Dec 30, 2010

Ropa Vieja

GUEST BLOGGER: Charlotte (The original recipe comes from Cooking Light [January 2008]; Charlotte's comments are in italics)

This Cuban stew is made by braising beef until it can be shredded--thus the name (translated as "old clothes"). Serve with tortillas and pass the hot sauce on the side for those who like it fiery (Cholula goes perfectly with this dish!!!). Because the meat is shredded, it's also suitable for tacos and burritos.

I enjoy it over Cal Rose rice (a short grain rice available at most grocery stores) and black beans, topped with tomatoes, avocados, and chopped cilantro. Hold the cheese and sour cream. Although we tend to put cheese and sour cream on all Hispanic food, this tastes much better without.

I usually double the recipe then divide and freeze the leftovers. When I double the recipe, I don’t double the peppers and onions because the amount called for can be overwhelming for the dish. When I make a single recipe I double the spices, and when I make a double recipe I quadruple the spices (just my preference).

Cooking spray
2 (1-pound) top sirloin steaks, trimmed (or flank steak or something similar)
3 cups thinly vertically sliced red onion
2 cups red bell pepper strips (about 2 peppers)
2 cups green bell pepper strips (about 2 peppers)
4 garlic cloves, minced
(I chop everything the night before and toss it in a large bowl)
6 tablespoons thinly sliced pitted green olives (I use Spanish olives, pimento and all, and like to add more.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon no-salt-added tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat a large Dutch oven (I use a heavy pot.) over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 steak to pan; cook 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove steak from pan. Repeat procedure with cooking spray and remaining steak.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, bell peppers, and garlic to pan; cook 7 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in olives and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper); cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in vinegar, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook for 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in broth, tomato paste, and bay leaves. Add steaks; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 1 1/2 hours or until steaks are very tender. Discard bay leaves. (Make sure the liquid is simmering and not boiling during the 1 ½ hours. This gives you a clear broth rather than a cloudy broth – it has to do with the fat in the dish breaking down or something.)

Remove steaks from pan; shred with two forks. Stir shredded beef and cilantro into pan. Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup)

Dec 27, 2010

Mint M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

I realize that many people are probably still coming down from the massive sugar high that is the Christmas holiday, but I wanted to try this recipe while mint M&Ms are still available in the grocery stores. I don't know if it's different elsewhere, but around here, the mint variety are only available around Christmas time. In any case, these cookies are very tasty. They are also delicious if you prefer to use regular M&Ms instead of the mint variety. Or if you are looking for another M&M chocolate chip cookie recipe, here is another I recommend. By the way, this mint M&M cookie recipe was passed along to me by my friend Becky Watts Dean.

1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 Package Mint M&Ms

Cream brown sugar, white sugar, and butter. Then add eggs and vanilla. Combine with flour, baking soda, and salt. Once the dough is mixed together, stir in chocolate chips. Scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes. Take cookies out of oven and press Mint M&Ms (about 4-5 per cookie) into the top of each cookie. Then return the cookies to the oven and bake until golden brown, another 2-4 minutes. Leave the cookies on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes after baking before removing them to a cooling rack.

Pineapple Cheese Dip

My sister Amy brought this dip to our family's Christmas Day brunch this year, and I really liked it.

2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
Chopped pecans

Mix the first three ingredients together in a small serving bowl. Garnish with chopped pecans. Serve with crackers.

Beet Chips

And now for something completely different. An easy and healthy snack. Beet chips. Like potato chips but with beets instead of potatoes, and baked instead of fried. As mentioned in a previous post, I've discovered as an adult that I do in fact like beets. And this is a different way to eat them. The idea for this came from a chef at a local restaurant called Communal. I don't think they serve this snack at the restaurant, but I did find the recipe on their blog. According to the blog, "All you do is peel some raw beets and slice them as thin as possible. You really need a mandoline for this. Then place them on parchment paper on a baking sheet and sprinkle some sea salt on top. Bake them at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes. That’s it!" I tried these today, and although the chips aren't as crispy or as addictive as potato chips, they were a nice change of pace for a snack. Plus I really like the color. I'm going to try another batch tomorrow and maybe brush the beet slices with a little balsamic vinegar before I bake them and see how that works out. I'll let you know how that experiment goes.

Dec 19, 2010

Gingerbread Men

Here is the traditional Clark family recipe for gingerbread men. I have to confess that I've probably never made these gingerbread men from start to finish. I'm basically too lazy to make the dough, cut out the cookies, and then frost them. Especially the frosting part. But I have made the dough for my mom, who then likes to take on such tasks. It's to my shame, I know. However, I have eaten more than my share of these cookies over the years. So I can attest to their deliciousness! By the way, in our family, we like thin and crispy cutout cookies (the theory may be that if they are thinner, you can eat more of them :-)), so I don't know what would happen if you did less rolling out and tried to make these into the thick cookies that some people like. If anyone wants to give that a try, let me know how it turns out.

2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup light molasses
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon hot water
1 teaspoon vinegar

Cream shortning and sugar until fluffy. Add molasses and egg, beating until smooth. Mix in dry ingredients, along with water and vinegar. Blend thoroughly. Cover dough and chill. Roll out dough until 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until browned. Makes 1 dozen men.

Dec 18, 2010

Green Enchiladas

This enchilada recipe comes from my friend Lyndsee. She brought this dish to our office Christmas party this year, to rave reviews, I might add.

1 4-ounce can green chilies
2 packages cream cheese
1.5 pounds chicken, cooked and diced (I used at least 2 pounds or more)
2 small cans green enchilada sauce
6 to 8 flour tortillas (however many you need to use up the filling)
Mild cheddar cheese, grated

Cook the cream cheese, chicken, and green chilies over medium-low heat until the cream cheese is melted and the mixture is well combined. Spread about 1/3 of the sauce evenly in the bottom of an 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Roll up however much filling you want inside each tortilla and place in pan. Pour the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted. Then turn the oven on to broil for a few minutes to get the cheese all bubbly.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

I've had this recipe in my folder for a long time and hadn't gotten around to trying it until this past week. It's a keeper. This cake serves a bigger group, and the recipe is as easy as can be to make. The chocolate chips (baked into the cake) and the chocolate frosting give this cake a moist richness, but the texture is still delicate.

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1-inch baking sheet. Blend water, butter, cocoa, cinnamon (optional), vegetable oil, vanilla, and baking soda in large bowl. Whisk in sugar, flour, and salt, then buttermilk and eggs. Spread batter in prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle batter with semisweet chocolate chips. Bake cake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cake cool on a wire rack.

1/2 cup butter
1 pound (about 4 cups) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/3 cup whole milk I used cream and a little bit of water)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Melt butter in medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Whisk in powdered sugar, milk, cocoa, and vanilla. Mix well. then spread on cooled cake, and top with chopped nuts, if desired.

Dec 17, 2010

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Maple Glaze

This simple and yummy recipe is adapted slightly from America's Test Kitchen's Family Cookbook. I had a pork tenderloin tonight that I needed to use, so I thought I'd try something new. The seasoning and sauce combine to create a flavor that is slightly salty and slightly sweet.

1 pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Heat oven to 450 degrees and adjust the rack to the lower-middle position. Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a twelve-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown the tenderloin on all sides, about ten minutes, reducing the heat if the fat begins to smoke. Transfer the tenderloin to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Then add the glaze (see below). Roast in the oven until the center of the pork tenderloin registers 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 to 15 minutes, turning the tenderloin over halfway through the cooking time. Transfer the tenderloin to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 to 150 degrees before slicing and serving, about 10 minutes.

Maple Glaze
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
a pinch of cayenne pepper, if desired (I don't)

After browning the pork, pour off the fat left in the skillet. Add all of the ingredients in the pan, scrape up any brown bits, and simmer until slightly thickened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove the glaze from the skillet and pour over the tenderloin prior to roasting.

Dec 11, 2010

Slow-Cooked Yellow Squash

This recipe comes from Everyday Food. They say that "Long cooking in a covered pot concentrates the sweet, nutty flavor of squash. If the vegetable begins to brown as it cooks, lover the heat and add a splash of water."

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 yellow squash (8 ounces each), thinly sliced
coarse salt and ground pepper

In a large pan, heat the oil over medium-low. Add onion, squash, and 2 tablespoons water. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, 30 to 35 minutes. Serves 4.

Rice Krispie Treats

I know, I know. But I do like them. :)

1/4 cup butter
1 10-ounce package miniature marshmallows (or 40 regular marshmallows)
1/4 cup peanut butter (optional)
6 cups Rice Krispies

Melt butter in large deep pan over medium-low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Blend in peanut butter, if using. Remove pan from heat, add Rice Krisipies, and stir until they are well-coated. Using buttered spatula, press mixture into buttered 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan. Cut when cool.