Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shrimp and Vegetable Stir-Fry

We are 12 hours and counting before we leave for vacation and this week has been a blur. 

It's been a busy week but also a great week in terms of cooking inspiration.  I got this ciabatta recipe from the writer of this blog which I fully intend to try out once I get from vacation.  I also am the proud owner of Heidi Swanson's cookbook (which my husband said is an unusual choice for reading on the plane) and am hoping to try this recipe while I'm on vacation.  And last night dinner was popcorn and klondike bars while watching a movie which was pretty amazing.

The one thing I did cook this week was our "let's use up all the vegetables in the fridge" stir-fry.  I used to make stir-fry's by dumping in half a bottle of store bought sauce and we would end up dumping soy sauce over everything to give it some flavor.  This recipe solved that problem and it's pretty healthy if you use reduced sodium soy sauce and broth.

Shrimp and Vegetable Stir-Fry

This recipe came from a Weight Watchers cookbook originally.  Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have available.  We've done mixes of broccoli and mushroom, frozen mixed vegetables and cauliflower and peppers. 

The best thing about this recipe is how easy and flavorful the sauce is - it will make your next stir-fry amazing.

2/3 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
4 tbs reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tbs cornstarch
2 tsp hoisen sauce (look for this by the soy sauce in the supermarker)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

4 tsp canola oil

1 pound peeled and devenined shrimp

1/2 tbs garlic, minced

6 cups vegetables (broccoli, sliced peppers, mushrooms, etc...)

2 tbs chopped cilantro (optional topping)

1.  Stir broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, hoisen sauce and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl and set aside.  Mix well, the cornstarch will want to stick to the bottom in a clump.
2.  Head a wok over medium-high and add 2 tsp oil.
3.  Cook shrimp until they are opaque in the center (about 3 minutes) then remove shrimp from heat.
3.  Heat remaining 2 tsp of oil and add garlic.  Saute until fragrant (about 1 minute).
4.  Add vegetables.  Stir-fry to your desired tenderness and add broth mixture (stir again to release cornstarch).  Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens.
5.  Top with chopped cilantro and serve with brown rice.

Serves 4 and will reheat nicely.  Be prepared to share some with your co-workers.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Grandma Hazel's Hot Beefs

First of all...update on the bathroom.  Shower, tub and walls are up!  Tile is going down...slowly but accurately which is important. 

Last weekend my parents came to visit which was pretty amazing considering the construction going on caused us all four of us to squeeze into our first floor half bathroom.  Doug and my dad sweated upstairs while my mom and I cooked and cleaned downstairs - I know, totally stereotypical but hey, we all enjoyed ourselves.  I made cheese manicotti from my Aunt Carol's recipe (it deserves its own blog post - it was so good) and my mom brought her secret weapon to motivate everyone to keep working - hot beefs. 

Now these are not your regular hot beefs, these are melt in your mouth, family secret, hot beefs.  I'm pretty sure knowing we were working on these in the kitchen caused the guys to work extra hard.

The original recipe came from my Grandma Hazel who was pretty much the love of my life growing up.  I loved making her laugh and she loved feeding my brother and I anything we wanted.  She always let me pour half and half on top of my rice crispies when I slept over and she also fed us things like donuts and soda that we didn't get at home.  I always remember her calling my brother a little bird because of the way he picked at his food, and how she was always up for a game of cards after lunch.  Nothing was off limits at Grandma's house and I spent long afternoons picking through her attics and cupboards looking for treasures.

Grandma Hazel knew how to put on a spread, although she did have a habit of throwing random things into jello salads, I think she can be forgiven by the fact that it was the 80's and that was the trend among Methodist pot-lucks at the time.  And don't ask my mom about braunschweiger sandwiches - we'll have to cover that in another posting.

Even if we were sitting down to a simple lunch she would pull everything we could possibly want out of the cupboards and throw it all in plastic bowls (either scratched tupperware or leftover country crock containers) and lay it all out on the table.  As we all started eating my Grandma would keep finding more things to add to the table until Grandpa would start in with his refrain of "Sit down Hazel" and soon we were all joining in urging her to sit and enjoy. 

I think the happiness Grandma found in food has been passed down to my mom and recently, passed down to me.  We all love putting a meal on for those we love and trying to make even a regular Saturday afternoon lunch something special.  Even though I didn't eat the hot beefs last weekend the smell alone triggered many happy memories.

Grandma Hazel's Hot Beefs

In my mind a plate of meat doesn't necessarily photograph that well so I thought I would post a picture of my Grandma Hazel instead.  My mom is lucky enough to still cook these in my Grandma's original pressure cooker so if you can borrow your Grandma's pressure cooker I gurantee they will taste even better.

This recipe is time-consuming but trust me, it will be worth it.  And once you get things going you can walk away and have a glass of wine. 

olive oil
3-5 pound chuck roast

salt and pepper

white onion, sliced
2-3 bay leaves

beef broth

1.  Heat large pressure cooker to high, add olive oil and sear chuck roast on all sides.  Salt and pepper roast as it sears.
2.  Top the roast with the sliced onion, bay leaves and add beef broth to cover 2/3 of the meat.
3.  Add pressure cooker cover and cook meat over medium high until it starts to whistle.  Then turn heat down to medium and cook for 20 - 30 minutes.  (Yes, the pressure cooker should still be whistling.  I know that sound is annoying so I would try to think of an excuse to leave the room for a while.)
4.  After the 20-30 minutes is up, take the pressure cooker off heat and let it rest  (covered) for 15-20 minutes.  After that amount of time the pressure should let us so you can easily take the lid off.
5.  If you want you can cool the roast overnight and skim some of the fat off the top.  If you just want to eat it in all its glory then cool it in the fridge for about an hour or until you feel comfortable handling it.  You will need to cut it up and my mom usually kind of slices and chunks it up the best she can. 
6.  Return the beef to the pressure cooker to warm it back up (uncovered).  Add some additional broth if the meat looks dry. 
7.  Serve on rolls and top with horseradish. 

The number of servings will vary based on the size of the roast.  A five pound roast will yield at least 10 sandwiches.  The hot beefs will keep when refrigerated and reheat nicely for a week. 

You could also freeze any leftovers but once your family smells whats cooking I doubt you will have any.

P.S.  You know you grew up in Wisconsin if you can spell braunschweiger correctly without using spellcheck.

Have a good week!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Kitchen Cure - Spring 2010

It's technically over but I'm not giving up yet!  If you haven't done your spring cleaning yet...or if you never do a spring cleaning check this site out for some motivation. 

The writers at (no, I didn't spell it wrong that's there actual address) have come up with assignments for four weeks worth of cleaning (or 'curing' your kitchen) and they urge participants to take before and after photos as they complete each week and post them to the site's Flickr page.  The assignments are posted each Friday but you are encouraged to complete each one at at your own pace. 

I'm only as far as week three (thanks again mom for helping me clean my oven) but I WILL complete this when we are back from vacation!

Here are the assignments if you want to know what it will take to brighten up your kitchen this spring:

Week One - Clean out the fridge and pantry
Week Two - Declutter and organize
Week Three - Deep Clean and Beautify
Week Four - Restock pantry and refrigerator

Also...happy birthday to Maya!  Here she is snuggling with Finch (Maya is the one with the santa toy tucked under her arm).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bathroom Part II

We are still working on turning our bathroom back into a fully functioning room and thankfully we had some help this weekend when my parents came down to visit.  So there was a lot of cooking (and eating) but not much documenting this week.

So I'll leave you with this shot of Doug and my Dad contemplating the newly installed Durock and hopefully we will have some tile to show off next week!

Have a great week!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Not much cooking going on here...

This week we have turned this....

into this...

and hopefully we will have it turned back into a semi-functioning bathroom by the time the Oscar's are over tonight so I hope you can forgive me for not having very much time to post.

What I did end up making yesterday was this banana bread - which was light, delicious but I could hardly taste the coconut.  I didn't have the demerara sugar for the topping so I substituted turbinado sugar (you can find it at Whole Foods) which was excellent.  Think of how big sugar crystals crunch and combine that with a soft, mild banana bread and if that makes your mouth water then this is the recipe for you. 

I know some of you may have noticed my constant linking to Molly and Heidi's food blogs and I must admit I have been relying heavily on them because they are my favorite blogs to read.  I love Molly's personal approach to cooking and the way she writes makes me feel like I'm right in the kitchen with her discussing the best way to peel a squash.  Heidi's recipes intimidate me a little more, mostly because she is always throwing things like farrow and kale into the mix, but her recipes seem super healthy and I'm working on tackling more of them.  Next weekend I'm going to branch out and try this banana bread recipe from the seven spoons blog for a little variety.

This brings me to today's recipe which surprisingly does not come from a blog but from a good friend.  Lacey had me over last weekend and she made me this salad which was so simple but filling.  It is a perfect salad to welcome Spring (50 degrees this weekend folks) and would make an excellent side dish for a picnic...which I intend to do once 2 feet of snow is melted in my backyard. 

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

Lacey was nice enough to feed me and share her recipe with me.  This crunchy sweet cold salad is a great side dish to any meal (okay - not breakfast) and is easy to make.

1/2 -1 head of cauliflower
2 or 3 bunches of broccoli
1 small red onion, small dice

1/2 cup mayo (I used fat-free)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbls vinegar

1/2 cup shredded cheddar

1.  Cut up broccoli and cauliflower into bite size chunks and discard most of the stem (you can save the stems and cut up for a future stirfry if you don't want to waste them).  If you are like me and want to rush through this step remember a little patience here will go a long way.  Smaller chunks will increase the eat-a-bility of this salad (is that a word?). 
2.  Combine florets and diced red onion into a medium bowl.
3.  Add mayo, sugar and vinegar to a small bowl and whisk together to combine.  The mixture should be runny and taste sweet.
4.  Stir mayo mixture over florets and onion and refrigerate for 2 hours to combine the flavors.
5.  Sprinkle shredded cheese on top and serve.

Serves 4 -6.  This salad keeps nicely to a second day.

Here's an interesting fact - like fingerprints every human has a unique tongue print. 

Have a great week!
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