An attorney writes about stuff she'd rather be doing: cooking, eating, wining, dining and traveling.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Menu for the Week

After our four day eating and drinking binge, this will be a light week, cooking-wise, particularly in light of the fact that on Saturday I have two Christmas parties - one at Wildfire in the afternoon and one at Buca di Beppo that evening. Goo.

Monday: Mushroom-brie soup and green salads with Dijon vinaigrette
Tuesday: Some sort of chicken something - either in the slow cooker or stir fry
Wednesday: Cuban roast pork with black beans and rice
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: dinner with friends

Angie's Crock Pot Country Ribs

Angie is a good friend of mine - we met under somewhat unusual circumstances, but bonded over our mutual love of cooking and distaste for newbie wedding planners. Angie's blog can be found at right - Adventures in Home Cooking. I took her country ribs recipe and adapted it based on her comments and our penchant for all things spicy.

Crock Pot Country Ribs

3-4 lbs. of country style ribs
1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. BBQ sauce (we LOVE Robinson's hot recipe)
1/2 c. beef broth
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. dry mustard
1 tbsp. Penzey's black and red pepper blend (or 1/2 tbsp. each black and cayenne peppers)

Whisk all ingredients together (except ribs) in the bottom of a crock pot. Add ribs and immerse so that they are covered with the liquid. Cook on high for 4 hours or so, or on low for 6 hours. You can definitely cook them for longer, but they do start to fall apart.

Angie's recipe calls for serving the ribs with the pan juices; however, we found the resulting juice to be far too greasy for our tastes. I fished the rib meat out of the crock pot and put it into a saucepan and ladled just a bit of the pan juices over the meat to keep it moist. I served the rib meat with additional BBQ sauce at the table. Yummmmmmm.

This went fabulously with the Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin below and a green salad.

Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin

I had a whole host of stuff leftover from our two Thanksgiving celebrations that I was trying to use up tonight. I found a recipe for a two potato gratin on Epicurious and adapted it to use up the myriad bits of fresh herbs, 1/2 carton of cream, etc.

This was sooooo good. However. It is not even remotely good for you. In fact, I am pretty sure I could hear my ass growing and my arteries clogging with every bite. I have posted the recipe as I made it, and afterwards my thoughts on how I will adapt it for a healthier version that we can eat more often.

Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin
6 baby Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
1 sweet potato, peeled
1 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter (although even if you are making the unhealthy version, I think you can leave this out all together - it made gross little oily puddles)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 c. monterey jack, shredded
1/2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Slice potatoes to 1/8 inch thickness using a food processor or mandoline.

Bring cream, butter (if using) and garlic to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat.

Spray a 8x8 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread half of the potatoes in the bottom of the dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with half of the herbs. Top with half of the cheese.

Repeat for a second layer.

Pour the cream mixture over the top. Cover tightly with foil.

Bake at 400 for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through.

Now, my thoughts for a healthier version:
The heavy cream is what really makes this dish bad news. I would not recommend replacing the cream with lowfat milk because the dish will end up watery. Rather, I would make a simple bechamel sauce with lowfat milk (recipe to follow) and use that instead of the cream and butter. Bechamel is thickened with flour, so it still has that creamier texture.

You can also reduce the amount of cheese (though what fun is that) or use reduced fat cheese. I don't like using reduced fat cheeses in hot dishes because it just doesn't melt right. For this recipe, I would probably opt to use a stronger flavored cheese like Swiss or Gruyere and cut back on the cheese by about 1/4 cup.

Finally, you could opt to use all sweet potatoes or use a higher proportion of sweet potatoes to Yukon Golds.

Bechamel sauce:
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 1/4 c. milk, heated

Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Slowly whisk in the flour and cook for about two minutes. Slowly pour in the heated milk and whisk. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes.

For the potato gratin, stir in the minced garlic after the milk and use in place of the cream and butter.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Goat Cheese, Pesto, and Sundried Tomato Torta

This is a yummy, amazingly easy make-ahead appetizer that goes quickly. The red, white and green colors make it an obvious choice for a Christmas party.

Goat Cheese, Pesto and Sundried Tomato Torta

1 8 oz. brick of cream cheese
1 4 oz. log of goat cheese
1/2 c. pesto*
1 small jar of sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and finely chopped
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

* You can make your own pesto or use store-bought stuff. This recipe requires a pesto that can hold its shape, so if your pesto is a little runny, add grated parmesan cheese until it will stick to a spoon. Recipe for homemade pesto follows.

In a bowl, blend the goat cheese and cream cheese together.

In another bowl, mix 1/4 c. of the goat-cream cheese mixture with the sundried tomatoes, tomato paste and vinegar.

Line a 2 cup ramekin (you can get this at Crate and Barrel for less than $5) with plastic wrap, leaving the ends long enough to fold back over the top. Spray the wrap lightly with cooking spray.

Press 1/2 of the goat cheese mixture into the bottom of the ramekin.
Spread 1/2 c. pesto over the top of the cheese.
Spread the sundried tomato mixture over the top of the pesto.
Spread the remaining goat cheese mixture over the top.

Fold the plastic wrap over the top to cover and chill for at least 1.5 hours.
To plate, unwrap the top, invert onto a plate and peel off the plastic wrap.
Serve with crackers or baguette slices.

Homemade pesto:
4 c. fresh basil leaves
3/4 c. pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic
1 c. freshly grated parmesan
About 1/2 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pulse first 4 ingredients together in a food processor. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you get the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

This makes enough for the torta above and to sauce pasta for 2-4. This recipe makes a thicker pesto for the torta. If you are using to sauce pasta, reserve some of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ziti with Chicken, Cherry Tomatoes, Arugula Pesto and Feta

If you make the pesto and chicken ahead of time, you have dinner during the week in no time at all! This is good with the shredded meat from one large breast of Brined, Roasted Chicken .

The pesto is a slight twist on the classic basil pesto. Too many times I will buy a large tub of arugula, only to end up working late, ordering in, meeting friends for dinner, etc. This is a great way to use up arugula that is gasping for its last breath!

For the pesto (this makes about 1 c. pesto, you'll have leftovers):
1 container baby arugula (about 5 cups)
1/2 c. pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c. parmesan cheese or more to taste
Olive oil, about 3/4 c.

Pulse arugula, pine nuts, cheese and garlic in a food processor. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Reserve about 1/2 c. pesto for this recipe and refrigerate or freeze the rest. Pesto freezes EXTREMELY well.

Ziti with Chicken, Cherry Tomatoes, Arugula Pesto and Feta
(makes enough for 2 hungry people plus a lunch the next day)
2 c. shredded, cooked chicken (the meat from one large bone-in chicken breast)
1 c. cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 c. arugula pesto
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 c. feta cheese
1/2 ziti, penne or other short pasta

Boil water for pasta. Add pasta and cook per package directions. Drain and reserve 1/2 c. pasta water.

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Add shredded chicken and cook over medium heat until warmed, about 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes and pesto and mix well.

Add pasta and stir well to coat with sauce. If necessary, use the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce to coat the pasta.

Sprinkle in the parmesan, crumble the feta and mix well. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Oil Popped Popcorn with Crack-like Popcorn Seasoning

Popcorn is a favorite snack in the Foodie household. We will almost always share a mini-bag of microwave stuff around 9pm with our "program" or Netflix movie (we are closet old people). Orville Redenbacher's Salt and Cracked Black Pepper was our popcorn of choice, but they've changed the recipe - it's still good, but not as good as it was.

I was at the grocery store yesterday and headed into the snack aisle to pick up a couple boxes of our standby salt and black pepper mini bags - and then I saw it. A bag of popcorn kernels. I had a flashback to our date night at Graham Elliot where fresh oil popped popcorn with interesting flavors like sour cream and chive or truffle replaces the typical bread basket. I ignored the boxes of microwave stuff and tossed a bag of kernels into the cart.

I decided to get all Graham Elliot and spice our evening popcorn. Oh my god. This is SO ADDICTIVE. It tastes similar to Cool Ranch Doritos, but better. I am typing this with spice and herb encrusted fingers.

Popcorn seasoning:
1 tsp. lemon pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder (or 1 tsp. garlic powder and 1 tsp. onion powder)
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1 cube chicken boullion, crushed into a powder, or 1/2 tsp. chicken boullion granules
1 tbsp. dried buttermilk (sold in the spice aisle). You could sub ranch dressing mix, onion soup mix or dried french onion dip mix. I used my Penzey's chip 'n dip mix.

Combine the above.
Pop popcorn according to package directions.
Melt 1-2 tbsp. butter and drizzle over popcorn. Shake well.
Season popcorn generously. The above proportions make enough for two batches.
Enjoy. Fight with your significant other over the last morsels in the bottom of the bowl.

Menu for the Week

Monday - Ziti with Chicken, Arugula Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes and Feta (using the Brined, Roasted Chicken I made this morning)

Tuesday - Pork Chops Adobado with black beans and rice

Wednesday - Harvest Salads with Chicken (more Brined, Roasted), pears, apples, dried cranberries, goat cheese and toasted nuts

Thursday - dinner at One Sixtyblue!

Friday - Green Chicken Curry with brown rice

Brined, Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breasts

My college friends will have their yearly Thanksgiving get-together next weekend, and due to people getting married, coupling up, etc. "Mangsgiving" has now reached a guest count of over 30. Last year, the hosts did a baked turkey and a deep fried turkey, and it wasn't quite enough.

So, this year I offered to do an extra turkey breast to supplement. I planned to brine the breast and cook it on the grill. However, I had never brined anything before, so I tested the process on some massive bone-in split chicken breasts. Brining locks in the moisture and keeps the meat tender and juicy. These are fabulous, either with a simple pan gravy or shredded for salads or pastas. Note that this is an overnight process, so start the day before you want to eat!

Brined and Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breasts
For the brine:
4 cups water + more to cover
1/4 c. kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, smashed
12 whole black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp. honey

4 large bone-in, skin on split chicken breasts

Bring 4 c. water just to a boil.
Stir in salt until it dissolves. Stir in honey until it dissolves. Add the remaining spices and remove from heat. Allow to cool.

Place chicken breasts in a large, sturdy Ziploc bag. Pour the brine mixture in. Add enough water to cover the chicken completely and shift the bag to mix everything together.

Set the Ziploc bag in a shallow pot in case you buy the cheap brand like me and it leaks. Put the pot in the fridge for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400. Remove chicken from bag, discard brine.
Pat chicken dry with a paper towel.
Season generously with pepper, just a little salt (or none).
Roast chicken for 45 minutes.

Allow to cool and shred for salads or pastas. OR make a quick pan sauce by placing the roasting pan over high heat, deglazing with a can of chicken broth, whisking to scrape up the brown bits, and stirring in a tablespoon of butter and a handful of chopped fresh herbs.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Chicken and Artichoke Casserole

I am not typically a fan of anything that entails throwing a bunch of stuff in a casserole dish, covering it with "cream of something soup" and baking. However, I got this recipe from a friend and tweaked it a bit to our tastes, and it was delicious. I served this with Minute brown rice (regular brown rice takes too freaking long to make during the week). Combine the leftover rice and casserole and refrigerate for a very tasty lunch the next day that resembles a creamy risotto.

Chicken and Artichoke Casserole
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 can of artichokes, drained and quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can cream of mushroom soup*
1 can cream of chicken soup*
1/2 c. lemon juice*
1/2 to 1 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese

*Try to get the 98% fat free or low sodium versions of the soups to lighten the dish.

**This is pretty lemony, so if you aren't a big fan of lemon flavor, you can use 1/4 c. lemon juice and 1/4 c. white wine. I liked it, but Mr. Foodie thought it was a little too lemony for his liking.

Heat a bit of oil in a medium skillet and brown the chicken chunks, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the soups, lemon juice (and wine, if using), garlic, parmesan and a little freshly ground black pepper in a casserole dish. It shouldn't need salt because of the soups.

Stir in the artichokes and browned chicken.

Bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees. Serve with white or brown rice, or any short pasta.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Taco Soup

Not quite chili, not quite tortilla soup. This freezes EXTREMELY well, so double it up and freeze half. Use the leanest ground beef available, and this is actually pretty good for you. The ingredients can be kept on hand for an impromptu football party meal.

Skip the jalapeno if you don't like it spicy. Don't add any salt to this soup, as the seasoning mixes can run on the salty side.

Taco Soup
1 pound ground beef (I use sirloin)
1 package taco seasoning (I get hot)
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 can of diced tomatoes (I like to use the Mexican style)
1 can of mild green chiles
1 c. frozen corn
1 can of jalapenos or 1/2 fresh jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 can of kidney beans
2.5 cans of water
2 tsp. cumin

tortilla chips
shredded cheese
sour cream

Brown the ground beef in a soup pot. Add seasoning mixes, cumin and all other ingredients. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with desired toppings.

BOO-YAH! Cheap wine for cooking.

I have issues when it comes to cooking with wine. I love putting booze in damn near everything (remember, the only thing lawyers like more than suing people is getting drunk), however, it tears me up inside to dump the contents of a $10 bottle into a slow cooker or Dutch oven. But, on the other hand, any good chef lives by the mantra, "if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it."

I have found a great, cheap brand of wine that is perfect for cooking, and isn't bad for drinking: Golden Gate. Jewel carries it, and it typically retails for $5.99 a bottle, but every time I've been to Jewel, it's been on sale for $2.99 a bottle. I've seen cabernet, merlot, chardonnay and pinot grigio. I try to have a couple bottles of the cab and the pinot grigio on hand at that price.

Perfect for cooking, good for drinking and easy on your wallet. High five.

This Week's Menu

Monday: Seafood Stew with fennel and saffron, salad and crusty bread
Tuesday: Lemon Chicken and Artichoke Casserole with brown rice and broccoli
Wednesday: Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff with Wild Mushrooms and Egg Noodles, arugula salad
Thursday: Something I've got stocked in the freezer - probably the ham, leek, mushroom and Gruyere quiche - and a salad.
Friday: my BFF's rehearsal dinner
Saturday: my BFF's wedding

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pork Chops Adobado

I would like to sincerely apologize to my loyal Justice Is Served readers (ummm...yeah, that would be my mom and Angie, but whatevs) for the lack of posts the past couple weeks. I've been crazy busy with my stoooooooooopid day job, but unfortunately lawyering pays the bills; cooking and blogging, alas, does not.

Anyway, I got this recipe from my good friend RSB, who got it from Smitten Kitchen, aka internet food porn. If you haven't checked out the smitten kitchen blog, you must: I have a sick girl crush on the author.

These chops are spicy and delicious! Perfect with a big salad and either roasted potatoes or rice and beans. The recipe is below, with my notes in parentheses.

Pork Chops Adobado - serves 4
4 boneless pork chops
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced (I thought 5 was perfect)
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. oregano (I didn't have I used a spice blend that listed oregano as the primary ingredient. I couldn't tell)
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper (I used my Penzey's cayenne-black pepper blend)
1 tsp. salt (I think this is entirely unnecessary)
2 tbsp. olive oil (I used just over 1 tbsp.)

Heat olive oil, garlic and oregano in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the other spices, stir and remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly.

Place pork chops in a baking dish and pour spice rub over the top. Rub into chops, flip them over and get a little rub on the bottom of the dish, and use that to rub into the bottom of the chops. Put in the fridge and let marinate for at least an hour.

Remove from fridge and let come up to room temperature for about 20 minutes. Preheat broiler or grill. Cook chops for about 4-5 minutes on each side, no longer. If using the broiler, make sure the oven rack is in the middle position to avoid the taste of burned garlic.

Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage

This is a really good, hearty fall soup. This recipe will require an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor.

3 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 butternut squash, approximately 3 lbs., halved and seeds removed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1 tsp. chopped fresh marjoram (or dried)
6 c. chicken stock
1 tsp. cider vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 of an 8 oz. package of light cream cheese, softened
Tabasco to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Drizzle squash halves with olive oil, generously salt and pepper and roast for 45 minutes on a baking sheet until tender.

Meanwhile, brown the sausage, using the spatula to crumble and set aside.

In a large heavy pot (make sure it is deep if using an immersion blender later), heat olive oil and saute onion for about 6 minutes, until it is just starting to caramelize. Add the garlic, sage and marjoram and saute for another minute.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and add it to the pot. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup (or puree in batches in a regular blender or food processor). Add cream cheese and puree again. Stir in sausage crumbles, add cider vinegar and Tabasco to taste and heat through.