February 11, 2018

Beef and Butternut Squash (or Kabocha Squash) Stew

Sunday afternoons typically involve meal prep for the week.  This afternoon of cooking is always fun for me while also being a great way to stay organized and on track with healthy and yummy meals for the week ahead.  Since I'm typically prepping a few different things, I usually enlist the help of my kitchen gadgets, such as my electric steamer, pressure cooker, and slow cooker, to make it a little easier.

This stew is a snap to put together, and you can simplify the prep by taking advantage of some finds at Trader Joe's (or likely your preferred market).  Trader Joe's has one pound bags of organic cubed kabocha squash in their frozen foods section, and they also have julienned sun-dried tomatoes.  If you don't like kabocha squash, you can use butternut squash, which is also available pre-cubed in Trader Joe's fresh produce section  I've also seen it at Whole Foods and at Costco.  Chopped stew meat is available in the Trader Joe's meat section, or you can also get this from your butcher at another market.

The usual beef-and-potato stews are bland, in my opinion.  This stew is dressed up with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, sweet and nutty squash, and some Marsala wine.  Before everything goes into the slow cooker, there's some sautéing to be done; searing the meat keeps it from turning mushy, and sautéing the onions, garlic, and herbs just pops their flavor.  After the sautéing is done, you add the Marsala wine to the pan, and this helps gets those brown bits that will add so much more richness to the stew.  Then, everything goes in the slow cooker, and voila - you've got one yummy meal!

Beef and Butternut Squash Stew / Beef and Kabocha Squash Stew
Yields 4 servings

2 tbsp. oil of your choice
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. stew beef, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1 lb. butternut squash or kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (or one 3-oz. bag of Trader Joe's julienned sun-dried tomatoes)
3 cups beef or chicken broth
2 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-parsley leaves

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, and pepper, and whisk to combine.  Then, add the beef cubes and toss gently to coat.  Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, rosemary, and thyme, and cook for about 5 minutes until it becomes tender.  Add the beef cubes to the pan in batches and cook, turning occasionally, until the beef is browned on all sides (about 5 minutes).  As the beef cubes batch finish, transfer them to the slow cooker.  While the final batch of beef cubes cooks, add the Marsala wine and use a spatula to scrape up the browned bits from the pan.

Transfer the remaining beef cubes, onion, and pan juices to the slow cooker.  Add the squash cubes, sun-dried tomatoes, and broth, and stir to combine.  Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 8 hours, until the beef and squash are tender.  Serve with a sprinkle of parsley.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis' Happy Cooking

February 5, 2018

Flourless Blondies with Chocolate Chips

We're still early in the new year, so many are still trying to stick with the healthy eating and new year's detox after all the sweetness of Christmas.  Today's recipe is a healthy-ish sweet treat to try and keep with that theme.

I was always one of those people who scoffed at the idea of using a can of beans in baked goods.  It just seemed wrong--and kind of disgusting.  It also seemed like a direct insult to butter!

Well, when I saw a few different pictures of garbanzo bean blondies, I was intrigued.  The pictures looked like legit blondies.  I spent time googling and couldn't find any comments describing these as inedible, disgusting, or a waste of ingredients.  In fact, I was shocked to see people write that they couldn't taste the beans and that these tasted like real blondies!  Multiple people wrote about devouring the entire pan. Yikes, but it certainly intrigued me.

So, I gave these a try.  In my food processor, I added a can of drained garbanzo beans, some cashew butter, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla.  I pureed it for a about 3 minutes so that it was really smooth.  I did a taste test, thinking that I would be tasting maple flavored hummus.  Au contraire!  It tasted like a blondie batter, and it did have decent sweetness from the maple syrup.

While it may seem like baking blasphemy, I added in some dark chocolate chips that I brought back from France and then sprinkled with sea salt.

The result? A delicious blondie that satisfies the sweet craving but is still healthy with fiber and protein...and the dark chocolate chips give some anti-oxidants! ;-)

Flourless Blondies with Chocolate Chips
Yields 1 pan

1 15 oz. can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup natural nut butter, your choice (I used cashew butter)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp. dark chocolate chips
Sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Spray or grease a 9x9 baking pan and set aside.

In the bowl of the food processor, add all ingredients except the chocolate chips and sea salt.  Process until smooth. (I ran the food processor for about 3 minutes.)  Then, stir in 1/3 cup of the chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.  Sprinkle the remaining 2 tbsp. chocolate chips on top

Bake for 25-30 minutes until light golden brown or a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt.

Source: The Comfort of Cooking

December 11, 2017

Cookie Butter Cookies

How many of you have tried cookie butter?  I mean, it's a brilliant idea - spreadable cookie yumminess, and quite tasty, right?  But, I often feel that the usage of cookie butter is somewhat limited beyond a spoon into the jar.  Haha!  The idea of using cookie butter in place of peanut butter sound good, but I can never bring myself to make a cookie butter sandwich. ;-)

When shopping at Trader Joe's, I am always amazed at how many different cookie butter products I see: cookie butter cheesecake, cookie butter chocolate, cookie butter sandwich cookies, and the list goes on.  It was time to get creative with that jar of cookie butter sitting in the far back of the cabinet (purposely hidden to avoid temptation).  

So, here comes cookie butter cookies.  These soft, chewy cookies are rich and buttery with caramel and vanilla flavors and a hint of almond.  They just taste comforting, even though they are addicting!  

And, to make you feel less guilty, there's no added butter in these cookies, so they are technically butter free.  Cookie butter is different from regular cookie butter, after all.

Cookie Butter Cookies
Yields 2 dozen

1 egg
1 cup cookie butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. all purpose flour (108 grams)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cornstarch

Prepare two large baking sheets with a silpat or parchment paper and set aside.  (You will need to stick these in the refrigerator, so if you don't have space, use two large plates, and you can prepare the baking sheets right before you bake.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), cream together the cookie butter, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat until light and fluffy for about five minutes.  Then, add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch.  Continue mixing on medium-low until just incorporated. 

Using a medium cookie scoop or a spoon (you want about 2 tbsp. of dough in each cookie dough ball), form cookie dough balls.  Place the dough onto the prepared baking sheets or onto the large plate.  Refrigerate for a minimum of five hours (overnight preferred).  

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350ºF.  Remove the cookie dough balls from the fridge and flatten slightly.  Place the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 8-9 minutes or until the cookies have set.  The cookies may seem "doughy" when you remove from the oven, but that's okay--they will firm up and be soft and chewy.  Do not over bake.  

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from AverieCooks

December 5, 2017

Pork Ragout

This dish requires your patience, but you will be very well rewarded.  This is big flavor, simple ingredients, and all-around comfort food.

This dish isn't complicated, but it requires about two hours for the pork to cook and become tender.  Basically, you brown the pork and cook some onions and garlic.  Then, you add some white wine to deglaze the pot.  You could add red wine, but I think white wine keeps it a little lighter.  After, you add some tomatoes, herbs, and chicken broth, and you let the pork cook in an sauce of amazingness.  The pasta doesn't get cooked completely in the water because it will finish cooking when you add it to the sauce. At the end, you add some parm, some olive oil, and some arugula.  Finally, bon appetit!

You could make it in the slow cooker, but if you do, make sure you brown the pork before adding it into the slow cooker.

Instead of using forks to shred meat, use your stand mixer.  Yes, you read that right!  Add warm meat (with any bones removed) to the bowl of your stand mixer.  Put on the paddle attachment, and turn on your stand mixer to medium-low speed.  In about three minutes, you'll have perfectly shredded meat. It's much faster and easier than using the two fork method.

Next time you are looking for a hearty, insanely good, and tasty pasta dish for dinner--and have some time, give this one a try.

Pork Ragout
Yields 10 servings

3 pound pork shoulder roast, cut into 3-inch chunks
1 1/2 tbsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
3 tbsp. cooking oil (vegetable oil or grapeseed oil)
8 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Pinch red chili flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 lb. rigatoni or penne pasta
1 Parmesan cheese rind
6 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan, plus more as a desired
Arugula, if desired

Use paper towels to dry the pork well and sprinkle on all sides with 1 tbsp. of the kosher salt and the pepper.  Heat 2 tbsp. of the cooking oil in a Dutch oven over high heat.  Working in batches, brown the pork on all sides, about 3-5 minutes per side.  Remove the pork to a plate and set aside.

Once the pork has been browned, reduce the heat to medium.  Add the remaining 1 tbsp. cooking oil.  Then, add the onions and the remaining Kosher salt.  Cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring and scraping any brown bits.  Then, add the garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.  Deglaze with the white wine and cook until nearly dry, 8 to 10 minutes.

Then, add the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, Parmesan rind, chili flakes, and herbs and bring to a simmer.  Return the pork to the pot and tuck it under the sauce.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours until the pork is fork tender.

Remove the pork and shred it.  Remove the herbs from the sauce and add the pork back to the pot.  Stir in the olive oil and half of the grated Parmesan.  Keep warm over low heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for about 1 or 2 minutes less than the package instructions.  Drain and add the pasta to the sauce, tossing to cook.  Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce and add a ladle of pasta water as needed.

Serve with the remaining Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil, and garnish with baby arugula.

Source: The Giadzy
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