Beef the Slow Cooker!

>> Thursday, September 29, 2011

Even with the ease of the Internet, I still love good old cookbooks! I was at my mother-in-law's condo last weekend and spotted a cookbook with the title The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World. You had me at Gourmet...and then you had me again at Slow Cooker!

While I love my slow cooker, I have a beef with the recipes for it. So many of the popular crockpot recipes call for cream of something soup or prepackaged spice packets. While I love the convenience of the crockpot, I don't want to sacrifice health (especially sodium content) just to use the crockpot. This cookbook is awesome because it uses all fresh ingredients and spices.

Okay, I'll step off my soap box now. This recipe caught my eye because I love Indian food and the picture corresponding to the recipe looks fabulous. An added plus is that Finley loves meat, rice and peas, so I thought this recipe would be right up her alley.

The Beef Biryani was great! It was flavorful, delicious and the meat was wonderfully tender. The spice mixture used was different than the traditional curry and since it didn't have a cream-based sauce, I felt good about eating it. If you haven't ever tried biryani before, Andrew called it the Indian equivalent to paella, and he's not far off. It's a dish made of seasoned meat and broth with rice and peas added towards the end. I served it with a simple cucumber raita and the creaminess of the salad complimented the biryani perfectly. (I'll post that recipe tomorrow.) We had my parents over for dinner and the recipe served the four adults, one child and we have enough left-overs for another two to three people. So it feeds a crowd!

FYI - This recipe calls for several spices that I didn't already have in my spice cabinet. I checked out the prices for bottles of the spices at my local grocery store but they were all pretty pricy. I made an extra trip to Central Market and bought the spices out of the bulk bins, buying only what I needed, and spent less than $1.50 for all of them!

Beef Biryani
recipe adapted from The Gourmet Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
seeds from 3 cardamom pods (smack the cardamom pods with the back of a spoon a time or two to get the seeds out)
6 whole cloves
6 to 8 peppercorns
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 pounds lean beef stew meat
1 red or yellow onion, finely chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
3 to 4 cups cooked Basmati rice
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 1/4 cup water for 20 minutes (reserve soaking liquid)
1 teaspoon salt
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Combine cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves and peppercorn in a spice grinder or mortar and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add oil. Add beef and cook, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes or until browned on all sides. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

Add the onion to the pan and saute, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, or until the onion is softened and starting to brown. Add garlic and ginger and stir for 3 minutes. Add the spice mixture and stir well. Add meat and yogurt and mix well.

Transfer meat mixture to slow cooker and stir in orange juice and water. Place cinnamon stick in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours, until meat is very tender. About 30 minutes before serving, stir in rice, peas, salt, saffron threads and their soaking liquid.

To serve, remove cinnamon stick and garnish with cilantro.


Roasted Red Pepper Pesto with Pasta

>> Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I absolutely adore pasta. I eat it at least three to four times a week, and I've been getting bored with my usual/traditional sauce recipes. I pinned this recipe on Pinterest (big surprise there!) and thought it sounded like a wonderful change of pace.

I came up with a few quick reasons why you too should try this recipe:
1.) I love that I was able to make the sauce from all fresh ingredients - nothing canned or processed here.
2.) Not only was it healthy, it was really tasty to boot!
3.) The brilliant red-orange sauce flecked with green from the basil and zucchini was beautiful as well as delicious.
4.) Texas has returned to 100 degree weather (ugh!) + a no-cook sauce = a much cooler kitchen
5.) By grating the zucchini and adding it to the sauce, you can sneak in an extra veggie and make it a one-dish meal.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto with Pasta
adapted from Annie's Eats

3 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
1/2 cup pine nuts
2-3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup tightly packed basil leaves
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1 lb. penne pasta (or your favorite small pasta)
1 zucchini, coarsely grated
heavy cream, optional

Preheat broiler. Place bell peppers on a cookie sheet, cut side down. Broil peppers until their skin is blistered and charred, about 10 minutes. Place bell peppers on a plate and cover with plastic wrap for 10-15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Peel off the skin of the peppers.

Place pine nuts and cloves in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add bell peppers, basil, and parmesan. Pulse until well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. With the motor running, drizzle in olive oil until incorporated.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return pasta to pot. Add zucchini and pesto and stir well to combine. Add heavy cream, a tablespoon at a time, if you desire a creamier consistency. Garnish with extra parmesan.


Crockpot Baby Back Ribs

>> Monday, September 12, 2011

In celebration of the second weekend of college football, we decided to try yet another ribs recipe and serve them with sausage, potato salad, baked beans, cauliflower with cheese sauce, and banana pudding. Don't worry, we had friends over to share in the feast - there was no way we could haven eaten that much food on our own!

I spotted this recipe on Pinterest and it caught my eye. a crockpot? Say, what?!?We've previously tried smoking them (great flavor but not tender enough) and oven roasting them (again, great flavor but not tender enough), so I thought, "what the heck, why not try cooking them in the Crockpot?!". It could not have been easier and I knew they were going to be tender enough when I cut them to separate the ribs and the meat just fell off the bones. Ah, heaven - meat falling off a bone! At the end of the meal, there was lots of sausage, beans, and potato salad left over but nary a rib in sight!

Crockpot Baby Back Ribs

3 lb rack of pork baby back ribs
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I omitted this since kids were going to be eating with us)
Bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Stubb's)

Mix all the dry seasonings in a small bowl, being careful to break up any lumps of brown sugar. Rub seasoning all over both sides of the ribs, ensuring every surface of ribs is covered.

Place rack of ribs on edge of crockpot, meat side out. I curved the ribs into a circle, the ends touching, so that the ribs are standing upright in the crockpot.

Cook on low heat for a minimum of 7 hours or on high for 5 hours. Remove ribs to a large cutting board and baste with your favorite BBQ sauce. Let rest 15 minutes before separating the ribs. Baste one more time and then serve the ribs with extra BBQ sauce on the side.

*It's important not to lift the lid of the crockpot as they ribs cook because they are essentially steaming in their own juices.


PW's Beef and Cheese Enchiladas

>> Saturday, September 10, 2011

Here's a great enchilada recipe that I made a couple of weeks ago and wanted to pass on. It is a Pioneer Woman recipe that she made on Paula Deen's cooking show, so you know it has to be good! Andrew even came home the next day at lunch so that he could eat the leftovers.

It makes a huge amount, so I made it in 2 9-inch x 9-inch pans - baked one for dinner that night and stuck the other one in the freezer for later.

Since I'm feeling lazy, I'm not going to type out the whole recipe. Instead I'll just provide the link!


Honey-Dijon Chicken Tenders with Zucchini Rice

>> Friday, September 9, 2011

This meal was so good! It was very much a kid-friendly meal without seeming like one. I absolutely loved the chicken and the rice - in fact, I think this rice recipe may have surpassed Cilantro-Lime Rice to become my new favorite rice. I love that there's a green veggie in the rice and the subtle nuttiness the parmesan adds. I can't wait to make this meal again for the fam!

Honey-Dijon Chicken Tenders

1.25 pounds chicken breasts, cut into thin strips lengthwise (about 3 strips per breast)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup Dijon mustard, divided
2 tablespoons honey, divided
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a shallow bowl, mix together panko, whole wheat breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. In a second bowl, mix together melted butter, 1/4 cup mustard and 1 tablespoon honey.

Coat each chicken tender with mustard mixture and then coat with breadcrumbs. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine remaining mustard, remaining honey and mayonnaise. Stir well to fully combine. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve honey mustard with chicken tenders.

Zucchini Rice

1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 medium zucchini, coarsely grated
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly shredded
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook rice according to package directions, substituting chicken broth for water. Five minutes before rice is finished cooking, add butter, sprinkle zucchini and cheese over rice. Before serving, stir well to combine ingredients.

Serve immediately with the chicken tenders.


Weekly Meal Plan - September 5th through September 11th

>> Tuesday, September 6, 2011

So Finley started preschool on August 1st and between August 1st and September 1st we had - one unidentified rash, two colds, two ear infections and roseola. I apologize for my neglect of this blog, but with a near-constant sick kiddo, what's a gal to do?!?

Without further adieu, here's what I have up my sleeve this week:

Tacos al Pastor with Grilled Pineapple Salsa; Black Bean, Corn and Tomato Salad (I'm going to change the recipe up a bit to adapt it to the crockpot - I'll report back if it's a success...and if Finley doesn't get sick again for the nine millionth time)

Roast Chicken; Creamed Spinach; Sauteed New Potatoes

Pizza Soup; Crusty Baguette (which sounds so much cooler than Frozen Bread Which I Reheat in the Oven)

Chicken Quinoa Stew; Crusty Baguette (yes, definitely sounds much cooler)


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