Sunday, November 1, 2009

Slow Cooked Goodness

When we got married (four years ago already!), I (we) registered for all the fun kitchen gadgets and appliances that are absolutely necessary for cooking. I use a lot of dishes, plates, and utensils in the kitchen but don't always use the fancy electrics that we own. No more! I've pulled out the slow-cooker and decided to put it to work.

My first thought about using the slow-cooker was that most recipes call for 6-8 hour cooking times. I'm often gone for 10-12 hours during the day, so this doesn't really work out very well. Then it dawned on me - I could cook while we sleep. I can prep the food after dinner and homework and then turn on the slow-cooker overnight. So I searched Epicurious for a slow-cooker brisket recipe and got to work!

This recipe is definitely a keeper. There were a few things I didn't think about before cooking. 1 - All night we dreamed of brisket. The smell of roasting onions permeated the house. 2 - The slow cooker lid doesn't seal perfectly and we woke up to a stream of brisket sauce down the counter. Besides that - it was great!

Here's the ingredient list for the sauce (my first time using the iPhone in the kitchen - a little messy). You can find the full recipe at the Epicurious website:

The recipe did involve a little prep work - not strictly a dump and cook recipe. First is browning the onions. Second is searing the brisket to get a nice brown crust. Then, cut potatoes into 1/4 inch slices and line the bottom of the slow-cooker. Next time I will halve the number of potatoes as they took up too much room. Then I followed the recipe and put the slow cooker to work while we slept. The brisket was fall apart tender, the potatoes had a great meaty flavor, and the veggies cooked down into a tasty sauce. For two of us we had enough for a few days of lunches and dinners. Stay tuned for more slow-cooker treats!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quick Food Tour of LA and San Diego

I had a conference to attend in San Diego this past week and decided to extend my West Coast visit to visit my brother-in-law and sister-in-law in Los Angeles. We had a pretty low key weekend before I headed down the coast - but managed to take in some great cuisine! Here's a quick recap of my food tour of LA and San Diego.

One reason my brother-in-law was excited for my visit (besides catching up) was the opportunity to go out for sushi. We got a little excited and ordered way too much! But it was delicious. We went to Oishi Sushi - according to one review I read, it is the "least sceney spots in Beverly Hills". I agree - but the rolls were big and delicious. Whenever I'm out in California I try to order fish that we don't always see here in Boston. We had some great albacore.

For our Saturday night adventure, we trekked over to Hollywood to witness the excitement that is Thai Elvis. This man has been impersonating Elvis for 30+ years - and the food was great too! We had some pad see ew, chicken green curry, and veggie pad Thai. The Thai Iced teas were like slushies and perfect for cooling off after the spice.

After a fun weekend in LA, I hopped on the Pacific Surfliner and headed down the coast to San Diego. I never have high expectations for conference food, so I made sure to get some restaurant recommendations before I left for CA. I'm glad I did! I had three great dinners and a delicious lunch. It's fun to be solo diner sometimes - you can strike up conversations with strangers and get great recommendations from the bartenders!

I didn't get pictures from my first dinner at the Princess Pub. I had the 'best fish and chips in San Diego' at this English pub in the Little Italy neighborhood. Had a great California brew - an award winning Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA (delicious). The next night I was starving after the conference function - so I headed out into the Gaslamp Quarter looking for a place to grab some dinner. I decided on sushi - more albacore and Hawaiian yellowtail. And another local California brew.

I had almost a full day for site-seeing before getting on the red-eye flight back to the East Coast. I asked the hotel concierge for a tip on a good Mexican place that he would eat at (not a tourist destination). I knew he was pointing me in the right direction when he told me to "go to Maria's, she should be open now". I got a fish taco (when in San Diego...) and was very happy!

After spending the afternoon touring the USS Midway, I headed back to the Gaslamp Quarter for a tapas dinner at Cafe Sevilla, a recommendation from a well-travelled college friend. I pulled up a seat at the bar and found out I made it in time for half-price martinis and tapas. The bartender, Ray, recommended some albodingas in a sherry garlic sauce and I also ordered the spicy potatoes. To wash it down, I had a margarita-tini. I had never heard of Licor 43 before, but now I'm a fan! Of course no meal is complete with a cheese course, and this was no exception. I tried a creamy tronchon tres leches that was served with almonds, chutney, and preserves. A great end to my West Coast swing!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Catching up - A Budget Friendly Get Together

I'm seriously behind in posting from the last few weeks. These next few posts will be out of chronological order, but no less delicious.

My sorority alumnae chapter is active and each month a different member hosts a get together of their choosing. My month was October and I decided to host a Sunday afternoon board game party. The party started just after the 1 p.m. football games ended and ended before the Sunday night sitcoms came on. With about 8 people scheduled to attend I got to work planning the menu! On the game menu: Apples to Apples, Scattegories, and a Uno themed Jenga. We had a blast!

I decided to challenge myself to make this a budget friendly party using mainly items from the pantry (with a few twists). Game playing calls for finger foods and dishes that can sit out for a few hours (no mayo!). My menu brainstorming session resulted in chips, dips, veggies, some pasta salad, and desserts. Nice and simple and easy to prepare - almost no cooking involved! Another bonus, most of the dishes were 'not bad for you' (healthy might be a stretch when they all are eaten with chips).

The non-pantry items for the party were the chips - old favorites tortilla and pita chips - and store bought salsa. I also picked up a bag of the new Ming Tsai sesame rice chips.

The star of the non-pantry items was a kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) that I picked up from the weekly farmer's market.

When the hubby and I were in Vancouver on our honeymoon we had an unbelievable kabocha squash puree with a sweet whipped cream. When I saw the squash at the market I knew I had to try it! I treated in like a potato for the cooking method and pureed it with some butter and maple syrup. More butter would have made it a little richer, but I forgot to restock my butter supply at the store. I served it chilled as a dip with the pita chips. It would also be great thinned with some broth and served as a soup. I also cleaned up the seeds and toasted them with maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and salt. Great for snacking while making the rest of the meal!

Maple Kabocha Squash Dip (puree)
1 kabocha squash
1/3 (ish) cup of maple syrup (I used grade B)
1-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Water for cooking

Start by cutting the squash into halves or quarters
Scoop out the seeds and set aside for roasting
With a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the squash pieces
Cut into 1 inch pieces
Fill a large pasta pot with about 2 inches of water
Add the squash (it will not be covered by the water)
Sprinkle the salt over the top
Bring to a boil and then reduce immediately and simmer for 10-12 minutes (until squash is tender)
Drain and put the squash into a bowl
With an immersion blender, blend the squash until it is a smooth consistency
Stir in desired amount of butter and maple syrup
Chill and serve

Next up on the menu - white bean, garlic and parsley dip. This was gone by the end of the party. Simple ingredients - great taste. All you need is 2 cans of cannellini beans, 2 cloves of fresh garlic, a handful of parsley, and some olive oil. Throw it all in the food processor with some salt and pepper and that's it!

The pasta salad was easy - tri-colored rotini, pesto from the freezer, chopped fresh basil from my basil plant, frozen peas, and olive oil.

The only thing left untouched at the end of the party was the store bought salsa. I'd consider the party a success! Counting the pantry items as $0 + chips, salsa, and the squash, the grand total for the party was around $20 for a party of 8. The guests brought the drinks and left feeling full!

Looking forward to the next get together!


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