Side Dish

Put that in your pot and crock it.

Whoever invented the slow cooker deserves a Nobel Prize. I’m not kidding. Economics, Peace, Medicine… any one of them would fit. You put almost any combination of things into it, and four to ten hours later (depending on your patience level) you have a delicious thing to eat that doesn’t bust the budget, and makes everyone feel good. Usually, there are even leftovers.

I’m probably preaching to the choir, right? YOU know.

So, consider today’s recipe for Pot Roast with Mushrooms as an ode to the slow cooker. It’s not necessarily an original, but it’s a go-to for me. It’s gotten a little bit of tweaking over time, so I feel pretty confident in guaranteeing a scrumptious end result, and if you’re lucky, enough leftovers for pot roast sliders later in the week.

Equipment:
1 Slow cooker
1 large saute pan
tongs or something to flip a large piece of meat
1 cup measuring cup
Knife (for slicing mushrooms, if you don’t buy the pre-sliced ones)
Possibly a can opener, if you get canned broth/stock
Mixing spoon or whisk
Large pot, if you intend to further reduce the mushroom gravy at the end.

Ingredients:
1 4lb chuck roast
Salt and Pepper
1 T olive oil (or canola, or any vegetable oil, really)
3 cups beef stock
2 1/2 cups mushrooms
1 packet onion soup mix
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme

Directions:
1. Season the chuck roast well on all sides with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the saute pan and heat until the oil is shimmery. Add the chuck roast to the pan and sear it well on all sides. You’re not trying to cook it through, just give it flavor and color. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Don’t forget about all those lovely brown bits on the bottom of the pan! That’s flavor, too, and we don’t want it to go to waste. Add about half a cup of your stock to the pan to deglaze, scraping up all the brown bits. Pour the deglazing liquid into the crockpot, along with the rest of the stock. Add the onion soup mix and stir or whisk to dissolve into the stock.

3. Stir the sliced mushrooms into the liquid, and add the fresh thyme. Then, nestle your roast into the crockpot, so that it’s covered by the liquid.

4. This roast can cook for pretty much whatever time is convenient for you, from 4 hours on high to 10 hours on low. I like to let it go as long as possible on low, if I have the time, because the longer it braises, the more tender and fall-apart-y it gets.

5. Once the roast is cooked through, remove it from the liquid, allow it to cool a bit, then shred it and put it back into the liquid. Alternatively, if you like a thicker, more gravy-like consistency for the sauce, pour it into a large pot, crank the heat to medium-high and allow it to reduce by as much as needed to reach the consistency you want. You can do this while you shred the pot roast, and then add the shredded meat to the gravy.

NOTE: If you decide to reduce the sauce, as described above, don’t add any additional salt until AFTER it’s reduced. If you add salt too early, your sauce flavor with concentrate and may end up too salty.

I served this with a super easy mashed sweet potato side.

Equipment:
Large pot
Potato masher, fork, or whatever you like to use to mash things up
Fork
Colander
Mixing spoon

Ingredients:
5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into equal sized chunks
6 cups water
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 T unsalted butter
2 T fresh ginger (the stuff that comes in the tube is fine if you don’t want to deal with fresh)
3 T maple syrup
2 tsp Salt plus more, plus Pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Add the water, potatoes, and 2 tsp salt to a large pot. Bring to a boil, and continue cooking until a fork pierces the sweet potato chunks easily.

2. Strain the water from the sweet potatoes, then add them back to the pot over low heat to help dry them out a little further.

3. Turn off the heat. Add the butter and begin mashing. Add the evaporated milk a little at a time as you mash until all large lumps are removed.

4. Add the ginger and maple syrup. Stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Dig in!

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Against the Grain

That’s actually a horrible title for this post, because I’m so very NOT against the grains. In fact, I’ve been really getting into using lots of different grains for my “starchy element” instead of just rice or pasta. The grocery store had quinoa and barley on sale, so I loaded up.

This week, the barley made an appearance in a really easy, but at the same time, kind of complex spring salad made with roasted radishes, barley, fresh strawberries, Manchego cheese (my favorite), and a bright, slightly sweet vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar and honey. We’re talking layers of flavor and texture here, folks– great on its own or with some additional protein to give it a little more umph for a lunch or dinner sized portion.

Equipment:

Medium pot with a lid for cooking the barley
Measuring cups & spoons
Knife and cutting board
Sheet pan for roasting the radishes
Large bowl
Mixing spoon

Ingredients:

For the salad (makes 4 side salad sized servings):
1 16 ounce package of radishes, washed, trimmed and halved or quartered
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt & Pepper
1 cup strawberries, large dice
1 1/2 cups cooked barley (follow the package directions for cooking)
2 oz Manchego cheese, shaved or broken into chunks

For the vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup light olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Wash the radishes and strawberries, and prep as described above.

Toss the trimmed and halved radishes with the vegetable oil, salt and pepper, then roast for 25 minutes. While they’re roasting, cook the barley according to the package directions. Allow both to cool after cooking while you prepare the vinaigrette.

Whisk the apple cider vinegar and honey together until well combined. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture emulsifies. The traditional ratio for a vinaigrette is 3:1, oil to vinegar, but if you want to make it even lighter, just drizzle in enough oil to make sure the vinaigrette will coat all the salad components well. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Combine the roasted radishes, diced strawberries, barley, and cheese in your large mixing bowl. Drizzle as much of the vinaigrette as you like over everything, and stir gently. I recommend letting this salad hang out in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to let the barley soak up some of the vinaigrette. I didn’t have any on hand, but you could also throw in a handful of some fresh chopped herbs like mint or Italian parsley to add another interesting layer of flavor.

We had this salad for dinner with some poached jumbo shrimp, and it was pretty great. Grilled chicken would also be nice, or even just a handful of toasted almonds, walnuts, or pecans. This would actually be a great make-ahead lunch for work, now that I think about it.

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Enjoy!

Oooh! Miso Hungry!

Miso, in Jordan’s world, is a magical thing. Of course, it’s the base for my favorite kind of soup, but it’s so much more than that. It’s complex, and rich, and salty, and savory, and full of umami— that much sought after “fifth taste” that so many cooks are constantly trying to create. Anywhere unbound glutimates are present– in everything from tomatoes to Parmesan cheese to steaks, and yes, miso, you will taste umami. I usually buy miso paste at a nearby Asian supermarket, and keep it around to use as a secret ingredient in lots of savory dishes to deepen the flavor and add that unidentifiable “something extra.” It comes in little tubs that look like this:

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What is miso paste? Fermented, cooked soybeans and some rice and/or barley. Miso paste comes in three varieties: white, yellow, or red. The deeper the color, the more intense the flavor. I know, it sounds a little odd, but if you drink beer or coffee, or eat pickles or sauerkraut, or even chocolate, you’ve already had fermented food, making miso no big deal, and putting you in just the right spot to try miso butter. Once I explain how to make this wonderful concoction, if you don’t become a little bit emotionally attached addicted to putting this stuff on everything– roasted veggies, steak, fish, even baked potatoes, I’m not sure we can be friends. Kidding. Sort of. Not really. Yeah, I’m kidding. Probably.

It’s such a simple thing to make, I can’t even really give you a recipe. It’s more of a ratio– 2:1, softened, unsalted butter to miso paste. I usually use dark red miso paste for mine, but if you’ve never used miso paste for anything before now, you can start with something lighter and less intense. You can make a small batch for one dinner, say, 2 tablespoons butter to 1 tablespoon miso paste, or make a big batch, more like 1 cup butter to 1/2 a cup miso paste, that you keep in a container in the fridge to use any time you feel the urge to up the flavor factor. You can also roll it into a log wrapped in wax paper and freeze it, just like you would do with slice and bake cookies, then just slice off a little chunk to use whenever the mood strikes.

I used miso butter on some roasted baby potatoes to go with my dinner earlier this week, and it took those potatoes from, “Yeah, those are pretty good,” to, “Holy crap take these away from me before I eat them all and actually turn into a potato.”

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I hope you’ll take yourself on a little flavor adventure and give this a try. If you really, truly, honestly don’t like it, send the rest to me. I’ll definitely take a bath in it find a use for it.

So, what exactly is a superfood anyway?

I’m about to drop some truth. Yep. Right there on your head. I hope it doesn’t spin your whole world into a tizzy, but it’s happening, so get ready.

There’s no such thing as a superfood, from a nutritional and a medical standpoint. It’s a marketing word created by some ad agency genius. Yes, genius, because it worked. Seriously, go on Pinterest right now and search for “superfood.” There’s a list of foods a mile long.

Do not misunderstand. I’m not saying the foods on those lists aren’t good for you. They’re great for you! They’re full of good stuff like antioxidants and phytonutrients and, well, yeah, lots of really good things. You should eat the foods on those lists because your body will appreciate being well taken care of. But, that’s all a superfood really is– a food that is good for you because it contains the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to function and feel good. It’s food that is super for you!

So, when I show you how to throw together this salad, I’m calling it a “Superfood” salad because it tastes super, it’s super satisfying, it’s made of foods that are super for you, and it’s super easy to make. I made it for myself for lunch because I have this horrific flu straight from the depths of hell and I am desperately shoving anything that is good for me into my body until it decides to straighten up and fight back. I have literally been eating an apple a day since Monday. No joke.

This salad with roasted lemon-ginger vinaigrette contains:

Baby kale: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, copper, potassium, iron, protein, calcium
Toasted pumpkin seeds: magnesium, zinc, omega-3, fiber, antioxidants
Fresh blueberries: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin, folate, phytonutrients
Shredded Brussels sprouts: low-glycemic properties, protein, fiber, Vitamin C, antioxidants, Vitamin K
Roasted Lemon: Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, pectin
Ginger: anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, may reduce blood pressure, and when consumed ahead of time, may help reduce the damage to your liver caused by taking acetaminophen
Olive oil: reduces risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and high cholesterol, anti-inflammatory, and may have a slight protective effect against depression

Super!

Equipment:
Aluminum foil
Knife and cutting board
Small grater (or the small side of a box grater)
Teaspoon
Large Bowl
Small bowl (for making the vinaigrette)
Whisk

Ingredients:
1 Lemon (I used two because I have plans for the second one later next week)
1 large knob of ginger, to produce about 1 tablespoon of grated ginger
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of shredded/thinly sliced Brussels sprouts
1 cup of fresh blueberries
1/4 cup of toasted pumpkin seeds
3-4 cups baby kale (or full sized kale, cut into thin strips)

For the vinaigrette:

Heat your oven to 450º.

Poke several small holes in the lemon.

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Place it on a medium sized sheet of aluminum foil with a small pinch of salt and pepper, then wrap the whole thing up into a little package and roast it for about 20 minutes.

While that’s roasting, take the skin off of your knob of ginger with a spoon. Don’t use a knife, because you’ll probably take off more than just skin and the outer layer of ginger is the bit with all the flavor. Instead, use the edge of the spoon to scrape off the thin outer skin of the ginger, then grate the peeled ginger directly into the small bowl you’re going to use to make the dressing.

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When you take the lemon out of the oven, open it over the bowl to catch any juice that might have already come out. Squeeze the rest of the juice into the bowl, being careful to catch any seeds. Mix the ginger into the lemon juice. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the lemon-ginger mixture while whisking briskly. The ingredients should start to emulsify.

I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of this step. I blame all the crap clogging up my noggin area. However,  I found a great video on how to make a basic vinaigrette that shows you the whole whisking thing at :47

http://www.howcast.com/videos/187985-How-to-Make-a-Basic-Vinaigrette

Alternatively, put all three ingredients plus a little salt and pepper into a jar with a lid and shake it like a Polaroid picture until it all comes together.

For the salad:

Thinly slice your Brussels sprouts. Alternatively, you could peel each tiny leaf off one by one… if you have all the time in the world and no place to be for the next little while. But yeah, let’s just go with the shredding thing.

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Roast your pumpkin seeds in a dry pan, just until they start to get some color.

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Toss the Brussels sprouts and the kale together in your large bowl. Top with the toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh blueberries. Drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Ta da!

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Have a super time making/eating this super salad that will make you feel super.

 

Cevich-haaaaaaaaaaaaay (and a Mini-Giveaway!)

Have you ever gotten so excited about a new recipe you just tried that you brought a container of it to work and started force feeding it to people? No? Ummm. Me either. *avoids eye contact*

Seriously, though. This Mushroom Ceviche is revolutionary. At least, it was to me. I’ve made marinated/pickled mushrooms in the past. They are delicious. But these are mushrooms that are basically prepared ceviche style, and I am telling you right now I was so pleased with how mine turned out I… well… I got a little twitchy when other people tried to eat some, too. And when it was time to clean up the kitchen and I saw that someone had taken the rest of the bowl away, I was all…

Of course, then I returned to (relative) sanity and realized that I have the recipe and can therefore make more. MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE.

And also, I can share it with you! Everyone wins. There’s a fair amount of prep work for this, but I promise you, it’s worth it.

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Equipment:
Knife and cutting board
Large pot and strainer
Large mixing bowl
Spoon for mixing
Meez en place containers of some sort
Blender or food processor (optional)

Ingredients:
3 C Cremini mushrooms, cleaned, cut in half or in quarters (depending on how big they are) and then cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/3 C Celery, 1/4 inch dice
1/3 C Red onion, 1/4 inch dice, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and then drained (takes some of the bite out)
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp Hot sauce (To start. Keep it handy because you might want to adjust it later.)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 C Fresh lime or lemon juice (I used a half and half mixture.)
1 T Olive oil
1/4 C Red bell pepper, julienned
1/4 C Green bell pepper, julienned
1 Jalapeno, seeded and minced
Kalamata olives, quartered, for garnish
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Blanch the mushrooms in boiling, lightly salted water for 30 seconds. Drain.

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Combine the celery, onion, and mushrooms.

Puree the garlic, salt, pepper, hot sauce, oregano, lime/lemon juice, and olive oil until well mixed. Note: I actually just minced my garlic up really finely and then smashed it a little bit with the side of my knife on the cutting board and then mixed it into the rest of the marinade ingredients instead of going to the trouble of dirtying up a blender.

Toss with the mushroom mixture.
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Adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Drain and toss with the julienned bell peppers and jalapeno. Note: I actually didn’t totally drain it. There’s some liquid that comes out of the mushrooms, and combined with that marinade it’s just really yummy. You can decide how “wet” you want your ceviche to be.

Garnish with the olives.

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And that’s it, folks. We served it as part of a cold salad plate with this (kinda boring, to be honest) tomato and onion salad that someone else in my group made. I had this amazing plating idea involving homemade tortilla chips and it all got blown to  hell when Chef said we had to plate both salads together with this dumb piece of kale. Effing kale. Go away!

Anyhoots, you can serve yours with tortilla chips if you want. Or on a taco. Or just eat it out of the bowl with a spoon while inhaling Orange is the New Black with your eyeballs pretty much any other way that sounds good to you. Hint: The longer this sits in the marinade, the more flavor it absorbs so if you can make it the night before and let it hang out overnight, do eet!

Also! If you’re not a fan of onion, or can’t eat it for whatever reason, you could substitute with some other vegetable. Carrots marinate well. You could cut them into 1/4 inch matchsticks. Or if you still want something with a little bit of  bite, use radish slices. Just keep it fresh and you can’t go wrong!

And now that you’ve stuck it out to the end of the post… I have details on the promised giveaway!

It’s a little one. I did some shopping at the I Heart Denver store downtown Wednesday night, and I saw all these cute items that made me think of you all. So, I decided to pick up a couple of things and give them away. See how I am? I’m a nice girl.

The first item is this adorable strawberry tea towel from Counter Couture.

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And the second is this little notebook from… I can’t remember. Another Denver based company that makes stationery and whatnot. I had a beer or two at dinner after my shopping trip. Don’t judge me.

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So… there will be two winners! All you have to do to enter is leave a note in the comments on this post telling me about something you’ve eaten recently that got your knickers all in a twist like this ceviche did for me. Easy, right? I may also throw some other random goodies in the packages because in addition to nice, I am also unpredictable.

The winners will be picked at random and I’ll announce their names next Wednesday, August 13th.

Get after it!