Archive | October 2011

Slow-cooker beef, bacon, and lentil soup

Lentils are a great addition to your diet as they bring not only fiber but also vitamins and minerals to the table.  And, since they are pretty much a blank-canvas, tastewise, in my opinion, you can pretty much include them in anything!

1 1/2 c. dried lentils, washed and drained
5 c. cold water
8 oz. bacon, cut into lardons
1 lb. stew meat
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter OR olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
2 c. warm water mixed with 1 tsp. beef soup base
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp. good vinegar (balsamic or sherry would be great)
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground mustard

Brown the bacon in a skillet; remove bacon to paper towels to drain and discard most of the bacon drippings (leave just a tad bit in the pan to add flavor to the beef and vegetables!).  Turn the heat a little higher and sear the stew meat; remove to a plate to rest.  In the same skillet, without cleaning it out, quickly sear the vegetables, except the garlic, in the butter or olive oil.  When the vegetables have some nice color on them, stir in the flour, making a roulx.  Stirring constantly, allow the roulx to cook for a few minutes, otherwise your soup will taste like paste.  Then add in the salt, pepper, paprika, coriander, mustard and vinegar (standing too close when adding the vinegar will literally knock the breath out of you!).  Pour in some of the beef soup base dissolved in water to deglaze the pan (scrape all of that wonderful color and flavor off the bottom of the pan!), then combine everything in your crockpot.  Cook on low 7 hours or high for 3 hours.

Sidenotes: this recipe originally called for ground beef – I classed it up a bit with stew meat, but there is no reason you can’t go back to just ground beef; the difference would be that the ground beef should be cooked completely before you put it into your crock.  A roulx is a mixture using (usually) flour or arrowroot (I’ve never used it) used to thicken sauces and soups; cornstarch dissolved in cold water is another technique for thickening a soup/stew or sauce.  As far as I’m concerned, they are interchangeable, as long as you know that cornstarch is ALWAYS dissolved completely in cold water before adding to a hot liquid, brought to a boil, and then allowed to simmer.  Flour and arrowroot are always added to some kind of fat in a hot pan and cooked off some before the liquid is added; to ensure that your roulx isn’t lumpy, I recommend whisking as you add your liquid to the pan.  If you use a cold liquid, you deglaze your pan, pulling up all those lovely flavor notes from the bottom of the pan (as well as making clean-up easier as you’ve eliminated the need to scrub!).  Also, you don’t need to cook/brown anything but the bacon (and ground beef, if using it) before adding it to the crock.  But the browning step adds a definite depth of flavor, so if you have the time, make sure you do it – you won’t regret it!


Upside-down French toast

This is absolutely one of my favorite plan-ahead company’s-here breakfasts.  It has to refrigerate overnight, so plan-ahead.  Also, it is super duper rich and filling.  I usually don’t even serve anything else with it, although if we had a lot of people, I would probably make some bacon or sausage to accompany it.  I just make this with my traditional sandwich bread that I buy, but if you really want to class it up, you could buy some French bread and slice it up.  To make it even more rich and flavorful, use whole milk or a combination of milk and cream (or coffee creamer!).

1 stick butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
8 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
enough slices of bread to stack two high and completely fill a 9×13 pan

In the bottom of a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish, melt butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg on stovetop and stir together.  Once the mixture is well-combined, remove from heat and allow caramel to distribute evenly along bottom of pan (you may need to don some ovenmitts and tilt the pan this way and that to help it along).

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla until it is a well-combined custard mixture.  Layer bread slices two high on top of caramel sauce in baking dish – you will need to cut some slices of bread to ensure that the bread goes from end to end and side to side without any gaps.  Pour the custard over the bread, making sure to soak each slice.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, uncover and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until bread is golden.  When serving each slice, flip it over so the caramel sauce is on top.

Honey mustard glazed salmon

I love salmon, and I usually only get it when we’re out to eat.  However, if there’s a good price at the grocery store, I like to have a few tasty and easy recipes on hand.

2 salmon fillets (12 oz. total)
2 T butter
2 T dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey

Place frozen salmon fillets skin side up in a small baking dish lined with heavy foil.  Broil 4 inches from heat for 5-7 minutes.  Turn and broil another 5-7 minutes.  Brush with glaze, and broil until glaze is golden brown, approximately 3-5 minutes.

*For thawed fillets, broil 3-5 minutes, skin side up; flip, glaze and broil another 3-5 minutes.

Crispy parmesan onion chicken

A tweak on your basic chick parm recipe, courtesy of my new love of onions (thank you, pregnancy).

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. parmesan cheese (or 2 T each: parmesan, romano, and asiago)
small can of French’s French fried onions

Combine mayo, pepper and cheese in a mixing bowl.  Slather on top of chicken breasts and press onions into mixture.  Bake loosely tented on a foil-lined sheet tray at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Note: not tenting (i.e. a piece of foil folded in half length-wise and just placed over the top) will cause the onions to burn.  Changes the flavor some, but also not a bad taste.

House dressing

I got this dressing recipe from my mother-in-law.  I first had it at her house one night for dinner and I couldn’t get enough of it.  It is best made in a blender or a leak-proof food processor.

3/4 c. mayonnaise
2 tsp. dry mustard
5 Tbsp. honey
1 c. salad oil (I just use classico olive oil or canola oil)
1/4 c. white wine vinegar (I’ve also used red wine and raspberry vinegar)
dash of worchestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. minced onion

Combine all ingredients and process or blend until emulsified (the oil and mayo are no longer separated).  Chill 1-2 hours before use to let flavors marry.

Zucchini bread, by special request

So, I’m not much for baking, generally, because it tends to be very exact.  When I cook, I tend to play fast and loose with measurements.  In fact, almost all of my recipes are just guesses for measurements since I almost never actually measure anything in cooking.  However, baking??  Baking deals with chemistry.  Your measurements need to be precise so you don’t totally screw up what you are baking.  But there is one thing that I always hit out of the park – quickbreads.  What’s a quickbread?  A quickbread doesn’t use yeast and therefore doesn’t need to rise, making it quicker.

My friend’s son is a picky eater.  In a bid to get him eating more vegetables, she is test driving the quickbreads with him.  Now, mind you, quickbreads can have a high sugar content, so they should not be relied upon as a sole source of vegetables.  But they are very tasty!!  So, by request from my friend, I bring you a recipe for zucchini bread (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it)!

3 c. zucchini, unpeeled and shredded
3 eggs
1 c. oil (or 1 c. butter softened)
2 c. sugar
3 c. flour
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Mix together eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves; stir in zucchini.  Add in flour, stirring as little as possible to combine (over-mixing will result in tough bread).  Pour into loaf pans, filling only 2/3 full.  Place loaf pans onto foil lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Note: I usually get three loaves out of this recipe.  And if it weren’t for the sheet pan, I’d also have one hell of a mess in my oven.  Do NOT skip the sheet pan, I’m telling you!!


I first experienced chimichurri sauce in Argentina, while I was studying abroad.  Chimichurri is a sauce that is rumored to have been created by Jimmy McCurry or another similarly named person.  You can read the wikipedia article I linked there if you’re curious.  There is apparently a green version, but I am really only familiar with the red version, which is the recipe I’ve included below for you.  This sauce is used on all meats, either used during cooking or afterward for dipping, and for anything else.  As a double whammy for you, I’m including my absolute favorite use for it – grilled half chickens.  Enjoy!

2 Tbsp. good vinegar (I like white wine or champagne vinegar)
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
2 tsp. dried basil leaves
2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
2 tsp. paprika
1/4 c. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. onion, minced

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well.  Allow to sit for at least 1 hour prior to use.


Chimichurri chicken
1 whole chicken, bone in, skin on, halved (2 breast/thigh/leg halves)
1 batch chimichurri sauce
olive oil

Preheat a charcoal grill, using only about 15 briquettes and spread evenly into a thin layer once ready.  Gently slide your finger between the breast meat and the skin, being careful not to puncture the skin, and create a pocket down to the thigh joint.  Slide your finger under the skin covering the thigh from the side, again being careful not to puncture the skin.  Gently push the chimichurri down into the pockets using almost all of the mixture.  Spray or brush the skin with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and the remaining chimichurri.  Grill skin side down over low heat for about 22-25 minutes (chicken skin should be crispy and dark golden brown).  Oil back side of chickens, flip, and grill another 20-25 minutes.  Finger lickin’ good!