Sunday, January 10, 2016

A month of all new recipes part 2: Crazy Beef Stroganoff

If you missed the last post, we're jumping into an all-new series making something completely different for nearly every night of the week over the course of a month.

After weeks of Thanksgiving leftovers, we really needed something unique and off the beaten path to refresh our palettes, so it's time to get adventurous! Be sure to check out the last post about delicious savory Italian casserole before we jump into our next all-new meal: a crazy twist on traditional beef stroganoff.

We got this idea from Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals show on Hulu (which, by the way, is a serious lie - none of those dishes can be made in 15 minutes, but hey, they are mostly tasty, so we'll let it slide). For this non-traditional take on a traditional meal, you'll need:

  • 1 lb. your preferred cut of beef (we used skirt steak, see below for more options)
  • Button mushrooms
  • Fresh bunch spinach (NOT the frozen kind)
  • 1 red onion
  • 6 - 7 gherkin pickles
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp. brandy
  • 2 cups rice (we prefer parboiled)
  • 1 tsp. parsley
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • about 1/2 cup sour cream

To get started we're going to clean off our mushrooms and then slice them in thin strips, as well as peel our garlic and get it in the press to use later.

We want the red onion and pickles to be thinly slice but completely uniform, so we cut them up using the slicer attachment on our food processor. This is a quick and easy way to get through lots of veggies, but a mandolin also works great - which we finally just got for Christmas and will be utilizing heavily in new posts to come soon!

We're going to next mix the red onion and pickles with all our seasonings (except the paprika) in a large bowl.

Finally its time to get cooking, and here were heating up the mushrooms and the pressed garlic in about a teaspoon of oliv eoil.

After a few minutes, add in half the red onion / pickles but reserve the other half - we'll be using the uncooked mixture later.

We want the onions to get nice and soft and have time to develop their flavors with the garlic, mushrooms, and the very nontraditional pickles.

Now it's time for the meat! We used skirt steak, which is a little more on the chewy side, so if you go that route you'll definitely want to marinate for at least a few hours before hand. Even a simple oil, vinegar, and seasoning marinade would do, and of course adding some of the bourbon won't hurt! If skirt steak isn't your favorite, go with any other cut, like flank, sirloin, top round, or chuck.

After slicing strips of beef, the seasonings here are pretty simple - paprika and salt and pepper.

Were going to remove the cooked veggie mixture from the heat and set aside in a different bowl while cooking the beef. After it's started to brown, add in the bourbon, and if you want some sear - light it on fire!

Next we return the vegetables after the meat has cooked through and then we add in the sour cream to get more of the traditional stroganoff flavoring.

While this has been cooking, we've had our parboiled rice cooking away in the rice cooker and heating the spinach in the steamer basket on top. After its all cooked, we're mixing the spinach into the rice for serving.

Throw a few heaping spoonfuls of spinach and rice on your plate as a base for the delicious topping to come.

Next add on the cooked skirt steak, vegetable, and sour cream mixture - as much as you can handle!

Remember how we saved some of the vegetable mixture and didn't cook it? Throw some of that on top for extra crunch and flavor!

Here we go, a big messy, wonderful dinner adding in some flavors you really don't expect while still keeping up the basic idea of stroganoff,

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A month of all new recipes part 1: Italian Casserole

After a week of leftovers following Thanksgiving, we decided it was time to focus on entirely new meals, so we've been challenging ourselves to come up with several new recipes a week that we've never tried out before.

In the coming days we've got a huge variety of delicious meals to share with you from those cooking experiments, from the savory two-pot Italian casserole below to a salty brined chicken, a meatball pie, and even a very unique twist on beef stroganoff.

For this easy but super tasty Italian casserole, you will need:
  • Store bought penne (or homemade sheets of pasta)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 tbsp. of your preferred Italian pasta seasonings + salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound Italian seasoned sausage
  • Large, thin sliced pepperoni AND salami (the deli kind, not the pizza topping kind)
  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella (the kind packed in water or dry and pre-packaged from the deli is best)
  • 2 - 3 oz. shredded regular mozzarella
  • 8 oz. provolone
  • As much Parmesan as you can handle!

To start off this dish, cook the sausage over medium heat in a dutch oven (or any pan that can switch from the skillet to oven).

Next we're going to shred and slice each of the types of cheese.

We're going to slice the salami and pepperoni into long strips, but you could also do small squares or even leave them whole in the circles for a twist.

Meanwhile, we're cooking the penne in boiling water in a separate pan. Once it's finished, throw it in the dutch oven with the sausage and then stir in the salami, pepperoni, and each type of cheese.

Next we whip up some homemade sauce by mixing together the canned tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasonings, and cayenne in a blender. For a better flavor and thicker consistency, cook this down over medium heat in a covered pan for about 20 minutes. It's an extra step that takes longer, but the results are worth it.

After the sauce is ready, spoon it into the dutch oven and stir together. For a more even mix, you can also add in layers of each ingredient type: pasta, meat, cheese, and then sauce. Repeat with four or five layers for an even distribution.

Next we're going to crank the oven to 400 and cover the pasta casserole in a thick layer of Parmesan to get a good crust on top.

For presentation, we're adding on a final layer of uncut pepperoni. Throw it all in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes.

Here it is, with a bubbly cheese crust and layers of tasty Italian flavor just begging to be eaten!

Spoon out a section and throw it on a plate or bowl and then top with extra Parmesan if you are so inclined. Bon App├ętit!

There are plenty of ways to modify this recipe to change things up - add in some fennel for more of a pizza taste, or swap out your meats with any other favorites like ground beef, bacon, chicken, or pancetta. Adding in some cream also takes this up a notch by going from straight tomato sauce to more of an Alfredo style.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Eating Local: Kohlrabi, Part 2

In our recent drive to eat produce all farmed locally, we've made some scrumptious zucchini and basil pasta as well as zucchini fritters and a creamy kohlrabi. If you aren't familiar with kohlrabi, be sure to go back and check out that previous post, as it explains how this non-traditional little vegetable is used and what sort of taste and texture you'll be getting.

Today we use the kohlrabi again in two very different ways - first in a delicious and quick one pot meal, and second as a side slaw to accompany flame grilled hot dogs!

For our first meal, we're actually just using the kohlrabi leaves, not the bulb at all. They are much more firm than typical greens like lettuce or spinach, and won't wilt while being cooked, so they retain a great texture and offer a slightly salty flavor after being heated.

To get this simple meal going, just put your meat in the bottom of the pan (depending on which meat you choose, you may need to brown on the skillet first) and then roughly chop up and throw in whatever vegetables you've got around - we used onion, baby carrots, zucchini, and kohlrabi leaves. Potatoes, bell peppers, and anything else also go great in these. Top with whatever seasonings you typically enjoy - salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings are a great starting point.

To keep things moist and add in some extra flavor we pour in a can of Campbell's garlic recipe starter - but any sauce you like like would work here, like cream of mushroom soup, an alfredo with extra garlic added in, or anything else you've got on hand that's a little creamy.

We happened to have boneless country style pork ribs in the freezer needing to be used, which offered a very hearty meat component, but honestly any meat would work here - chicken thighs, chicken leg quarters, diced pork or beef stew meat, and so on. Cook in the oven at 375 - 400 degrees about an hour and then serve over some cooked rice for a fast, tasty, and filling dinner.

Now on to something that gets to the heart (or bulb) of the matter. Because the bulb has the texture of a radish but is less biting or "spicy' than that particular vegetable, Kohlrabi is equally good paired in less savory dishes or even in dishes with fruit.

Here we're going to make a very quick and simple "slaw" by just cutting up matchsticks of apples and kohlrabi (be sure to peel off the outer layer on the kohlrabi first).

You'll want to cut the matchsticks pretty thin, as you don't want a crazy crunch here, just a subtle mixing of apple and vegetable.

Toss in some olive oil and the juice of a fresh squeezed lemon and then season with salt and pepper and you're good to go.

This is a very basic, fresh slaw, but if you have a preferred creamy slaw recipes you like to use - have at it! Here we're serving our slaw with some grilled hot dogs as a healthier side.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Eating Local: Kohlrabi, Part 1

A few weeks ago we showed how to make a quick and delicious zucchini and basil pasta made with local ingredients procured at the farmer's market, and it had us wanting to do more with locally grown ingredients.

While browsing the vendors, we discovered almost all of them carried a vegetable we'd never even heard of before but that apparently grows well in Montana: kohlrabi.

Interest thoroughly piqued, we went on a quest to discover how to cook and eat these odd little guys. If you've never had kohlrabi, it's a small bulb covered by a hard peel and topped with thick leafy greens. Texture-wise the interior of the bulb is quite a lot like a radish, but the flavor is less biting.

Interestingly, kohlrabi can be eaten either raw or cooked, and you can equally use either the leaves or the bulbs - and in this dish below, we used both at the same time!

Here's the kohlrabi and a massive zucchini we picked up last weekend at the farmer's market:

Because the zucchini was so huge, we needed a way to use a lot of it, so we decided to do fritters. Here Megan has used a cheese grater to grate up the zucchini, half a white onion, and a small potato.

The shreds get all mixed together and lightly salted to draw out the moisture, as you don't want any excess liquid when these fritters hit the frying pan.

To really ensure all the liquid is gone, we set the shreds in a colander and let them sit for about half an hour.

After thoroughly drying, we add in flour and baking powder and mix it all up, then form into several large patties.

Now the fritters get tossed into a large skillet with some hot oil to get frying.

Flip 'em over after they finish browning on each side!

"So that's cool" you're probably thinking, "but where the heck is the kohlrabi?" We're getting there! For another side, I've peeled and diced some kohlrabi (and onion) and pulled off the leaves, which will get used later.

First we're going to start cooking the kohlrabi and onion in few tablespoons of butter and let them soften.

While that's happening, we'll roughly chop the kohlrabi leaves so they can join in on the action.

A few minutes later they go in the skillet to cook. These thick, fibrous leaves won't shrink up nearly as much as spinach, so what you chop will be very close to what you get at the end of cooking.

Next we throw in a dash of heavy cream and a few seasonings, including salt and surprisingly nutmeg, which adds a nice little change in the flavor. A few minutes of reducing down and you've got a creamy delicious side that uses both the bulb and the leaves of the kohlrabi.

Your main dish can really be anything - we decided to go for broke on the heavy, savory flavors and stuff chicken drumsticks with cheese and then wrap them in bacon. Some Italian seasonings on top seals the deal as they hit the 400 degree oven.

After about 40 minutes you get sizzling, cheesy wonder wrapped in hot crispy bacon.

Here it all is together: some delicious creamy kohlrabi (with just enough crunch to be satisfying), a zucchini fritter, and some bacon-wrapped chicken drumsticks.

Check back soon, as we'll be taking another look at how to use kohlrabi and locally grown zucchini in very different ways next!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mango Puree

In the mood for a cold refreshing dessert while the heat is still on? Here's a little something we put together for an ice cream social the other week when mangos were on sale at Smith's for 50 cents a piece.

This one is mostly fresh fruit with just a bit of dairy, so it's both tasty and more on the healthy side. For some amazing mango puree, you'll need:

  • 5 – 6 mangos, ripe
  • 1 lime
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 – 7 tbsp. heavy whipping cream (sorry, half and half won't cut it here)

To start this off, use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the mangos. In the picture below, you can clearly see the differing levels of ripeness - the ones at the top are the most dark in color and are much softer, while the ones at the bottom are lighter and more firm.

We're going to set aside two of the mangos to dice and use as a topping, so you'll probably want to go with the firmer ones there. If your mangos aren't ripe at all though, they won't be a pleasant texture to eat whole, so in that case you'll want to puree the hardest mangos.

We simply roughly chop 4 or 5 of the mangos and run them through a food processor for a few seconds - there's nothing added at this point, and this puree alone is already tasty and could go in any number of dishes or used as a side or topping.

We're going to add in just a bit of acid and a countering flavor by squeezing in some fresh lime juice - if you want less acidity and more mango, omit entirely or use less lime.

Take your remaining 1 -2 mangos that weren't pureed and dice them into large squares. You can squeeze lime over those as well if you want, then set those aside in the fridge as you won't need them till later.

Now it's time to get the dairy elements going in a separate bowl!

To start, we're whipping just the egg whites and sugar until stiff, then add in around six tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and continue to beat until peaks form.

Fold the cream mixture into the mango puree and then set it in the refrigerator. If you wait 3 - 4 hours you have something like a sorbet that's very tasty on its own or as a desert topping, but if you wait overnight it will set up into a more solid form like a mousse. Throw some of the diced mango in a bowl and top with the puree to serve.

While good on its own, mix in some muesli or granola for a delicious and healthy breakfast the next morning.