Thursday, October 31, 2013

Romantic Meal - Pork Rib Roast, Marscarpone Polenta & Garlic Asparagus...and Dessert!

Lately I haven't been in the mood to cook.  Maybe it's the weather changing, but I've been in a funk.

The family has definitely noticed and they aren't happy about it.  If I have to hear one more whining complaint when answering the question "Mom, what's for dinner?" (my answer has been "leftovers" far too many times over the last few weeks) I'm going to pull my hair out!

So I decided to make a nice romantic meal for me and the BF the other day.  The kids weren't around and I was home doing nothing (a rare occurrence) so I figured, why not?

We all know how frugal I am, so I went to the grocery store with no idea what protein I was going to buy.  I knew I wanted something with creamy polenta and asparagus though.  I figured I would buy a couple of steaks but when I laid my eyes on a huge bone-in pork rib roast at $11.00 I couldn't resist.  I grabbed it and bought it and literally skipped through the parking lot to my car.

Only there was a catch.  I've never cooked a pork rib roast before.

I couldn't contain my excitement so while driving home when I got home I started googling recipes.  I found a great one on All Recipes and it didn't disappoint!  Check it out here.  It's titled "The World's Best Pork Loin Rub" and it really was.  This is my new favorite rub and works on any meat (in fact I rubbed it on T-Bone steaks last night, utterly delicious).

Below are recipes for the rest of the meal - everything came out beautifully and there were lots of leftovers (oh my god I can hear the whining already) to enjoy.

Emeril Lagasse's Marscarpone Cheese Polenta
4 c milk
1/4 c EVOO
1 c cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt & pepper
1 c marscarpone cheese
(I cut this recipe in half because it always makes so much, but in retrospect I wish I hadn't - I can eat it for days)

In a large saucepan bring milk to a boil.  Add EVOO, salt & pepper.  Very gradually, add polenta in a steady stream, whisking constantly.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, 20-30 minutes (I only take about 5 minutes because it thickens up fast but the recipe says 20-30 minutes).  Add cheese and adjust seasoning to taste.

I also made a gravy for the pork - 4 T butter (or margarine, which is what I used, 2 1/2c broth (any), 4 T flour, salt & pepper.  Melt the butter in a pan, add flour and whisk constantly, then add broth, salt & pepper.  Cook for about 3 minutes and it will become thicker.

For the asparagus, I boiled them for 3 minutes, drained them, and added a tablespoon of garlic butter.

The dessert was super simple.

I found a quaker chocolate muffin mix in my pantry, and I knew if I didn't use it now I probably never would.  I also had a package of cream cheese in the fridge that I had bought for a recipe that I didn't end up making.

I mixed the cream cheese with an egg, 1/3c sugar and some vanilla.  I made the muffin mix, put them in baking cups in a muffin tin, and topped them each with a tablespoon of the cream cheese.  I baked them for 22 minutes at 350.  They were so good - like a cheesecake brownie...with zero effort!

So there you have it folks - a meal fit for kings with very little slaving in the kitchen.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Creamy Beef Noodles

What's the first meal you think of when you literally have minutes to throw something together and get it on the table to feed your family?

For me, it's pasta.  While the noodles are cooking, I can throw together some sort of sauce.  Sometimes I end up emptying my fridge of leftover odds and ends, since the sauce acts as a sort of "disguise" for all things healthy.   It's also a great day-before-grocery-shopping meal so that you can make room for the fresh new food you will be bringing home.

The only problem, for me at least, is that I get so sick of tomato sauce.  I just don't like it.  And it gives me heartburn.  I love creamy sauces, but can't afford the weight gain.  I always have a steady supply of fat free evaporated milk to substitute for cream in all sauces, and I never buy full-fat cheese (for fear of eating the entire block in one sitting), so this recipe seemed worth a try.

This pasta seemed a bit iffy when I reviewed the ingredients – I wasn’t sure how it was going to come out.  Turns out it was a huge hit with the family, and we were eating it for days afterwards.  I hadn’t made enough noodles, so for a couple of days we were even just eating the meat sauce with bread or naan.  A great weeknight meal – thanks Canadian Living!

Creamy Beef Noodles
1 T butter
1 onion finely chopped
2 garlic minced
12oz lean ground beef (I used 2lbs – also from wag jag grocery)
1/3c flour
1 c beef broth
1 can evaporated milk (I used fat free)
1 c frozen peas thawed (I didn’t thaw them, they cooked nicely in the meat sauce, and I used 2 cups)
1 c shredded extra old cheddar (I used low fat no name old cheddar)
1/3 c chopped parsley (I skipped)
4 tsp Dijon (I used a little more, maybe 4T)
1 3/4c macaroni

In a large pan melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, 2 minutes.  Add garlic & cook 1 minute.  Add beef, cook 4 minutes.  Stir in flour, cook, stirring, 2 minutes.  Stir in broth & milk; bring to boil.  Reduce to medium and stir in peas, cheese, parsley, mustard, salt & pepper.  Meanwhile cook the noodles.  Drain and reserve 1/3 c cooking liquid.  Add pasta to sauce (I kept them separate and mixed as required in individual bowls). Tossing to coat and adding enough of reserved liquid for desired consistency.

Delicious!  And thanks to the absence of tomato sauce, my Tums got a break today!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Naan Pizzas

Tonight my ever-so-thoughtful BF decided to make dinner since I was at my zumba class and wouldn’t be home until after 8:00.  He’s quite adventurous in the kitchen (among other rooms in the house lol) and he never really follows a recipe.  This is quite different from my style of cooking since I use recipes and just change them to my liking.  Tonight he made a sort of Indian-inspired pizza, if you will, and it was delicious!

Unfortunately I didn’t snap a picture before eating a slice; I just couldn’t resist!  So you’ll have to live with pictures I found on the web - sorry!  The recipe doesn’t have precise measurements, but you can get an idea of what went into it.  Send me a note if you have any questions.  Enjoy!

Naan Pizza
Naan bread
Hummus (he made his own – about 1/4c tahini with a can of chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, salt & pepper - throw into the blender with some water to make a paste.  He also added a little cumin & curry powder)
Bacon chopped & cooked crisp (he used 3 pieces for our 2 pizzas)
Old cheddar, shredded (enough to cover the 2 pizzas – he used light cheese)
Roasted eggplant (we had some leftover in the fridge, so he chopped it up and put it on the pizza)
Ricotta cheese (he used PC Blue Menu light)

To assemble – spread the hummus on the pizza, than the cheddar cheese, chopped bacon, chopped eggplant, dot with ricotta.  Place it under your broiler in the oven until melted and bubbly (about 5 minutes).  That’s it! 

It was so good and so easy – it’s amazing how ingredients you have on hand can come together quickly and in new & fresh ways.  Thanks lovey for making a wonderful dinner!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Thai Coconut Chicken Simmer

Here’s a simple and fast dinner recipe that I adapted from Canadian Living Magazine.  I can always count on them to offer fairly quick and easy dinners that I can get on the table for my family in a rather short period of time.  With soccer, karate, zumba, and ice skating, my family is always on the go – rushing from one activity to the next, and trying to eat something healthy in between.  Recipes like this one make life just a little bit less stressful. 

I served this with rice and a simple salad.  Enjoy!

Thai Coconut Chicken Simmer
1lb boneless chicken thighs (I used bone-in; doesn’t really matter)
Salt & pepper
1 T oil
2 shallots thinly sliced
1T ginger
1 T Thai green curry paste (I used red – see my previous post on curries for more info)
2 garlic minced
1 can coconut milk

Season chicken with salt & pepper.  Heat oil in skillet over medium-high and brown chicken, turning once, for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.  Add the next 5 ingredients and cook 2 minutes.  Stir in milk and chicken, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

That’s it!