Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Three B's: Broccoli with Bacon Balsamic Sauce

This picture doesn't capture the gloss of the dressing, therefore it looks kinda dry, but it really wasn't. I promise.

When you've got a moment while waiting for your dinner to finish cooking, this is a really nice extra addition to the regular old steamed broccoli side dish. And let's face it, most nights I DO NOT have an extra minute to whip up something fancy for the broccoli while waiting for dinner to cook. I'm most definitely gonna take those minutes to fold a load of laundry or give the baby a bath or yell at the two older kids to stop trying to kill each get the picture. Luck had it that the boys were busy terrorizing the neighbor kids on the other side of the fence outside and the baby was most-cooperatively napping. :)

What you need:

2 slices of bacon, diced (I cheated and used bacon bits)
1 small shallot, minced
1 ½ T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp. Dijon mustard
3 T. olive oil
1 to 1 ¼ lb. steamed broccoli or any other vegetable

How you make it:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a dish lined with paper towels, leaving the bacon fat in the pan. Add the shallot to the bacon fat and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 T. of the vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan with a spoon to dissolve the browned bits stuck to the pan bottom. Off the heat, stir in the remaining ½ T. vinegar, the lemon juice, and the mustard. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Season with ¼ tsp. salt and some fresh ground pepper to taste.
Drizzle sauce over the steamed veggies and sprinkle with the cooked bacon bits.

Since I used already cooked bacon bits this time, I just heated up some oil in the pan, started sautéing the bacon bits and the shallots together, and went from there, adding the vinegar and so on, without removing the bacon. Hope that makes sense. Sometimes you gotta improvise. And you could most certainly make this sauce ahead of time and just reheat if needed.

This is a great vinaigrette sauce for any steamed vegetable. Potatoes, cauliflower, carrots...whatever. Of course, it's got bacon in it. As, Jim Gaffigan says, "Bacon is the fairy dust of the food world". And he would be 100% correct in that statement.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Split Pea and Ham Soup (or Green Soup for the kids)

You gotta call it green soup for the kids. Somtimes I add meaningless extra adjectives to it too, like "Amazing green soup" or something like that, just for good measure. Those darn picky kids....anyway, I can understand why "split pea" doesn't exactly sound like something that makes them race to the table. But I love this soup so much. It's also great for gluten-free cooking, because there's no added thickeners to worry about. Peas are a natural starch. The ingredients are simple and easy. As is how you make it, however you do need to allow time for the peas to soak. Read on and I'll explain.

What you need:
3½ cups dried green split peas
1½ cups sliced onion
1 cup celery, chopped a bit
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
1 cup diced carrots
1-2 cups diced ham

How you make it:

In large stock pot or Dutch oven, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water; bring to a boil and simmer gently 2 minutes; remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour.

Add onion, celery, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and marjoram.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer (don’t boil) 1½ hours.  Stir occasionally.  If water has evaporated, you may need to add more water as the soup continues to cook.

Let mixture cool a bit, then purée using a blender.  Be careful, it will be somewhat hot!

Return mixture to pot, add meat and carrots.  Cook slowly, covered, 30 minutes or so – until carrots are tender.

Serves 6-8.

Note: Since you're puréeing the whole thing in the end, you don't need to worry about chopping the celery and onion too uniformly or very small. Any sort of chunks will do.

Serve with bread and fruit salad, if desired.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Grocery List for Last Week's Menu

Shopping List for Menu:

1/2-1 pound tail-on peeled and deveined medium shrimp
Frozen hamburger patties, or fresh ground beef/sirloin
1 pound pork chops
1-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
1 lb. ground beef

chicken broth, check ingredients for gluten-free
clam juice, 8 oz. bottle
lemon juice
dijon mustard
tomato sauce, 8 oz. can
chili garlic sauce or crushed red pepper
olive oil
canola oil

red bell pepper
yellow onion, 2
sugar snap peas
mushrooms, 1 package
tomatoes, 2 medium or 1 package grape or cherry tomatoes
avocado, 3
lemons, 1-2
spinach leaves

garlic salt
chili powder

Feta cheese

Hamburger buns
Taco shells
rice sticks (aka, Asian rice noodles)

Your crowd's fave taco toppings (cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream, etc.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tomato Avocado Salad

Totally busted. Me. That's right. By the Mom Who Loves to Cook and Mr. Wonderful; both. The first, when she found out I had been totally short-cutting and just tossing this in store-bought italian dressing; and the latter, when I served this (the real way, as seen below) for dinner, and he couldn't believe how good it was and that I had been cheating by using lame-o italian dressing the other times. Now, all is well. I hope I have redeemed myself. And, I am sorry to all I may have offended in the family by not sticking to the best (and easy, so what was my problem??) recipe. Here you go. Make it, and be ready for your tastebuds to jump out of your mouth in jubilation.   

What you need:

2 large avocados
2 medium size, ripe tomatoes, diced or a large handful or two of grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
1-2 T. fresh lemon juice
2-3 T. canola or olive oil
garlic salt
fresh ground pepper, (it really is better with fresh ground, but I'm saddened to say, I've never splurged and bought a basic pepper grinder. Wow, that is truly sad.)

How you make it:

Peel and slice or dice avocado. Dice tomato. Toss with lemon juice and oil. Sprinkle to taste with garlic salt and pepper. Generously with both.

The end.
And let the record show that I regret my past salad faux-pas and vow to stick to what's best.

*Make it a meal: I think this would make a tasty meal by adding in some cooked, chilled, diced chicken, and cooked, chilled pasta noodles like bow-tie or fusilli. Oh, also some jarred artichoke hearts. Oh yeah.
My mother, the aforementioned, Mom Who Loves to Cook, loves it just as is, with a whole grain baguette from Panera. I admit, the former eater-of-gluten in me agrees.