Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Carne Deshebrada (Mexican Shredded Beef)

I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but my mom bought me a really nice slow cooker several years ago.  And I let it sit in the box, unused, for months.  Shame.  Sad, sad, shame.

It's not that I ever intend to become the kind of person who sets the slow cooker every morning.  I enjoy the smells, sights, creativity, and processes of cooking too much.  But your slow cooker can be such a helpful tool and a gateway to rich, deeply savory dishes.  


carne deshebrada mexican shredded beef

Case in point, this carne deshebrada.  With minimal prep work the day before, cutting one onion, and stirring a few things together, you've got the filling for your favorite Mexican dishes ready to go.  Tacos, nachos, burritos, bowls--your imagination is the only limit.  Plus, shredded meat from the slow cooker freezes so well.  In fact, I doubled this recipe (which fit into my 7-quart slow cooker) and increased the cooking time to six hours to make sure I would have several servings the day of and a whole bunch more to freeze.

I'd say it was a good decision.   


slow cooker shredded beef

Let your slow cooker do the work with this savory, juicy, versatile, and completely satisfying carne deshebrada (Mexican shredded beef) recipe.  ¡QuĂ© sabrosa! 

Carne Deshebrada (Mexican Shredded Beef)
adapted from The Little Epicurean

Ingredients:
2 TBSP dried ancho chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1/2 tsp. dried cinnamon
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 lb. boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-in. cubes
12 oz. full-bodied lager or beer
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
2 TBSP tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-in. thick rounds

Directions:
1.  In a small bowl, mix together ancho powder, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, salt, and black pepper.  Pour over beef cubes and toss to coat evenly.  For best results, wrap meat up tightly in plastic wrap or in a plastic bag with the air pressed out and refrigerate at least two hours, up to overnight.

2.  In the bottom of a slow cooker, whisk together beer, vinegar, tomato paste, and garlic.  Scatter onion rounds into the slow cooker, creating a base to keep the beef from scorching on the bottom.  Layer the beef on top and push down slightly to make sure it is covered by the liquid.

3.  Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours, until beef easily shreds.

4.  Using tongs or two forks, shred beef into bite-sized pieces.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve in tacos, breakfast tacos, taco salad, nachos, quesadillas, burritos, or anything else your heart desires.

yield: 8 servings           

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blackberry Muffins with Pecan Streusel

I know it's not blackberry season yet (almost!), but I couldn't wait.  The fresh berries at the store just looked too good (though you can also use frozen) and I hadn't made muffins in a very long time.  Plus my mom was in town and I just couldn't let the chance to spend a little time in the kitchen with her pass me by.

We both agreed these muffins were winners.  They didn't have the heavy feel so many muffins can and, by cutting the sugar down a bit, the streusel and berries were able to stand out on their own while also balancing each other out.

Honestly, this may be my new favorite base recipe for straightforward breakfast muffins.  I think you'll like it too, especially since you could easily swap out the blackberries for your favorite fruit and use walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, or whatever you'd prefer in place of the pecans.  I'm thinking a strawberry almond and peach almond combination might be especially tasty.  Good thing I have plenty of friends and coworkers who are always willing to chow down on baked goods!

blackberry muffins

With just a little time, some classic pantry staples, and your favorite fruit and nut combination, you'll be able to whip up a batch of these blackberry muffins with pecan streusel (or whatever combo you can imagine) in no time at all!

Blackberry Muffins with Pecan Streusel
from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book

Ingredients:


For the streusel:

1/3 c. granulated sugar
3 TBSP all-purpose flour
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 c. pecans, finely chopped

For the muffins:
2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg, beten
5 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1 c. buttermilk
2. fresh blackberries or 2 1/2 c. frozen (unthawed) unsweetened blackberries

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Prepare a standard 12-cup muffin tin with liners, butter, or nonstick baking spray.

2.  Make the streusel by stirring together the sugar, flour, and lemon zest.  Stir in melted butter until the mixture is crumbly, then add in pecans.  Set aside.

3.  To make the muffins, in a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt.  Make a well in the center and add the egg, melted butter, and buttermilk.  Stir just until the batter is slightly lumpy but evenly moistened.  Gently fold in blackberries, taking care not to break up the fruit.

4.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each to a bit above the rim of the cup.  Top each muffin with some of the streusel.  

5.  Bake until the muffins are golden and springy to the touch and the sugar in the streusel melts to produce a glaze effect, 25-30 minutes.  Test with a toothpick before removing from the oven and, when done, transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Unmold the muffins and serve warm or at room temperature.  Leftover keep in the refrigerator up to two days.

yield: 12 muffins

Friday, April 6, 2018

One-Skillet Creamy Chickpeas with Eggs and Prosciutto

We all thought spring was here.  Then many of you woke up to snow on April 1st.  That seems to me to be a particularly cruel April Fools' Day joke.

But try as we might, we cannot control the weather.  What we can control is the comfort we crank out of our kitchens while holed up inside with our sweaters on and our fireplaces going.  I recommend this one-skillet wonder.   


chickpeas with eggs and prosciutto

I'll be honest, there was something about chickpeas, eggs, and prosciutto all in one dish that intrigued me--mostly in the "I'm not sure about this" kind of way.  But I'm a sucker for eggs swimming in any kind of sauce--be it with beef, eggplant and Middle Eastern spices, Israeli-inspired shakshuka, or in deconstructed Swiss eggs--so the idea of that rich, velvety, creamy sauce enveloping all the other ingredients got me.  I'm so glad it did.

This dish came together in a snap; so quick, in fact, that I'll be sure to have all ingredients pre-measured and ready to go next time I make it.  I had it for a weekend lunch, but it would work for any meal of the day and would be especially fantastic for a cool weather brunch with plenty of crusty bread, hot tea, chai, or coffee to keep you warm, and as many glasses of bubbly as you'd like.  

You may be stuck inside desperately hoping for warmer days.  I can't change the weather for you, but at least I can help you and your family stay well fed.
        
creamy chickpeas with eggs and prosciutto

With smoky paprika, salty prosciutto, runny egg yolks, and a rich, creamy base, this one-skillet wonder makes for the perfect snow day brunch that feels luxurious but comes together in a pinch.

One-Skillet Creamy Chickpeas with Eggs and Prosciutto
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2018

Ingredients:
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c. plain whole milk yogurt
3/4 c. whole milk
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
4 thin slices prosciutto
red pepper flakes, optional
French bread or flatbread, for serving

Directions:

1.  Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Meanwhile, stir together yogurt and milk.

2.  Add garlic to skillet and cook until frgrant, about 1 minute.  Add in rosemary sprig and cook 30 seconds more, until it is slightly crisp but not brown.  Transfer rosemary to a plate.


3.  Add chickpeas, tomato paste, and paprika to skillet and cook, stirring often, until coated, about 1 minute.  Add in milk mixture, season lightly with salt and plenty of black pepper, and bring to a gentle simmer.  


4.  Crack eggs into mixture and season lightly with salt.  Cover (a baking sheet works well if your skillet doesn't have a matching lid) and cook until egg whites are set and yolks are still runny, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and drape prosciutto around the eggs.  


5.  Crumble rosemary and red pepper flakes, if desired, on top and serve family style with French bread or you choice of flatbread.

  
yield: 2 servings 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Vegetable Soup with Salmon and Pearl Couscous

So it's spring.  I don't think the weather got the memo where most of y'all live.

While I'm here in Dallas enjoying what, for the most part, has been a beautiful beginning to the longer, sunnier days I've been craving, my facebook and instagram feeds show me snowstorm after snowstorm after snowstorm for many of you.  I don't know what to say.  Snow days are fun for a minute, but then spring break rolls around and that just isn't right.  

Can I offer you some soup?


salmon soup with couscous 1

It's a pretty great early spring soup, if I do say so myself.  The salmon and turmeric give it the kind of richness you want in a cold weather meal.  But it's broth based and packed with vegetables, so it's not heavy like a chowder or stew would be.  It's definitely nutritious and filling, so I guess the silver lining is you can feel good about getting ready for those glorious sundress, tank top, and swimsuit days that will be here eventually.  They're coming, I promise.  

In the meantime, enjoy all the snowball fights and fireplace nights you can.  Believe it or not, you'll wish for them back come August.


salmon soup with couscous 2

Vegetable Soup with Salmon and Pearl Couscous
from Real Simple, December 2016

Ingredients:
2 TBSP olive oil
1 medium leek, white part only, thinly sliced (Not sure how to clean leeks?  Look here.)
1 small fennel bulb, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
4 c. vegetable broth
1/2 c. pearl (Israeli) couscous
16 oz. skinless salmon fillets
1 c. halved cherry tomatoes
3 TBSP chopped fresh dill
red pepper flakes, if desired

Directions:
1.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

2.  Add the leek and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic, salt, and turmeric and cook one minute more.

3.  Pour in the broth and bring to a boil.

4.  Add the couscous, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 5 minutes.  Add the salmon and tomatoes and cook, stirring gently, until the salmon is cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

5.  Break the salmon into pieces, then ladle into four bowls and serve topped with fresh dill and red pepper flakes, if desired.

yield: 4 hearty servings

Monday, February 26, 2018

Meatless Monday--Cherry Pecan Breakfast Cereal (Muesli)

What do weekday breakfasts look like for y'all?  For most of us, breakfast is either an on-the-go situation or something you scarf down at your desk.  I'm definitely in the desk camp.  I usually eat while powering up my computer and checking my email.  It's probably not the greatest of habits, but it's how it works.

I absolutely am a breakfast eater--always have been.  I cannot imagine having enough fuel to power through my morning on coffee alone.  Nearly every morning, my desk breakfast is one of two things: yogurt with some kind of fresh fruit and granola or chopped nuts or overnight oats, which I'll usually warm up in the break room microwave.

I'll now be adding in a third option. 

cherry pecan breakfast cereal

This cherry pecan breakfast cereal (or muesli, as it would be called across much of western Europe) isn't a huge departure from my breakfast routine.  In fact, I'm sure I'll enjoy it over yogurt or heated up as an almost oatmeal while the mornings are still cold.  Let me tell you, though, the flavors are perfect.  It's very lightly sweetened, getting it's sugar from the cherries and just a touch of maple syrup.  In fact, the cookbook authors, the very lovely Sonja Overhiser and her husband Alex, of A Couple Cooks, even suggest an extra drizzle of maple syrup over your bowl.  The spices are thoughtful and present without masking the real flavors of the oats, coconut, pecans, and pepitas.  Each bite has such great texture, too.  You'll feel full and satisfied and ready to rule your morning, I promise.

On top of being absolutely scrumptious, it's easy and practical, too.  Making the muesli requires little more than some simple measuring, mixing, and toasting.  The finished product makes a good-sized batch and is stored in the freezer.  When it's time to enjoy a bowl (and when would it not be?), you can eat this almost directly from the freezer; it comes to room temperature in just a couple of minutes, helped along by the milk.  If cherries and pecans aren't your jam, use your favorite dried fruit and nut.  I actually swapped out the almonds in the original recipe for pecans.

Healthy, wholesome, simple, and versatile--what more could you want in your breakfast?

cherry pecan muesli

This healthy cherry pecan breakfast cereal (muesli) is a cinch to put together and keeps well in the freezer.  Make up a big batch on the weekend for easy breakfasts all week long!

Cherry Pecan Breakfast Cereal (Muesli)
slightly adapted from Pretty Simple Cooking

Ingredients:
4 c. rolled oats (gluten-free, if necessary or preferred)
1 c. unsweetened large coconut flakes
1 c. whole pecans, roasted
1 c. dried tart cherries
1/2 c. pepitas (pumpkin seeds), roasted
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. dried ground ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 TBSP pure maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
2 tsp. vanilla extract
your choice of milk or yogurt, for serving

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2.  Spread the oats evenly on the baking sheet, then sprinkle the coconut in an even layer on the top.  Bake 7-10 minutes, watching closely, until the coconut is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

3.  Meanwhile, roughly chop the pecans and cherries.  Put in a large bowl and add in pepitas, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and sea salt.  When the oats and coconut are cool enough to touch, add into the bowl.  Toss to combine.

4.  Pour maple syrup and vanilla extract into a small bowl.  Stir to combine, microwaving up to 20 seconds, if needed, to loosen up the syrup.  Drizzle over oat mixture and gently mix to make sure syrup evenly coats the ingredients.

5.  Spread the museli back onto the baking sheet and bake 2 minutes more.  Remove and allow to cool and dry completely.  Stir to break up any clumps, then transfer to a sealable container.  Muesli keeps indefinitely in the freezer in a sealable bag with the air pressed out.  

6.  Serve with milk of your choice or yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup, if desired.


yield: about 8 cups