Monday, September 29, 2008

Crockpot Success: Black Beans and Pork

I want to begin this post with a note about my crockpot history. I will keep it short - I have only made one thing I actually liked in it. This made #2! It was great, and really really easy. The great thing about anything crockpot is it has the taste and love of an all day cooked meal, and really all you have to do is throw the ingredients into the pot, and set it. I actually made this on Sunday because I knew I would just want to warm it up after my long day today. We made some homemade salsa, cut up an avocado and scooped out some organic Greek yogurt and served with a salad and it was DELISH!

We used thick Greek style yogurt instead of sour cream like the recipe called for. Two reasons, whenever I buy sour cream it is usually for one recipe - and I don't like to waste. This week I am doing two other recipes that use yogurt as a sauce, and the plain thick yogurt tastes just like sour cream. Better for you too - give it a try next time.

The recipe originally came from Real Simple magazine. You can find it here:

I made it spicier and I would recommend not adding the salt until the end. It made the bean skins hard on the outside and if you add the salt after it cooks it should eliminate that issue. Two other things we changed is we seared the pork in a pan before putting in the crockpot, and we cooked this for 5 hours, not 4 thus making it more like a stew and not soup.


2 12 oz bottles of lager beer (I used Sheiner Bock - highly recco this choice)

2 tablespoons chopped canned chilies in adobo and 1 tbls of adobo sauce

1 tsp cumin

1 large onion, chopped

1 pound dried black beans, rinsed

1.5 lbs boneless pork butt

Kosher salt

Greek style yogurt




Heat a pan to high with a tsp of oil. Sear the pork on all sides.

In the crockpot bowl toss in the pork, beans, beer, cumin, onion, chilies, adobo sauce and 3 cups water. Cover and set on high for 5 hours (depends on your slow cooker and whether you want this more like soup or like stew).

Add 1 tbls kosher salt. Stir and adjust according to taste.

Top with a scoop of yogurt, avocado and salsa.

Re-use in tacos, casseroles or eat on it's own!
Excuse the lack of photo. I was experimenting with the new light box, and it wasn't working and we were we ate :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekly Menu

I am kick starting another round of recipes in our house, which means I am going to have to spend a bit more time than usual in the next few weeks researching recipes, seasonal ingredients and testing recipes. This week I have recipes inspired by a few things I have been craving lately, and a few things I have been wanting to try to make to recommend to clients.
Try along with me!
Monday: Slow cooker braised pork and black beans with green salad and possibly corn bread (thinking of skipping this)
Tuesday: Kibbeh pie, hummus, yogurt and cucumber sauce, sauteed zucchini
Wednesday: Turkey meatloaf, sweet potato mash, green salad
Thursday: Kibbeh sandwiches with cucumber salad
Friday: Leftovers

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back in Style

I'm back after a few weeks of not blogging - but back in style!
It has been busy and hectic, but one of the things that has kept me going are freezer meals, adding salad and quickly sauteed vegetables to relatively plain meals (like brown rice and chicken), and good quality snacks.
I wanted to share another power snack item with you. I call them Quinoa Power Drops (if you wanted to entice someone who is more timid you can call them cookies - but these are no conventional cookies). The original recipe was something I found on the Bauman forum, but modified slightly.
These are great for a substantial snack because they pack good protein, carbohydrates, fat (anti microbial from the coconut oil and flakes) and just enough sweetness from the fruit to be tasty.

Quinoa Power Drops

1 cup quinoa
1/2 banana. mashed
8 Medjool dates, chopped
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 heaping tablespoon organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1 heaping tablespoon organic roasted almond butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Makes approximately 16 cookies
1. Rise 1 dry cup of quinoa in water. Add 2 cups of water to quinoa in a medium pot. Bring quinoa to a boil, and then simmer for about 12 minutes.
2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
3. Transfer the quinoa to a large mixing bowl.
4. Add coconut oil and mix it into the quinoa.
5. Mix in banana, almond butter, and dates.
6. Add sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and shredded coconut, and mix thoroughly.
7. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg into the dough and mix everything together.
8. Grease a baking sheet with coconut oil or use a silpat pad.
9. Use a large spoon to pick up a heaping tablespoon of the dough and form it into a ball with your hands. Place the ball onto the greased cookie sheet and press the middle of the ball down gently to form a circle a bit more than 1/2 an inch thick. Repeat until all of the dough has been made into circles on the baking sheet.
10. Bake for 50 minutes.
11. Turn off the oven and allow the cookies to cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheet. Then transfer the cookies into a sealed airtight container.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Weekly Menu

This week's menu is inspired by a few things I have been meaning to make, but had not gotten to in awhile or at all.
Monday - Gumbo (delish! made Sunday evening as it takes about an hour to make - perfect meal to come home to)
Tuesday - business meeting, dinner provided
Wednesday - Beet, Fennel, and Cabbage Salad with Orange Fennel Dressing and roast chicken
Thursday - Vietnamese Bun with grilled pork, thin rice noodles, lettuce, shredded carrots and napa cabbage
Friday - beets with blue cheese and toasted almonds and roast chicken caesar salad

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Success of Beef Stout Pie

I get really excited when the Williams Sonoma catalog comes, simply for the recipes. I can check online, but I always forget that this is a great source for either inspiration, or comfort classics that I wouldn't normally make or seek recipes for (note to self, add it to favorites list). This last catalog that came is focusing on gastropub food - pub food revamped and made popular again. My husband and I both dig on the whole pub scene as a casual place to grab a pint, eat a good hearty meal and be in good company. Doing it in our own home is fun and cheaper. This is definitely a meal that falls into good entertaining food.
One of my major philosophies about entertaining and food is that while a gourmet meal may be very tasty and impressive, the best conversation and mood setting is with casual and home style food that has been done really, really well. This pie falls into that category. It is a comfort favorite of beef stew, but kicked up with the deep flavors of the stout and mushrooms and pearl onions and a pie crust with blue cheese folded in. Serve it with a nice red wine and a simple salad and I am sure you will be able to please all your guests and they will walk away thanking you.

Here are the modifications that I made:
1) I only did 2 lbs of meat. Then I cut everything else roughly in half. I think that would feed a family of 4-5 easily. If you wanted leftovers for a family that large, certainly do the whole thing.
2) I did half lamb and half beef. It is a flavor combo that we appreciate more in this house. If you don't like lamb skip this, but if you do, try mixing these.
3) I used baby portobellos instead of white mushrooms because that is what I picked up at the farmers market. Definitely let the onions and mushrooms cook down as long as they say - the smell was amazing!
4) I used blue cheese instead of specifically stilton and it was still tasty as heck.

Here are some pictures, but the smell will make your mouth water alone. Try it!

Here is the original recipe.

Beef Stout Pie

7 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. white button mushrooms, quartered
2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 1/2 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 1/2 cups Irish stout
1 cup beef broth
1 lb. carrots, cut into chunks
1 lb. red potatoes, cut into chunks
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh thyme
One 16-inch round Stilton pastry (see related recipe at left)
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water

In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Dredge the beef in the flour, shaking off the excess. In the Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add one-third of the beef and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add 1/2 cup water to the pot, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Pour the liquid into a separate bowl. Repeat the process 2 more times, using 2 Tbs. oil to brown each batch of beef and deglazing the pot with 1/2 cup water after each batch.

Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the beef, stout, broth and reserved liquid, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Add the mushrooms, onions, carrots, potatoes and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef and vegetables are tender, about 3 hours.
Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Brush the rim of the pot with water. Lay the pastry round on top, allowing it to droop onto the filling. Trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang, and crimp to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture, then cut 4 slits in the top of the dough. Bake for 30 minutes. Let the potpie rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8 to 10.

Stilton Pie Pastry

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. sugar
16 Tbs. (2 sticks/250g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water
4 oz. Stilton cheese, crumbled


In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar and pulse until blended, about 5 pulses. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 pulses. Add 1/3 cup of the ice water and pulse 2 or 3 times. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water 1 Tbs. at a time, pulsing twice after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour, place on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper and roll out into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the cheese over half of the dough, then fold the other half over the cheese. Roll out the dough into a 16 1/2-inch square. Using a paring knife, trim the dough into a 16-inch round.

Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 10 minutes, then lay the dough on top of the beef and stout pie and bake as directed in that recipe. Makes enough dough for a 16-inch round.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Small Salad

I am guilty of having checked out the new 90210 show last night. For those who know me, you know that is sooooo not something I normally watch, but there was so much hype on the radio I wanted to give it 15 minutes of my time.
I was sorry I did that, but this is not about my rating of the show exactly.
I am sharing this moment with you because in the 15 minutes that I did watch the show, I caught the cafeteria scene. And do you know what every single woman in that shot was eating? Either nothing, water, or a small salad. And I mean small. At first I thought "oh she is going to grab another thing from the line to accompany that salad", but no. That is all 'Kelly' ate for lunch. Then it pans to the new girl who is the Principal's daughter, and all she is eating is the same tiny salad. Like literally not more than a cup of salad with a bit of cut up fruit or veg.
This aggravated me to no end because there are millions of young people watching this show, and while it wasn't painfully obvious that all that was for lunch was this small rabbit like lunch, it is going to stick in the sub conscious and message that popular girls and celebrities only eat small salads for lunch. That is not enough to feed a growing child, and honestly not enough for an adult!
There have been so many articles written about the media and it's influence on kids. See my posting about Michael Phelps - I believe that better habits have to be implemented by parents and teachers, etc on an ongoing basis. I am not writing about it to say they shouldn't have the show (although, I would appreciate it if they plugged healthier habits in the sub conscious). I am writing about it so anyone who didn't notice, sees it, and can register that a proper lunch is a balanced and portioned lunch.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Summer Pasta Toss

Change of plans on the ricotta being added to the pasta (too much traffic to go out and get it). However, it still turned out fabulous. Pasta tosses are nice when you are doing an emptying of the fridge, but also are great for summer. Summer is almost at an end and I wanted to do something special with the blossoms and artichokes I had picked up on Saturday. Lemon and just a hint of pecorino or Parmesan are a nice touch to make this dish still light but flavorful - so you don't feel like you are eating something really healthy. You can change the ingredients up based on what you have locally and what you like. The trick to this dish is seasoning as you go, layering veg in according to how quickly it cooks, and topping it off with just the right amount of zing to entice the palette.
Here is the recipe:

1 large handful angel hair pasta
Water to boil pasta

4 baby artichokes, trimmed and outer leaves peeled, thinly sliced
1 small red onion
3 tbls olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 small zucchini
1/2 cup swiss chard
1 cup mushrooms
1/2 cup beef broth (or water or chicken stock - I had beef broth from the beef stout pie recipe already out)
1/4 cup red or white wine (optional)
1/2 lemon zested
1/2 cup pecorino romano
4 zucchini blossoms sliced

Boil the water for the pasta.

Warm the oil over medium high heat and saute the red onion for 2 minutes. Toss in the artichokes hearts, saute for 2 minutes. Toss in the red wine and beef broth and cover to let the artichokes steam for 2 minutes.
Salt your pasta water and toss in the pasta. Should take about 4 minutes. You want it al dente.
Toss in the zucchini and mushrooms and cover for another 2 minutes. Add more broth or water if it gets too dry.
Toss in the chard and cover for 2 more minutes. Season at each layer of veg you add.
Toss the drained pasta into the vegetable mixture. Plate the pasta mixture up and top with cheese, lemon zest and zucchini blossoms.

Weekly Menu

Our week of dinners was nicely kicked off with inspirations from our Slow Food Nation trip, the Williams Sonoma catalog and meals my friends at work have been preparing (more specifically I am attempting to make Indian food again!).
Monday - Sauteed zucchini blossom (one little stand had these at the farmer's market and I couldn't resist - wanted to stuff them, but too small to stuff), zucchini, baby artichoke and angel hair pasta tossed with riccota and lemon.
Tuesday - Williams Sonoma Beef Stout Pie. Actually made the fixings for this today to then assemble and bake for dinner tomorrow.
Wednesday - Indian style okra, Indian style cauliflower and pototoes, grilled steak
Thursday - Roast chicken, brussel sprouts with leeks, roasted potatoes
Friday - Indian style spinach with 'paneer', rice and chicken