Thursday, February 19, 2009

What a Crock

There are recipes for all kinds of dishes to be prepared in crock pots. Breakfasts of slow-cooked oatmeal; lunches of soup; pot roasts and even the mashed potatoes to serve with them; cobbler like desserts; and just about anything in between can magically simmer in the crock pot while you cut the apron strings to the kitchen and get on with your life. That isn't to say that I believe that everything can/should be prepared in a crock pot. It is kinda like Speedos...just because they are there doesn't mean it's a good thing. A successful crock pot meal requires common sense and most of all attention to your own tastes. Don't like a roast chicken that isn't browned? Don't attempt the crock pot recipe. Want a chili with the blended flavors of chiles, seasoned meat, and beans (for us Northerners) bubbled all day? The crock pot could be your perfect tool.

My crock pot isn't used a lot. Honestly, I am not happy with the texture of many foods after cooking for hours. But, I love the ease of tossing in a few ingredients and not giving dinner a second thought, except to appreciate the aromas drifting through the house. Trial and error has provided a few chosen recipes for the crock pot that I turn back to time and again.

One of those tried and true recipes is a flavorful and spicy method for preparing shredded meat for tacos, enchiladas, sandwiches, nachos, casseroles, and even soups and stews. The original recipe called for beef roasts, and I can attest that it is fabulous. I have also prepared it with lamb and deer roasts with equal success. However, I recently swapped out a few ingredients from the original recipe to create Chipotle Pork. Hubby and I loved it, swooned over it, ate like little piggies and couldn't get enough of it. It is not a crock to have Chipotle Pork On My Plate.

Chipotle Pork

3-5 pounds pork loin roast
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
3-5 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can green chiles
1 (7 ounce) can salsa verde
1-2 cups slice onion
3-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth

Place roast in crock pot and season with pepper, chili powder and cumin.
Add the remaining ingredients.
Simmer on high for 5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours.
Shred the meat with a fork and simmer in the sauce on high for additional 10-15 minutes. (Serves 8)
(To make the original Chipotle Beef (or Lamb or Deer) replace the chicken broth with beef broth.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Little Bird Told Me

I am fast becoming a devoted fan of Twitter. Several times a day, I use 140 characters (or less) to share what is on my mind. Millions of others do the same, and the real-time, interactive access to opinions, ideas, information, and just idle chit-chat is addictive.

As my number of daily tweets grows, it is no surprise that I would turn to this social media network when searching for a recipe. Sure, I surfed through my bookmarked recipe sites and mentioned my dilemma to some close friends, but it was a Twitter tweet that ultimately brought me to the salad that I prepared to share with friends over their home-cooked prime rib dinner on Valentine's evening.

My request for "Simple, light, WW friendly salad idea to be served with a Prime Rib dinner tonight?" was met with a reply from someone that shares my interest in food, vintage pottery, older homes, and American Idol. People with like interests do commune together, and Twitter exemplifies that. The suggestion of a Cooking Light recipe for Field Greens with Warm Soy Dressing easily modified to suit the ingredients I had on hand, and really was a perfect pairing with our meal. I am so glad to have a little bird helping me put good food On My Plate.

Field Greens with Warm Soy Dressing

2 (5-ounce) bags mixed salad greens (about 16 cups)
1 cup red bell pepper strips
1 cup diagonally sliced snow peas
1/3 cup diagonally sliced green onions
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
4 tablespoons apple juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced

Combine first 5 ingredients in a salad bowl.
Combine soy sauce and remaining ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl.
Microwave at HIGH 30-90 seconds (depending on microwave), and stir well. (Dressing should be warm, but not boiling.)
Pour dressing over salad, tossing gently to coat. (Serves 8)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Nobody's Perfect

Ever found that perfect recipe? The one that tastes delightful, pleases everyone, looks impressive, and is so simple that nobody can screw it up? I did. A couple of summers ago, I discovered galettes. This rustic pie can make even a reluctant baker like me look like a pro. A blueberry version (although, I did make cherry and peach ones, as well) became a favorite dessert to whip up for any occasion. It was perfect. I made it for just Hubby and I; I threw it together when grilling with friends; I even included it as the dessert when planning the dinner that I would cook during a visit with out of town family. That is when we discovered that while the recipe may be perfect, I am not. I screwed it up. In my rush to impress everyone with the simple elegance, I forgot a key ingredient.

Let me be your warning that when you combine fresh fruit and sugar together for the berry filling, cornstarch must be included in the mix. If you are less than perfect and forget this thickener, the succulent berries will bubble in the oven and create a runny, juicy mess. If you have chosen to use a cookie sheet rather than a sheet pan, the juice will run all over the oven. Burning sugar never smells good. It really doesn't smell good when it isn't your house or your oven. Nobody wants to have a flop like that in someone else's kitchen. It was a perfect mess.

I may not be perfect, but the even-messier-than-rustic-should-be pie still burst with the sweetness of the ripe blueberries and the freshness of the lemon zest inside a flaky crust. We topped it with whipped cream and devoured hearty servings of the dessert. I was embarrassed, but all was forgiven. Mess or not, it was the perfect ending to our meal.

Today, the berries in my fridge were begging that I attempt that perfect recipe again. Today, I remembered the cornstarch and made a perfect pie. Today, vanilla ice cream was the perfect accompaniment. Today, Blueberry Galette landed On My Plate, and it was perfect, even though I am not.

Blueberry Galette

3 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon grated lemon, zest of
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar, plus
1 teaspoon sugar
1 refrigerated pie crust
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into pieces
1 egg, beaten

Stir together blueberries, cornstarch, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 cup of sugar, cinnamon, and salt until combined.
Unroll the pie dough onto a foiled lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
Spoon the berry mixture into the center of the dough, leaving a 1 inch border.
Fold the edge of dough over the berries, pleating around the pastry circle.
Dot butter over top of blueberries.
Brush the pastry with beaten egg and sprinkle pastry edge with remaining sugar.
Bake at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until bubbling. (Serves 6)
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