Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summertime Treats - Ice Cream and Strawberries

As summer rolled in a few hours ago, it seems appropriate to celebrate some of its pleasures. 

The other evening as I was walking my dog with my husband asv as Good Humor truck chimed its way down a quiet street.  It's comforting with all the changes and technological advancements since I was a child in the 70's and 80's that there are a few lingering details that still hold true today.  Unfortunately, instead of kids creatively playing on that quiet street, they are more than likely chained to their XBox or texting their next door neighbor, which leaves little hope for the Good Humor lady. Our street is the only one where she may have a prayer. We happen to live across the street from a rather heavy set and lazy family.  (We live walking distance from a Stop & Shop and they constantly order from their Pea Pod delivery service, among other things).  My husband said, when the Good Humor truck comes, he has never seen them move so fast.

I've traded in my Good Humor days for something more sophisticated.  Recently, I found the above carton/jar of gelato.  I was immediately drawn to it, because of its unique clear packaging.  I think it's brilliant. This way the consumer has an idea of what he or she is getting. Sometimes you buy ice cream on sheer description alone and hope that the flavor meets your expectations.  For this brand you can also taste with your eyes as well.  The textures and swirls of flavors like White Chocolate Raspberry, Black Cherry and Caramel Cookie Crunch and the bold bright color of a Blood Orange Sorbet come through a simple transparent container and naturally add color to the packaging.  I'm glad to say that indeed the gelato is as delicious as it looks.  It has a homemade taste vs. an overly sweet manufactured product.
So what pairs better with ice cream than strawberries.  Last weekend my husband and younger son headed to a local farm in Shelton, CT as strawberry season was officially on.  It's a great place where you can pick strawberries and blueberries when in season and Christmas Trees in the winter time.  They have a sort of a flat bed covered truck called the "Berry Ferry" that takes you out the field where you go with basket in hand and collect your fill.  The squatting is also great for your thighs. Usually the cost per pound is more expensive than what you would get in the store (and you're doing the labor), but they are organic and you are mostly paying for the experience. 

Frozen Strawberry Jewels from the Farm
We loaded up 8 lbs, so what I we didn't eat fresh, we frozen and stored for later use.  I have a recipe for an incredible strawberry tea bread, which I will share with you shortly. This day job is really cutting into my blogging time.  We also planted some of our own strawberry plants this year, so we'll see how that goes.

Enjoy these pleasures of summer... individually or together.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Guest Contributor - My husband Paul's Pastitsio

Featured Ingredient:  Diced Tomatoes

Now that I've gone back full time into the workforce, I don't have as much time to devote to my blog. My cooking is pretty much reserved for the weekends and my husband takes over during the week.  This basically means manly meals, that are usually calorie-laden and full of fat (which usually also means good). Most are not the best choice for my figure, but beat the hell out of having to start from scratch at 7:30 p.m. (after walking the dog).  Otherwise I have to go my repetoire of under 5 minute meals - because I'm starving. One can only have so many egg and cheese sandwiches and soup.

Now that my husband is the weekday chef, it seems he has blogging aspirations. Recently I found pictures of my husband's Pastitsio recipe on the camera, and figured that is a perfect example of Uncanny Goodness.  To me it's the Greek offspring of beefaroni and moussaka. Aside from finding entry ideas for my blog, I've also been treated to random photos of me filling my bird feeder in pajamas, my butt, and other candid beauties. (Please don't mind that I don't share these).

Pastitsio is a great Sunday dinner. I like to reserve Sunday's for something that will deliver multiple servings.  Then I know when I come on Monday and maybe even Tuesday, I just have to nuke my way to quick and satisfying meal. Making hamburgers for example is a not a good use of time, as they don't reheat well the next day and after everyone finished there are no leftovers.  Stews fit this bill perfectly.  But as the weather has gotten a little warmer, I've moved on to casseroles which are also a perfect candidate.  A delicious dining experience can be derived from a simple mish mosh of ingredients.

For the macaroni
1 1/2 cups of elbow macaroni
1 egg

For the beef mix
1.3 pounds of 85/15 ground beef
1 onion diced
2 cloves of garlic
1 – 8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 – 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes undrained
1 TB red wine vinegar
1TB chili powder
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp cinnamon

For the white sauce
3 TB butter
3 TB flour
¼ tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1 egg beaten
½ cup Italian blend shredded cheese

Salt & Pepper as needed

Preheat oven to 350F

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain. Combine pasta and 1 beaten egg.

Meat Sauce: Cook ground beef, onion and garlic together in a skillet until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat.  Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, vinegar, chili powder, allspice, cinnamon.  Bring to boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.

White Sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium and stir in flour and pepper.  Add the milk all at once. Whisk and stir until smooth thick and bubbly.  Beat an egg in a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup.  Slowly add hot liquid to temper the mixture - to ensure not scrambling the egg. Return egg mixture to the saucepan, stir in 1/2 cup shredded cheese.

In a square baking dish, add 1/2 the pasta mixture.  Next add all the meat sauce.  Then add the remainder of the pasta and top with the white sauce.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.  The white sauce will firm when cooked.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Barbecue Pork Quesadillas with Spanish Rice

Featured Ingredients: Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Black Beans

Here is a delicious double duty meal.  One night make this simple pork roast.  You can even make the marinade in the morning.  Marinate your pork all day then throw it in the oven for about an hour after you come home. The barbecue pork roast recipe is primarily inspired by Paula Deen. The flavor and smell that this marinates imparts is a literal translation of an old fashioned package barbecue sauce in a container, without the artificial flavor you would get from, well, a pre-packaged sauce. 

Barbecue Pork Roast
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup tamari
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 large cloves garlic minced
One 2 1/2 lb pork loin roast

In a bowl combine all ingredients.  Whisk together.  Pour into a resealable plastic bag and add pork roast.  Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or more.  No more than overnight.

Remove roast from bag.  Place on a rack in a roasting pan and discard marinade. Pour about 1 cup water into the roasting pan (only if pork is on a rack).  This helps form a dark rich barbecue au jus or gravy whatever you want to call it. It will be thin.  Save this for the next recipe.  Roast pork at 340 degrees for about 1 hour or until pork reaches 160. (Or at 325F if you have more time). Let rest 10 minutes.  Serve.  Strain out the leftover sauce, au jus or whatever you want to call it for the next day.

Barbecue Pork Roast

Barbecue Pork Quesadillas - Makes 10 or more 6 inch quesadillas

2 cups remaining pork roast sliced and diced
1 cup black beans rinsed
3.5 oz. salsa (my husband gets these single serve packages which are great for recipes like this when you don't think you will use a whole jar).
1 tablespoon leftover au jus.
2 big blocks of monterey jack and cheddar cheese grated.
20 (2 packs) 6 inch soft flour tortillas

Slice and dice remaining pork roast. 

Mix with beans, salsa and au jus.  Grate cheese.
Heat a griddle to medium heat.  Spray with cooking spray.

Heat oven to 275 degrees.

Place cheese and pork mixture in the middle, leaving about a 1/2 inch border by first layering a large pinch of cheese on the bottom of the tortilla.  Add a couple of tablespoons of pork mixture and then another pinch of cheese on top.  You can alternate with monterey jack and cheddar or use one kind.

Place gently on a griddle and press down. Cook uncovered for a few minutes until bottom tortilla starts to crisp up.  Flip carefully with a spatula and repeat on other side. 

Not Pancakes
Place on a broiler pan or rack in the oven (with preferably something under it to keep warm and finish heating through and catch any oozing cheese).  I find if you put it on a pan with tin foil, the bottom gets a little soft and soggy.

Before you start cooking the quesadillas and are about finished with your prep is a good time to put on your rice.

Spanish Rice

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onion finely chopped
1 large clove garlic minced
1 1/2 cups Carolina Long Grain Rice
1 can Fire Roasted Tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt

Heat olive oil in a 10 inch skillet.  Add onion and a little salt to release moisture and saute for a couple of minutes. Add rice and toast until some kernels are translucent.  Add garlic and saute 1 more minute. 
Add tomatoes, broth and spices.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a low/simmer.  Simmer covered for about 10 minutes.  Stir rice and continuing simmering about another 10 minutes until rice is cooked through.

Serve your quesadillas and rice with a simple guacamole.  Mix one soft avocado with juice from half a lime.
Barbecue Pork Quesadillas with Spanish Rice and Simple Guacamole