A Better Way to Chop

A Better Way to Chop

A friend recently sent me a few new kitchen toys and man are they awesome! The best of the batch is called the Miracle Kitchen Plus and I am having a ball experimenting with it. I decided to start with something simple. I whipped up a quick batch of mango salsa to use on top of some fresh baked flounder. It really cut back on prep time. I also received a little tool for juicing citrus and an invincible knife. All three tools are from the collection of a television Chef named Vinni Villicano.

First, let me say that this is not a paid endorsement of any kind. My friend knew I recently started blogging about some of my cooking and she thought I would enjoy trying these products and blogging about them. She was right!

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Here are my ingredients for the salsa, laid out next to the chopper. Two mangoes (which I peeled before adding), a half cucumber (peeled), a clove of garlic (peeled as well), a small bunch of fresh cilantro, salt, pepper, 1/4 jalapeño without the seeds, and the juice of one lime.

This handy little juicer worked great! It has a little filter inside which captures seeds. I simply squeezed the lime juice into the batch of salsa ingredients.

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I added all of the individual ingredients, slapped on the lid, and turned the crank a few times round until the salsa had the consistency I desired. It took minutes!

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The only thing I did notice was that the pieces are not shaped like little cubes as they are when you hand chop something and the consistency of size is not as precise as hand chopping. But honestly, for a salsa, it saved a ton of time.

Now, if you are accustomed to making everything in your electric food processor, then using this hand-powered tool may not be a revelation. But I hate pulling my big heavy food processor out of the pantry. And I hate cleaning it. This is lightweight, small, and easy to clean with either hot soapy water, or it can go in the dish washer.

 

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Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

I know that Pillsbury makes a perfectly edible refrigerated pie crust, as do many other companies. But if you performed a side-by-side taste test between homemade pie dough and store-bought, the one made from scratch wins hands down!

Over the years I have made an occasional attempt to mix up my own pie crust, but it was never the right consistency. Strange, because my scones are always the perfect texture and the strategy is not that different.

This year, my New Year’s resolution was to learn to make edible pie crust. I am proud to say, I’m getting there! I practiced with a couple of quiches which were more than just edible. They were actually pretty damned tasty!

The beauty of quiche is that you can put whatever you want in one. The base for each was 6 eggs, a cup of milk, 2/3 cup light cream, salt, and pepper.

In version one I added sauteed broccoli, rendered diced speck (kind of like Italian bacon), and cheddar cheese.

For version two I sauteed yellow summer squash and added turkey sausage crumbles. (I took a shortcut and bought Jimmy Dean turkey sausage pre-cooked crumbles. They were easy and worked just fine.) I incorporated a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.

Start with the pie crust since it needs time to rest. These ingredient measurements are more of a guideline since the amount of water will depend on how it feels. Some folks swear by the food processor, but since my Gramma never used one, I decided to learn by hand.

Ingredients for Two Crusts

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt or so
2 sticks butter cut into pieces
ice water – start with about 5-6 Tbs and add slowly as needed.

Directions

Mix flour and salt. Add butter. Use pastry cutter and incorporate butter until you get a sandy texture. Add water slowly and mix until it comes together. Do not over handle. Do not add too much water or it will get soupy.

Take one half and place on floured surface. Roll out until it is big enough for your pie plate. Trim edges. Flute. Use a fork to poke holes all over. Repeat with second pie crust.

If you are making a two crust pie, then here is where instructions diverge. I pre-baked my crusts, but you would fill your crust, lay the top over the filling, and trim/crimp, egg wash, then bake.

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Place pie plates in the freezer while you prepare your fillings. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Before you bake, cover each pie dough with tin foil and add pie weights. As you can see, I used dried garbanzo beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove pie weights and foil, then bake 10-15 minutes longer. My edges ended up a bit dark, so next time I would leave tin foil around them for this last 10-15, or cover them when baking the filling.

Add your fillings and bake until the centers are set. This took about 35-40 minutes in my oven. Yours may differ.

Overall, my pie crusts were quite good. The best part came with the pie dough scraps which I rolled out, spread with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. I then rolled it up and baked until golden. My Gram always does this with pie scraps and it is delicious. She calls it Schnikerhausen. I call it yum!

What are your favorite quiche add-ins? Leave comments below so we can try different combinations!

I Hit the Jackpot! Expiration Date Lamb

I Hit the Jackpot! Expiration Date Lamb

Some people regularly hit the clearance racks at their favorite clothing stores, but not me. My stomping grounds are the local meat counters on the lookout for deep discounts. When meat is close to its expiration date, the price drops. I see it as a great opportunity to save money on groceries and try new recipes!

My most recent bargain – boneless butterflied legs of lamb. Since lamb is one of my favorites, I grabbed both pieces and gleefully brought them home as visions of stews and kabobs danced in my head!

I threw both packages in the freezer until I started craving some stew.

Lamb Stew à la Bradley Nierenberg

Ingredients

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp flour
1-1.5 pounds lamb (trimmed and cubed)
Salt
Pepper
1 medium onion (halved and thinly sliced)
2 cups carrots (peeled and cut into chunks) (Full disclosure: I used two ginormous carrots in this stew…my chunks of meat are much larger than they appear next to the carrot coins!)
5-6 sliced baby portabella mushrooms
5-8 bay leaves
2 tsp. rosemary (dried or fresh)
1 cup chicken stock

Directions

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Trim and cube lamb. Season with salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil in heavy bottomed pot. Brown lamb.

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Sprinkle browned cubes with flour.

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Cook 2 minutes longer, stirring so that it does not stick. Remove lamb with slotted spoon and set aside.

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Add a bit more olive oil to the pot and saute onions, mushrooms, and carrots. Reincorporate meat.

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Add bay leaves, rosemary, salt, pepper. Stir.

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Add chicken stock. (Tip: As you can see in the photo, I added too much chicken stock and it never thickened up. I think 1 cup will be perfect. but, if you want more “gravy” then use 2 cups but add more flour.) Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer covered until lamb is tender. This takes about an hour. Uncover and continue to simmer until ready to serve.

Season as needed. Serve with mashed potatoes, egg noodles, or polenta.

What’s in your favorite lamb stew? Please share your recipe with us!

Japchae – You’ll Wish Every Day Was Your Birthday!

Japchae – You’ll Wish Every Day Was Your Birthday!

Mind-blowing is not really the right word. I wonder if “palette epiphany” is a phrase? I hope so because I had a palette epiphany a couple of weeks ago during a potluck lunch celebrating a friend’s birthday. Pot“luck” is an apropos name for such an occasion because as luck would have it, a Korean neighbor introduced me to Japchae.

Japchae is traditionally served in Korea during a birthday celebration I was told. I think I could eat it every day, “un”birthdays included! Twice since that fateful day, I’ve prepared my own versions, once with beef and the second time with turkey breast. My neighbor served a vegetarian Japchae which was “lick your plate” delicious. I will need a lot more practice to perfect the timing and flavoring. But if I say so myself, they were not too bad for first-time attempts.

Unfortunately I do not have an “after” photo of the beef version. To be perfectly honest, I was so excited to try it, the bowl disappeared before I remembered to shoot a picture.

Ingredients – Serves 4

Dangmyeon (sweet potato starch noodles)
Beef, chicken, pork, or turkey (optional)
Shiitake mushrooms (soaked in warm water)
Garlic, minced
Sugar
Soy sauce (Korean if available)
Sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds
Egg
Spinach
Green onions
White onion
Button mushrooms
Carrot (matchsticks)
Red bell pepper
Black pepper
Salt
Vegetable oil

Directions

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Slice into small bite-sized strips the meat and shiitake mushrooms. Place in a bowl. Marinate with 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tsp. sugar, 4-5 grinds black pepper, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil. Mix and place in fridge until ready.

Prepare the rest of your veggies as you would for any stir fry. Keep them separate from one another. They are all stir fried separately. I was lazy and bought a bag of carrot match sticks. Clean and slice mushrooms. Clean and cut bell pepper into matchsticks. Half a small white or yellow onion and then cut into thin slices. Clean and cut green onion into 1-inch sections.

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Separate egg yolk and save the white to use another day. Add a pinch of salt to yellow and stir in to break yolk. Heat nonstick frying pan. Turn off heat and add egg yellow. Roll in pan to thin it out. After the heat of the pan cooks it on one side, flip to cook other side. Takes about a minute per side. This egg garnish is called jidan. Let it cool and cut into very thin strips.

Blanch about 4 ounces of fresh spinach in pot of boiling water (a minute of less). I used bagged spinach so did not rinse it first. If you use un-bagged, then rinse it well before blanching. Run under cold water to stop the cooking. Squeeze out the water and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place in large bowl. Add 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil and mix well. Set aside.

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Use the spinach water and boil 4-6 ounces of noodles for about 8 minutes. Strain and rinse. They are super long so use a pair of scissors and cut them into shorter lengths. Not bite-sized, but long strands like boxed spaghetti length. Add them to the large bowl and season with 2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar. Mix well. Set aside.

Time to stir fry! Heat your non-stick frying pan (or wok) to medium high. Add some vegetable oil. Judge your own cook times. The first time I made this I over-cooked some of the veggies.

Start with the onion and green onion. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add to the noodle bowl. Set aside.

Reheat the pan, add more vegetable oil, and stir fry mushrooms for 2 minutes. Add to noodle bowl.

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Reheat pan. Add more oil. Stir fry carrots for 20 seconds. Add bell pepper to the same pan and cook 20 more seconds. Transfer to noodle bowl.

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Reheat pan with oil. Stir fry the meat and mushroom mixture you marinated until meat is no longer pink. Transfer to the noodle bowl.

You are almost finished! Grab your noodle bowl and add another minced clove of garlic, 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon sugar, ground black pepper to taste, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds. Mix everything together. Sprinkle more sesame seeds on top to finish.

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I’m not sure what the Korean phrase for “dig in” is, but if I did, I would add it here! I’d love to hear from anyone who tried making this or has their own version to share! Leave comments below!