Saturday, January 28, 2012

Asian Beef Stew

Once we discovered the wonder of the thermos we learned lunch options were endless.  This was another one of M's favorites to take for lunch, however, she did have to beware of the aromatics.

The star anise may be a little hard to source.  If you can buy it in bulk somewhere, it's very affordable and worth it.  The dried shitake mushrooms also look really expensive you buy them bagged.  They are also a lot cheaper if you can find them in bulk (possibly at Whole Foods if your Whole Foods is big enough).  If you can't find them, just substitute cremini mushrooms.  Shitake mushrooms give a nice meaty flavor to the stew.  If you aren't a fan of a slight wine taste to your beef stews, just leave out the sake (or sherry).  Just add a little of water to the pan to deglaze it.

This will serve 4 - 6  in these proportions.

Asian Beef Stew
adapted from monkeymom on

3 lbs stew meat, cut into 1- 2 inch cubes
salt and pepper
1 - 2 T canola oil
3/4 c sake, sweet rice wine, or sherry (red)
1/4 c soy sauce
1 T brown sugar
3/4 t rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 c chicken stock
2 star anise
1" piece of ginger root, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, left whole
3 - 4 red chili peppers, fresh or dried (to taste)
3 whole dried shitake mushrooms, stems removed (can use fresh, just remove stems and quarter)
zest of 1 lime
3 - 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 lg daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1" pieces (optional)

Heat oil in a large dutch oven.  Sprinkle beef cubes with salt and pepper.  Brown beef in batches and set aside.  Return meat and accumulated juices to pot.  Add the sake (etc) or water to pot to deglaze.  Bring to a boil and scrape up browned bits.  Add the soy sauce and sugar.  Add the rice wine vinegar, stock, star anise, ginger, garlic, chiles (if using), and mushrooms and bring to a boil.  Add the lime zest.  If meat is not covered with liquid, add enough water so meat is covered. Once the stew comes to boil, cover tightly (either with a lid or foil), and transfer to preheated 325 degrees oven.  Cook for 1 hour.  Stir and cook for a second hour or until meat is tender.

Return the stew to the stove. Remove the lid and simmer on medium heat to cook reduce the liquid, about 30 minutes.  While the stew cooks down, in a separate saucepan, bring a pot of water to a boil.  Place vegetables in boiling water and cook for 20 minutes or until tender.  You want the carrots to stay bright orange and not to fall apart easily when stirred.  Add the boiled vegetables to the stew.

Serve hot with either brown rice or noodles.  Garnish with chopped green onion or a bit of lime juice.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Feel Good About Yourself Breakfast Quinoa

In this new year, I am trying to better control my caloric and sugar intake.  I partook too much over the holidays and I wasn't feeling great physically, so I decided it was time to be more intentional.

However, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy food.  For example, last night we went to friends' house for supper and I took dessert.  I had been craving Chocolate Bread Pudding so that's what I made.  As I poured 2 c of heavy cream and 2 c of whole milk (not lowfat or nonfat the recipe specifically said), I cringed, imagining what this would do to my daily sugar intake, especially when I knew I was going to top this with Bourbon Pecan Caramel Sauce.

Oh, did I enjoy that bread pudding.  It was so incredible.  I suspect I'll dream about it for awhile.  I left a great deal of the leftovers with my pregnant friend, so I wouldn't need to finish all of it myself, because I would.  And I would have totally enjoyed it too.

However, this morning I wanted something that would make me feel more nutritionally good about myself.  I needed something to help get me back on the straight and narrow, food wise.

This was my answer.  I found it on food blog for people who love food and want to eat more healthily.  I must admit, I didn't love this recipe when I had it.  A little salt helped a bit.  What won me over though was the fact that 3 hours after breakfast I wasn't hungry.  That did wonders for the recipe and convinced me to make it again.

This will serve 2 (which is enough for that because the kids aren't impressed).

Breakfast Quinoa

1/2 c milk
1/2 c water
1/2 c quinoa (red, black, white, doesn't matter)
1/4 t cinnamon
1 c fresh or frozen berries (of course fresh is best, but in January, frozen will do)
1/4 c chopped pecans, toasted if desired
dash of salt
2 t honey or agave nectar (optional--I left this off my accident and didn't miss it at all)

In a small saucepan, bring water, milk, and quinoa to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid.  While the quinoa cooks, toast the pecans in a preheated 325 degrees over for 5 or so minutes, until the pecans are fragrant.  Remove from heat and stir in the cinnamon and berries (if you are using frozen berries, you may put it over low heat to keep the quinoa from becoming cold from the frozen berries).  Sprinkle with toasted pecans.  Feel good about yourself for the morning

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Salted Choco Peanut Butter Cookies

Do I really need to comment on this recipe?  Doesn't this title say it all?

I think so.

One ingredient note.  If you can buy salt in bulk, buy just a tad of fancy salt, like maldon or fleur del sal.  It's not expensive and it's divine.  You can use the leftovers to make salted chile brownies.

Enough said.  Here's the recipe.

This makes 3 - 4 dozen depending on how big you make them.

Salted Choco Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted from FoodBlogga on

1 1/4 c flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 c butter, at room temperature
1 c sugar
2 large eggs
2 t vanilla
3/4 c peanut butter (not natural, friends)
1 c chocolate chip
coarse sea salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla, beating well.  Add the peanut butter and beat until just combined.  Add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

At this point, I usually refrigerate the cookies, mostly because I've run out of time.  You can cook them right away  (one of these times I am going to try that).  I can't attest to the consistency differences between refrigerated or not, there are probably minimal.

Drop the cookies by teaspoonful* (like you use to eat, not measure) onto a greased baking sheet.  If you refrigerated them, flatten them slightly with your hands.  Sprinkle the top of each with a few coarse sea salt crystals.  Bake the cookies in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 12 -14 minutes until the edges are firm.  They'll firm up even more as they cool.  Enjoy.

*If you desire bigger cookies use a heaping tablespoonful instead.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

So Much More than Beans and Rice

So for those of you who don't have kids, I am going to be brutally honest.  Kids are fickle, fickle things.  You think you know a kid's eating habits and then they go and change.  This change doesn't necessarily start over years or months.  This is a day to day sort of change.

Those who have been reading this blog since is conception many moons ago, may remember, if you have a memory like an elephant, that M is not a bean fan.  It often takes coercion, unless it is lentils which she loves.

Tonight, M ate only beans for supper.

Those who read my post two short posts ago may remember I said that my boys aren't eating my supper or liking my food.  Today, J ate a serving of supper and asked for more.  (Little I wouldn't touch, so at least someone is true to form).

I was less than excited about tonights' meal, part of our eat more healthy plan.  Beans and Rice.  Sigh.

This is so much more than beans and rice.  It's what my family called Mexican haystacks (tacos on rice), but all together different.  It's beans and rice go gourmet.  It's absolutely yummy.  I will make this again and next time, I'll be much more excited about making it.  If you want to simplify this, use 1 - 2 cans of black beans in place of the dried beans.  I prefer the dried beans because I better control the sodium content.

I changed up this recipe a bit.  The original was in Bon Appetit's January 2012 issue.

This will serve 4 in these proportions.

So Much More than Beans and Rice
adapted from Bon Appetit

1 c dried anasazi or black beans
1 T bacon grease or olive oil (guess which I used)
1/2 onion, diced
1 lg clove garlic, minced
1 c Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1/2 lime juiced
2 T olive oil
1/3 c (about 1/2 of...) red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t chili powder
1 t ground coriander
1/2 - 1 t ground cumin
1 1/2 c chicken broth
3 c cooked brown rice
1 c cooked, shredded chicken (using a rotisserie chicken is easiest.  Don't use frozen cooked chicken)

Cook anasazi or black beans.  Quick soak method (because I always forget to soak them overnight):  put the beans in a pot and cover with 3 inches of water.  Bring to a boil, cover, and remove from heat.  Let stand for an hour.  Drain.  In same pot, heat bacon grease or olive oil.  Saute the onion until it is soft and slightly browned.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Return the beans to the pan.  Cover with water (1 - 2 inches above the top of the beans/onions).  Cook for 40 minutes for adzuki beans, or until tender.  (Black beans will take a bit longer).

In a small bowl, combine  the apple, cilantro, and lime juice.  Set aside.

Heat 2 T olive oil in a saute pan or skillet.  Add the bell pepper and cook until tender, about 5 - 6 minutes.  Add the garlic, chili powder, coriander, and cumin and saute 1 - 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add beans and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat just until the beans are simmering briskly (not past medium in my case).  Stir occasionally, smashing some beans with the back of a wooden spoon to help thicken the sauce.   Cook for 8 - 10 minutes.

To serve:  put a pile of rice on a plate.  Top with beans followed by chicken and then apple/cilantro salsa.  Season as desired with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Party Mix

I don't like party mix.

This is a bit of heresy in my family.  Party mix was a part of winter.  My parents would make roasting pans full of party mix, store in the huge (gallon or 2 gallon?) glass jars.  Their recipe, which they dubbed Marty Pix had every kind of imagineable Chex (for the 80's--I think 4 different kinds), cheerios, peanuts, pretzels, lots of Worcestershire sauce, and, when my mom would given in, bacon grease, among other things.

I didn't like it.  Every winter, my dad and I would have the conversation that went something like this:  "You really don't like party mix?  Why?"  Every winter.  It was part of the changing of seasons and shortening of the days.  I think in those instances my dad wondered if I was really a Guengerich.

This year, I found a recipe.  Against my better judgement I decided to try it.  Wouldn't you know it, I liked it!  It didn't use any chex or cheerios.  It had no bacon grease.  I discovered I could buy nuts in bulk and control the amount of different kinds of nuts, going light on the peanuts and heavy on almonds, pecans, and walnuts. I loved this party mix.  I ate a whole batch almost single handedly while working on our Christmas cards/letters.  I don't dislike party mix.  I just dislike chex, cheerios, and peanuts doused in worcestershire sauce and salt.

The flavors are more subtle.  I could taste the Crispix and pretzels.  I noticed the different kinds of nuts.  There was an occasional spicy bite (if I made this and didn't want to share with the kids I would up the cayenne) interspersed with some sweet tastes.  I love it.

It's still January.  The Super Bowl is coming.  I think I may just need to make another batch or two for that occasion!

This makes 8 - 9 cups.

Sweet and Spicy Party Mix
from merrill on

5 c Crispix
1 1/2 - 2 c mixed nuts (buy in bulk if you want to control the types)
2 c tiny twist pretzels
5 T butter, melted
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T brown sugar
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t garlic powder
1 1 /2 t fresh thyme, finely chopped (optional)
large pinch of cayenne

In a large bowl, combine the Crispix, nuts, and pretzels.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Drizzle over the cereal mixture and combine with your hands, being careful not to break about the cereal and distributing the seasoning evenly.

Transfer to a 13 x9" baking pan and bake in a 250 degrees oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until light and toasted.  Allow to cool and enjoy.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thai Curry Chicken Soup

In my search for "healthier" recipes, I looked for ones that are full of flavor, loaded with veggies, and are unique.  As much as I love lentils and beans, I reach a saturation point after a while---two different lentil dishes plus their leftovers are about all I can handle.  While this didn't have as much veggies as some, it still fit my healthier label.

We loved this soup.  I greatly reduced the amount of spice in it so my kids would eat it and eat it M did!  (I've pretty much given up with the boys eating much for supper....I think they eat enough during the day that by supper they're not super hungry...I remember M doing the same thing, then along came kinder and changed it.  I've accepted the boys don't like anything I cook and M will eat almost anything because she is starving after school).

As is quickly becoming a trend, I want Asian flavored foods in the winter--something about fish sauce (of the Vietnamese nature), ginger, or star anise is comforting when it is cold.  This soup didn't have any of these, but I did get to use a little more of my Thai red curry paste.  The optional ingredients I didn't use, for obvious reasons if you know me (kids don't do spicy and I don't do corn).  There is no set time for this to simmer.  Like many soups, the leftovers are even better because the flavors had time to marry.

This should serve about 4 - 6.

Thai Curry Chicken Soup
adapted a bit from apartmentcooker on

2 T olive oil
1/2 c onion, minced
1/2 c cilantro, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14-oz) can coconut milk
6 c chicken stock (or a combo of chicken stock and water)
2 t (you can use up to 2 T) red curry paste
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)
1 T ginger, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1-2 c mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 c corn kernels (optional)
1 1/2 c or so chicken, cooked and shredded

thinly sliced jalapenos
thinly sliced scallions
roughly chopped cilantro
lime wedges
avocado, thinly sliced (optional)

Heat 1 T olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until softened.  Add the garlic and cilantro and cook until fragrant, about a minute more.  Add the coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the red curry paste and zest and juice of lime.  Meanwhile, in a saute pan or skillet, heat the remaining T of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the jalapeno, if using, ginger, scallions, mushrooms, red bell pepper, corn, and chicken and cook until heated, 4 - 5 minutes.  Add to the broth.  Simmer until the mixture has reached desired flavor.  Season with salt.

To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with jalapenos, scallions, cilantro, lime, and avocado as desired.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lentils with 'Shrooms and Caramelized Onions

Hey.  I'm back!!  We'll see how good I do, but I hope to add a few new recipes that I've discovered and I plan to make over and over.  I'll just tell you straight up that there probably won't be any pics for awhile.  But there will be new posts!

We were in Virginia for Christmas.  It was a wonderful week of other people cooking and a smorgasbord of desserts.  There is no question where I get my dessert love from....6 kinds of cookies (by the end of the week, we all had discovered our absolute favorite kind---and they were different for each of us), incredible cheesecake, cherry pie, chocolate cake balls, ice cream, and frozen strawberries, grown in my parents' garden.  When we got home, I decided we needed some healthier eating and this week, I've been looking for recipes to get me back on track.  I've called it my own "cleanse" but those who do real cleanses would be affronted by this title.  We've been eating not a lot of meat, lots of lentils and vegetables, and limited starches.

This was our second lentil dish in a week.  I was worried it would be too similar to the mujadarra I made earlier in the week, but it was different enough that no one really minded lentils twice in one week.

The porcini mushrooms are optional, but well worth it if you can find it and/or afford them.

This was part of a really simple supper.  Just this plus some peas.  I omitted a carb entirely and no one really missed it.

This will serve 3 - 4 as a main course.  If you serve it with rice, it should serve 4 comfortably.

Lentils with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions
adapted just a tad from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman

1 c uncooked French or green lentils (this can be done ahead of time)
1/2 c (about .5 oz) dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
2 T olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 T fresh thyme or 1 t dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste.

Make the lentils by putting the lentils in a medium pot.  Cover with 3 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender, but not mushy.  Reserve 1/2 c cooking water, then drain, and set lentils aside. (You can make the lentils hours ahead and just refrigerate until you are ready for them).

Put the porcini in a small bowl.  Cover with boiling water and let soak for 20 minutes.  When the porcini are soft, reserve 1/2 c of the soaking water, and then drain.  Meanwhile, start caramelizing the onions.  Put 2 T oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onions, and cook until the onions are dark brown, but not burnt, about 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Remove the onions from the pan and put into a small serving bowl.  In the same pan, heat the remaining 2 T oil.  Add all the mushrooms (dried and fresh).  Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the mushrooms undisturbed for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released their juice.  Remove the cover, increase the heat to medium, and continue to cook until some of the sauce evaporates and the mushrooms are very soft, 5 - 10 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, 1/4 c of the reserved porcini water (or lentil water if you didn't use porcinis), and thyme.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat until everything is heated through.  Serve garnished with the caramelized onions.