Monday, March 26, 2012

Pot Roast with Gravy

Among my favorite anti-vegetable sentiments/excuses: "I am a meat and potatoes person."

There is nothing wrong with meat and potatoes. Meat and potatoes are perfectly reasonable sources of nutrients. But, that's only 1/2 your plate. A quarter meat, and a quarter potatoes. And what else is there? I guess since you thrive only on meat and potatoes, you wouldn't like a nice serving of green beans, or how about some Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, or some steamed broccoli, or maybe a few carrots, or what about come collards or cauliflower. I can go all day here, people.

You can't neglect these vegetables. Not only do I know you like at least a few of them , they complete your meat and potatoes feast. Just look at my colourful example above. I am not saying that meat and potatoes, day after day is a great idea. After all, getting a variety of foods will give a variety of benefits. But, no one says you have to eat salad and forgo your staple dinner fixings.

According to this article, getting a variety of different coloured vegetables will actually give a lovely skin colour. And after all, if health isn't about beauty, then few people would be on board.

So without further ado, I present pot roast. I used to ask for roast beef and mashed potatoes every birthday, and thought it was only something my mom could achieve perfectly, so I never bothered. As it turns out, it couldn't be easier. Just be sure to give yourself an hour ahead of time for each pound of meat you have.

Pot Roast with Gravy

Whole Pork shoulder or Beef chuck
Salt and Pepper

Heat a large pot on medium high. Add a tablespoon of oil. When hot, add your meat and brown on all sides, this should just take a few minutes. Now turn down to low. Add water, anywhere from 1 cup to a little more for bigger roasts, so that it makes it at least an inch or so up the side of the pot. Cover with a lid.

For every pound of meat, you need to give the meat 45 minutes to an hour. Actually a very flat 1.5 pounder for just the two of us took an hour, so the shape matters, too. Replenish the water as needed. Don't be shy with the water, we are making gravy with it.

When done, remove from pot, place on a plate and cover with foil. Let let a few minutes.

Meanwhile, mix up a tablespoon or two of cornstarch with water. Be sure to dissolve all the cornstarch. Bring the remaining meaty water in the pot to a boil, add the cornstarch mixture, and a little water or broth if you are lacking in volume and need lots of gravy, like me. Boil until the gravy becomes thick. Add a little salt to taste.

Mashed potatoes with Celery Root and Buttermilk

1 Celery root, washed and cut into large cubes
6-8 Red skinned potatoes, washed and cut into quarters
1 cup buttermilk or milk, warmed slightly
A few knobs of butter
Salt and pepper

Boil the celery root and potatoes until tender. Mash, and about halfway through start adding the buttermilk until it becomes a consistency of your liking. Add the butter, salt and pepper.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Figgy Necklace

This is exactly what it looks like. A necklace made out of figs.

Sean and I were in the backyard this morning looking at my brand new mini raised bed full of herbs. Some of the leftover figs from the summer caught my eye on our bare fig tree. The tree has already begun to show buds. But for some reason, some of the little dried up, hard-as-a-rock figs were still clinging to the branches. I don't know why I automatically though of a necklace. Maybe because they were so hard and obviously dried out. Maybe because they were all the size of a marble. To my delight, however, this craft actually turned out pretty well.

In order to get a hole in the fig, I had to break through the outside layer with a sturdy needle. I pressed through the bottom of the fig with the needle and pressed the needle against a table protected with a thick cloth, while holding the fig. Then I strung them together putting a few gold beans between each one. Each fig looks a little different. One is cream coloured, one has a bluish cheek to it. Some are golden. If you have a fig tree, here is one idea of how to use up all those darn figs!

Or if you need other weird necklace ideas: Rose Petal Beads.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Tale of Two "Carbonaras"

Looks like I got you in the door with "Carbonara." But the deception will have to end here. Pasta Carbonara refers to the bacon in the the pasta, somewhat resembling carbon. I plan on stealing the term, instead, to refer to how pasta carbonara is made, by adding the egg to hot noodles, so that it clings with creamy wonderful richness.

The first dish was one I made up while in the presence of several tens of Meyer lemons from my neighbor's tree, and plotting my strike against them. Meyer lemons are a thin skinned variety that are one of  the few citrus trees that grow well here in Las Vegas. They have an almost orange rind, and a faintly orange flavor. But you can use other lemons, too.

In my refrigerator, two egg yolks were patiently waiting for me, after I whipped their counterparts into a peanut butter atrocity of a dessert, that I do not wish to repeat. So I had lemons, egg yolks, and just needed a starchy base. And since I had just bought a bag of brown jasmine rice, Meyer Lemon Risotto was born, which brings me to the "carbonara" part. Risotto is often made with several pats of butter and a ton of Parmesan cheese. Instead, if you stir in a few eggs or egg yolks, you can still achieve a nice sticky creamy rice dish, and although it is not going to be exactly like a risotto, I think it makes a dandy substitute, and saves you quite a bit of fat by excluding the butter.

Meyer Lemon "Risotto"
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water or broth
1/3 cup of white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks or 1 egg
1-3 lemons worth of zest, depending on size (and your taste)
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the rice according to the package. I know this is not very risotto-like, but trust me. Don't let the rice burn to the bottom. You can always boil excess water away with the lid off. The important thing it that the rice is fully cooked.

When the rice is done, leave the heat on and turn it up to medium or medium high. Add the wine and let it bubble away, but don't let the rice get dry. Add the lemon zest. Stir half the cheese into the eggs and whip it up very well. Take the hot rice off the heat. Add the eggs to the rice, stir it up quickly to coat. Then add the rest of the cheese and black pepper to taste. Serve with more cheese at the table. A few asparagus spears or a green salad goes nicely!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Anchovies and Greens
Adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
6-8 anchovies (adds a salty, not fishy, flavor)
1 fresh chili pepper such as cherry or Fresno
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 big bunch of greens or 2 small, ribbed and chopped (Try collards or Kale)
Few grates of nutmeg
2 large eggs or egg yolks
Grated Parmesan

Boil noodles according to package.

While noodles are boiling, fry up the olive oil and anchovies with a lid to cover over medium heat, a few minutes. Mash up the anchovies into the oil when they are hot. Add garlic and chili pepper, stir 2 minutes. Add greens and nutmeg. Stir, let wilt.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with a 1/4 cup of pasta water, beating quickly while pouring in the hot water.

Toss the drained spaghetti with the kale, add the eggs and with a few handfuls of Parmesan cheese and toss to coat evenly.