Category Archives: Comfort Food

Turkey White Bean Chili

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This was my first attempt at a white chili, and I must say we were quite pleased with the results!
Even Mr. I-don’t-like-turkey, who made “that face” when I told him what was for dinner loved it.
The aroma from the crock pot made me crazy for most of the afternoon. Working from home is a double edged sword; you get to start dinner, but then you have to smell it.
While I knew this was going to be lean and full of fiber, it wouldn’t have the usual compliment of veggie matter (fewer tomatoes and peppers) and so I made some simple greens to go with.

Greens
15 C fresh chopped escarole (1 grocery store produce dept bag)
3 cloves fresh minced garlic
1/4 C toasted breadcrumbs
1/2 oz. grated parmesan

Saute the garlic in a bit of olive oil in a non-stick pan. Before it browns, add the greens, as much as you can in the pan at once, adding the rest as it cooks down. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
Cook, stirring, until wilted. Cook five minutes more on medium heat.
Add grated cheese and breadcrumbs, stirring until well mixed.

Turkey White Bean Chili
1 lb ground turkey
2 15 oz cans Cannelini beans
1/2 C chopped onion
1 can Ro-Tel (chopped chilies and tomatoes)
1 C cubed, roasted butternut squash (roasting loads of veggies on the weekend leaves me with lots of choices to add them to meals during the week)
1 T tomato paste
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t black pepper
salt to taste
1 dried chipotle pepper, soaked in boiling water for 15 min.

Brown the meat, add it and all other ingredients to slow cooker.
Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Remove the chili before serving. You really don’t want someone biting into that!

Could it be any easier?

Beef Roast with Roasted Veggie Blend

winter meal

It  was a day for a Winter meal. Rainy, gray, temps in the low 40’s, I needed something cozy and hearty. This fit the bill.

I use my grandmother’s method for cooking a beef roast. I used a top round that weighed a couple pounds, but this works for any size.
Crank up the oven to 400 degrees and while it’s heating, put the meat in a roasting pan and season it.
I used black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, along with a dried herb blend of thyme and rosemary and a couple other things.
When the oven is hot, slide the roast in. Don’t put it in before the oven is up to temp; the goal is to quickly seal in the juices. Leave it for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 200 degrees. Roast until the internal temp reaches 140.
Remove to a serving platter and cover with foil so the juices stay put. Let it rest for 15 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, pour about 1/2 cup of water, wine or bullion in the roasting pan and scrape up all the tasty bits. If you’ve used a metal roasting pan, just leave everything in it and put it on the stove to boil. I used glass, and so transferred things to a saucepan. Add another 1/2 cup of beef broth and boil until it is reduced to about 3/4 cup.  Season to your taste; I used some black pepper and dried thyme.
Mix 2t cornstarch with 2 t cold water and add to the pot to thicken up the gravy.

Slice the meat across the grain and thinly and you’re ready to eat!
One of my favorite childhood memories is watching my grandfather approach the roast to slice it. He would turn it this way and that, looking for just the right angle, then, with knife and fork poised, he would hesitate, turn the wooden cutting board just a smidge, maybe three or four times, and slowly begin to slice off thin leaves of rare beef. He was a man of precision. The best part was that he would push the brown, caramelized outer bits over close to me, where I would snatch them quickly and pop them in my mouth. He’d pretend to fuss and sometimes even feint  toward my fingers with the carving knife, smiling all the while. Happy times. Rest in peace, Grandpa.

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Tonight’s roasted veggie recipe comes from Simply Recipes.

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It’s a blend of butternut squash, radicchio and onion. I forgot to add the pignoli (after making my man trek up and down a number of aisles in the grocery for for them. oops!), but it was still delish, and a perfect compliment to the roast. The bitterness of the radicchio is offset by the sweetness of the onion (I used a large Mayan one for their sweetness) and the squash. Great combination.

I rounded things out with roasted potato wedges. I didn’t think about adding them to the meal until everything else was almost finished, so I popped two fairly large red potatoes in the microwave for 8 minutes, then sliced them each into four wedges, sprayed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and added them to the veggies roasting in the hot oven until they were browned and crispy.

If only someone had brought an apple pie over for dessert……….

Risotto with Roasted Garlic and Tomatoes

I had, if not the best tasting, the most creative presentation of risotto in Siena, Italy last month.
We had ordered our meal and finished the antipasti. Time for the pasta course! A lovely young girl placed a plate of carbonara in front of my guy as another wheeled a cart up to the table. On the cart was a large wheel or parmesan.
What the heck, I wonder.
The wheel was cut horizontally, about 1/3 of the way down; like a round box with a lid. She lifted the lid, and, much to my delight, inside was my steaming risotto! She stirred and scraped for a couple minutes to incorporate the cheese into the risotto, then plated it and topped it with a few hard scrapes from the top of the cheese as a garnish. Fabulous! Hot and creamy, cheesy and perfectly textured. A little bowl of heaven. Which I can recreate at home. Well, I’m trying.

Risotto. Stir it or don’t. Add liquid a cup at a time… or all at once. Toast the rice… or not. Heat the liquid before adding to the rice, or keep it at room temp. Does it take 45 minutes or 18? So many questions, so many variables. I’m still on the quest for the perfect risotto, but I do learn something new each time I make it. Let’s get on with the ingredients and then talk about technique:

1 1/2 C arborio rice
1 C dry white wine
4 1/2 C chicken broth or stock
1/2 large sweet onion (Vidalia or Mayan), minced
5 cloves roasted garlic, chopped
1/3 C roasted tomatoes (I got mine at the deli counter, packed in garlic and oil
3/4 C freshly grated parmesan cheese

Sweat the minced onion in a bit of olive oil until it becomes translucent, then add the roasted garlic.


Add the rice and cook until it starts to get translucent, stirring all the while. You don’t want it to brown.


Add the white wine and start to gently stir until the liquid is almost all absorbed. Add the broth, a cup or ladle at a time, stirring all the while, only adding more when the liquid is just about absorbed.

Test the rice for doneness after about 17 minutes. Depending on the cooking temp (and who knows what other factors) it can be nearly done, or still need another ten or so minutes. It should be soft, but still al dente. You do not want mushy risotto.

Right at the end, stir in the roasted tomatoes.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in the parmesan.

Finito!

Now, on to what worked and what I will change.

  • Risotto is all about the starch. Using a short grained rice is imperative. Arborio is good, I hear Vialone Nano is better, but not available for me locally. I do plan on ordering some on line, just to give it a go.
  • Some cooks say that constant stirring breaks down the starch and gives the risotto its creaminess. Others say the starch is all on the outside of the grain and a few stirs will release it. I’ve seen people swear by toasting the rice and others who say it messes with the starch and the risotto won’t be as creamy, though it does add a nice color to the dish.

My next test will be to wash the rice in the broth I’ll be using, strain it, toast the rice, then, as I add the broth, the starchiness will be added back in, therefore giving me both color and creaminess. Worth a try, right?

  • I’ve had really nice risotto where all the liquid was added at once and it was left alone until the last 5 minutes, then stirred until done. I don’t know that it really makes a difference. Liquid is absorbed as quickly as it can be; no more and no less. Does it matter how much is swimming around the grain? I think the thing is the process. I rather enjoy fussing over the pot, watching it all come together. Just know that if you have other things you need to prepare, you really can step away from the stove for a few minutes without ruining your risotto.
  • I cooked this batch at a higher temp than usual; I generally go with a slow simmer, but bumped it up to medium heat. It was done in 18 minutes, give or take, rather than 45. I like this.

I served this risotto with spicy Italian sausage and roasted fennel, and we finished things off with a simple salad.

Era deliziosa!

Chicken Divine

The inspiration:

I’m back to Skinnytaste for the second time today, this time it’s the Chicken Divan.

There are only two of us for dinner, so I’m going to small this up a bit, and I don’t have all the exact ingredients, so there will be a substitution or two. Oh, and because I’m always trying to sneak more veggies in to bulk things up, I’ll add some, um, red bell peppers, yeah. They will add a pop of color against the broccoli too. And I’ll change the name to protect the integrity of Chicken Divan.

So here’s what I’m working with:

Chicken Divine

1 1/2 lb. broccoli
1 red bell pepper
2 6 oz chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
3T flour
1 1/2 T each oil and butter
3/4 C chicken broth
1/2 C low fat milk
4 oz low fat shredded cheddar
1/4 C breadcrumbs

Cube the chicken and saute in a bit of olive oil until just done.
Steam the broccoli and red pepper in the microwave until they are crisp-tender.
Put them all together in an 8×8 glass baking dish.
Saute the onion and garlic in the oil and butter and add the flour to make a roux.

Let it get as dark as you like, add the broth, milk and a splash of sherry or white wine if you have it (when do I never have wine ? I used some sweet vermouth) and half the cheese. Stir on low until cheese is melted and things are thickened up. Give it a taste and add some salt and pepper as you see fit. I added 1/2 t dry mustard. just because my mother always did when making a cheese sauce, and 1/2 t of hot Hungarian paprika.
Pour over the chicken and veggies, top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.
Pop it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Serves 4 at 6 points per serving!

I’m serving this along side steamed bulgar wheat tonight.

We really enjoyed this one. It was worthy of a “yes, make it again. very delish!”. Next time, I will try adding the dry bulgar and its appropriate amount of liquid to the casserole dish and letting it all cook together until it sets up. Like a real casserole. Men love a casserole.

Inspiration

I love looking at food.

Punchfork is my current favorite place to browse. It’s kind of like looking in the bakery window, but with more than just pastry. Pretty pictures, quick links to great food blogs and sites; what’s not to like?

See a great recipe? Sure, go ahead and use it. Me? Well, I just use them as a jumping off point.

Today, for instance, here it is mid-afternoon already. I took the day off to catch up on some things I’ve been neglecting. Like my manicure, a sewing project, holding my daughter’s brand new baby girl. You know, important stuff.  Anyway, I’ve got some free time to plan for dinner and I find myself uninspired. So, off to Punchfork I go.

It’s a sleety, chilly day, so I feel like making some warm-and-cozy food. Maybe a meat and fruit thing. That’s very fall-like. Yeah, we’ll go with that.

A quick search for pork (I know I have a couple center cut chops in the freezer) and apples (a bag of tart ones keeping cool in the garage) and look what I find! The Pioneer Woman does it for me again!

Except she uses a pork shoulder roast and I don’t have one. Nor do I have apple juice.

But I do have those center cut chops, and apples, onion, pecans, and white wine to sub for the juice. I can do this. I wish I had wild rice -it looks so good in her pics- but I do have jasmine brown rice, which will work just fine. And some fresh green beans will round out the meal quite nicely. It’s all about variations on a theme.  And since I’m going to sear and pan cook the pork, mine will be ready in half the time.

Stay tuned for the details….

Pot Roast and Root Veggies

It is a cold, rainy Saturday in upstate NY. The rain is getting chunky, as if it is puffing itself up to turn to snow. Perfect day for hanging out in front of the fireplace and enjoying some old-fashioned comfort food.
When I was a kid, my grandmother would start the pot roast first thing in the morning, searing it in a heavy pot, the bottom of her pressure cooker, as I recall. Then she’d add some water, cover it with a lid left slightly askew and leave it to simmer away until dinner, filling the house with delicious aromas. Of course, this meant being around all day to check on it and add more liquid periodically. Who has time for that?
I started the same way, with a top round roast of a couple of pounds, seasoned with salt and pepper, and dried garlic and onion, searing in those juices, then plopping it into the crock pot to finish.


I thought about roasting the vegetables, or taking the easy way out and simply popping them in with the meat right away, but I wanted to give the meal a little more depth by caramelizing the sweet things a bit before letting them get to know the beef.


So into the pan: a couple of cloves of minced garlic, a medium chopped onion, a medium sweet potato, cubed, and four or five carrots and parsnips (try to get about the same amount of each) cut up in knuckle-sized pieces. I stirred them around with just a tablespoon of olive oil, then sprinkled no more than two teaspoons of brown sugar over things. The veggies will add quite a bit of sweetness all on their own, so to balance back to savory, I added about a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a few turns of black pepper, and a teaspoon of dried thyme.


When this all started to get golden, I deglazed the pan with most of a bottle of beer and added it to the crock pot with the roast.
Beer Disclaimer: If you use some silly beer like Miller Lite, don’t complain to me that it doesn’t taste good. Use something with some meat on its bones.


Fast forward six hours.
Everything comes out of the pot onto a platter and is covered with foil while I reduce the liquid to a luscious gravy. Add a little tomato paste, a touch of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, let it reduce to a happy thickness. If you want a little more pizazz, and I did, add about a teaspoon of prepared horseradish. Slice the meat, dish the veggies and serve with a sliced and toasted corn muffin.
A dark and dreary day doesn’t get much better.
Here is everything you need:
2-3 lb top round roast
1 lb sweet potato
1-2 lb carrots
1-2 lb parsnips
1 med, onion
2 cloves garlic
1 bottle of beer
salt and pepper
dried thyme
cayenne pepper or chili powder

This will easily feed 6 normal people or 4 hungry men.