Lately I've been doing really quick throw together meals that can be ready in under 30 minutes. That means I have been using a lot of store bought, short cut products. Normally I stay away from such things, but since I took over the manager position of the health food/organic section at my store, I've been trying some really great products. Currently, I am in live with Pacific's line of boxed soups! Last night I used the veg pho base for a fast, light dinner.
In my adulthood, I have come to adore barbecue sauce. As a kid, I frequently avoided any of it unless I knew it had proven to be smokey and spicy without the slightest hint of sugary sweetness. After awhile, all barbecue sauces began to disappoint me. I spent a good part of my life sticking my nose up to it... which wasn't terribly difficult because I didn't eat a lot of meat during my teenage years. However, now that I am in the throws of a deep affair with meat, smoking, and all things delicious, I have an addiction to BBQ sauce. New formulas are constantly swirling around my head, and this version is a definite winner.
Like every... er... genius? I came to the idea of using apple butter as the sweet component in my sauce while just blankly staring at the contents of my fridge. Independent of outside influences. Since I made this, I have browsed around the interwebs and found several apple butter barbecue sauces. It doesn't seem to have caught on the way should have though. (Apparently TGI Friday's has a version...? I only go there when my friends want 2 for 1 margaritas, but I have not seen it on the menu.)
Obviously, quality ingredients are the key to any good meal. I hit the apple butter jackpot with my aunt's homemade apple butter. It is seriously the best I have ever had! It is naturally sweet and tangy with a lot more apple flavor than any kind I've bought in the grocery store. So, if you happen to know my Aunt Michelle, hit her up at the end of summer so you can make this perfectly.
Apple Butter BBQ Sauce
1 14oz can tomato sauce
heaping 1/4 C apple butter
1/4 C cider vinegar
2 Tbsp yellow mustard
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cinnimon
hot sauce (your favorite, I love Tabasco) and salt to taste*
Combine ingredients except hot sauce and salt. Simmer over med-low heat for 20-25 minutes. Add salt and hot sauce. Simmer another 5 minutes.
Use as desired.
Makes ~1 1/2 C.
I just added some shredded chicken to the sauce and cooked it for about 8 minutes... easy. Delicious.
*I don't like to add hot sauce in the beginning of cooking usually because I find that it gets bitter. For the salt, you probably won't need it if you tomato sauce has salt. If it doesn't have salt, you don't want to add any until after the BBQ sauce has reduced.
Whew, I have emerged from a waist deep pile of fabric and costumes for a brief period of time. Who knows what I'll get myself into after this, but for now I can enjoy all the freshness of spring weather and foods. I made this dinner a couple weeks ago while weirdly daydreaming of the upcoming Jimmy Buffet concert and more understandably daydreaming about our fast approaching Roatan vacation.
Tuna Steaks w/ Chiptole Lime Shrimp & Avocado Salsa
2 5-6 oz tuna steaks (about 3/4 in thick)
Fresh cracked black pepper
Chipotle lime shrimp (recipe below)
Avocado salsa (recipe below)
Salt and pepper tuna. Sear in a hot pan over med-high with some oil for 3 minutes per side (med-rare).
Top with warm shrimp and cool salsa.
After Tennessee's late but fairly brief stint at winter, spring is in the air!! We have finally turned off the heat, and when we had people over a couple nights ago, we opened the windows to a breezy evening with only the slightest chill; it was fantastic.
tuna cakes w/ jalapeno mustard slaw
With nice weather comes one of my all time favorite activities, cooking out! So I thought I would take a moment to share my newest condiment craze: Mista Dale's Gourmet Mustard Slaw. I met Dale and his wife at work while they were demo-ing their mustard slaw. Not only are they some of the nicest people you will ever meet, they have a unique and delicious product that is incredibly versatile. Obviously great on hot dogs, it is also wonderful on chicken sandwiches, with fried shrimp, and our most recent use of it, on tuna cakes. It is slightly sweet, tangy, and had a gentle cabbage crunch that sings for summer barbecues! Surprise, surprise, I like the spicy. Even better is the jalapeno, but this variety seems elusive and is not always available.
Created right here in Nashville, I am lucky that I can buy this stuff at area Krogers. But if you do not have a Kroger near you, or your local Kroger hasn't fully stocked their shelves with jars, you are in luck! You can order Mista Dale's mustard slaw from the website! Follow them on Facebook to find out where they will be demo-ing next and for great ideas.
Tomorrow the hubs has a Brazilian jiu jitsu tournament. He registered for the 195 division (that is with the gi on). That meant we needed to really watch what we at this past week. He only needed to loose a couple of pounds which is no biggie, but if you weigh in over weight you don't get to compete at all.
So, to make sure everything was good and under control, we took a few easy steps:
1. Limit carbohydrates. I don't believe in cutting them out completely, and I absolutely do not believe in the no grain fad running amuck around here. We stuck with whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Also, decreasing the amount of carb intake throughout the day so you are only eating a little bit at dinner.
2. As little fat as possible, duh. The hardest part about this is not always taking into consideration the amount of oil you use to cook things in. I am guilty of it. You slap some oil in the pan thinking "It's not like I am going to be eating all the oil". But if you use more than necessary, your food will absorb extra oil that you don't need.
3. Lean protein and lots of veggies. Also duh. Lean protein is a given: chicken breast, fish, etc. I threw eggs and tofu into the mix to keep our healthy meals from becoming monotonous. Yes, vegetables have carbs but I don't even think that counts. They are nutritiously dense and have fiber which obviously fills you up and keeps you full.
4. No dairy. I love dairy and generally will not cut it out of a meal plan. However, in a situation like this, dairy can quickly add fat and calories that you do not need. This was not a strict rule for the entire day, I just cut dairy out of dinners.
Ok, so really all of those steps are pretty much common sense and "duh" rules. But sometimes we all need a little reminder about what is going into our bodies. So what did we eat this week?
Seared Salmon w/ a BBQ dry rub, quinoa, quick braised kale w/ caramelized onions and roasted garlic
Huevos Salad. It is a quick dinner staple in our house: huge plate of lettuce, salsa, black beans, avocado, corn, and topped with a couple eggs. I know it sounds odd, but it is like a taco salad; just with eggs instead of meat.
Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore over brown rice w/ salad
This was the other half of my husband's birthday breakfast, along with sweet potato grits. It may not seem like the manliest of dishes, but I have yet to meet a dude who doesn't like quiche (whether he admits it or not.) Louis will happily tell you how much he loves it. Egg pie with cheese and bacon? What is there not to like?
Spinach, Bacon, & Smoked Gouda Quiche
1 9-in pie crust
2 C baby spinach, roughly chopped
4 slices thick bacon, cooked and chopped
8 large eggs
1/2 C milk
1/3 C shredded smoked gouda
salt and pepper
Prick the bottom of the pie crust with a fork. Pre-bake it at 350 deg F for 10 minutes.
Add spinach, then bacon, and finally gouda to the pie shell.
Mix eggs and milk, season with about 3/4 tsp salt and some freshly cracked black pepper. Pour eggs over filling in pie crust.
Bake at 350 deg F for 35-40 minutes, until it is set. Let it rest for a few minutes before cutting.
I first ran across the idea of sweet potato grits over at one of my all time favorite blogs, The Chubby Vegetarian. Several weeks ago, for Louis's birthday I made a version of them for breakfast. I cannot even begin to describe to you how much my husband loves sweet potatoes. Goat cheese is another of his favorite things, so I threw that in there too. In my opinion, the key to good grits is more water and cooking them longer than the directions on the package say.
Sweet Potato Grits & Goat Cheese Grits
1 1/2 C water
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C quick cooking grits
1 C mashed sweet potatoes*
~2 oz garlic and herb goat cheese
Bring water, butter, and salt to a boil. Add grits. Cover, turn heat to med-low, and cook for 5-6 minutes**.
Uncover and stir. Continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes, stir frequently. (If they start to get too stiff, add 1 Tbsp water at a time.)
Add sweet potatoes and goat cheese. Keep stirring and cook another 3-4 minutes. When the goat cheese is fully incorporated, they should be done.
*Boil or bake one smallish sweet potato until it is very tender. Mash it up (no skin) with a little bit of salt and pepper.
**More often than not, I have issues with my grits boiling over. To prevent this, use one pot size larger than you think you need. Ex: For this amount of grits, I use the 2 qt instead of the 1 qt pot.
It took me awhile to decide what to post today; I haven't cooked anything overly romantic or sexy/love inspired lately. Then, I briefly became very depressed with my life, because I learned that there is such thing as a professional glitter artist and I am not one. Then it hit me. We love pizza. Pizza always makes me feel better and homemade pizza is perfect for any occasion in my opinion. I guess you be over the top gross for Valentine's Day and make it into a heart, but I feel like might lead uneven cutting and a possible fight over who is getting more pizza.
This crust has become our favorite. It came out of having all these random "health food" items and wanting pizza, but wanting something a bit healthier than a white crust. It has been dubbed "hippie" crust. It is nutty, chewy, and crisps excellently on the bottom. Because of the whole wheat flour, don't expect it to be soft and doughy. This crust is much denser than regular pizza dough.
2 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/3 C wheat bran (or wheat germ)
1/3 C ground flax seed
1/4 C chia seeds
1 pkg yeast
1 Tbsp honey
1 3/4 C very warm water
1/2 tsp salt
~1 C better for bread flour*
~2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Combine whole wheat flour, bran, seeds, and yeast. Add honey and water. Mix. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until bubbles form.
Add salt and half cup better for bread flour. Mix. Add more flour if necessary. The dough will come together and form a ball that is slightly sticky. At this point, turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes (maybe up to 10 minutes) When the dough is no longer sticky and feels uniform in texture, it is done.
Put oil in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Roll dough in oil. Cover bowl with a damp towel, place in a warm area**, let rise for 1-1 1/2 hrs, until doubled in size.
Punch down dough, form into pizza (enough for 2), let rise for 15-20 minutes.
Pre-bake at 400 deg F for 5-7 minutes.
Ready for whatever toppings your heart desires!
*You need the higher gluten content of the better for bread flour to play off the heaviness of the whole wheat flour. It gives the finished product a much texture.
**I like to preheat my oven to 200 deg F while making the dough. As soon as it is preheated, turn it off. This creates a nice warm, moist environment perfect for rising dough.
Fresh Tomato, Onion, and Spinach Pizza
3 C fresh chopped spinach
1/4 of a lrg sweet onion, very thinly sliced
2 C shredded mozzarella
1/3 C parmesan sauce:
1 1/2 C fresh chopped tomatoes (remove as much pulp as possible)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp dried basil
2 tsp roasted garlic
Combine sauce ingredients, spread on pre-baked pizza crust. Top with spinach and onions, then cheese.
Bake at 400 deg F for about 12 minutes, until cheese is brown and bubbly.
This little piece of meat terrified me. No joke. It is strange that a little over a pound of meat (2 tenderloins) has the power to reduce me to quivering procrastination. Because venison has next to no fat, it can over cook in an instant. The second it gets a hair past medium, it is basically ruined. Honestly, you don't really want to cook it past medium-rare. I took a couple of deep breaths, relaxed, and took it easy.... and it couldn't have been more perfect.
If don't have venison tenderloin, this crust would be great on pork tenderloin, even beef or chicken. It is earthy, bright, and fresh.
Venison Tenderloin w/ Walnut, Parmesan, Herb Crust
2 venison tenderloins (between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 lbs)
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 C freshly grated parmesan*
1/4 C walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 C chopped parsley
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lrg garlic clove, pasted
1 tsp dried rosemary
zest 1/2 lemon
Combine parmesan, walnuts, herbs, garlic, lemon zest, and oil.
Bring venison to room temp. Liberally salt and pepper tenderloins.
Heat a little oil over medium-hi heat in a large skillet. Sear tenderloins on all sides. It should not take more than 60-90 seconds per side. (I feel like small tenderloins have 3 sides.)
Place tenderloins on a baking sheet. Top with crust. It will be loose, just press it down so it sits on top.
400 deg F for 10 minutes for med-rare.
Let it rest for 3-5 minutes.
Cauliflower is such an underutilized vegetable. I am guilty of bypassing it most weeks in the grocery store. I love it raw, but cooking it has always been tricky for me. It takes a lot longer to get a good cooked texture than most vegetables so generally, I just don't bother. However, I am trying to get better and expand our vegetable intake to something other than kale, spinach, and broccoli (our favorites... seriously, we eat more broccoli between the two of us than most 4 person households.) I am also trying to expand my Indian food repertoire; this easy recipe fits both needs.
It is a great side dish to tandoori chicken, or perfect for a vegetarian (or vegan) main dish. You could even add some chunks of chicken or shrimp to the sauce for a substantial one pot meal.
Cauliflower in Tomato Curry
1 small onion, diced
2 Tbsp garlic ginger paste (equal parts garlic and ginger)
1 lrg head cauliflower, broken down into bite-sized florets
1 lrg bell pepper, cut into chunks (your favorite color, I used yellow)
1 tsp salt*
2 tsp oil
1/4 C regular coconut milk or cream (optional)
Heat about 2 tsp oil over medium heat in a large pot. Saute onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic-ginger paste, cumin, and fenugreek. Cook about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly so nothing burns. Add water to deglaze pan, scrape up any bits that stuck to the bottom.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the coconut milk.
*I used no salt added tomato products. Before adding any salt, taste the mixture and adjust salt as necessary.
Simmer over med/med-low heat for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is the desired texture. Add more salt if it is needed. Add coconut milk or cream if you would like, simmer for 5 minutes.