Saturday, August 23, 2014

French Dip Subs

Only one meat dish in the past 12 posts! Can you see that I prefer the vegetarian diet? I think it's time for one though. I will apologize in advance for my hastily snapped photo. This is because I have made these twice and gobbled my food so quickly I forgot to take a picture. This time, mid-scarfing, I snapped a photo of my husband's plate. These are so good I have literally come home so excited to make dinner both times! The recipe is from a 2004 Country Woman that really a real magazine?!

French Dip Subs
2 Tablespoons oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
500g tenderloin steaks or chuck roast, sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 chicken bouillon cube (or 1 1/2 cups stock)
Hoagie rolls, toasted

Begin by slicing the beef thinly. Partially frozen meat tends to slice thinly the easiest because it doesn't move around. Heat the oil in the bottom of an open pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the onions, sauteing until golden brown. Toss in the garlic and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant. Next, add the dried herbs, salt, and pepper, crushing them slightly in your hand. Add the sliced beef and brown in the bottom of the hot pressure cooker. Once browned, pour in the liquid and chicken bouillon. Stir, then clamp on the lid of the pressure cooker. Cook over high heat until it reaches pressure (first "whistle), turn the heat down to medium, and cook for about 30 minutes or 20 minutes more if you have a thick or tough cut of meet. Turn off the heat and allow the pressure to release naturally. Serve on toasted hoagie rolls with toppings of choice. Scoop the liquid from the pressure cooker into little dipping bowls to dip the subs as you eat.

Veggie Pancakes

I've been searching for more ways to incorporate vegetables in our diet. Sometimes I feel like I go through days where I hardly eat any vegetables other than tomatoes and legumes, which feels pretty ridiculous and bad for me. I had the thought, "I wonder if you could make a savory pancake out of vegetables?" Turns out that you can, and they taste pretty good. Since there is only a little flour in these, you could easily make them gluten free by substituting something like chickpea flour or another gluten free blend in place of the white flour. This recipe is a mishmash of a lot of ideas I find on the internet and can be customized with whatever vegetables you want. I used finely chopped cauliflower and leafy greens, but broccoli, cabbage, peppers, and even green beans would probably also work if you really chop them finely.

Sometimes white plates are good. Sometimes they're just not. Sorry!
Vegetable Pancakes
1/2 cup flour (white, wheat, chickpea, whatever)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, grated
1 cup mixed vegetables, finely

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients, including vegetables, in another bowl. Add the wet to the dry. Using a non-stick or well greased skillet, fry as you would normal pancakes, but using only a heaping tablespoons or so of batter at a time. Use the back of a spoon to flatten the batter some so the vegetables cook through. Cook over medium-low heat, flipping once the first side is browned and browning the other side.

You can eat these plain, with gravy, or with cheese sauce. We opted for a cheesy bechamel, and it was a fun savory twist on sweet pancakes.

Lunchbox Love: Pancakes or Waffles

This one is not so much a recipe as an idea. My kids love pancakes. We recently bought a waffle iron, and they love waffles equally as much. While I'm still experimenting to find the perfect waffle recipe, any waffle or pancake recipe will do for a kid's lunch. You can send 2 pancakes with syrup, peanut butter, hazelnut spread, applesauce, or anything you come up with. My daughter loves cinnamon-spiced waffles with applesauce for lunch.

1 1/4 cups flour (I mix 50/50 white and wheat)
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons oil
1 cup milk + extra for thinning pancake batter
1 egg (2 for waffles)

Mix all the dry ingredients well. Add all the liquid ingredients. If making pancakes, add up to 1/2 cup extra milk to thin the batter. Then, stir just to combine (10-15 times around bowl) and leave it to rest 10 minutes. Cook pancakes on griddle or waffles in waffle iron.

For the lunchbox, freeze individual pancakes or waffles on a cookie sheet for 1-2 hours. Then package in a ziptop bag all together. Place in the lunchbox in the morning, and they will thaw by lunchtime.

Lunchbox Love: Corn Dog Bites

While making lunches in developed countries can still be a challenge or at least annoying, those challenges are much more complex in the undeveloped world because, unless you always want to fill a lunchbox with junk or spend a ton of money, you really have to work at it. My daughter recently started going to a school rather than homeschooling, and I knew she wasn't always going to like the options the cafeteria offered. These corn dog bites are a huge hit with her! They were inspired by the easier, packaged mix version at Renee's Kitchen Adventures.

Corn Dog Bites
1/2 package hot dogs/sausage, cut into smaller pieces
1 egg
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tablespoons oil

Preheat oven to 200C/400F, and line a muffin tin with papers. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients, using only 1/3 cup of milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir just to combine. If the mixture looks too dry, add a little more milk. Fill each muffin tin just shy of 1/2 full. Top each muffin with several pieces of hot dog. Pop into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool. Freeze on a cookie sheet for 2 hours, place in a ziptop bag in the freezer, and take out in the morning while you're packing lunch. It will thaw by lunchtime.

Note: If you omit the sausage, this is a recipe for 1 Jiffy corn muffin box mix. Substitute sugar for the honey and leave out the wet ingredients for long-term storage of the mix.

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

Let's face it--whole wheat anything here tends to be crumbly or tough or just not quite the same as at home. I think it's the absence of vital wheat gluten in baking supplies or something different in the milling. Well, these rolls are anything but. They are fluffy, soft, and delicious! I wanted a roll that reminded me of those soft buttery ones my school cafeteria made when I was a child, but I wanted a whole wheat alternative. I found this recipe on An Oregon Cottage, and it is a real winner. I only altered the mixing method and the option to use milk, as my take 2 using kefir was much fluffier than the first ones I made. Yes, this one takes a little time, but patience, Grasshopper. Your efforts will be rewarded!

The back ones have caramelized onion filling.
Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
2 Tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup (or 128g) butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk, sour milk, or kefir
4 1/2 to 5 cups wholewheat flour (atta)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the honey. Set aside. Cream the butter in a bowl. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition to prevent separation. Next pour in the buttermilk and yeast. Add 1 cup of the flour to create a sponge and stir until relatively smooth. Add in the remaining flour and salt, kneading just until the dough begins to spring back when poked and is no longer tacky. Do not add too much flour, or you'll get a tough dough. Place in an oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise in warm place for 1 hour or until doubled. Once doubled, knead on a lightly floured surface to release air and allow to rest several minutes. Shape into 24 equally sized balls (see tutorial) and place in a greased 9x13 baking dish. The pieces should be touching. Cover and allow to rise again for 1 hour.

Bake in a 170C/350F preheated oven for 15-30 minutes. Brush the tops with melted butter before serving and enjoy warm!

Note: These freeze really well. Just wrap in plastic then foil once cooled. To reheat, thaw, remove plastic, wrap in foil and bake 10 minutes. Also, yeast can be a bit problematic here as far as blooming/not blooming. I have found that buying smaller packets more often (check for expiration) alleviates this problem to some degree.

Black Bean Taquitos

Over the summer, I was trying to think of ways to change up our traditional southwestern style dishes that we eat at home. Tacos, taco salad, enchiladas, and even bean tostadas are classics in our house, but still I want more variety! I remembered seeing taquitos in America, which are basically just a crispy rolled up tacos, and thought they might actually be easier my small kids to eat. Filling and delicious, these are a great weeknight meal, especially if you've cooked some black beans in advance. Serve them with fresh salsa and sour cream for dipping. If you flash freeze these on a cookie sheet for a couple hours, then bag them, they also work great for lunches! No need to thaw in advance.

Pardon their slight burned color! Priorities, people...
Black Bean Taquitos
1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons taco seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups cooked black beans
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup cheese, grated
6-8 tortillas or thin rotis

Heat oil over medium heat and saute onions until translucent. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant. Sprinkle in taco seasoning and salt, stirring about 30 seconds. Add in the black beans with 1/4 cup of water and cook over low heat about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in cilantro in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat. Into each tortilla, spoon about 1/3 cup of the bean mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Carefully roll each filled tortilla to look something like the photo and place seam side down in a baking dish. Preheat oven to 225C/425F. Prior to baking, brush each rolled taquito with some oil. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the tops of taquitos begin to turn golden.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Caramelized Onions

A few years ago, Megan's husband used to make this delicious crusty French boule bread to bring to gatherings. Well, this recipe is unfortunately not about artisanal bread -- you can buy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day for that -- but it is about this delicious caramelized onion topping that "Bob" would occasionally bake on top of smaller boule loaves. These onions are divine. Amazing baked into bread, spread on a little crostini with a slice of cheese, on top of steamed vegetables, pretty much just amazing. I love them! They also make your house smell wonderful when you're cooking them.

Caramelized Onions
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2-3 onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon white wine (omit if you don't have it)
1 teaspoon cider or red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 Tablespoons water
Pepper, to taste

Heat the oil on medium-low. The key to caramelizing onions is low heat, time, and moisture. Add everything the pan at once. Cook for about 25-30 minutes on low until the onions have a nice golden brown color. If the pan is getting dry, add another spoon of water to keep them moist and prevent burning.

This the perfect relatively hands off recipe that you can do when you're washing dishes or working on something else in the kitchen. A little work for a lot of flavor!

Miso Noodle Bowl

I'm back after a long silence! Although our weather has alternated between hot/summery and rainy, something about monsoon rain makes me want that occasional bowl of soup--even when I'm sweating. This soup, inspired by a recipe from Mushrooms Canada, can be made in under 15 minutes so it's a definite winner for easy weeknight meals. If you want it to be extra special, soak some dried black/Shitake/Chinese mushrooms in the morning to give you delicious natural mushroom broth in the evening. Just make sure you don't pour in the dredges from the bottom as they may contain grit.

Miso Noodle Bowl
1 Tablespoon oil
2 small onions, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
3 Tablespoons miso paste
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
4 cups water + 2 vegetable bouillon cubes or mushroom broth
2 cups mixed mushrooms or bok choy, chopped
2 scallions, chopped finely
200g noodles (soba, ramen, or chowmein)
Sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar, to taste

Heat oil over medium low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute, but do not let them brown. Stir in the miso paste and soy sauce, making sure the onions are coated with the mixture. Pour in the broth (water + bouillon) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the vegetables, cooking over medium heat just until they are al dente or the greens are wilted. Add the noodles and cook another 4-7 minutes until they are also al dente. Remove from heat. Ladle into bowls, top with chopped scallions, and sprinkle over sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar to taste.

To add more protein content to the meal, you could also drop in cubed tofu toward the end of the cooking process.