Happy New Year! Happy New You! Happy New Stew!

A new day in a new year and a new stew recipe… what more can you want to start off a great new year?

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2012!

With all new years comes great resolutions.  Resolutions that get us all to try to be better people, work for better things, or promise to go the gym more this year.  This year, we have a few resolutions up our sleeves.  One stands out to share and that’s the resolution to want to cook more delicious meals at home and find great recipes to share.

Beef + Jamie Oliver + Good Beer = Delicious Stew!

We love stew!  I love how the meat breaks down and becomes so tender.  I love the aroma that fills the house.  I love the fact I can whip out the dutch oven.  Nothing warms the soul the same on a cold day, then a really well made stew (and maybe our chilli… and just like the chilli, this stew is AMAZING REHEATED!  Crazy?  I know!).

Making stew sounds simple, right?  Just throw in some tough cuts of meat, tomato sauce, carrots, celery… and boom!  Awesome and delicious stew, right?  Possibly for some, but a bit of a failed attempt for us.

Maybe my grandmother had the magic touch of just throwing things together to make a delicious beef and potato stew.  Maybe one of my best friends secret addition of V8 tomato juice added the missing ingredient to a great beef stew.  One thing is for sure, stews become less intimidating when you have a basic recipe to start from and we have one man to thank for that.  Jamie Oliver.

Oh Jamie Oliver!  I love your goal to change the way people eat and to become more aware of what goes into food.  I love your lovely lisp.  Furthermore, I love your Jamie’s Food Revolution cookbook (thanks big sis and bro for the gift!).  It’s basic.  It’s not intimidating.  And it’s definitely inspired us to cook more.  It pretty much does all the wonderful things a cookbook should.

Thus far, my favorite recipe is the basic stew recipe.  He offers some variations in the cookbook, but we’re focusing on the deliciousness that is a really great beef stew.

Basic Beef Stew

Ingredients

Serves 4-6  (*photographed double the servings)

  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 1 pound diced stewing beef
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 carrots
  • half a small box of mushrooms (*altered from the orig. recipe)
  • olive oil
  • 1 TBL all purpose flour
  • 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups brown ale, Guinness or stout (*We used one of our favorite stouty beers for this recipe and I recommend you do the same!  Something strong and good!)


1.  Rough chop the celery, onions, and carrots.

2.  Put the dutch oven on medium heat with some olive oil.

3.  Put all the vegetables and the bay leaves into the pan.

4. Add the meat and flour.

5.  Pour in the booze and canned tomatoes.

6.  Mix it up and season with some salt and pepper.  (Be light handed with the salt!)


7. Bring to a boil and put the lid on.  Simmer slowly for about 3 hours. Remove the lid for the final half hour of simmering and add a splash of water if it looks dry.

8.  Before serving, remove any bay leaves and add salt and pepper to taste.

Play with the recipe.  Add some potatoes or any other goodies that might make it more wonderful for you.  Prep some rice or have it on it’s own and get ready for some delicious eats.  Enjoy!

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Easy Pizza Dough

Hello Stranger!  How’s it Cooking?

Between winter colds, a busy work schedule, good and bad news, and then the holidays… we have sadly fallen behind our posts.  But do not distress, fine friends!  For we have some lovely recipes in the works…

I’ll let the hubby take it from here with a fast and easy (and absolutely delicious!) recipe for pizza dough…

Easy Pizza Dough

So after trying a few pizza dough recipes over the years I’ve found this to be one of the easiest and quickest to make.  I found this off Martha Stewart’s Everyday Living magazine.

First you’ll need a few items…

  • 2 packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl and brushing
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for work surface.
  • Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Whisk sugar, oil, and salt into yeast mixture.
Add flour and stir until a sticky dough forms.
If you’ve got a mixer now’s the time to use it.  Attach the dough hook to your mixer and knead the dough til its all mixed up.
I’m mixing this by hand, which involves folding the dough and pressing it down.
Once you’re done shape the dough into a ball.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Here’s my dough after 1 hour.
Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead 1 or 2 times before using.
  This makes 2 pounds of pizza dough and either makes 2 large pizzas or 4 medium pizzas.
I usually cut the dough in half and freeze half of it for later use.  Then with the portion I didn’t freeze I cut it in half again so I can make 2 pizzas.
Pizza time!
So now the dough is made, start rolling it out with a pin or stretch it out with you hands slowly.  I’ve been stretching it with my hands, then use the rolling pin as needed later.  If needed sprinkle some flour on your work surface to keep the dough from sticking.
Once you’ve got the pizza as thin as desired, then you’re ready for the toppings.
I use a pizza stone that I got at Target.  You can also get a square patio stone tile at a hardware store and that should work just fine.  I heat the pizza stone in the oven to 400 degrees.
Another piece of equipment that I had to have in my kitchen, is a pizza peel.  I use this one pictured.
I corn meal the peel, then place the pizza on it.  You could flour the peel then put the pizza dough on it.  I do this so the dough doesn’t stick to the peel.  MacGyver says “Use a cutting board if you don’t have a pizza peel.”
First brush olive oil on the top, then put down your tomato sauce.  The olive oil will act as a barrier to keep the dough from getting soggy.  If you have a drier sauce you may not need to add olive oil, but go ahead and experiment.
In this photo I used olive oil, tomato sauce, sharp cheddar cheese, prosciutto, fresh basil, and freshly ground pepper.  The slide that sucker into the oven.
After 10-15 minutes the pizza should be done.
What are you waiting for?  Eat it!

This month is bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Happy November, folks!

Another month, another day, and another set of holidays just around the corner!  You know what that means?  Food, food, food!!!

Halloween has come and gone.  Leaving us a huge pile of candy and fruit snacks.  Sadly, we had a total of ZERO kids the other night.  ZERO!  Crazy, huh?  Where were all the kids of San Francisco trick-or-treating???

In any case, the holidays lead to a LOT of eating and a LOT of deliciousness… and unfortunately, a lot of wasted food.

Wasting food is probably one of my biggest pet peeves.  I hate throwing things out of the fridge.  I am always trying to buy just enough to not lead to too many left-overs or try to find ways to utilize it in another way.

Bananas, baby!  Bananas!

My friend once described bananas as the perfect fruit.  They’re packed in their own compostable casing.  They’re easy to peel.  And if you are suffering from leg cramps, then you’re probably not getting enough potatssium and should go gobble up some bananas!

THEY ARE TRULY WONDERFUL!

BUT… these yellow beauties can turn quite quickly.  Suddenly your beautiful, ripe, and yellow banana have turned into this…

Not so pretty.

But remember what your folks said about not judging a book by the cover… these ripening babies may be turning a lovely shade of black, but are also getting sweeter and softer by the minute.  What does that mean?

BANANA BREAD!

My mother in-law, my friend, and my sister’s sister-in-law make mean banana breads.  Delicious.  Moist.  Sometimes chock full of nutty goodness.  Therefore, being surrounded by delicious banana bread makers has left me without a good banana bread recipe for a long time.  That and being very intimidated to make banana bread.

Unfortunately (and fortunately), I cannot keep forcing myself and Kelson to eat bananas once they start going brown… so it’s time to bust out the recipes and find an easy go-to banana bread recipe.

Easy and Brilliantly Awesome Banana Bread Recipe

*This recipe is adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 very ripe bananas
  • 3/4 stick salted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

1.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

3.  In a medium bowl, mash the bananas.  (Bust out the potato masher if you got one!  If not, a whisk works just fine.)

4.  Then mix in the melted butter, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla together.

5.  Gently fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture with a spatula.  If you are adding nuts, then fold those in as well.  DO NOT OVERMIX!

6. Time to bust out the PAM or whatever you’d like to use to grease the bundt pan.  I love bundt pans.  I also love the word “bundt”.  Bundt.

7.  Scrape the batter into the bundt pan.  Smooth the top.  Bake for about 55 minutes.  Rotate the pan halfway through to make sure it cooks evenly.  If you’re not sure the banana bread is ready, do the toothpick test.  Stick a toothpick in the middle and pull it out.  If it comes out clean, then you’re good to go.  If you still see some batter stuck on, then bake it a little longer.

8.  Let the banana bread cool for about 10 minutes.  If you have greased your bundt pan well, the bread should pop right out.

Folks, you can now be that mother-in-law or friend or sister’s sister-in-law who makes the awesome banana bread.  All the while, preventing your rotting bananas from ending up in the trash.  Enjoy!

Tangine without the Tangine?

Yes folks, this is possible.

Kelson and I discovered the deliciousness that is tangine last year.  Aside from the political, environmental, and evolutionary arguments about eating meat; sometimes your body just wants a break and is in need of vegetables.  Did I lose some of my readers just now?  🙂

What better way to engage in the tasty delights of veggies, but to make tangine.

Now, let me preface that tagine is known as two things: the dish and the cooking device (both of North African origin).  Tangine, the cooking device, is usually made of clay.  It usually consists of two parts:  a plate and a funnel-shaped top.  Tagines are used to make delectable slow-cooked stews that are braised at low temperatures.  Ironically, Moroccan tangines (the dish) are usually made in a tangine.

Tangines, the dish, can have meats like lamb, but my favorite is a slow-cooked vegetable tangine.  The flavors are complicated, inviting, and great for a warm meal at home.

If you are like me, I hate owning cooking devices that are not utilized in the home for more than one purpose (examples of underutilized, non-utilitarian devices: spring-form pans).  I would like to purchase a tangine, but currently we have not made enough tangine to make it worth the cost.  Therefore, how do you make this delicious dish without the key cooking device for which it’s name derives from?

Say hello to your cast iron friend… The Le Creusat.

I was not a believer until we received one as a wedding gift.  I know.  Hard to tell considering how many times it’s already been photographed in the blog.  BUT these things are amazing!  Everyone should own a cast iron enamal pot!  Whether it’s from Le Creusat, Martha Stewart, The Lodge (Wal-Mart and Amazon), or Ikea… you need this!  I am a firm believer that all you need is a wok, a frying pan, and a cast iron pot to have a complete kitchen of cookware.  Kelson begs to differ… being the ultimate baker and cook that he is.

The cast iron pot, turns out, not only can make Russian boursche or chilli, but can be the home to your delicious tangine.

Vegetable Tangine Recipe

Adapted from CHOW.com’s recipe

Servings: 6

Ingredients

For the tagine:

  • 6 tbl olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

 

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, diced
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 quart (4 cups) vegetable broth
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, large dice
  • 1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 lemon, seeds removed, finely chopped

To serve:

  • 3 cups dry couscous
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt

1.  In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot; add onion, salt and pepper.  Stir the ingredients together until the onions are soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).

2.  Mix in the cumin and cinnamon stick for about 1 minute.  Then mix in the ginger and garlic and cook for about 1 minute more.

3.  Mix in the carrots and cook until the carrots are tender.

4.  Mix in the tomatoes (with the juice), vegetable broth, and saffron.  Stir it together and bring it to a simmer.  Cover the pot and cook for about 7 minutes.

5.  Mix in the cauliflower, chickpeas, and lemon.  Cook for about another 10 minutes.  And get ready for some delicious tangine!

6.  For the couscous, I usually trust the box instructions on hand.  Overcooked or couscous in too much water is not fun.  Read carefully!  For the most part… bring another small pot of water to a boil.  Pour in the couscous and turn off the heat.  Cover the pot and let it stand for about 5 minutes.

Tangine is SO DELICIOUS.  It’s great by itself… or if you happened to have made the couscous, pour a big ol’ heaping spoonful of tangine and top it with some greek yogurt and scallions.  Enjoy!

Bull-go-what?

Bulgogi, baby.  Bul-go-gi!

Say it with me now!

Bulgogi literally means in Korean “fire meat”.  The traditional bulgogi is marinated, barbequed beef.  Mmm-Mmm deliciousness!  The beef is usually sirloin that’s been coated with a wonderful marinade and sliced onions cooked over a flame.  DEE-LICIOUS!

As mentioned in my previous post; bulgogi goes very well with chapchae, white rice, or wrapped in romaine lettuce leaves… and ALWAYS goes with a side of kimchi!  (Then again, what doesn’t?)

We decided to host an afternoon lunch with some of my family this past weekend and decided it was time to cook up some bulgogi.

What I love about bulgogi?

Let me count the ways… but in terms of hosting these are my top reasons:

  1. The marinade can be made ahead of time.  Also, the meat can be marinated for just half an hour before (or the night before).
  2. If you buy thinly sliced pieces of sirloin, the meat will cook SUPER FAST.  Great for serving guests.
  3. It’s BEEF.  Everyone loves beef!  (Okay, maybe not the vegetarians and people who have cut down on the red meat… so almost everyone?)
  4. The most important reason of all… THIS IS SO EASY.

Bulgogi Recipe (adapted from Serious Eats)

Ingredients- Serves 5-6 people

For the marinade:

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 4 tbl sugar
  • 2 tbl sesame oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tsp sesame seed
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

 

For the bulgogi:

  • 2 lb sirloin, thinly sliced (I used sukiyaki meat or find the slightly thicker bulgogi meat at the Korean market)

 

 

1.  Add all of the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and mix together.

2.  Pour the marinade in a large storage bag and throw the meat in.  Marinate the beef either for 30 minutes or overnight.  Kelson likes to marinate it for about 3 hours.

3. Preheat a pan, grill pan, or iron skillet to high.  Due to the thinness of the meat, this will cook very quickly.

Enjoy the easiest and yummy bulgogi recipe I have ever used!

Hey! Hey! What are we going to eat today?

How about some delicious Chapchae?

As this food blog progresses, you will learn that my favorite foods involve potatoes and noodles.  I think it’s due to my upbringing of Chinese food mixed with America’s love of potatoes.

So what was the most amazing discovery that my little 10 year old self came across through trading lunches in the school yard?

Sweet potato noodles.

Dangmyeon, which is the Korean word for sweet potato noodles, is amazing!  In fifth grade, I recall bringing my standard turkey with lettuce and mayo on toasted wheat almost everyday.  One day, I made friends with a student who had just come from South Korea.  She, like myself, was sick of the same old meal and opted to swap.  My nasty sandwich (sorry Mom!) was then traded for a beef and dangmyeon dish with white rice.

Dear God, it was amazing!  These slippery, transparent noodles were like nothing I had had before.  I thought they were vermicelli or some type of glass noodles, but I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so delicious.  Then again at 10, I’m sure I just gobbled it up without thinking twice.

It wasn’t until I got immersed in the Korean food culture of Los Angeles that I found these noodles in a commonly found dish called Chapchae.

Chapchae is a stir-fried, vegetable-filled noodle dish.  DELICIOUS!  So full of color and so tasty (especially paired with delicious barbequed meats).

After ordering it one too many times and feeling the lightness of my wallet, I opted to make this at home.  First step was to find a recipe and see what exactly this noodle was, which lead to the discovery of the sweet potato noodle.  Also, for those of you who are gluten-free (like my lovely college roommate), this might be a great dish for you!  Just sub in tamarind sauce for soy sauce (Thanks Mary for the tip!).

Sweet potato noodles can be a little tough to find.  I was able to find them at my local Korean markets or Asian-food markets.  It’s cheap (usually a large bag runs you less than $2 bucks) and great to stock up on in the cabinet.

Chap Chae Recipe

Ingredients- Serves 4-6 people

  • 1 package of sweet potato noodles (11 oz)
  • 3 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • Half a white/yellow onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 stalks of green onion
  • 1 cup mushrooms (shitake or woodear)
  • 1/2 lb of spinach
  • 4 tbl soy sauce (tamarind sauce for those gluten-free folks)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbl sesame seeds

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil (for the sweet potato noodles).

2. Prep work:

  • Thinly slice your onion.
  • Peel and cut the carrots into little matchsticks.
  • Peel the garlic and finely mince.
  • Cut the green onions into about 1 inch lengths.
  • Thinly slice the mushrooms.
  • Separate the spinach leaves from the stems.

3. Once the pot has boiled, cook the sweet potato noodles.  There’s usually instruction as to how long they should be cooked, but it’s usually only about 5-6 minutes.

4. Once cooked, drain and rinse the sweet potato noodles with cold water.

5. Cut the sweet potato noodles with kitchen shears a few times.  Mix in the sesame oil.

6. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce and sugar together.

7. Add the olive oil to the wok and heat on high.

8. Once hot, add the onions and carrots for about a minute.

9. Add the garlic, green onions, and mushrooms for about a minute.

10. Add the spinach and then the soy sauce and sugar mix.

11. Add the noodles.  Mix it up.  I tend to add more soy sauce at this point or salt to taste.

12. Once cooked, add the sesame seeds and some more sesame oil.

Get ready to enjoy some delicious chapchae!  This is great on it’s own or accompanied with bulgogi.

[Possibly faced with some blank stares…]

What?  You don’t know what bulgogi is or how to make it?  Hmm… I see a post coming…

Enjoy!

*the photos included don’t include the mushrooms, since my brother in-law is not a fan.

Let’s bake some bread!

After all this waiting and preparing, it’s time for the actual baking.  Since my oven doesn’t have a steam injector like professional ovens, I’m going to mimic the steam effect and use a cast iron pan/pot combo.  You could use a dutch oven, but Christine didn’t want me to ruin the Le Crueset that we have so I just got cast iron instead.

I use a Lodge LCC3 Logic Pre-Seasoned Combo Cooker.  I’ve been using it for bread making ever since I got it.  I’d like to get another so I can bake 2 loaves at the same time.

I take my dough out of the fridge.  Then I heat up the oven (with the Lodge cooker inside) to 500 degrees for about 20 min..

During this time I get my knife and rice flour ready, since I’ll need it for the next step.

Once hot, I put on my oven gloves and take out the shallower part of the cooker and place it on my stove.  Warning:  Not only can the cast iron be heavy, but it gets very hot.  Therefore, I can’t hold this for long.  Especially since my gloves are really only rated for up to 400 degrees, so I can only hold the cast iron for about 5 seconds before I start to feel the heat through the glove.  Also, you don’t want the skillet to be out of the oven for more than a few minutes.  You have to work fast!

I uncover my bread from the basket and sprinkle more rice flour, since the top of the bread is now going to be the bottom.  I flip the dough onto the scalding skillet and make my slashes, so that the bread is allowed to expand.

Then I put on my gloves and put the skillet back into the oven.  I then cover it with the other part of the cooker.  Now I bake it for 20 min. covered.  Baking bread inside the combo cooker or dutch oven creates steam and allows the bread to rise.

After 20 min., I remove the cover and bake for an additional 25 min.  The additional bake time (with the cover off) dries the outer part of the bread and gives it that nice crust.

After 25 more min. (uncovered), I check to make sure the bread has a nice golden brown crust.  Sometimes it’s not dark enough, so I just keep it in the oven for an additional 5 more min.

Once done, I lift the bread with a metal spatula and tap the bottom to see if its done.  Then I let it cool on a wire rack for 2 hours.  I’ve always been told that you know your bread is done, when you tap the bottom and hear a hollow sound.

Now its really important that you let the bread cool a bit before you cut into it.  You can put your ear up to the bread while it’s cooling to hear the crackling of the crust.  I like to say “If your bread talks back to you, you know you did a good job”.

After the bread has cooled down, slice it up and get ready to eat it.

Now that’s a nice looking loaf!

Save for later:  Usually we can only eat one loaf at a time (even then it’s a lot of bread!), so I cut the second loaf in half and freeze each half separately.  To reheat the bread, preheat the oven at 400 degrees.  Bake the frozen bread in the oven for 10-15 min.(varies), this is usually enough time to give the bread a nice crunchy crust.  Enjoy!