Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Braised Beef with Porcini Mushrooms

A few years ago our family spent Christmas in Sarasota, Florida. We wanted to make something festive to celebrate the holiday so my mom made the below Braised Beef recipe. It was super easy, just required a some time in the oven, and turned out fantastic. This year we decided to make the recipe again for our family Christmas in Kansas City and it was as good as I remember.

I think this is a perfect recipe for the holidays, entertaining during the winter months, or even just a Sunday family dinner. It's hearty and warming and makes the kitchen smell great plus it will please even the pickiest of eaters (maybe just don't mention there are mushrooms in the sauce). Depending on the crowd you are feeding, you are also likely to end up with leftovers that can be made into a simple beef and vegetable soup. Can't beat a great meal plus the possibility of leftovers!

I planned to take a second picture once we put everything on the serving platter but forgot. 
Braised Beef with Porcini Mushrooms
** adapted from Food Network, recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 6
Prep/Cook Time: 3 1/2 hours

1 (4 pound) boneless beef chuck roast
salt and pepper
3 T. olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 cup dry red wine
1 3/4 cup beef broth
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish
1 bag whole carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
10 small yukon gold potatoes, cut in half

Preheat oven to 350.

Dry the beef with a paper towel and then season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Transfer the beef to a plate. Add remaining tablespoon oil to the pan, add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the wine, broth, and mushrooms and boil for about a minute. Return the beef to the pan, bring the liquids to a boil and then cover and transfer the oven. Braise for 1 1/2 hours and then add the carrots and potatoes to the pan and braise for another 1 1/2.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Tent the beef with foil and let stand 15 minutes. Meanwhile, skim off any fat from the pan juices and set aside the potatoes and carrots. Add the rosemary to the dutch oven and heat the sauce over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then season with salt and pepper to taste. (If you prefer a thicker gravy you could add a little cornstarch while the sauce is being heated).

Cut the beef across the grain into 1/2 inch thick slices. Arrange the sliced beef on the patter and garnish with rosemary. Arrange the potatoes and carrots around the beef and spoon the sauce over when serving.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pecan Topped Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread is one of my favorite things to make over the holidays. I started using the below recipe about 4 years ago and haven't bothered to look for a new one. This recipe is so simple and it tastes great. Back in my roommate days, my friend Lesley and I would make loaves and loaves for coworkers, bosses and friends. Now I just double the below recipe so I can have a few loaves to give as gifts and then a leftover loaf for myself. The bread freezes great, just cover tightly with plastic wrap and then a sheet of aluminum foil. Chances are good though that the bread will never end up making it to your freezer!
No, my photography skills did not dramatically improve over the holidays. The picture is courtesy of Cooking Light.
Pecan Topped Pumpkin Bread
** from Cooking Light

Makes two 9x5 loaves
Prep/Cook Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

3 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup fat free plain yogurt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup water
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through allspice) in a large mixing bowl.

Place sugar, egg substitute, oil, buttermilk, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add 2/3 cup water and pumpkin, beating at low speed until blended. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Spoon batter into 2 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle pecans evenly over batter. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
** Check the bread after 45 minutes of baking--you may need to cover the loaves with aluminum foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan

Brady made the below roasted cauliflower recipe at Thanksgiving and we made it again the other day. I've made other roasted cauliflower recipes before but this is by far the best I've had. The herbs and touch of Parmesan give the dish such great flavor plus I like the addition of the lemon juice. This recipe could easily be made with whatever herbs you have on hand or find on sale; we used different herbs then those in the original recipe and I think the dish turned out great!

Roasted Cauliflower with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan
** from Cooking Light

Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

6 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
1 T. olive oil
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary
1 T. chopped fresh sage
1 T. chopped fresh chives
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. graded fresh Parmesan cheese
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 450.

Place cauliflower in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with oil; toss well to coat. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring after 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with half the rosemary, half the sage and half the chives. Also sprinkle with the minced garlic. Bake for an additional 5 minutes. In a serving bowl, combine the cauliflower mixture, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and remaining herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops

I think the below recipe might be Paula Deen's one and only healthy recipe. Anyone who has ever made a Paula recipe (or just watched her cooking show) knows that she loves butter, cream, oil and more butter. Brady made these bourbon glazed pork chops this week and not only were they shockingly healthy but they were super easy and tasted great. I believe that Brady even deemed this his new favorite pork chop recipe. We served the pork chops with a great roasted cauliflower side dish which has definitely taken the title of my new favorite cauliflower recipe :)

Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops
** from Food Network, recipe by Paula Deen

Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

2 T. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. packed dark brown sugar
1 T. bourbon
2 center cut boneless pork chops
1 clove garlic, minced
garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450.

In a small bowl, combine a little bit of salt, pepper and garlic powder. Set aside.

In another small bowl, combine the mustard, brown sugar, and bourbon. Rub the pork chops with the minced garlic, the salt/pepper/garlic seasoning, and half of the glaze.

Heat a large grill pan over medium high heat. Coat with cooking spray. Place the chops on the grill. Grill about 4 minutes on each side and then move the pan to the oven to finish cooking the chops for an additional 5-7 minutes (or until no longer pink). Top the pork chops with the remaining glaze before serving.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sausage, Kale and White Bean Soup

I made the below Cooking Light recipe for Sausage, Kale and White Bean Soup this afternoon. I thought this soup sounded perfect for lunches this week. I loved that the soup had minimal ingredients. This turned out to be an even bigger plus because I went to Trader Joes after doing my Christmas shopping (ie. no free hands for carrying groceries). The original recipe didn't have the garlic or the herbs but I thought the flavor was a little bland so I added them and the additions made a big difference. If the holiday sweets, treats and feasts are starting to make you feel a little blah, this tasty and healthy soup is perfect for getting you back on track (or least giving you a little break before the Christmas and New Year's grazing begins!)

 Sausage, Kale and White Bean Soup
** adapted from Cooking Light

Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves 6

2 Spicy Italian chicken sausage links, chopped
6 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth 
2 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained 
1 bag coarsely chopped kale (about 8 ounces)
2 (16-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
Grated Parmesan cheese

In a small skillet coated with PAM, saute the chicken sausage for about 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic and saute another minute.

Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, heat the chicken broth and undrained tomatoes over high heat. Once boiling add the white beans and chicken sausage. Stir in the chopped kale, oregano and dried basil and cook about 2 minutes or until the kale has wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with a little grated Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mushroom Ragu

Last winter I made a mushroom bolognese, it was good but the below recipe for mushroom ragu is even better. Brady made the mushroom ragu for us before Thanksgiving and we both absolutely loved it. I love that this is a hearty and filling dish yet it's meat free. This is a recipe that could easily be lightened and requires little ingredients. We served our ragu over whole wheat gnocchi but it would be terrific over any type of pasta.
Sorry, not the best photo but I promise it tastes good!
Mushroom Ragu
** from Food Network, recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 45 minutes

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil (this could be decreased)
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound mixed mushrooms, chopped
1/2 c. Marsala
2 c. chicken broth
1/3 c. heavy cream (you could substitute half and half)
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 c. flat parsley, chopped
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

In a large skillet heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic over medium-low heat until the onions have softened, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Raise heat to high and saute until mushrooms are tender and all the liquid has evaporated. Remove pan from heat and pour in Marsala. Return pan to stove and allow wine to evaporate, about 3 minutes.

Add chicken broth and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the sauce has reduced by half. Add the cream and mix well. Take the pan off the heat add the fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese and mix thoroughly. Serve over your favorite pasta.