Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Carnitas

Outbreak! Pandemic! Swine Flu! All scary stuff. Make sure to wash your hands, stay home if you or your family are sick. And if you get sick, go to the doctor. Common sense right? Right!

All that being said, please note that pork is still safe to eat when cooked properly! So please, eat pork. It's the other white meat!

Again, from the recent issue of Everyday Food, I made Pork Carnitas for dinner. Very tasty, Very easy, Great mild flavor, a wee touch dry and a really funky recipe...don't let it wig you out.

The pork is cooked in water, with garlic. Drain it, then add to a pot with some olive oil and a combination of milk and orange juice. Well, surprise, the milk curdles. GROSS!!!!! I wasn't totally freaked out because I have cooked meat with milk before and it works, it's just funky as all get out. Allow the pork to cook in this liquid combo until reduced. I re-worked one part of the recipe, using the same pot I boiled the pork in, for the simmering with milk/OJ step. If you have a non-stick pan, use it!!! I should have.

The pork is served in tortillas with avocado, sliced white onion, lime juice and cilantro (if you have it! I didn't).

Very filling and very satisfying. Give it a try. Next time I might add some more spice to the pork, furthering the depth of flavors.

Pork Carnitas
from Everyday Food

Serves 6

2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 TB olive oil
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup milk

For serving:
Cilantro leaves
Thinly sliced onion
Diced avocado
Lime wedges

1) In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, combine pork, garlic and 8 cups water and season with salt & pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until pork is tender, 40-45 minutes. Drain well.

2) In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add pork, orange juice and milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and pork is browned, 8-12 minutes.

Serve in tortillas with accompaniments.

Official Trailer

I've never been excited about a Nora Ephron film in my I can't wait!!!!

Click here for the Official Movie Trailer

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

1000th Post

Happy 1,000th Post Day!

Woo hoo.

I wanted to something big and fancy and exciting...but instead of big and fancy, we're going to have easy, delicious and sort of healthy!

There are two parts here. The salad/veggies and the chicken. Both came from the recent issue of Everyday Food. Both are simple and anyone can do them!!!

To start, we have the salad, an Asian Cabbage Slaw:

The non-cabbage components; lime juice, rice vinegar, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, pepper, cilantro, scallions, carrot and jalapeno.

We then prep half of a head of cabbage. Slice thinly.

Toss them all together, taste and adjust seasoning if needed; keep in the fridge until you're ready to serve.

Part two of the dinner is chicken. Honey-Teriyaki Chicken:

Start with the sauce/marinade/glaze; honey, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, salt & pepper. Coat the chicken, marinade it if you have the time.

I had boneless, skinless thighs, so they didn't get the crispy skin and awesome color that we saw in the photo in the magazine. But the flavor!!! Dang. Also, make sure to line your rimmed baking pan with foil, so you don't have to scrub that burnt sugar mess.

Serve together! Bosom Buddies! An Asian-style BBQ dinner. You have the slaw, you have the sticky, sweet chicken. I came very close to actually grilling the chicken, but I'm avoiding the outside until the pollen washes away. But next time I make this, they chicken will be grilled.

Honey-Teriyaki Chicken
1/2 cup honey
2 TB rice vinegar
2 TB soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 TB peeled and grated fresh ginger
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or use what you have!)

1) Preheat the oven to 475. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, mix honey, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, 1 TB salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Add chicken and toss to coat. Transfer chicken and sauce to a baking sheet.

2) Bake chicken, skin sude up, basting occasionally with pan juices, until well browned and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve chicken drizzled with pan juices.

Note: I allowed my chicken to sit for an hour in the marinade. It was great. I would say you could soak the chicken up to overnight if you like. I wouldn't do it much longer than that.

Asian Cabbage Slaw
2 TB fresh lime juice
2 TB rice vinegar
1 TB vegetable oil (I think you can skip this if you want, I will next time)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 small head of Savoy or Green cabbage, shredded
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped.
4 scallions, cut into matchsticks
1 carrot, grated
1/2 jalapeno, minced

Mix the first five ingredients until blended. Toss the remaining ingredients until coated. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Chill briefly before serving.

Both recipes serve four. I said in the beginning that these are sort of healthy. There's no additional fat in the chicken, so if you were to sub in boneless/skinless chicken breasts, you'd have a very lean protein. There is a small bit of oil in the salad, but I'm going to skip that next time. Plenty of good veg and fiber in the salad. And then there is the honey. At least it's honey, a natural sugar! I wouldn't skip the little sugar in the salad though, it helps sweeten an otherwise tart/little bitter salad. So in my eyes, there's very little fat, no butter, no cream, a tiny bit of processed sugar; kind of healthy!

And thanks for indulging me for all these 1,000 posts!

Monday, April 27, 2009

999-Salad Days

I recently saw a salad that had chicken and fennel in it. That sounded interesting, but I wanted to take it a step or two further. So I decided to make a fancy salad.

Chicken, Apple & Fennel salad with Tarragon Lemon Vinaigrette

1 cooked boneless/skinless chicken breast, sliced or pulled
1 cup sliced fennel
1 sweet, firm apple, thinly sliced
1 head green-leaf lettuce, washed & chopped
1/2 cup toasted pecans

Toss these ingredients with the vinaigrette. Enjoy.

Tarragon & Lemon Vinaigrette
1 small shallot finely diced, about 1 TB
1 TB fresh, chopped Tarragon
pinch of sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1-2 tsp Chardonnay vinegar
2-4 TB olive oil
salt/pepper to taste

Mix the first five ingredients together, whisk in olive oil. Season with salt & pepper.

Here are the pecans. They added a great earthy crunchiness.

The leafy greens, chopped fennel and apples!

Here's the dressing. I used a touch more olive oil, but it became super creamy. Lovely.

The final salad. It was beautiful. The tarragon was present, but subtle. It paired amazingly with with fennel. The fennel and apples also played really nice together. Overall, this was a very pleasing dinner.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Indian Butter Sauce

This past weekend was a Cooking Without Borders adventure; featuring Indian Butter Chicken.


I made a jumbo batch of sauce...enough for at least four meals. Two batches were packaged up and placed in the freezer. One was for dinner with C&S. The rest was made for a work potluck. The batch for dinner tonight was altered slightly and it was super tasty!

Let's begin.

You start by sauting onions in olive oil.

Add jalapeno, ginger and Garam Masala spice blend.

When you add the spice, the pan will start to dry out.

Add tomato sauce, stir to incorporate. Then the mix is blended until smooth. Chicken broth is added.

Butter and heavy cream are added to the sauce.

Boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced up, are added to the sauce and simmered until cooked.

Here are my two packages of sauce, heading to the freezer for dinner at a later time.

As I mentioned, I wanted to try something special this go around. So I marinaded some chicken in lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper and some Balti spice blend. This was some tasty chicken on it's own!!! But, I chopped it up for the Indian Butter Sauce.

The grilled chicken simmered in the sauce, sharing some of it's grill essence with the sauce. A very pleasing dinner!!!

I know Lady B made this. She shared her comments elsewhere, but I want to share them here as well:
We made this Tuesday night last week and LOVED it so much we called ScottE that night to thank him. Here are my notes:

We had tomato paste on hand, but didn't realize until it came time to put it in that it was "Italian Herb" tomato paste. I don't think it made a bit of difference in the taste of the final dish, it was just something that was kind of funny.

We used salted butter because that's what we had on hand.

We served it with a side of fresh spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic. This is what I always serve when I make chicken with one of the Trader Joes Indian simmer sauces. We like it.

I had beer with it (I always like beer with Indian food), Lord B had his usual rum and coke. I think beer and Indian food are a great combo.

After our first helping, we got seconds, and the seconds tasted even better. It had kind of cooled a little on the stove and I guess it had more time to sit and absorb the flavors because our seconds were YUM.

One thing I'm glad we did by the recipe, though I was tempted to do differently, was just cooking the outside of the chicken bits and then letting the rest cook in the sauce. It was tempting to fully cook the chicken first then put in the sauce, but I think because I followed the instructions, the chicken was a lot more tender than it would have been had I cooked it fully before.

We are totally ruined on the Trader Joes simmer sauces now... which is a staple in our household for a quick meal. Well, I guess we'll continue to buy them, but every time we eat them I'm sure we'll be like "wow, this does not come close to ScottE's butter chicken."

My mom came over the next day and split the leftovers with me and she LOVED it. And, I know it's authentic, because my brother lives in India, and my mom has visited him there several times, and she said she ate a lot of butter chicken while in India... and this was just as good as what she had over there. A great compliment!!!

Thank you ScottE, we are in love with this recipe and think it would be great for when company comes for dinner. A+++++

Thanks for sharing Lady B! And thanks for the great comments. I had my dinner with beer. Very good. Refreshing. I did make this batch extra mild, again, it's going to be part of a potluck at work, so I wanted to make it accessible for as many people as possible.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Looks Like Delicious!

Have you ever wondered what wine looks like? I'm not talking about golden Chardonnays, or garnet Merlots. I'm talking about what the wine flavors look like. I haven't either, but I am always looking at ways to grow my wine knowledge and really start to grasp the concept of describing a wine.

Click Image to Embiggen

This website allows you to click on a few varieties of red and white wines and take a visual look at how those varietals taste. I love it! The predominate flavors jump out right away, but then you can start to see the more subtle flavors and characteristics that linger or take more concentration to identify. I think this is a great tool and have been using the idea of it to help me with my wine tastings.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quick Chili

In continuing my anti-grocery shopping least until Friday. Last night I had some work stuff, same for tonight. So it's all worked out!

But...on Monday night, I was cold. The heat wasn't working at the office and it was rainy and dreary, so something warm and comforting was necessary.

A quick, fast chili would work wonders. I had no intention of stretching the few ingredients I had in the fridge into a fairly large pot of chili, but it worked, was tasty and filling and even left some for lunch the next day.

To start I did something a little naughty. I chopped and browned up three strips of bacon. When the fat was rendered out and the pieces were crisp, I removed the bacon and poured out the fat. Then I added about a 1/4 pound of ground beef, and browned that up. Add some onions. Spices...use your favorite chili spices. I had some fresh tomatoes, so I used those up, plus a can of diced tomatoes. Some left over bell pepper and frozen corn. Simmer a bit. Added some broth and pasta to cook up. Taste and adjust for seasoning and spice. I stirred the bacon pieces in at the very end. They brought a nice flavor profile to the party and made this simple chili a little special.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sorta Curry

I've been avoiding the grocery store again. If I am not in the mood to be there, it's my own personal H-E-L-L. Get me out!!!!

But I have to say, I'm starting to run out of stuff to make and will soon find ourselves eating pasta with butter & salt (Mmmm) if I don't go soon.

So last night I figured we were going to have fried eggs, toast and bacon. But I really wasn't in the mood for eggs. And I didn't think I wanted to make dinner. But after foraging through the freezer I had a protein in hand and the beginning thoughts of something else.

I had a package of pork chops frozen solid. Knowing I wouldn't be able to thaw them complete to fry them up, I decided on a braise. But what flavors? Why not something new? We recently had a visit to Penzey's in Rockville, where I picked up a small jar of Balti Seasoning. A wild, highly spiced, but not spicy, curry blend. And it worked Good!

Balti Spiced Braised Pork with Potatoes

Sear your chops (seasoned with salt & pepper) in a deep pan or dutch oven with olive oil. When browned, but not cooked through, remove to a plate and quickly saute one cup of shallots.

When the shallots are translucent, add 1 TB of the Balti seasoning and 1 TB of tomato paste. Stir for one minute.

Add about two cups of chicken broth, stirring and scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the chops into the seasoned broth.

Add three chopped potatoes. They should be mostly submerged in the liquid. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 15 minutes.

Pierce the potatoes with a fork or knife to make sure they are tender. Scoop out to a plate, leaving the liquid in the pot. Bring the sauce to a boil and allow to reduce by a third. Swirl in one TB of butter, optional.

Spoon some of the enriched sauce over the chops and potatoes.

This was delicious. The pork played very well with the sweet, fragrant spices of the Balti seasoning. The potatoes were light, tender and a perfect complement to the sauce. All very good. I'll make this again and probably throw some more veg in there, when I have them from the store.

Handle With Care


"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of earth are never alone or weary of life."

--"Silent Spring" author, Rachel Carson

Click over to last year's Earth Day entry to learn about some easy Green tips you can try at home.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

108 Days and Counting

I seriously can't take it anymore!

Only 108 days until August 7, 2009 and the release of Julie & Julia!

Meryl & Chicken

Julia & Chicken, or is that a turkey?


Monday, April 20, 2009

Cooking Without Borders

Next month will be the 4th Birthday of Eat With Me. In the early years I wanted to try some interactive cooking activities for us all around the country and world. So with a little input from some folks, I created Cooking Without Borders. *Yes, the logo above is stolen and altered. Thank you Lawyers Without Borders, please don't sue.

The Cooking Without Borders events were fun, but I seemed to have trouble keeping them in regular rotation. We had the first event, Cashew Chicken. The second, Chicken & Leeks and later Coconut Chicken Curry. I leaned heavily on chicken, as it was the most accessible for the most people. I'll be doing the same today.

What is the purpose of Cooking Without Borders? This is an opportunity to cook the same meal together on the same night (or within a few days if that night doesn't work for you) and then we all come back together and post comments on what we liked or disliked, etc.

When I started this, many of the readers of this blog were located outside of the Washington DC area and as much as I wanted to cook and invite them over for dinner, logistically that wouldn't work. Terri in WI, did give me the idea...cook together, eat together and maybe even watch a movie together...but from different locations! Voila!!!

The “rules of engagement” are such:

-I'll provide a full grocery list for easy shopping
-Buy your groceries prior to the event date
-Event date--prepare your meal
-Enjoy your meal, hopefully
-Following the meal, submit feedback to the EAT WITH ME blog and if you have the ability, send a photo to share your meal.

The feedback will be the most important part of the event.

-Where are you located?
-Did you follow the recipe as written?
-Did you change the cooking process or ingredients?
-Would you have liked to try something different?
-What did you drink? Wine, Beer, other? How did it pair with the food?
-Overall, how did you enjoy the meal?

After a few days, I’ll compile all the comments and add my own feedback into a new blog entry for easy reference. If I receive photos, I’ll post those as well.

So, for this Cooking Without Borders, I've decided on another Indian dish; Indian Butter Chicken.

The event date will be Saturday, April 25.

I've chosen Indian Butter Chicken because I find it to be a fairly easy recipe, with great flavor. The recipe also increases very easily. I often make at least double, or more. And the extras freeze very well! And once you have the main spice, it's a fairly economical dish.

Here is your shopping list:

1 medium/large yellow onion
fresh ginger, about a two inch knob
jalapeno, about medium size, depending on your tolerance for the heat.
1-1 1/2 pounds, boneless/skinless chicken breast
6 ounce can of tomato paste
One can of low-sodium Chicken broth*
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
Unsalted butter**
Garam Masala spice blend***
Olive Oil

For Serving:
Fresh Cilantro

*The recipe calls for 2 cups, which is 16 oz. One can of chicken broth is 14 oz. You don't need to buy two cans.

**Being that this recipe is called Indian Butter Chicken, I ask that you use real butter and not margarine. If you don't want to use butter, skip it all together.

***Garam Masala is becoming easier to find. You might have to look around your store. Sometimes it's not going to be with the regular spices, but it will be in the International Food aisle. If you have a Whole Foods nearby, they have it and the blend is really tasty. I buy mine online from Penzey's.

One final note on this event: This recipe does call for using a food processor to make the final simmering sauce smooth. You can also use a blender if you have that. If you don't have either, you can still make this recipe, you just need a little more patience to finely dice your ingredients and you'll have a more rustic version of the sauce. No problems!

Alright folks. See you on April 25.

No Knife Tomato Sauce

Sometimes I am in no mood to cook. I don't want to pull out pans, I don't want to pull out and fresh onions, garlic or herbs, I don't want to chop anything. But yet I'm famished and need to make something for dinner.

I have a variety of ways to make my tomato sauce. This is one. It's all pantry goods. Canned tomatoes (diced and sauce), olive oil and herbs and spices. For about a dollar, I had tasty sauce for two large servings of sauce and pasta and one smaller serving leftover for a later lunch. The sauce was done before the pasta water even came to a boil.

Not bad for no desire to cook!

No Knife Sauce
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1-2 TB olive oil
1 TB "Pasta Sprinkle"
1/2 tsp dried onion flake & dried garlic
Salt & Pepper

In a medium pot, bring the olive oil to a light simmer, add the diced tomatoes and sauce. Stir. Add the seasoning, salt and pepper. Taste & adjust. Simmer until your pasta is cooked.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hello Lover

After a long winter sitting in storage, the grill came out on Saturday for some burger action.

Cheeseburgers! So tasty and satisfying to cook over flaming hot coals. Woo hoo.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Last week I saw a recipe for Mongolian Beef on the blog Love & Olive Oil. I was immediately taken with the simplicity of the recipe and wanted to try it as soon as possible. So let's get started and I'll share more at the end.

Start with garlic and ginger in a little oil. Get that shimmering and fragrant.

Add soy sauce, water, brown sugar and some red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and reduce.

Saute strips of beef, then add onions.

Return the sauce to the pan, simmer.

Serve with rice. Not a great photo, but it was tasty!

I really liked this and will make it again, but there will be some changes...

1) Oil. There is a lot of oil. The original recipe called for one cup, which the blog hosts recognized as too much and suggested less. I used 1/4 cup and next time I might go to just a tsp or so. There's something about vegetable oil and beef that I'm not fond of, I can't quite place it, but I can tell when beef is cooked in oil. Can't describe what I'm tasting, but I don't enjoy it. So less oil will be better.

2) Heat. I added the red pepper flakes last night. They were listed in the recipe, but I wanted a counter point to the extra sweet sauce. I didn't use enough, I couldn't taste it. I will probably go to 1 tsp next time, instead of 1/2 a tsp.

3) Protein. Yes, the recipe is called Mongolian Beef. I think it would be really tasty with chicken as well. So I might try that too.

4) Veggies. I skipped the green onions, because I didn't have any. Next time I'll try to have some. I also want to add carrots and maybe some strips of bell pepper. I used to work in a Chinese restaurant many years ago, as a waiter. HA! Well, they served a Mongolian Beef and it was my favorite dish to order. There were carrots and peppers. It was served on crispy rice noodles. I can do without the rice noodles now, but I think the extra veg would be nice.

5) Sauce. There was a lot of extra sauce. Next time I will try changing the quantities of the ingredients for the sauce. I will keep the 1/2 cup of soy sauce. I will cut the water to 1/4 cup and only 1/2 cup of brown sugar, instead of 3/4 cup.

That said, I look forward to round two of the Mongolian Beef experience.

Mongolian Beef
Recipe from Love & Olive Oil by way of Recipe Zaar

2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ginger, minced
1 TB garlic, chopped
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
vegetable oil, for frying (about 1 cup)
1 lb flank steak
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 large green onions

Make the sauce by heating 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over med/low heat. Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches. Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then raise the heat to about medium and boil the sauce for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove it from the heat.

Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4″ thick bite-size slices. Tilt the blade of your knife at about a forty five degree angle to the top of the steak so that you get wider cuts. Dip the steak pieces into the cornstarch to apply a very thin dusting to both sides of each piece of beef. Let the beef sit for about 10 minutes so that the cornstarch sticks.

Heat up one cup of oil in a wok or large skillet until it’s nice and hot, but not smoking. Add the beef to the oil and saute for two minutes, or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges. You don’t need a thorough cooking here since the beef is going to go back on the heat later. Stir the meat around a little so that it cooks evenly. After a couple minutes, use a large slotted spoon to take the meat out and onto paper towels, then pour the oil out of the wok or skillet.

Put the pan back over the heat, dump the meat back into it. Add the onion and saute for one minute. Add the sauce, cook for one minute while stirring, then add all the green onions. Cook for one more minute, then remove the beef and onions with tongs or a slotted spoon to a serving plate, leaving the excess sauce behind in the pan.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Using up some Easter Ham

I wanted something easy to use up some of the extra Easter ham. So I made a "hash."

This is three small potatoes, cut into cubes and fried in a tablespoon of olive oil until tender and crispy. Season with salt/pepper, and any other spice or seasoning you like.

Add about 2 cups cubed ham, 1/2 of a diced green pepper and 1/2 of a small, diced onion. Saute until the ham is warmed thru and starting to caramelize and the veggies are just approaching soft.

Top with fried eggs.

Gooey and yummy. Breakfast for dinner!