Dinner


The Beau and I have been going in different directions for weeks, so I wanted to make a special Sunday Supper. Whenever I want to make something lovely, I drift toward the incomparable Julia Child and her beef bourguignon, or at least my version of it.

Tonight’s take on the classic French beef stew uses a rioja rather than a burgundy, and has more of an au jus than a stew-y sauce.

Ingredients

5 slices thick cut, uncured bacon, cut into large pieces
4 beef tenderloins, cut into large pieces
1 cup beef stock
1 cup Rioja (Spanish red wine)
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 lb frozen pearl onions
1 lb fresh carrots, peeled, cut long-ways
2 cups crimini mushrooms, cleaned, sliced

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How I Made It

Cook the bacon in a non-stick skillet. Transfer the bacon to the slow cooker/crock pot with a slotted spoon. Brown the tenderloin pieces in the bacon fat, and then transfer them with a slotted spoon to the crock pot. Add the frozen pearl onions on top.

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Add the wine to the skillet and scrape the brown bits up with a spoon or spatula.  When it starts to bubble and all the bits have been incorporated, add the beef broth.  Then add the garlic, tomato paste, and thyme and stir to combine. Let it cook on medium-high heat for a minute or two before pouring the sauce into the slow cooker.

Cover and let the concoction cook on low heat for 8 hours.  Add the mushrooms at 4 hours, and the carrots an hour or two before the end (depending on how crisp you want them).

Serve over mashed potatoes. If you need more veggies, green beans are a perfect side.

How It Turned Out

The Beau made all sorts of happy sounds at the table, and was quick to take a big bowl of leftovers for his lunch tomorrow.  I think I might like it better than the original, not just because it’s easier but because the sauce is a bit lighter.

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The BFF and her boys get home from two weeks of holiday travel today, so I want to be sure that settling back in is as stress-free as possible. And, because I’m southern, the answer to that is making a casserole for their supper tonight.

This is a lightened version of chicken parmesan, baked in casserole form.  It’s easy peasy to make.

Bake three chicken breasts, covered with Italian or balsamic dressing, in a foil packet (400 degrees for about an hour).  Cook your choice of pasta (I don’t recommend long noodles) as directed.

Prepare a largish baking dish with olive oil or a foil lining. Transfer the pasta to the baking dish, filling it about a third full.  Cut the chicken up into bite-size pieces and top the pasta.

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Cover the whole casserole with marinara sauce. I like to use the organic marinara from Safeway, with a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes mixed in.

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If you’re not going to bake it right away, cover the casserole and put it in the fridge. When you’re ready, top the casserole with shredded cheese (an Italian cheese blend or parmesan) and bake it for 20-25 minutes, uncovered, at 350 degrees until the cheese is bubbly and the casserole is heated through.

Of course, this is not a recipe for some sort of astronaut food.  It is, however, the revelation that prime rib is perhaps the easiest “fancy food” to make.

Go ahead and splurge on a really beautiful rib roast. It will be spendy but it is worth it.

To cook it, place a rack toward the bottom of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of a roasting pan with heavy foil, and place the roasting rack on top of the foil.

Rinse and pat the rib roast dry.  Place it on the rack in the roasting pan.  Season it some, but do not be seduced into using a heavy rub.  A used a basic garlic and herb mix from Spice Islands.

Put the rib roast in the oven and let it cook, uncovered, until it reaches the desired temperature (check out this Prime Rib Cooking Chart).  Mine was 7 pounds and I let it cook about three and a half hours (but we don’t like our meat too rare — the ends were medium, and the middle was medium rare.).

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That’s it. No fuss, no muss. A decadent meal to share with friends and family (and all the mess in the pan goes straight into the trash).

I served it with Stonewall Kitchen Cranberry Horseradish Sauce (which I love!) and traditional horseradish. Yummy!

(Have you noticed that I don’t always have photos of the food I make, or of the final product before it’s eaten?  That’s because the food is made to be eaten, and too often I forget to grab the camera before everyone starts eating.  For a while I didn’t post a recipe if I didn’t get a “final” photo, but I think I’ll relax a bit about that from now on.)

These are the easiest, tastiest pork chops — thanks to this Apricot Mango Chipotle Sauce from Kozlowski Farms.

All you do is heat a half tablespoon of butter and a half tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat in a non-stick skillet. Put the lovely lean pork chops in the skillet and raise the heat a bit. Cook the pork chops, turning a few times so they brown nicely but don’t burn or sear too severely.

While the pork chops cook, line a baking sheet with foil.  When the pork chops are cooked through, transfer them to the baking sheet.  Brush the tops with the Apricot Mango Chipotle Sauce (a nice but not too thick layer).  Put the pork chops in the oven under the broiler (on high) and let the glaze caramelize. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Voila!

Pork Chops

Note: This sauce is also great on salmon and shrimp — especially on the grill!

As every Southern woman knows, a casserole can cure everything from a cold to a broken heart.  It’s one of my favorite roles at church, being part of the Casserole Brigade. This lasagna recipe (or a version similar) makes a frequent appearance because it is easy to assemble and deliver, and then your friend can bake it whenever they are ready for supper.

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1 jar of fancy tomato sauce — I used Gina Rispoli Arrabiata Sauce
1 28oz can of organic diced tomatoes
2 Mild Italian Chicken Sausages
Barilla No-Boil Lasagna Noodles
1 zucchini sliced into thin discs
15oz part-skim ricotta
1/3 cup shredded parmesan
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella

How I Made It

Prepare a deep baking dish with a quick spray of olive oil.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic together until tender. Squeeze the sausage from the casing into the skillet, then break it up with a spoon so that there are no big pieces. Brown the sausage with the peppers and onions, stirring frequently so that the vegetables don’t burn.

When the sausage is cooked through, add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cover and bring the sauce to a simmer.

Combine the ricotta and parmesan together in a bowl.

To assemble the lasagna, start by putting a little sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.  Lay the lasagna noodles side by side in the bottom.  Spread a layer of ricotta — not too thin and not too thick — over the noodles.  Top with sauce and shredded mozzarella.  Add another layer of noodles, then ricotta, then the zucchini slices. Top with sauce and shredded mozzarella.  Continue with these layers until you reach the top of the baking dish.

Lasagna

You can freeze or refrigerate the lasagna until you are ready to deliver or bake it.  With these no bake noodles, a little time to settle and soak up the sauce is a good thing.  Also, make sure there is plenty of sauce in your layers, so that there is enough moisture to cook the noodles as it bakes.

When ready, bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  I start out with it covered with foil, but uncover it for the last 5-8 minutes so the cheese on top gets brown and bubbly.

Fall weather creates a craving for comfort food — especially hot, creamy casseroles. This easy peasy way to make beef stroganoff results in a lovely jubbly homemade meal while you spend the day outside in the pumpkin patch.

Ingredients:

1 lb organic grass fed stew beef, cubed
2 cups sliced fresh baby portobello mushrooms
1 cup diced onion (frozen or fresh)
16 ounces organic low sodium or no salt added beef broth
1 tbs organic tomato paste
1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp Gourmet Garden garlic paste
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup organic sour cream
egg noodles or other pasta, cooked al dente

How I Made It:

Rinse and pat dry the beef cubes before putting them in the slow cooker.  Cover the beef with the onions and mushrooms.  In a bowl, whisk together the beef broth, Worcestershire, and little dab of garlic.  Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.  Set the slow cooker to low and go play for 6-7 hours.

About half an hour before you’re ready to eat, dissolve the flour in a bit of water. It should be of a consistency between wallpaper paste and milk paint. Stir the flour mixture into the sauce and let it cook for 30 minutes more.  Cook the pasta and then, right before you are ready to serve, stir the sour cream into the sauce and combine thoroughly.

Serve the stroganoff sauce over noodles.  Add a salad or steamed carrots for a balanced meal.

How It Turned Out:

YUM-MEE!  It is satisfyingly creamy, with big chunks of tender beef and rich mushroom flavor. I used veggie noodles, both for the vitamins and the harvest colors.

Stroganoff

This is a super-quick supper that is fancy enough for a dinner party.

Ingredients:

1 bag of frozen tortellini
1 lb of fresh asparagus
1 lb of fresh snow peas
3 tbs of Greek feta vinaigrette dressing
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

How I Made It:

Wash and pat dry the peas and asparagus.  Snap the ends off and de-string the pea pods.  Reserve 3 stalks of asparagus, cutting the remainder into pieces (tops, then three sections — I don’t keep the tough thick bases).  Create asparagus ribbons with the reserved asparagus stalks, using a vegetable peeler.  Set the ribbons aside and squeeze a little lemon juice over them.

Cook the tortellini according the instructions.  Use a big pot and at least 2 cups more water than called for, so that you can blanch the vegetables for 3 minutes in the same pot as the pasta.  I also add a little olive oil in the pot to prevent the pasta from sticking. When it’s all done, strain the pasta and vegetables in a colander (do not rinse).

In a large glass serving bowl (so you can see all the lovely green veggies), toss the hot pasta and vegetables with the dressing, then sprinkle half the parmesan on top.  Toss again, then top with the rest of the cheese.  Garnish with the asparagus ribbons and serve.

How It Turned Out:

The bright taste of fresh peas and asparagus pairs nicely with the creamy tortellini. I made this as the main dish for a dinner party, but it would also be a lovely side dish for grilled or poached salmon or a lemon chicken entrée.

Easy Peasy Pasta

Makes 4 servings.

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