Protein

Earlier today I tried telling AJ that we should really try to cut down on our meat eating habits in 2012. He was understandably devastated, as culinary delights of the pork persuasion are some of our favorite things. But, the turning of a new year is nothing but an excuse/chance to rev up your engines and recharge your batteries. Horrible metaphors notwithstanding, it’s time to get real about being healthy. (Bonus points for being environmentally friendlier, too. Modern meat production is no bueno for our fair planet. Somethingsomething corn
somethingsomething.)

Tonight’s dinner was my one chance to convince him that we could be just fine without meat every few days or so. As every good story goes, we had some challenges: no time to stop at the grocery store and only an hour to cook, eat and digest before headed back out.

Pantry to the rescue!

We happened to have some fresh veggies on hand from last weekend’s cookathon, and a can of crabmeat that was in my Christmas stocking. (P.S. donate to your local food bank, please and thank you.) Looked like this was going to be a battle of Abby vs. crab cakes. I had never made them before, but I am happy to report they were easy and super tasty.

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I’m choosing to define “crab” as “not meat,” so hush. Even though it had eyes, as AJ points out. Just go with it.

The lazy man’s version of my recipe for posterity:

– Mix one can of crab with less than 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, same-ish of mayonnaise, small pieces of zucchini and pepper (mine happened to be orange)
– Add red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and a bit of pepper to your taste
– Heat skillet on medium to medium-high, with your choice of nonstick stuff (butter or oil)
– Roll the crab mixture into two balls and flatten to about, uh … 3/4 inch maybe? and plop into hot pan
– DON’T TOUCH THEM
– Cook for about 4 minutes on each side to make sure they are golden brown on the outside and cooked through

Serve with quinoa for an exceptionally bland looking plate.

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Trust us

I don’t have any pictures, because we ate it all, but here’s a recipe for a delightful Saturday night evening with friends:

1. The easiest and best pizza dough recipe you’ll ever find (doubled and set to rise before your guests arrive)

2. Toppings for three of our favorite pizzas (in order of layers as you put each together):

– olive oil, garlic salt, homemade basil pesto, sliced roma tomatoes, feta cheese

– oregano, pizza sauce, cooked hot Italian sausage (Giant Eagle’s brand is actually amazing, crumbled or diced), mozzarella

– same as above, but diced green peppers and onions instead of sausage

3. A pizza stone

4. Patience to wait 15 minutes for each pizza to cook

OPTIONAL: (but recommended) wine and Cranium

If you stop there, your party is sure to be a hit. Heck, I even added a salad to be fancy. But, if you really want to send it over the edge, use your last ball of dough for dessert pizza.

Yeah, that’s right.

Melt two (or, let’s be honest, three) tablespoons of nutella with your favorite peanut butter (we only can recommend Market District’s freshly ground honey roasted, which is pure heaven), spread it on the dough as a sauce, cover with sliced frozen strawberries, sprinkle with powdered sugar and bake as normal.

A perfect way to celebrate the end of a lovely evening.

Garlic Knots

Just a quick stop by to say you should make this dough.

As long as you get the water warm enough to activate the yeast, it’s basically impossible to mess this up. I made the garlic knots tonight (just as described at the Never Homemaker link above) and ate three of them before I forced myself to put the rest away. Don’t be alarmed – the pumpkin is not even noticeable. Especially if you get the garlic amount right. 🙂

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I saved half of the dough for pizza on Friday. I expect that will be just as airy and delightful as it was tonight. Maybe chicken pesto for the toppings? As if weekends weren’t enough to look forward to on their own …

Dessert

We rarely make desserts anymore since we are so obsessed with banana ice cream, but this one was too good to pass up:

Peppermint patties. At home. (Thanks, Pinterest.)

Please note the classy kitchen box fan.

  • It’s OK if you don’t know what coconut oil is (I didn’t) and have no idea why it’s solid (I still don’t).
  • All you need is a bowl and your hands – no cooking required. (Well, until you melt the chocolate, but that’s not the exciting part.)
  • The Pinterest link above is the exact recipe I used. (Thanks to Jaci for pinning it!) I didn’t do anything differently. Click here and read it directly from the source.

Enjoy!

Grey Poupon

So, it’s been a while. Life has been great and busy and all of those things. But let’s skip the niceties and get down to the real deal.

Sandwiches.

On Sunday, I sent AJ to the grocery store alone (he wouldn’t go to the gym with me) and he came back with everything on the list, plus one more thing.

That one more thing was BOGO sirloin tip roast. So, really two more things.

This morning I threw one of those babies in the crock pot (on low for at least eight hours), and then thought to myself “HEY. YOU DID NOT THINK THIS THROUGH.” And also, “It’s early and I have had no coffee. What do I do now?”

I did what any self-respecting almost-30 year old would do … turned to the remaining half bottle of red wine left over from the weekend and dumped it in. Threw in some garlic (probably two tablespoons), some onion powder (real onions would probably be better), a tiny heap of brown sugar (three tablespoons-ish), freshly ground pepper and enough water to cover the meat. And then I went to work.

When I came home and pulled the meat out, it fell promptly apart.

Perfect.

For.

Sandwiches.

I toasted some bread, so loving donated to us by my mother (no shame), and got our plates together. The only thing needed for this sandwich was mustard.

Pardon me, but go get some Grey Poupon. It’s the only thing standing in between you and the best Monday night sandwich of your life.

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AJ seemed to like it. I think pairing it with peanut butter celery boats was a nice touch, don’t you?

I served myself sans bread, plus feta. Gotta save those calories for the beer, duh. (Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, to be exact.)

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Happy Monday, everyone!

Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls

I found this recipe posted on my new favorite website, Pinterest. Egg rolls? Absolutely. Buffalo chicken? Love it. Baked? Yes please.

I was sold.

I’ve never worked with these wrappers before, but they really couldn’t be easier. Blissfully not wafer thin and awful like phyllo. Don’t be afraid to get in there and work with them. Reasonably pliable and actually kind of fun to wrap ’em up.

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I cooked a package of chicken breast tenders, and shredded about 6 of them. AJ doesn’t like bleu cheese (yet) so I substituted mozzarella. We don’t have a wire rack (I know. Insanity.) so I cooked them on a regular baking sheet. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly.

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I should have filled the egg roll wrappers more, but I was afraid they would explode. I recommend you go for it. Make ’em count! We ate these with broccoli slaw from Giant Eagle Market District, which is one of our favorite quick and easy dishes. Also, bacon.

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I would definitely make these again, but using bleu cheese and make them rounder and more full. I have a bunch of extra wrappers that need to be used within a few days. Any idea what I should fill them with next??

We’re still here.

Spring has been an interesting transition period for us. We are both in new jobs – yay! – and trying to get ready for what is already looking to be a busy and exciting summer. Admittedly, I haven’t been cooking much, and while I could blame a number of things, mostly I’ve just been lazy and eating out is fun again.

I do have one small gift for those of you still with us … a new crock pot masterpiece! Chili and beer braised brisket. I found it while browsing the new Giant Eagle iPhone app, and even purchased Corona specifically for this recipe. I followed it as well as I know how to follow anything, so click on over to the original recipe from Eating Well, and cook  up some deliciousness this weekend.

We’ve been eating it for lunch for days now; it’s still amazing and damn tender.

Editor’s note: I’m losing my ever-loving mind. This is not a crock pot recipe, although I presume you could make it into one. “Dutch oven” just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely. Oops.

No Brainer

Today was the first day of my new full-time gig, so I knew I wanted a quick and easy dinner. (Not that cubicle land is terribly exhausting, but one can’t be too sure how one will react after being on couch duty for the past month.) We had some skillet steak and fresh bunches of kale from last nights grocery trip, and I figured I’d find a starch of some kind in the pantry (read: sole cabinet in our teeny kitchen).

This is probably the easiest, healthiest meal I’ve made in a while. Bonus: it was delicious and filling, without being too heavy. (Our cuts of meat were on the small side, which is best for dinner in my mind.) I promise that if you set your temperatures properly, you can’t mess this up.

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KALE: Set oven to 300F. Rip kale leaves off stalk, toss with 1 TBSP olive oil (they shouldn’t be soggy), spread them on a baking sheet, sprinkle sea salt on top and put in oven. Don’t touch them or open the oven door for 25 minutes, at which point you will turn the oven off, pull the chips out, and be amazed at their crispiness. Add more salt to taste, or not. Either way.

RICE: After you put the kale in the oven, boil some water and follow the instructions on the box to make wheat cous cous, which I highly recommend. It takes about 20 minutes; isn’t that convenient?

STEAK: Once you put your water on to boil, grab a cast iron skillet, add a bit of olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan, and turn heat to high. Take your steaks out of the package (the Internet recommends you will have pulled them out of the fridge already 30 minutes prior to take the chill off), and dry rub a bit of black pepper and garlic salt on both sides of each cut of meat. The skillet should be hot by now, so put the meat in and hear/smell/watch it sear. Five minutes on each side will get you a nice medium doneness. Adjust the time accordingly to your taste, but for goodness sakes, don’t touch them at all. Don’t cover them, don’t fuss with them. Walk away. (I cleaned the dining room carpet, myself.) After your time is up, turn the heat off and let the steaks rest on a plate for 10 minutes-ish. If you’ve been playing along, that’s how long it will take for your rice and kale to finish. See what I did there?

While my heart still belongs to the casseroles and crock pot meals of the world, it feels good to serve a “proper” plate once in a while.

Leftovers Are Delicious

One of our major food rules is to Buy Meat On Sale. Giant Eagle Market District by our house has some really nice deals; BOGO roasting chickens are the top of that list, with pork chops being not far behind. This week it was pot roast. Not fancy or revolutionary, but reliable and filling. We spent maybe $11 (I forget the actual numbers, but if anything, I am overestimating) on a cut that would last us at least each three meals. (These are often BOGO as well, which means we probably have another in the downstairs freezer. Awesome.)

The second food rule is Embrace The Leftovers. I know people who won’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, and those people have just been misguided. Likely because to them, leftovers means “reheating the same thing four times.” Not in my kitchen. We do sort of a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle thing. Except not in a gross garbage sort of way.

On Sunday night I cooked the pot roast, very simply. I knew that we would probably only eat one meal from this as prepared, so I didn’t want to do anything too fancy. I used this recipe exactly (very rare for me) but without the carrots. Two days later, it made a delicious meal served with green beans.

It’s now Thursday, and while most people might go OH GROSS YOU MADE IT ON SUNDAY, the pot roast is still totally fine. Letting it rest is always good for the flavors, and after it’s cooled in the fridge you can skim off a whole load of nasty fat, so I rarely recommend eating a pot roast the day it was prepared. Although, I wouldn’t let it go more than a week without doing something to it – eating, casserole-ing or freezing.

I came across this amazing looking blog this afternoon, and knew that today would be round 2 for the pot roast: bbq sandwich.

Step 1: Google for a BBQ sauce recipe that speaks to you. For this preparation, I am partial to the ketchup-based kind, and mine had worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, brown sugar, liquid smoke and brown mustard. I knew the pot roast already had garlic, salt and pepper, so I omitted that from my sauce.

Step 2: Portion out some of the meat. I made enough for myself for today and extra for AJ. I made my sauce based on 3/4 cup of ketchup, and that was PLENTY.

Step 3: Mix your sauce, and dump it and the meat into a sauce pan. Heat for roughly 5 minutes on low until the meat starts to break away. Because you cooked it so nicely in the first place, it should “pull” itself with a bit of help from a wooden spoon. Once it’s hot, turn the heat off and cover with a lid for a few more minutes to let the sauce soak in there.

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Step 4: Ignore the fact that you have no cabbage for a proper cole slaw, and shred some lettuce.

Step 5: Ignore the fact that you have no blue cheese, and put a schmear of sweet onion dressing on the bun of your choice, top with lettuce and the now properly saucy pulled beef.

Step 6: Enjoy.

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So, I want to encourage you to try something new with your leftovers. Just because you cooked it one way in the first place, doesn’t meant that you can’t go another direction. Just let your taste buds lead you. It can’t be too bad, and if it is, you can always rinse the meat off. (I’ve done that. And then made a shepard’s pie. It’s OK. I promise.)

Pasta Substitute

I love Italian food. I also love the American version of Italian food, and that’s really what this is about. In general, however, I’m hesitant about pinning my entire meal on a pasta base …

Enter: spaghetti squash.

It’s a beautiful vegetable, not in look, but in simplicity and dependability. It’s dead simple to cook (cut in half lengthwise, scrape seeds out with a spoon, put open end down on a baking sheet, stick in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes) and is basically zero weight watcher points. In real calories, I don’t know what that means, but it’s a vegetable, so eat up!

To get the squash to live up to its name, take one cooked half (careful, it’s HOT!) and scrape a fork into the flesh. You’ll end up with a whole mess of soft noodle-like strands. In today’s preparation, I went with marinara sauce, but I’ve enjoyed this many times with a gang of salsa on top. Simple, quick, healthy, and amazing with crumbled feta on top. (bonus recipe!!)

So, on to the real recipe:

1. Cook and fork-prepare squash
2. Brown (extra lean) ground beef with garlic
3. Add some marinara sauce (not a ton, because the squash is very moist) to the beef
4. Turn off the heat, and stir in the squash to the main pot with a handful of mozzarella and any veggies you might like
5. Transfer all to a casserole dish, and top with more cheese if you wish
6. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes
7. Serve and eat

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At this point, you’re going to want to toast some nice, hearty slices of bread, pour yourself a glass of red wine, and put on your favorite childhood movie. Or maybe that’s just me.

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