Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's not about the burger, it's about the bun!

Well, maybe it's a little bit about the burger. After all, it was a very tasty turkey burger. However, the star of the show today was the homemade whole wheat bun. A few weeks back, I finally found a recipe and technique that enabled me to make my first really good 100% whole wheat bread (patting myself on the back yet one more time.) But yesterday as I was making a panini with that bread, I was lamenting that even though it tastes delicious, it doesn't get as crusty on the panini grill as do other breads. I wondered to myself if maybe by making it into individual buns, the bun crusts themselves might lend toward a crispier crust on my panini, and thus I needed to experiment once again. So, when making this most recent batch of bread, I only made one loaf, then used the rest of the dough to make individual buns. After the first rise, I divided 1/2 the dough into 10 individual balls, placed them on a greased baking sheet, flattened them into rounds, then covered them loosely with plastic wrap and let them rise for about an hour. I then baked them in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. And yes, they did indeed make a wonderful crusty panini! (peanut butter and tomato panini to be specific, but that's another post entirely)

The turkey burger itself was made by adding salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of Penzey's breakfast sausage seasoning to a pound of lean ground turkey breast. I then mixed that with one egg, a handful of whole wheat bread crumbs, a little chopped parsley, and some sauteed red pepper, onion and garlic. A splash of olive oil was added before shaping the mix into four patties and frying in a small amount of olive oil for about 10 minutes, five minutes per side.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dinner from the box/bag

Almost every mother who's attempted making homemade macaroni and cheese will side with me in my hatred and envy of the product below. That navy blue box forced me to doubt my culinary skills for many years.

After spending numerous hours scouring for the perfect recipe and as many or more dollars on expensive cheeses and gourmet pasta, we painstakingly create the perfect macaroni and cheese dish that in our own stupid minds is going to make tonight's mac and cheese dinner the single most memorable dining event of our child's past and future life. You almost want to serve their milk in wine glasses... THAT'S how great this creation's going to be. Then.... one bite into the bowl and they push it away. Admit it, you've been there. You squelched back the tears when "I like Kraft better" came out of the mouth of your babe. It's a humbling experience for any home cook, I can tell you that. After a few attempts, I resigned myself to making their favorite meal from the dreaded box. However, my stupidity did not stop there. I admit to trying to once again pull the wool over my little one's eyes by preparing THIS one night.....

He can smell store-brand from a mile away, and I don't even think he sat down at the table before giving it two thumbs down. I finally learned my lesson.

They've matured and gotten better about their nose-snubbing, but they still have certain meals that they'd rather have out of the box/bag. During the years that I was working, those type meals were my best friend and even though I now have the time to make a recipe from scratch, they'd rather have it the box/bag way. Tonight's meal was one of those. Vigo makes a bagged cuban black beans and rice product that is complete with spices. Add olive oil and water, and 25 minutes later, you're eating. It's actually pretty tasty as is, but when I want to feel like I actually cooked it, I add a few other fresh ingredients.

First I browned some Johnsonville smoked turkey sausage slices in a little olive oil. After they'd caramelized a bit, I removed them from the pan to drain on paper towels. I then added some diced onion, red bell pepper, and a clove of garlic to the pan and sauteed those to soften. Instead of water, I added chicken broth and brought it to a boil. After reducing the heat to simmer, I put the lid on and let it do its thing for about 25 minutes. I then added the sausage back in.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuna Panini

This was so crusty, warm and gooey it never even made it to the plate!

I'm not all that fond of fish. The discovery of an allergy to shellfish a few years back took away the few types of seafood that I really did enjoy. I do like tuna on occasion and I suppose there's no better day to enjoy it than Ash Wednesday. In fact now that Lent is here, I'm sure I'll be experimenting with other fish as well in the upcoming weeks.

Tuna (on whole wheat) Panini

1 (6 oz) can of tuna, drained
2 Tbsp reduced-fat mayo
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 green onion (green part only) diced
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
6-8 grape tomatoes, chopped
pinch of salt and pepper

Combine above ingredients. Assemble panini. Top one whole wheat bread slice with one ounce of 2% cheddar cheese, one third of the tuna mixture, another ounce of cheese, then another slice of bread. Grill on panini press until cheese is melted and bread is nice and toasty.

This is enough filling for three sandwiches. Just right for us!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cake Wrecks

I can blow an entire day on the internet, hopping from page to page, blog to blog, always able to find something that interests me. Typically, I'm searching for recipes or food/nutrition related articles, but every once in awhile I hit the Google jackpot by stumbling across a foodie blog that tickles my funny bone instead of my palate. Today was such a day. Jen over at Cake Wrecks has a blog devoted entirely to "professional cakes gone horribly, hilariously wrong." I spent the better part of this morning looking through her site and I don't think I've ever laughed so hard and so long. The cakes themselves are always good for a chuckle, but it is Jen's commentary that had me knee slapping and tear wiping. The woman's quick wit and sarcasm are right up my comedic alley. Her loyal readers' comments are also a hoot and a half. What a great way to spend a Monday morning!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pot Roast Panini

Last night's meal was a delicious pot roast with smashed potatoes and carrots. Ever since I made my first roast in a crockpot years and years ago, I've been unable to attempt cooking it in any other fashion because there simply cannot be any easier or more delicious recipe out there anywhere. I season the roast liberally with Montreal steak seasoning, plop it in the crockpot, dump in a can of beef broth, set it on low, cover it and forget it. Eight hours later I have meat that is so tender and juicy and falling apart all over itself. It's crazy yummy.

Here's the problem though. None of us are big fans of leftover meat, especially beef. Back when all the kids were still living at home, we could pretty much take care of a roast in one meal. Now, however, there are only three of us and last night we had as much meat leftover as we'd eaten. What to do with the leftovers that didn't involve the dog. Hmmm... I bet that juicy, gravied meat would do well in a panini! For lunch today, I first caramelized one whole sliced onion in a little bit of olive oil. I then spread a little mayo and a little horseradish on some slices of roasted garlic bread that I had in the freezer. Then I topped the bread with gruyere cheese, the onions, then the pulled pot roast. A few minutes on the panini press melted the cheese into all shades of gooey. Delicious!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Curried Couscous Salad

I'm a Food Network freak and usually have my television set to that channel during the day when I'm home and in the kitchen. I have my daily favorites (Giada, Rachael, Paula) and I have my least favorites that I either tune into at naptime (Emeril) or strictly for the train wreck factor that is Sandra Lee. I actually belong to a forum that has a special section set aside strictly for this WPOS that calls herself a cook. But I'm not here to discuss her in this post. Another day, perhaps. But not today.

Today's recipe is an adaptation of a Dave Lieberman recipe. I love many of his recipes and how he takes into consideration the time, ease, and cost of the ingredients as he teaches us to cook. I've made this recipe several times and I love how quickly it can be put together as well as the relative healthiness of the ingredients.

Curried Couscous Salad

1 1/2 cups instant whole wheat couscous
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 TBSP curry powder
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Juice of one orange
2 TBSP olive oil
2 green onions, green part only, thinly sliced
2 TBSP parsley, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Stir the couscous, cranberries, salt, sugar and curry powder together in a heat-proof bowl. Add boiling water and orange juice. Stir well and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for five minutes then uncover, fluff with fork, and stir in the remaining ingredients. This is excellent warm or cold.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Red Lentil Soup

If you Google "I hate Delta Airlines" or "Delta sucks" you'll find quite a lengthy list of web pages written by persons like myself who, after having had a dreadful Delta experience, decided to vent openly on the internet. I know this because I spent this morning doing just that, and oddly enough, just by knowing that I'm not alone in my frustration, I'm able to let my anger go and move on. However, I've been left feeling even more cynical and untrusting than before this past weekend's travels. And yes, DELTA SUCKS.

"Going postal" has nothing on "Going airport." If only we could get our weapons inside.

What does this have to do with today's recipe? Well.... since I spent a week in Atlanta airport yesterday, I arrived home much too late last night to do any grocery shopping. Therefore, today's lunch was a throw-together of what little I had left in the fridge and pantry. I had some onions in the fridge. I had some red lentils in the pantry. And I had some turkey broth in the freezer. Once Google cooled its jets from the "I hate Delta Airlines" search, I begged it once again to come to my rescue. It did not disappoint me (DID YA HEAR THAT DELTA??) Without a second's delay, Google took me right to my destination, sanity in check. I found this delightful recipe from Michelle at Je Mange la Ville, and it was exactly what I was looking for. It was unique (to me) in that I'd never used this combination of spices before, but the end result was a spice-filled soup that didn't scream "hot," just "flavorful."

Red Lentil Soup

2-1/2 cups dried red lentils (about one pound)
2 medium onions, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander seed, ground
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin seed, ground
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne chile pepper
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cloves
6 cups lamb or chicken stock (or vegetable broth would work too)(I used all turkey stock and skipped the two cups of water listed next)
2 cups water

Rinse and drain lentils. In soup pot, heat oil and saute onions and garlic until softened. Add in spices and saute another 3-5 minutes. Add stock and lentils. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then simmer until lentils break down, approximately 30-40 minutes. Garnish with yogurt or sour cream and cilantro, parsley, or green onions if desired.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Mini Cheesecakes... Trial Run

My nephew is getting married in the spring, and my sister has asked me to help her with the bridal shower by making cheesecake. Today was my trial run.

Recipe to follow when I fine tune it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Woody, Our Wii

Over the weekend we semi-seriously contemplated getting another dog. Friends of ours in northern Indiana knew people who had several half shih tzu, half maltese puppies, and we had intended to stop by to look at them while were visiting the area. We spent our drive time discussing the pros and cons of adding yet another responsibility to our lives, but in the end we'd fallen so head over heels with the photo of the doggie, that we were mostly just listing the pros. We'd even gone as far as naming the little guy. He would be Woody, named after Woody Hayes, the legendary Buckeyes coach. Numerous voice mails were left on Sunday morning before our return trip home, but the breeder never contacted us.

Our disappointment became more and more palpable the closer we got to home, and by the time we got to Indianapolis, we were in full pout mode. I suggested to hubby that maybe some shopping would cheer us both us. He was in agreement, as long as we shopped at Best Buy.

Long story short. Woody is now the name of our new Nintendo Wii. Cleaning up puppy pee has been replaced with bowling, golf, boxing, tennis and baseball.

The family that plays together, stays together...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ground Beef and Rice Casserole

I found a gourmet blend of whole grain brown rice when I was at the grocery store the other day and decided it would be interesting in a casserole recipe that I had. Hubby said to put it on the "definitely make this again" list.

1 cup long grain rice (or your favorite rice) cooked in chicken broth with one bay leaf, according to package directions, remove bay leaf when rice is done cooking. Set aside.

1 pound very lean ground beef, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then browned and drained. Set aside

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
12 oz white mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp flour
1/3 cup white wine
1- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 8-oz can water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
2 oz. reduced fat cream cheese

Heat olive oil in pan, add onion and celery, then season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and curry powder. Saute until vegetables are tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and continue sauteing until mushrooms give up their moisture, about 5 minutes. Season again with salt and pepper. Sprinkle flour over mixture and continue stirring for a few minutes to cook flour. Add white wine, broth and soy sauce. Bring mixture back to a boil and stir until thickened. Add water chestnuts. Remove from heat and add cream cheese, stirring to combine when melted.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray casserole dish with cooking spray.

Combine rice, ground beef and veggie mixture and spread into casserole dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until heated through.