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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I love these mashed potatoes.  I swear they rival any restaurant.  The recipe below is with cream, which makes them very yummy but honestly I usually use skim milk because that is what I have on hand and because cream is fattening! 

6 medium potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into small cubes (about 1/2" -- this makes them quick cooking)
3/4 cup cream
3 T. butter
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Cover potato cubes with cold water in 6 quart stock pot.  Add a generous amount of salt, at least 1 Tablespoon.  Cover pot and put on high heat.  When water starts boiling take lid off and let boil for about 15-20 minutes.  Meanwhile, put butter, garlic and cream into small sauce pan and put over low heat to steep while potatoes are cooking, making sure not to let it boil.  When potatoes are fork tender drain them in colander and return them to the hot pot.  Using a potato masher roughly mashed the potatoes.  Add the butter/cream mixture and continue mashing until desired consistently.  Salt and pepper to taste. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sunday Pot Roast

Growing up we very often had roast on Sunday.  My mom would cook it in the PRESSURE COOKER on the stove, you'd hear that silver knob rocking on top and know it was roast day.  PRESSURE COOKER is all caps because I was very afraid of that contraption.  I'd heard horror stories about how they would blow up if knocked the wrong way.  But it was worth the risk, the roast was always delicious with mashed potatoes and gravy on the side.

My husband grew up eating roast too only his roasted came with roasted veggies on the side -- carrots, potatoes and onion cooked along side the roast in the oven.  I will say, I'm not a fan of these veggies.  They seem very bland to me and just not at all appealing.  When I'm  traveling Jeff will occasionally make this version of pot roast in the crock pot with some onion soup mix.  Its a great option for when I'm not home.

This week I decided to create my own version of Sunday Roast.  I really love how it turned out so I hope you'll try it.

2.5 - 3 lb. roast
2 onions, sliced
3 celery stalks, chopped into chunks
4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cups red wine
1 15 oz. can beef broth
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Salt and pepper all sides of roast.  Heat olive oil in dutch oven on stove top.  Sear all sides of meat.  Remove from pan and let rest.  Put onions, carrots and celery in dutch oven and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.  Reduce heat to med-low, add garlic cloves and cover for 10 minutes, until onions are translucent.  Add red wine and beef broth to pan, raise heat, bring to simmer, add bay leaves and nestle meat down into liquid and veggies.  Cover and move to 325 degree oven for 3 hours.

Remove roast from oven and let rest while you prepare the gravy.  Use a slotted spoon to remove all the veggies, bay leaves and garlic from drippings.  Put the dutch oven on the stove and turn on heat to med-high.  Mix 2 T. corn starch with 1 cup of the juice and then pour back into pan.  Bring to low boil, remove from heat and add 1/2 T butter.  

Slice roast.  Serve with veggies and gravy on the side.

I served mine with garlic mashed potatoes (recipe coming tomorrow!) and green beans.

Roast, salted and peppered, going into hot pot

Roast, browned on all sides

Veggies in the pot

Veggies, ready for wine and broth

Roast, ready to go into oven

Roast, gravy, veggies....YUM!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Roasting Veggies

My kids love vegetables.  Yes, I know it is crazy but seriously they will fight over a pan of broccoli.  Last month Liv sat down to dinner and noticed we were one plate short.  "Where's Haley?"  she asked.  "At a friends, she won't be home for dinner."  I told her.  Her eyes lit up and she turned to Jeff.  "More broccoli for us!!!!"

Now I will say my kids do not like canned veggies or frozen veggies.  They like roasted vegetables and I roast them all.  I have roasted broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peppers, squash, zucchini....pretty much whatever is in season gets roasted in our house. 

Here's the method.  It works on all of them but the cooking time will vary. 

Clean and prep your veggies.  For broccoli and cauliflower that means cutting into bite sized florets, for asparagus that means snapping off the woody ends, for peppers just chunk into bite sized pieces, you get the point. 

Spread the veggies onto a cookie sheet or bar pan, its best to use something with a lip just so the oil doesn't run off or the veggies don't go sliding off when you move the pan in and out of the oven.

Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  We also sometimes use a McCormick Grinder that has salt and garlic in it instead of kosher salt.  (if you aren't familiar with the McCormick grinders check them out in your spice aisle.) 

Next put the pan in a HOT oven (400 or even 425) and cook until the desired doneness.  For my family  that means they still have a little bite to them.  Approximate cooking times at 400 degrees is 15-20 minutes for broccoli, 12-15 minutes for asparagus, cauliflower is longer - about 30 minutes, Brussels spouts take a good 35-40 minutes. 

You can also experiment with adding other flavors especially to cauliflower which doesn't have a lot of flavor on its own.  Sprinkle them with rosemary, oregano or crushed red pepper flakes.  You can also toss the hot, roasted veggies with a little balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and/or Parmesan cheese.  Experiment!  Try mixing veggies for a roasted blend, like butternut squash and green and yellow zucchini or broccoli and red peppers.  If you are buying in season the most you will be out is a couple of bucks if you don't like how it turned out.  But honestly my family always goes back to the basics -- salt, pepper, olive oil.

I have had people who said they didn't like broccoli try the roasted version and love it.  It definitely gives it a whole new flavor, really nutty almost.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bananas Too Ripe? Make Bread!

I woke up on Sunday morning to find 6 very ripe bananas sitting on my counter.

This isn't a rare issue for me because I love fresh bananas but only when they are perfectly ripe and not a bit over ripe.  So anytime I buy a bundle from Sam's chances are 2-6 of them will not get eaten within the "window."  Typically I slice them up, place them on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper, slide them in the freezer and then put them in a tuperware when they are frozen solid and keep them on hand for future uses -- like smoothies.

Sliced bananas, ready to go in the freezer
But I also have a great banana bread recipe that I have been using since I was little.  I think it was my Grandma Flossie's (since it calls for Crisco) but I may be imagining that.  I do know that I submitted a few loaves to the Warren County Fair when I was in 4H and got a blue ribbon!  So here's my Blue Ribbon Banana Bread!

2 bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup butter flavored Crisco
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

In mixing bowl mash the bananas with a potato masher or pastry blender, add sugar, egg and Crisco and beat on medium until well mixed.  Add sifted flour, baking soda, baking powder and milk, mix just until combined.  Do not over mix - this will make the bread tough.  Transfer dough to greased bread pan or muffin pan.  Let dough rest 20 minutes before baking to prevent cracking.  Bake in 350 degree oven.  Muffins will take about 25 minutes, loaf pan will take 1 hour.

Tips -- I have tried substituting real butter for Crisco.  It does NOT work.  Just bite the bullet and go with the Crisco.  Also, I used to hate sifting flour when I was a kid because we had this old sifter with the pull handle that took forever and left you with major hand cramps.  Now I just use a fine mesh kitchen strainer over a bowl.  Gets the job done and is completely painless! 

Sifting Flour the easy way!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chopped Salad

Tonight we had dinner at my mom's house during the Super Bowl.  My job was to bring a salad.  I get requested to bring salad a lot and they usually want/expect me to bring my Cashew Craisin Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette but tonight I wanted to do something different.  My inspiration was the chopped salad we used to get at Gambucci's.  Here's what I came up with:

Salad Fixings:
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely chopped
1 roma tomato,  seeded and finely chopped
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 head romaine, finely chopped
½ head iceberg, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
6 strips bacon, cooked crisp and finely chopped
½ cup crumbled feta

Balsamic Dressing:
¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. brown sugar
½ cup olive oil

Mix vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and brown sugar in blender.  Gradually add olive oil until completely emulsified.

Toss dressing with salad right before serving.

Happy Chopping!