Saturday, January 17, 2015

Low Carb and (Nearly) Gluten-Free...and You'd Never Know It!

I went to Aldi the other day, and they had this GINORMOUS, nine-pound pork shoulder roast on sale for $1.99 a pound. I bought it, split it, and froze half of it for another meal. Then I trolled the internet for recipe ideas (search terms: "crock pot" and "pork roast") and found a good one on Skinny Taste. I used their recipe as a jumping off point, made a some additions and adjustments, and it turned out great! I just love it when the crock pot does most of the work for me.

For a side dish, I saw this loaded cauliflower bake scrolling by on my FB newsfeed recently and thought it looked pretty yummy, despite the fact that I hate cauliflower. My diabetic roommate is still trying to cut carbs (and it wouldn't hurt me, either!), plus, I figured the pulled pork and cauliflower mash would taste yummy together...and I was right! All the flavorful additions would fool the most ardent cauliflower hater like me. This meal is also low carb, and if you used gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos (or just omitted the soy sauce), and gluten-free beer or just vegetable broth alone, it would also be gluten-free. So maybe this dinner will help you keep some resolutions while still feeling indulgent.

Crock Pot Balsamic Pulled Pork 

1/2 cup beer
1 teaspoon vegetable soup base
1 onion, slivered
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey

Pour the beer into the crock pot, stir in the soup base (or you can just use 1/2 cup of vegetable broth instead), and add the slivered onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

In a large skillet on medium, heat the olive oil. Season the pork roast with Cajun seasoning, then brown on all sides. Place the browned roast in the crock pot and pour over the balsamic, Worcestershire, soy sauce, and honey. Cook for about four hours on high (or eight hours on low), or until it's tender enough to pull apart easily with two forks. If you are around the house while it's cooking, flip the roast about once an hour so each side gets to soak up the savory liquid.

When it's tender, pull the pork, and return it to the delicious broth and let it go for at least another half an hour or so on low. Serve over mashed potatoes or cauliflower, or soft polenta for an entree, or make a killer sandwich with it!

Loaded Mashed Cauliflower Bake

1 medium head cauliflower, leaves and core removed, broken into florets
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded colby jack or cheddar cheese, divided
2 tablespoons chopped green onions or chives, divided
6 slices of chopped crispy bacon, divided (don't you DARE use "bacon bits")
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
Cajun seasoning and black pepper, to taste

Place the cauliflower florets in a microwave-safe dish with a lid and add the water. Cover and microwave for 12-15 minutes, or until cauliflower is completely tender and mashable. Drain and mash with potato masher or pastry cutter to desired consistency.

Stir in the sour cream, mayo, a half cup of the cheese, one tablespoon of the green onions or chives, and half of the chopped bacon. Season with the granulated garlic, Cajun seasoning, and black pepper. Taste the mixture and make any adjustments you deem appropriate.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Top with the remaining cheese and bacon, and bake for another five minutes until the cheese is completely melted. Remove from the oven and sprinkle on the rest of the green onions or chives.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pipes frozen again? Might as well have a drink!

We have been experiencing some brutal wind chill factors lately (down to about 25 below!), so I have been staying up all night, stoking the fire, checking on the heaters, and monitoring the pipes. I made the mistake of taking a three-hour nap on the couch at 6:30 this morning, and when I awoke, the hot water in the kitchen had frozen just as the cold water had done two days before, despite my vigilence. Not to panic, I employed a brilliant but very complicated system of pipe thawing that even professional plumbers can't fully appreciate. Observe my Pots and Pans and a Hair Dryer Methodology (patent pending).

Suffice to day, Old Man Winter has me frustrated and completely exhausted. Other than ripping up the kitchen floor to get to the currently inaccessible pipes that keep freezing up on is, the most immediate solution simply must involve a cocktail. I hardly ever drink, but when I am driven to it by the torments of home ownership and vicious weather, my poison is a an icy, tart, citrusy margarita. And I declare the official margarita of this bleak midwinter and frozen plumbing: The Blood Orange and Ginger Winter Margarita.

The recipe comes from Honest Cooking, and it is simply delicious. Now that interesting citrus is plentiful, you can easily find fresh blood oranges for this drink. I would also recommend that you use a high-quality, microbrewed ginger beer for this. I love Maine Root's Spicy Ginger Brew, which has a real kick to it, and just might defrost your wintry disposition.

Blood Orange and Ginger Winter Margarita
(Source: Honest Cooking)
For garnishing all drinks:
1/4 cup blood orange juice
zest from one blood orange
1/4 cup granulated sugar
slices of blood orange for garnish, optional

For each individual drink:
2 ounces blood orange juice
1.5 ounces tequila
juice from 1 wedge of lime (I use half a lime)
3 ounces strong ginger beer

Place 1/4 cup blood orange juice into a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine blood orange zest and sugar. Dip the rim of a glass into juice first and then into the sugar mixture to coat the rim evenly. Fill the glass with ice.

In a cocktail shaker, combine one cup of ice with two ounces blood orange juice, one and a half ounces tequila, and the lime juice. Shake vigorously. Pour into the prepared glass and top off the glass with ginger beer. Stir and enjoy!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Golden Globes' Goodness!

I'm obsessed with movies and movie award shows, so I made golden foods for tonight's Golden Globes telecast: Turkey thighs glazed with honey and my new favorite Green Mountain Mustard (Clove Encounter with Garlic and Oregano), buttery, scampi-style egg noodles, and this lovely spinach salad, which is an homage to one my dear friend Rob often makes.

My version has beautiful local spinach, slivered shallots (Rob does not use these), spiced pepitas (Rob uses cashews), mushrooms and garlic sautéed in butter and white wine (or Vermouth, if you have it), crumbles of Castello Blue (Rob prefers goat cheese), finished with a drizzle of balsamic (I used maple balsamic) and garnished with hard-cooked eggs (and those golden yolks--also my addition to Rob's "recipe"). SO YUMMY! This makes a lovely side dish, but it would also be perfect for a lunch, or as a hearty and savory vegetarian entree.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Porcine Perfection Per The Piggery

I bought a small jar of smoked pork rillettes at the co-op the other day from a place called The Piggery in Ithaca. When I went to their Facebook page, they had posted an idea for a soup made with winter squash, onions, potatoes, and kielbasa. That sound perfectly yummy, so I made my own way with it today in the crock pot. I added lacinato kale for color, texture, and extra nutrition. (Sidebar: Can you believe it's kale from the garden that I planted at my friend Janice's this year? It was picked in October. I adore a long keeper!)  Oh, and this is another gluten-free recipe, if that matters to you.

Crock Pot Squash, Potato, Kielbasa, and Kale Soup
(Source: inspired by an idea from The Piggery, Ithaca, NY)

1 box frozen winter squash puree, thawed
1 quart (up to six cups) pork stock--or use half beef and half chicken
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons (up to a 1/4 cup) finely-chopped cooked bacon
4 medium to large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon paprika (swap out one teaspoon of smoked paprika if you like)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. kielbasa, halved then sliced
2 cups chopped kale
1/2 cup cream, optional

Put the thawed squash and a quart of stock in the crock pot. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the chopped onion until tender and translucent and just starting to take on color. Scrape the cooked onions into the crock pot. Add the bacon, the potato chunks, the paprika, and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about four hours on high or eight hours on low. (At this point, I strained out more than half of the potato pieces and took my stick blender to the soup to thicken it, then stirred the whole potato chunks back in.)

When the potatoes are done, brown the kielbasa pieces in the skillet, then add them and the chopped kale to the soup. You may wish to thin it with another cup or two of stock to a desired consistency. Finish by stirring in a little cream if you wish. Taste to correct seasoning. Serve piping hot.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Fiery Fermentations to Fight Future Frosts

Winter can be a very long stretch, especially here in the North Country, and especially without a lot of seasonal fresh foods to cook and eat. But thank goodness for long keepers like cabbage, kale, and root crops! I may not be doing a lot of canning right now, but I can still do a little fermenting in the bleak midwinter.  First of all, I made two quarts of fiery kimchi. Though it's below zero outside and the house is cool, if you place the jars in the path of the kerosene monitor, you'll be bubbling away in no time!

My second fermentation project may have me crossing over into witch's brew territory. This is fire cider or fire tonic or master tonic, and if you renounce your faith, join a coven, and drink a bit of this every day, apparently you live forever...or something like that. We'll see in a month or so. But even as I was shredding the fresh horseradish, it was clearing my sinuses, so it's making me healthier already!

I used the following recipe, which is extremely similar to every other such recipe on the interwebs. The only changes I made were to use half as much horseradish (I simply had to quit halfway through the grating of the root as it was killing my eyes and nose, so I cried "uncle"), and to use fresh tumeric not ground. I scrubbed it well and grated it along with the horseradish and ginger at the beginning.

Fire Cider
(Source: Foodie with Family)

1 large horseradish root, about 7 inches long (scrubbed very well)
1 large ginger root, about 7 inches long (scrubbed very well)
1 large onion, root and stem end removed and peeled
1 large orange (I used a blood orange because I had one on hand)
1 lemon (I used a Meyer Lemon because that's also what I had on hand)
16 cloves of garlic, peeled
2-4 habanero peppers, stems removed (I only used two small ones, split in half)
1 tablespoon ground turmeric (I used fresh tumeric, about the same amount as the ginger)
raw apple cider vinegar
raw honey

Grate the horseradish and ginger roots (and fresh tumeric, if using). Roughly chop the onions, orange, lemon, garlic, and habanero peppers (I cut the habaneros in half but did not chop them). Stuff everything into a half-gallon glass jar with a tight fitting lid or divide evenly between two quart sized canning jars. (I sterilized my jar by pouring boiling water over it before filling.) Sprinkle the turmeric in on top, dividing evenly between the two jars if using quart jars. Pour the raw apple cider vinegar in over the contents, allowing it to settle in through the crevices and adding more so that the contents are submerged. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the rim of the jar, then screw the lid tightly in place. Let the mixture sit in a dark, cool place, allowing it to marry and infuse for four weeks, shaking once daily. (I have not been shaking mine, as everything is suspended beautifully in the jar.)

After one month, pour the contents into a muslin or cheesecloth lined colander positioned over a stable pot. Let it drain for 30 minutes, then gather the corners of the cloth, twisting and squeezing until you cannot release any more liquid. When it's fully strained, add honey to the liquid to taste and pour into a sterilized wine bottle, flip-top bottle, or canning jar. (Tip: You can find gorgeous, inexpensive bottles and jars at T.J. Maxx, Home Goods, and Marshall's.) Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year, shaking well before using.

Some people take a shot of this stuff every day to help them stay healthy, especially during cold and flu season. I think it smells great, but if I can't bear to drink it straight when it's done, my plan is to mix it into a Bloody Mary and also to whisk it with olive oil to fashion a vinaigette for a salad. Other fermenters have also advised me to save the strained solids, and dehydrate and grind them for a zesty seasoning blend. I might try that! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

A Cozy Bowl of Cross-Cultural Comfort

So I was watching a rerun of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives one night, and Sammy's Bistro in my old stomping grounds of Park City, UT made this crazy bowl of Indian/Southwest fusion comfort food that they called the Savory Chicken Bowl with Rice. There wasn't a recipe on the Food Network web site, so I watched the demonstration a few times, and thought to myself, "I could probably recreate that...or something close to it." And I made it in the crock pot to boot!

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the Savory Pulled Chicken Curry Bowl with Jasmine Rice, Tomatillo Aioli, and Crispy Tortilla Strips. I know, it sounds like all kinds of bizarre, but it's soooooooooooooo good! And it's even gluten-free, for those who care about such things. This is one I'm going to make again and again.

Savory Pulled Chicken Curry Bowl with Jasmine Rice, Tomatillo Aioli, and Crispy Tortilla Strips 
(Source: adapted from Sammy's Bistro, Park City, UT via the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives)

Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken Curry:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, peeled and minced
4 lbs. boneless/skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 quart chicken broth
salt, to taste

Tomatillo Aioli (stir together the following ingredients to combine):
1 cup prepared tomatillo salsa (mild)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves

steamed jasmine rice

chopped fresh cilantro leaves

crispy tortilla strips (corn tortillas sliced thinly, fried in vegetable oil in a large skillet until golden then drained on paper towels and sprinkled with salt)

In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, poblano peppers and onions. Sauté until the vegetables are tender and just starting to turn golden. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or two. Scrape this mixture into a slow cooker. Brown the chicken thighs in the same--unwashed--skillet (in two batches to avoid crowding the pan and steaming the meat). Add the chicken pieces to the slow cooker.

Sprinkle in both curry powders, the paprika, onion powder, and pepper. Deglaze the skillet with the chicken broth, scraping up all the browned bits (the fond, if you will). Pour over the veggies, chicken, and spices, add a couple good pinches of salt, and give everything a stir. Cook for about three hours on high or six hours on low, or until the chicken is tender enough to pull apart with two forks. Check seasoning and add more salt if needed.

Serve chicken curry drizzled with tomatillo aioli over steamed jasmine rice, sprinkled with chopped fresh cilantro, and garnished on top with crispy tortilla strips.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Only 167 days until summer!

Tonight, we had a little taste of summer in the dead of winter: Teriyaki pork steaks (broiled in the oven instead of grilled) and a healthful, tasty salad of barley, chickpeas, sugar snap peas, and sunflower seeds, with fresh dill, little nuggets of tangy goat cheese, and a spiced vinaigrette. DELISH, and by itself, it would make a perfectly hearty lunch or vegetarian entree in the warmer months. If you don't have barley, you can use farro, quinoa, or even brown rice. I also chose to swap out sugar snap peas for green beans and goat cheese for the feta, and I added a few cloves of minced garlic, because it seemed wrong not to. So go crazy and have fun with it!

Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad
(Source: Bon Appetit)
Serves 4

8 oz. green beans, halved crosswise (I used 12 oz. of frozen sugar snap peas steamed in the microwave)
kosher salt
1 cup pearled, hulled, or hull-less barley
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 15.5-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed
4 oz. feta, crumbled (I used little bits of goat cheese to garnish each serving instead)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, optional

Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about three minutes. Using a sieve or a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water. Return water to a boil, add barley, and simmer until tender (refer to packaging for timing); drain. Let cool on a baking sheet.

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook sunflower seeds, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes; let cool. Toss green beans, barley, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, feta, dill, lemon juice, garlic (if using), and toasted spice vinaigrette (recipe follows) in a large bowl.

Toasted Spice Vinaigrette
(Source: Bon Appetit)
Makes about 1/3 cup

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toast coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing, until fragrant, about three minutes. Let cool, then chop. Whisk with oil, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made four days ahead. Cover and chill.