra brown sugar and cinnamon. I know some like theirs totally plain but my sweet tooth has a high tolerance and can handle some extra sweetness.

I chose Ellie's recipe because it calls for no sugar, but honey. I figured I'd let the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes come through for onece, and save my family from unnecessary sugar, even though I love my sweet potatoes swimming in butter and sugar.
This recipes was great! Super easy to prepare, simple, and yes, sweet! You could probably add in some maple syrup to give it some more sweetness but it's really not necessary. Simple, wholesome, and it even passed the kid test!

Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes
by Ellie Krieger

2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1-inch pieces and put in a 9 by 13 baking dish. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, honey and lemon juice. Pour mixture over potatoes and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the salt, and bake, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, until potatoes are tender.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I pretty much kicked it in the kitchen today. I think just knowing that snow was in the forecast made me want to fill the house with cozy warm smells. To me, snow is all about what you have going on in the kitchen!

So, my first project before lunch was to make strawberry jam with these wonderful Florida strawberries that are coming into season. I'm glad I jumped on it because there's no telling what will happen to the strawberry crops after all this cold weather this weekend. I enlisted the help of my 7 year old and we ended up making 9 jars. I had hoped to make two batches but was a little short on strawberries so I decided to us the rest of the strawberries for our dessert tonight. Enter the ready made organic granola pie crust I picked up on sale at Kroger a while back. Hmmm....a pie crust + fresh strawberries=Strawberry Pie!
I looked around online and picked out this recipe from Betty Crocker:

Fresh Strawberry Pie
Obviously I skipped the crust part since I already had it on hand and I added a few tablespoons of sugar to the cream cheese to sweeten it a bit. I also used 3 tbsp. of corn starch instead of 2. Pretty easy to make and a sweet taste of Summer on this cold night. Into the refrigerator it went to get set up for tonight.

I couldn't pass up making cookies on a snowy day, so while the boys played outside I whipped up some of Pioneer Woman's Oatmeal Crispies with white chocolate chips and cranberries. And just so you know, she uses shortening in hers, I use butter.

While those were baking, I got a start on our dinner, Asian style braised short ribs. I've been planning on making these for awhile now and got the meat from the Butcher's Market yesterday. I had never cooked short ribs before and I don't recall ever braising anything but after reading up on it in CL, I decided to give it a try. It was pretty easy to assemble, but you do have to plan ahead since it simmers on the stove for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. And I think it's important to have a good dutch oven, like a Le Cruset or a heavy cast iron one. I'm not sure if it would work as well in a regular stainless steel pot. But if that's what you have definitely try it. I love recipes that I can make in the afternoon and just let them do their thing so I can relax a little before dinnertime. Or go for a hike in the snowy woods. I served these up with buttered white rice and sauteed green beans seasoned with orange infused olive oil and seasoned salt. Let me say...the guys LOVED this dish! Wyatt loves short ribs! Who knew? Be sure to serve them up with lots of the juices spooned over. Sooooo good!

Here's my recipe, adapted from Cooking Light Jan/Feb. 2008:

Asian Style Braised Short Ribs:

Cooking spray
2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 8 equal pieces
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry sherry
2 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 3 1/2 ounces)
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (8-ounce) can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick
1 (8-ounce) can diced water chestnuts, drained
4 cups hot cooked short-grain rice

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add half of beef to pan; cook 3 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Repeat procedure with cooking spray and remaining beef.

Add ginger, rind, and garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in sherry, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add mushrooms; cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add beef, broth, and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon); bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 1/2 hours or until beef is very tender. Stir in water chestnuts; cook for 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon. Serve over rice.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Golden Winter Soup

I have needed some inspiration lately in the kitchen. Spending so much time in the kitchen around the holidays made for some real burnout this past week and I needed something new to look forward to. I turned to an old Cooking Light issue (Jan/Feb 2008) and knew that the soup on the cover, Golden Winter Soup, would be perfect for this cold night. Surprisingly, the kids even ate it! I paired it with Rachel Ray's greek salad. Here's my adaptation of the delicious Golden Winter Soup:

Golden Winter Soup

3 tablespoons butter
4 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 good sized squash)
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled russet potato (about 12 ounces)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced leek (about 2 medium)
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
4 Tbsp Agave or honey
freshly grated nutmeg, to tase (about 1/2 to 1 tsp)

12 ounces baguette, cut into 16 slices
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
3 tablespoons chopped chives (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)


Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add squash, potato, garlic, salt, and pepper to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add leek; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Stir in half-and-half, agave or honey, and nutmeg. Cover and keep warm.

Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil bread slices 2 minutes or until golden. Ladle 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 1 teaspoon chives. Serve 2 bread slices with each serving. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.