Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oops! I don't have beef broth!

Have you ever started making a recipe and realized you didn't have an ingredient?  I do that a lot.  Sometimes I run to the store while cooking (or Joe does - thank you awesome hubby!), but sometimes I 'punt.'  Yesterday was one of those days.

Crock-Pot Beef Stroganoff
I was making beef stroganoff in my crockpot and after prepping the meat and veggies the night before (and premeasuring the spices), I left myself 5 minutes to throw it in the crockpot in the morning.  Which meant no last minute trip to the store.  And then I woke up and realized I had no beef broth.

I'm posting this because I'm amazed at the fact that I couldn't tell I used chicken broth instead when we ate the finished product.  It also worked well enough that I bothered to note what I combined.  (I probably would not use this substitution for a beef broth based soup, but you could use a similar idea to enhance your canned beef broth for that.)

"Beef" Broth

2 cups low sodium chicken stock or 1 can low sodium chicken broth
1 T tomato paste
1 T low sodium Lea & Perrins Worchestershire sauce
1 t soy sauce
1 t Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master (gravy browning/seasoning sauce)

Combine the ingredients and whisk.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

For the Love of Brussels Sprouts

A lot of people don't like Brussels sprouts.  I grew up thinking I didn't like them, but that has definitely changed.  I've also become a Brussels sprouts converter - feeding them to people who "don't like them" and then they later ask for the recipes!  I have three basic ways that I cook Brussels sprouts:  sautéed, roasted, and grilled.

Part 1:  Sautéed.  Simple, fast, and five ingredients or less*

This recipe can easily be altered with different steaming liquids, spices, garnishes, etc. (examples at the end)

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Roasted Red Peppers and Lime (feeds 2 as a side dish)

  • 10 Brussels sprouts
  • EVOO
  • 1 lime
  • roasted red pepper strips
  • crushed red pepper
  • salt
  • Add ~2Tb of EVOO to a medium pan and preheat over Medium-Hi heat.  (The oil should get hot but should not be smoking.  On my electric stove, I've learned that "M-H" is below the 'Medium' marker.  Unfortunately all stoves are different...)
  • Rinse the Brussels sprouts.  Trim off the bottoms and remove any ragged outer leaves.  Cut them in half.
  • Add the Brussels Sprouts, about 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, and a smidge of salt.  Sautée, tossing periodically, until golden brown in spots (about 5 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, zest half of the lime.  Squeeze the lime juice into a separate bowl.
  • Add ~12 roasted red pepper strips, the lime juice, and ~1 Tb of water or other additonal liquid (I used the brining liquid that the pepper strips were in - mine weren't in oil).
  • Cover and allow to cook/steam for about 4 minutes, or until tender.  I prefer mine to be on the al dente/tender crisp side.
  • Remove to serving bowl.  Add lime zest.  Toss, and serve!

*5 ingredients or less does not include salt/pepper/EVOO/water

Easy flavor combinations (sub for cooking fat, liquid, garnish, spice respectively):

     Sesame oil, 1.5 T soy sauce and 1.5 T water, green onions, powdered ginger and powdered garlic

     Butter, juice of 1 lemon and 1 T water, lemon zest, black pepper

     EVOO, 3 T white wine, capers, black pepper

     Non-stick pan w/ no oil, 1 T red wine vinegar and 2 T water, sun dried tomatoes, smoked paprika

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Do You Love Food Too?

I can see by my stats that more than 6 people read this blog :-)

Do you love food too?  Become a follower!

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Sorry for the shameful self promotion.  And THANK YOU to those that already follow!!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

I first heard Michael Pollan speak when he was a guest on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.  "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."  It seems like such a simple statement, but when you really delve into it, they're words to live by.

Salad - Its What's for Dinner

"Eat food."  Not as dumb as it sounds.  There's a big difference between food and "all these edible, food-like substances" (MP) that you can buy at the grocery store.  "Food" is fruit, veggies, fish, whole grains, meat, milk, eggs, nuts, etc.  While shopping, its usually easy to see the difference between food and food-like substances.  This doesn't mean that all packaged food is bad - be a label reader.  Could you feasibly make the "food" that's in your grocery cart in your own kitchen?  Do the ingredients sound like they belong in a chemistry set?  I'm certainly not perfect - I'll eat Kraft Singles (aka processed cheese-food), chicken nuggets, instant pudding, etc on occasion, but if I ask myself "is this food or a food-like substance" I often make better choices.

Healthy Meals

"Not too much."  Eat like almost every other country on earth eats - stop eating when you're no longer hungry.  Don't wait until your brain tells you you're full.  I've found that if I serve smaller portions and have to physically get up and go to the kitchen to get more, I'll often think twice about whether I'm actually still hungry.

Boulder Farmer's Market, Take 2

"Mostly plants."  Plants are good for you.  For the past year, I've made a point to serve a meal without meat/fish at least once a week.  I also try to make the veggie the largest portion on the plate, and the meat (if I'm serving it) the smallest.

Best Dinner in a Long Time

My resolution for 2012:  make better food choices.  I've gotten pretty good at doing this at home, but I really need to improve at work, at restaurants, while I'm out shopping and a Crunchwrap Supreme from Taco Bell would really hit the spot...  What is your 2012 resolution?

Great Side Dishes

More advice from Michael Pollan below:

Michael Pollan's 7 Rules for Eating
  1. Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. "When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can't pronounce, ask yourself, "What are those things doing there?" Pollan says.
  2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.
  3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
  4.  Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot. "There are exceptions -- honey -- but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren't food," Pollan says.
  5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. "Always leave the table a little hungry," Pollan says. "Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, 'Tie off the sack before it's full.'"
  6. Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It's a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. "Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?" Pollan asks.
  7. Don't buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.
MP's 4 Myths About Healthy Eating
  • Myth #1: Food is a delivery vehicle for nutrients. What really matters isn't broccoli but its fiber and antioxidants. If we get that right, we get our diet right. Foods kind of get in the way.
  • Myth #2: We need experts to tell us how to eat. Nutrients are invisible and mysterious. "It is a little like religion," Pollan said. "If a powerful entity is invisible, you need a priesthood to mediate your relation with food."
  • Myth #3: The whole point of eating is to maintain and promote bodily health. "You are either improving or ruining your health when you eat -- that is a very American idea," Pollan says. "But there are many other reasons to eat food: pleasure, social community, identity, and ritual. Health is not the only thing going on on our plates."
  • Myth #4: There are evil foods and good foods. "At any given time there is an evil nutrient we try to drive like Satan from the food supply -- first it was saturated fats, then it was trans fat," Pollan says. "Then there is the evil nutrient's doppelganger, the blessed nutrient. If we get enough of that we will be healthy and maybe live forever. It's funny through history how the good and bad guys keep changing."
Read more about these myths here.  Read even more about Michael Pollan here, here, or here.  Or a ton of other places.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Recently, Joe and I went out in Denver and ate at Jax Fish House.  We were planning on getting an appetizer each, but then couldn't resist sharing their Potato Gnocchi instead- served with braised pork ragu, rock shrimp, squash, turnips, and arugula.  One of the best things I've eaten recently - and the best gnocchi I've ever had - light and pillowy and airy and tender.

I've made gnocchi once before, and eating this dish at Jax makes me excited about cooking them again.  Maybe with practice, I'll be able to replicate the texture of the gnocchi at Jax.



  • 3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • about 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • white pepper
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • About 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Prick the potatoes several times with a fork and bake them until they are soft, about 1.5 hours.
  3. While they're still hot, cut all the potatoes in half lengthwise, creating as much surface area as possible so the steam billows out. (Steam is water; the less water the potatoes contain, the less flour you will need. The less flour, the lighter the gnocchi.)
  4. Scoop the potatoes out of the skins and into a food mill or fine-holed ricer (I found an antique food mill at Goodwill!).
  5. Pass them through the food mill or ricer onto a large clean work surface - use your countertop or kitchen table.
  6. Spread the potatoes into an even rectangle about 24" x 12".
  7. Season the potatoes generously with white pepper (if available).
  8. When they are no longer hot to the touch, almost room temperature, beat the egg yolk. Drizzle the egg yolk over the potatoes.
  9. Measure 1 1/4 cups flour and sprinkle this over the potatoes.
  10. Using a pastry scraper (or the edge of a spatula), cut the flour and egg into the potatoes, chopping and then turning the mixture in on itself and folding it together, until everything is well mixed and the dough resembles coarse crumbs. Bring the mixture together into a ball.
  11. Sprinkle a scant 1/4 cup flour on the work surface. Place the dough on the flour and press down, flattening it into a disk with both hands. Dust the dough with another scant 3/4 cup flour. Using your hands, fold and press the dough until the flour is incorporated. Add two dustings of flour to the work surface and dough and repeat. If the dough still feels sticky, repeat once more, this time covering both the table and the dough with no more than 2 tablespoons flour.
  12. Roll the dough into a compact log. Dust the outside with flour, then allow the dough to rest for about 5 minutes.
  13. Dust the work surface lightly with flour.
  14. Divide the log into 8 pieces. Roll each section into a "snake" about 1/2" thick (Joe helped with this - it was fun to make them!).
  15. Using a floured knife or pastry cutter, cut the dough into gnocchi about 1" long.              
  16. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Working in two or three batches, drop the gnocchi into the water and cook, stirring occasionally, until they float, 2 to 3 minutes. Retrieve the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and put them on a baking sheet or plate.
  17. While the gnocchi cook, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sage and season with salt and pepper. Allow the butter to brown slightly, about 4 minutes. Add the gnocchi to the browned butter and remove the pan from the heat. Mix gently and serve topped with Parmigiano.
I served this with broiled lobster tails (they were on sale for a great price!!) and creamed corn.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Baked Manicotti (and a simple sauce recipe)

There are certain foods that have always intimidated me.  Manicotti is one of them.  The thought of trying to pipe cheese filling into cooked tubes of pasta sounded difficult and frustrating.  And then came a revelation.  On America's Test Kitchen one Saturday morning, the topic was manicotti.  On ATK, their goal is to take something that's difficult and make it accessible.  This episode fulfilled that promise and introduced me to a novel idea:  manicotti made with lasagna noodles.  I've made them twice so far, and the reviews have been very positive - this recipe is a keeper.  Also, the sauce is very simple and tastes good on its own if you need a quick recipe.

BAKED MANICOTTI - makes 16 manicotti - serves up to 8 people.


  • 2   28-ounce cans whole plum tomatoes (in juice)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (or less, to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • about 3 cups ricotta cheese - if you're fortunate enough to get to choose between several brands, choose one without stabilizers (*note* from what I've found, the big containers have ~2.5 cups - I've used these and then filled the manicotti a little bit less)
  • 4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 16 no-boil lasagna noodles (*note* I've used Barilla and Ronzoni - Barilla has 16 noodles/box, Ronzoni only has 12 so you'll have to buy 2 boxes and have leftovers)

The sauce, filling, and noodle prep can be done simultaneously.

  • Pulse one can of tomatoes in a food processor or blender until coarsely chopped.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Once hot, add garlic and red pepper flakes (if using) and cook for 1-2 minutes (the garlic will be fragrant, but not brown).
  • Add first can of tomatoes to the pot.  Stir.
  • Pulse second can of tomatoes.  Add to pot.  Stir.  (You could do both cans at the beginning and reserve in a bowl, but I prefer to conserve dishes.)
  • Cook for about 15 minutes, until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and add chopped basil. 
  • In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, pepper (to taste), and herbs in medium bowl.
  • Mix well.  Set aside.
Noodle Prep:
  • Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil. 
  • (Very carefully) pour the boiling water into a 9"x13" glass pan.  Add noodles one at a time.  Allow to soak for about 5 minutes, or until pliable and similar to the texture of fresh pasta.  While soaking, move the noodles around with the tip of a sharp knife to avoid sticking.
  • Remove the noodles and lay them out in a single layer on clean kitchen towels.  Dump out water and dry dish.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  • Scoop a scant quarter cup of filling onto each noodle.
  • Spread the filling over 3/4 of the noodle, leaving 1/4 on an end exposed.

  • Evenly cover the bottom of the 9"x13" glass baking dish with 1.5 cups of sauce.
  • Starting at the end with filling, roll each noodle into a tube shape.  (The non-filled portion of noodle should help the end of the tube stick).
  • Place seam-side down in the baking dish.  (In the occasion in this picture, I used 2 8"x8" baking dishes because my 9"x13" was in use.)

  •  Roll up the remaining manicotti and add to the dish.  I slide them into place so that there is sauce between each tube - otherwise the noodles may stick together.
  • Top with the remaining sauce, making sure to cover all of the manicotti.  (If there's enough, keep about a cup to the side to serve with them at the end.)
  • Cover the pan with foil.  Bake for 40 minutes.
  • Remove the foil.  Top with remaining cup of Parmesan.  Bake for an additional 4-6 minutes, until the cheese starts to get brown spots.
  • Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  • Serve with a green salad and Italian bread.  Enjoy!