Thursday, February 26, 2009

Buffalo Pasta and Vegetable Stir Fry

I wanted to make something quick and easy with nice, fresh ingredients. I wandered the grocery store half awake after work and a couple vegetables and some ground buffalo caught my eye. So, I cooked each in the laziest way I knew and came up with something that was quite tasty.  Here you go:

  • Buffalo Pasta
    • Ancient Harvest quinoa and corn shell pasta
    • Whole Foods 365 brand Italian Herb pasta sauce
    • Lean ground buffalo
    • Roasted red pepper
    • Onion (1/2)
    • Black pepper
    • Garlic salt
    • Paprika
    • Garlic (~1/4 bulb)
  • Stir Fry Salad
    • Zucchini
    • Yellow squash
    • Onion (1/2)
    • Baby Spinach (medium sized package)
    • Pine Nuts
    • Garlic (lots - ~3/4 bulb)
    • Olive oil
    • Black Pepper
    • Sea Salt
    • Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
      • Balsamic Vinegar
      • Bay Leaf
      • Raw Can Sugar
      • Honey

Buffalo Pasta:
I caramelized some onions in olive oil, then added the ground beef, garlic, and seasoning. Once that was well browned, I added the jar of sauce and about half a roasted red pepper. The pasta was cooked per the box instructions, which takes maybe 10 minutes after the water boils. Then the two met in a bowl and lived happily ever after. 

Stir Fry Salad:
Or vegetable stir fry, whatever you want to call it. I just caramelized some onions in olive oil, then added the squashes, pine nuts, and some seasoning. That cooked on medium heat until everything was getting soft, then I added the roasted red pepper. I turned the heat up, added a couple tablespoons of apple cider, and piled the garlic on top. I let that steam for a minute before mixing it in because I added too much and couldn't have mixed it without throwing it out of the shallow pan. After that mixed in, I added a bunch of garlic and some black pepper. After the salad went on a plate I drizzled on some of the balsamic vinegar reduction I always keep around.

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction:
I should make a post just for this. It is super easy and is great on everything - salads, sandwiches, quinoa pilaf, etc, etc. All you do is put about half a cup to a cup of balsamic vinegar in a very small sauce pot with a bay leaf or two. Heat that until it starts simmering then lower the heat. Add some raw cane or brown sugar and a little honey. Let it slowly cook for a while, simmering or not quite simmering. It is ready when it is starting to get viscous and will stick to a fork. Adding more sugar and honey makes it set up faster and require less reduction - I've let it simmer for anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour. Longer with less sugar is better, but even the quick stuff is nice. Take the bay leaf out when you're done and put it in the vessel of your choice. I use a little 4oz squeeze bottle I got at REI that's supposed to be for denatured alcohol for camp stoves. Those are also good for olive oil or anything else you want to drizzle in a controlled way. This sauce is very flavorful, a little goes a long way. I make this about once a month and always have it in the fridge. 

You can do this with soy sauce too, but I don't use a bay leaf. That makes a real nice sauce for stir fries or other asian dishes. Reductions like this also take on other flavors very well - you can squeeze citrus juice into either and get great results. Adding a few drops of sesame oil to the soy sauce one gives it a denser, stronger flavor and gives it a great smell.   

Resulting Deliciousness:
    This took maybe half an hour and ended up tasting great. It made a lot too - 4 people easily could have eaten this. I used the leftovers for lunch for several days. The spinach wasn't top notch and got a little slimy after it was in the fridge, but other than that, this was a great meal

Sunday, February 15, 2009

123 Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuit Mix

I don't usually do reviews, and I don't use mixes too often, but I think both of those are going to change a little bit. I recently got a boxed mix for buttermilk biscuits from 123 Gluten-Free. They were AWESOME.
Just followed the box instructions for the buttermilk biscuits - in addition to the mix, you need buttermilk, unslated butter, and some sugar.

Just followed the box instructions.  But, I actually couldn't find my measuring cup, so I had to roughly estimate  the 1 1/3 cups buttermilk.  The dough turned out way too sticky to roll out, so I added a little corn starch to thicken it up, corn starched my hands, and just hand-formed the biscuits.

Resulting Deliciousness:
Even with my less than ideal methods, these turned out fantastic.  They weren't shaped perfectly, but they tasted great. They aren't quite the buttermilk biscuits I know from growing up in the south, but they are damn good for GF. They allowed me to indulge in the somewhat unhealthy southern breakfast of a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit for the first time in probably a decade.  

The mix is a little pricey at $9 at Whole Foods, but totally worth it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Crockpot Ribs and Vegetables

Last weekend, I finished off the last of the forest fed pork I had in the freezer. I was feeling lazy, so I just threw some ribs in a crockpot with a bunch of vegetables. Turned out pretty good.

  • Pork ribs from the forest
    • Marinade - about 20 hours
      • Apple Cider
      • Cumin
      • Cloves
  • Vegetables
    • Celery Root
    • Green, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers with red onion (I saw a pre-cut pack at the grocery store)
    • Carrots
  • Seasonings
    • Garlic (about a bulb and a half)
    • Shallots (diced from a jar)
    • Apple Cider (~1/2 cup)
    • Kosher salt
    • Black pepper
    • Red pepper
    • White pepper
    • Paprika
    • Celery salt
    • olive oil
    • honey
  • Sauce
    • Drippings from everything above
    • Apple Cider (~1/3 cup)
    • Cane sugar
    • Cloves
    • Cumin
    • Red pepper

The night before, I knew I'd want to cook the ribs so I threw them in a freezer bag with apple cider, cloves, and cumin to marinate.  The next evening, I took a pre-cut pack of various bell peppers and red onion, put it in the crock pot, added celery root and carrots, all the seasonings, and tossed all that in a crockpot, coating the vegetables with olive oil and seasonings. I then cut the meat into individual ribs, placed them on top of the vegetables, sprinkled on some more pepper, honey, and a little apple cider. That was cooked at about 200-250 for about an hour and a half.

After everything was done, I pulled everything out of the crockpot, leaving the drippings - mostly some pork fat, cider, and garlic, all of which had been flavored by all of the great vegetables. I added a little more cider, a little raw cane sugar, cloves, cumin, and red pepper, then reduced it for about 5-10 minutes. If reducing sounds fancy, it is not - you just simmer it until it gets thicker - the sugars get caramelized and you cook off some water. I then added the ribs back to the sauce for about 5-10 minutes, stirring most of the time to really coat them well.

Resulting Deliciousness:
These ribs were pretty good, but the vegetables stole the show - they were absolutely fantastic. I think this was because I don't have a very good crockpot, I have a multipurpose thing that's mostly good for frying. The low temperature controls aren't very good, so I basically steamed this stuff in an hour and a half instead of slow cooking it over about 4 hours, as I intended. As a result, the vegetables were nicely done, but the ribs had a very slightly chewy texture, not the perfect tenderness you want for ribs. But, they were still really good. If you have a real crockpot or a dutch oven, this would probably turn out better, texturally speaking. 
If you want to see some really well-done ribs, check out my Spring Break '08 Ribs.