Sunday, March 11, 2012

Go Veg or Go Home

I grew up in a household where a potato chip was the closest thing to a vegetable we would serve. Yes we had the summer corn on the cob on a regular basis and iceberg lettuce with tomatoes at every meal, but vegetables really were absent. This is probably a normal occurance in many household, but our neighbor was basically a farmer and had his entire backyard a garden of delights. He inspired our own backyard garden, where we ended up growing our own tomatoes and two foot long zucchinis. We never ate zucchini, so I'm not sure why we ever grew them. They were great for backyard mess fest where you'd play baseball with fallen tomatoes and giant zukes. The point is, I really never knew how great vegetables could be growing up. If you have kids, try to get them to eat different foods early. Here is the one place I will tell you that lying is really ok. In our house, mushrooms were magical meat. Green beans became magic worms. Felafel (not a veg, I know) are hufflepuff meatballs. If your kid has a favorite story, tell them that this is what their favorite character ate. It works for us, it might work for you. I can't tell you how many times my wife has to go to Hogwarts to get a new recipe. Since I'm a muggle, I can't visit. The problem for me was, now that I had the taste for vegetables, I didn't know the first thing about cooking them. Here a few good cookbooks that got me over the fear and the hump of cooking those funny multicolored objects at the far end of the supermarkets.

Quick Prep Roasted Vegetables
1lb cubed butternut squash
3 sweet onions cut into small wedges
3-4 parsnips peeled and sliced into rounds 1/4-1/2" thickness
3-4 carrots prepped same as parsnip
1 medium turnip cubed the same size as the butternut squash
4-5 garlic cloves, paper skin still on
Alternate or additional vegetables (delicata squash, zucchini, yellow squash, rutabaga, fennel, green beans, really whatever you like)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
rosemary or thyme
salt and fresh ground pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Take a rimmed baking sheet(also known as a jelly roll plan) spread oil and add vegetables. Sprinkle Rosemary or Thyme or both onto vegetable, sprinkle salt (preferably kosher or sea salt) and fresh ground pepper. Turn the veggies to coat and pop into oven. Cook for 20 minutes. Check for doneness and turn if browning too much on the bottoms. Check 7 minutes more. Once cooked to desired doneness. I like my vegs a little crunchy remove and let sit on sheet for a minute. Then place on plates or in bowls. Makes a great and easy side for red meats.

If you are so inclined, I also will put chicken thighs on top of the vegetables after they have been in the over about 10 minutes. You can leave the skins on the chicken to add some additional flavor to the vegs. Cook until the chicken is done and mix once or twice if necessary. Should take about 20 more minutes, but make sure the chicken is done.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Oh Me So Hungry, Me So Hungry

When in doubt this recipe is our go to for an easy to put together satisfying meal. It has an asian flair. My wife said let's try Cinnamon Beef with Lo Mein Noodles. I kinda look at her with a bit of disgust. Ugh really? Well turns out, its really awesome and when I can't think of anything new to cook, this has quickly become a fall back meal for the family. Its like beef stew only feels a lot lighter. The cinnamon taste is subtle but marries very well with the stew meat. I try to get grassfed beef for this particular dish. No particular reason why other than that is how we first tried and why mess with a good thing. Its very simple to prepare and if the stew meat is trimmed and not fatty, its a low calorie dish as well.

2lbs Beef Stew
2 tsp canola oil
5 cups water
1 1/2 cups Sake
3/4 cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce (I use Kikkoman) sometimes referred to as Lite
1/4 cup sugar
10 green onions (8 chopped into approx 1 inch pieces, 2 chopped thin)
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger (I use the tubed stuff as a timesaver)
1 10-12 oz package of baby spinach leaves
8 oz. uncooked lo mein noodles (wider is better, but not the end)

Heat 1 teaspoon of canola oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add beef but don't overcrowd, we want to brown the meat and get a nice crust on it. Remove from pan once browned on all sides. While meat is browning, combine Water, Sake, Soy Sauce and Sugar in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Return beef to pan and add water mixture, green onions, garlic, cinnamon and ginger. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to so liquid just simmers. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2hrs. While the beef is cooking, cook the low mein noodles according to instructions. When beef is tender, stir in spinach. Add noodles to your serving dishes and spoon beef mixture over the cooked noodles. Should yield 8 or so servings. About 1 cup beef and half a cup noodles. Calories are around 400. 10g of fat (3g saturated).

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