Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lamb, Spinach and Chickpea Curry

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I was talking online with a friend that lives in Florida about how we'd splurged and bought a boneless leg of lamb, but that I was ok with it because we'd get at least three meals out of it.  He gasped in horror and informed me  that the last time he'd priced that cut, it'd cost over $20 a pound and would have cost about $60 to buy the roast.  And then I gasped in horror right back!  Here in the DC area, I was able to buy my splurgy roast (just short of 3 pounds of boneless leg of lamb) for $21 total.  Which still is a splurge - but it's not insane.

So, if I am talking about lamb and prices in your area are as ridiculous as they are where my friend lives, please know I have not utterly taken leave of my senses!  For us, that roast actually added up to four meals, with zero waste - that's just about $2.50 in meat per person per meal. Not the most frugal, but not terrible either, especially as we are actively working on confining our eating out days to planned social activities and not just because we feel like treating ourselves or don't get around to making dinner.

Sadly, I was bad about taking pictures of all the lamby goodness.  On the first night, I simply roasted it following this recipe for Roasted Leg of Lamb.  It was incredibly good - rather like a good prime rib, actually. Tender, medium rare, and delicious with roasted red potatoes and roasted asparagus.

The next night was one of those 'too busy to cook' days, and we just put together a huge dinner salad, hacked off a portion of the roast and cubed it, scooping up some of the flavorful jelled sauce in the bottom of the dish, and quickly sauted those - the sauce glazed around the cubes, and we used them to top off our salads.

The last two meals involved this curry recipe - it made enough to feed us well for two days and because curry is one of  those things that tastes even better after an overnight in the refrigerator, not one bit of this felt like we were tolerating leftovers. If you don't used canned products, this isn't the recipe for you, but you probably have methods for adjusting recipes, right?  This makes a spicy curry - adjust seasonings as you need to! There is no one right way with curry.

Lamb, Spinach and Chickpea Curry

1 lb lamb, cut in 1/2" cubes (we used leftover leg of lamb)
1 T. fat (I used tallow - ghee, lard, or olive oil would also be fine)
1 onion, diced
2 cans chickpeas (or equivalent dried chickpeas, cooked)
1 can organic diced tomatoes
1 small can diced green chiles
1 small can organic tomato paste
1 bag baby spinach
1 T. cumin
1 t. coriander seed
3 T. curry powder (I used 1 T each of three Spice House curry blends I had on hand: Garam Masala, Vindaloo, and Rogan Josh)
1 t. cayenne
1 can coconut milk (or 1 cup thick yogurt)

Saute lamb cubes and onion until browned and tender.  Add chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and green chiles, and seasonings.  If too dry, add a little water or broth, and let simmer for at least 30 minutes (longer is fine), stirring occasionally.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Stir in tomato paste, add spinach (as it wilts, stir it into the curry), and simmer for another 15 minutes or so.  Stir in coconut milk or yogurt, let curry heat, but be careful not to scorch, and serve.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Brightness Sailors, Bit By Bit

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Reviewer ~ Jackie Snider

When I was first asked if I was free to review, "Brightness Sailors, Bit by Bit" by Claudine Gueh & Cruel Hash Browns, I thought, ‘Sure, why not. I have free time.’ I was thinking about how I love introducing new children’s books to my 3-year-old daughter. Throughout my few days with the book, it became a much more personal experience for me.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Conversation-Stopping Reuben Cabbage Rolls

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Last night, we used our leftover homemade corned beef ("leftover" is totally not a good enough word to use here - this was a planned second meal from the beginning) to make Reuben Cabbage Rolls; "Conversation-Stopping" because last night, and again today at lunch when we polished them off, all discussion stopped, unless you want to count the sounds of 'mm mm mmm' that accompanied each bite.  Michael is now demanding we do another brisket like this, and soon, and I'm not arguing at all.

These are awesome, and even better, they are fast and simple.

Reuben Cabbage Rolls

(serves 4)

8 large cabbage leaves

2 cups sauerkraut, drained

2 cups shredded or diced corned beef

2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 tsp. caraway seeds (or to taste)

 Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a baking pan with nonstick coconut oil spray and set aside.

In a pot, boil water and place large leaves of cabbage in the water.  Boil for 5-7 minutes or until tender.

Place corned beef in a bowl and shred with two forks, or dice into .  Add Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, cream cheese and caraway seeds.  Mix well and set aside.

Lay cabbage leaves out flat and evenly distribute corned beef in the center.  Wrap up tightly and place in the prepared baking pan, seams down.  Bake until hot, about 15 minutes. 

We had more filling than cabbage, so I simply plopped the extra filling around  the cabbage rolls, and that worked out just fine.

If you're eating bread, some buttered rye bread would be just the thing here.  We aren't, but it evoked my fondest memories of a good Reuben sandwich - total winner!

Michael would you like you to know that he also is a masterful mixer of Bloody Marys garnished with garlic-stuffed green olives, which are a quite nice appetizer drink to start this meal off.  So now you know!

Monday, March 18, 2013

How To Corn Your Own Beef (No Salt Peter)

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Last night was lovely and made me giddy proud because we ... wait for it ... CORNED OUR OWN BEEF THIS WEEK.

Now - after you see what that involves, you won't be so impressed, because it was easy peasy.  While it was cooking last night, the house smelled like the most mouthwateringly wonderful deli you ever visited in your deli-dreams.  SO good. So doing this again.

How to Corn Your Own Beef without Salt Peter

(yep - corned beef is usually made with potassium nitrate - saltpeter, as in 'makes gun powder'.  It's why you don't want to eat too many standard cured foods, because they have adverse health consequences if eaten in large quantities.  And, it turns out, it isn't necessary if you do this at home.  The potassium nitrate is what gives comercial corned beef its bright red appearance, so don't expect it to take on that color.)

1 grass-fed beef brisket, about 2 1/2 pounds.  Much easier to work with if you cut this into halves.

In a medium pot, combine:

1 cup water
2 T whole peppercorns, cracked
2 T pickling spice (I used Spice House's pickling spice)
1 T juniper berries, cracked
1 T coriander seeds
8 bay leaves
1 T. dried thyme (or a few sprigs fresh)
4 cloves garlic, minced

Bring to a boil, then lower and let steep for about 5 minutes.   Turn into a large glass bowl and let cool a few more minutes.  Add:

6 cups water
3/4 cups sea salt
1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, or rapadura

Stir until the salt and sugar have melted.

Now you can do one of two things (we did #2 because we didn't have a large baggie handy):

1 - Put the brisket into a 2 gallon ziplock bag, add the brine and a few ice cubes (to rapidly cool down the brine).   Seal it up, put it in a bowl, and refrigerate.  Twice a day for the next three days, flip the bag over.

2 - Toss a few ice cubes into the brine in the bowl to cool it down.  Add  the brisket and weight it down with a small plate to keep the meat in the brine.  Cover the bowl and store in the refrigertor.  Twice a day, take it out, and flip the meat, weight it down again and put it back in the fridge.

The 2nd method is more labor intensive over the next few days, but I'm not even sure how you'd get that brine from bowl to baggie without a disastrous mess, so maybe it evens out!

Once it's brined for at least three days, you're ready to cook it!

To prepare the corned beef to cook:  remove the beef and set aside.  Dump the brine.  Then rinse the meat so it isn't too salty (don't worry so much about stuck on bits of seasonings).

Corned Beef and Cabbage

1 corned beef brisket, about 2 1/2 lbs
2 T pickling spice in a muslin bag
1 head cabbage - shredded, chopped or quartered as desired

Put corned beef into a pot, add water to cover, and tuck in a muslin bag of pickling spice.  Heat to boil, then lower heat and simmer for 3 hours.  Your house is going to smell amazing.

Remove beef from water and set aside without cutting.  Put the cabbage in the cooking water and simmer about 20-30 minutes, until tender.

Serve in a bowl - some cabbage, a few slices of corned beef, and a bit of broth.  Heavenly!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Clean Out the Larder Slow-Cooker Meatball Soup

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I try very hard to keep meal prep really easy on days when Michael goes into work (most days he can telecommute, but sometimes he has to go in, and when that happens, he isn't home until 8pm or later), or when we've got something to do after he's done working.  I have rheumatoid arthritis, and with my hands, I have a very hard time with opening containers and with cutting some things - so if he's gone, anything like that could totally derail meal prep until he's home to do it for me.

On days when the evening is going to be busy, that means hauling out the slow cooker, so all the prep can happen in the morning, and eating can happen whenever we're ready for it.

This was one of those meals - we needed to grocery shop, and I was needing to use up some root veggies that had been sitting around for awhile.  If I'd had onions, they've have gone into this, but I didn't, and it still tasted just fine.  Use whatever veggies you have on hand, and whatever ground meat you have on hand.  This isn't the sort of thing that you should get fussy or particular about.

Also, whether you regard this as a thick and hearty soup or a stew depends on your outlook - since I did nothing to thicken the broth, I sort of think it's a soup, but with strong stewlike tendencies.

Clean Out the Larder Meatball Stew/Soup (Slowcooker)
(serves 4)

1 lb ground meat (I used pork)
seasoning blend of choice (I used a chorizo sausage blend from Spice House, which gave the meatballs a nice piquant flavor)
2 T. apple cider vinegar
Root Veggies as desired - mine were 3 red potatoes, 2 sweet potatoes and 3 carrots
Other veggies as available - I added a couple stalks of celery, chopped.  Onions and mushrooms would have been great if I'd had them.
Salt and pepper to taste
Broth to cover (about 2 cups)

Combine ground meat with seasoning of choice and apple cider vinegar.  Blend well with hands, and form into meatballs about 1" wide.  Set balls into a baking dish and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until well browned and mostly cooked.

While the meatballs are cooking, chop all your veggies and put into the slow cooker.  Once the meatballs are cooked, add them to the slow cooker on top of the pot.  Scrape off whatever fat and cooked bits are in the pan and add those to the slow cooker, too.  Pour broth over all, making sure veggies are covered.

Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours, or start on high for an hour or two and then turn down until low for a couple more hours, or until ready to eat.

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~ Empty Your Archives 37

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Baked Coconut Custard with Whipped Cream


A warm and soothing dessert for a chilly March day, this custard reminds me of the returning sun (and a bit of summer tropical promise with the coconut).  We made ours in individual ramekins, but it could also be done in a larger baking dish.

Baked Maple Coconut Custard with Whipped Cream

3 eggs
1/4 c maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups whole milk, or coconut milk
ground nutmeg and/or cinnamon, to taste
heavy cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 350F (325 if baking in a large dish).

With a wire whisk, beat together eggs, syrup and vanilla.  Add milk, and whip to blend.  Pour into 6  ramekins or a glass baking dish.

Set baking dishes into a pan of hot water and bake (350F for 40-45 minutes for ramekins; 325F for 1 hour for larger baking dish).  To test for doneness, insert a knife offcenter - it should come back clean.

Custard can be served warm or cold with whipped cream,  Optionally, add some fresh fruit.

Serves 6. Enjoy!
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