Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Favorite Things - Part II Main Meals

Hey everyone,
Glad you loved the suggestions of oatmeal and random snack delights.  I am so excited to see my new followers from all over the world!  WELCOME!Can you believe people in Sweden and France have not only found my blog but also found it interesting!  Who knew?!

Oh well, I thought today I would focus on some of my favorite go-to dishes for weeknight meals, packed lunches and a few Sunday dishes that will keep you going all week long.  Starting this post my favorite things has my brain racing... not only do I foresee this list being a regular post, but it is also the inspiration for a cooking extravaganza at TQ & Kimmy's house this weekend.  Stayed tuned next week for recipes, pictures and updates of who tries more vegetables... my niece or my mom!  haha sorry KQ, but we all know its true :)

Alright, alright enough family mocking for one post, lets move on to the main event...more yummy dishes that make their way from my kitchen and into my tummy!

Risotto with spinach & mushrooms (no cream needed!) -  I know what you are thinking but don't be frightened and back away from that mouse... Give me a second to explain!  Risotto may be one of the easiest, cheapest and tastiest meals to make for one, two or twenty people.  Once you embrace a few simple rules of Risotto you will be fooling your friends and family into thinking you were trained by an Italian Master in no time!
  1. Always heat your liquid/broth and have it standing by.
  2. Toast your rice in butter & oil and don't be afraid to let it start to brown.  You want that entire natural nutty flavor to come out.DO deglaze that rice w/ a shot of red or white wine! Holy Flavor batman!!!
  3. Add your broth slowly and let it all soak in. This doesn't mean you are stirring constantly for 40 minutes but you want to pay attention to when it needs more liquid. 
  4. Keep adding...one cup of rice can easily triple in size after absorbing the liquid.  If you let the rice release its natural starch there will be no need for added cream (but feel free to add mountains of Parmesan Cheese!)
  5. Once you have those 4 simple steps mastered you can experiment with ingredients to mix in, different types of broth, or whatever you like.  Have fun with it!
Roasted Veggies - On their own or added to a meal these delicious sweet morsels of caramelized heaven will make you smile!  Take any combo of root veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets etc...), peppers, and broccoli whatever your heart desires!  Coat w/ a bit of oil, salt and black pepper and roast in a hot oven till tender.  I am not lying when I say that what you will have is a pan of sweet candy nuggets that will haunt you and cause intense cravings for years to come!

Weeknight Tomato sauce – So if you don’t have a freezer full of homemade sauce like any member of my family you are going to need a quick go-to sauce on a Tuesday after work. (Seriously, I would love to poll my extended family at this moment and see how many of us have sauce in the freezer right now!)
To get started, (if you are adding sausage/meat), brown this in your pan first and then set aside.  Secondly saut√© an onion and garlic in a mix of oil and butter with a pinch of salt.  Feel free to add in any other veggies you have on hand (peppers or mushrooms).  Once these have softened its time for your liquid.  You can just add in cans of tomatoes (up to you whether or not you use pureed or diced) or add in a touch of wine (red or white) to deglaze the pan.  After adding in your liquid add your meat back into the pan and sprinkle with a bit of the following spices (1/4tsp to 1/2tsp ) Oregano, Basil, and Parsley.  Heat thru and add a touch of tomato paste to thicken.  That is it…. Now you are free to add in your favorite pasta or even over greens.  Enjoy!!!

Miso Soup (100s of varieties for this!)  If you take nothing else from this blog than my love for Miso Paste than I think I can call this site a success.  This yummy salty paste sold at most stores (especially WholePayCheck) and will stay good in your fridge for months.  You can add it to dressings, marinades and SOUP!  One spoonful of this stuff and you have instant soup. 
My common winter dinner for one includes Miso, Pea Sprouts, Wakame Seaweed (just think Miso soup from your favorite take out, trust me its amazing!) noodles, a few frozen shrimp and any other veggies I have on hand that I quickly chop thinly and add to the soup.  Within minutes I have a giant bowl of hot healthy tasty soup!  Go now and make it! (ok, well at least wait till you finish reading)

Beef Stew - This is a recipe I have put together from several cookbooks and my brain.  It will get its own post when the snow comes, but trust me when I say that this meal will be the star at any gathering or the perfect thing to have after a long day of shopping, shoveling, sledding or any other vigourous winter activity!

Greek Orzo Salad - This simple salad can be re-invented weekly to satisfy your cravings (anyone seeing a theme yet, you are in charge of your recipes! Have Fun!!).  My traditional go-to recipe involves cooked orzo, diced cucumbers, roasted red peppers, diced green peppers, red onion, kalamata olives, feta cheese, mint and parsley.  I then mix that together w/ a quick dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, S&P.  Feel free to add in spinach, chicken, shrimp or more veg..(tip: best to cool your pasta first or it will soak up all the dressing)

Turkey Burgers - infinite possibilities! Is there anything better than a juicy burger?  I think nay, but when I am at home I tend to stick with lean turkey meat and leave the greasy burgers to the professionals (we will get to my favorite burger joints another day).  For this recipe you can add in a simple mix of soy & Worcestershire sauce for a more traditional take on a burger.  Or get crazy and add in veggies and cheese (similar to the orzo salad).  Melted feta cheese in a burger is HEAVEN.  The roomie and I have also been experimenting with Indian & Moroccan spices in our burger, served w/ a cool yogurt sauce.

Rice & Beans - Anyone who knew me in my mid-20s when I first moved to Boston knew that at any given moment you could find rice, beans and a few onions and heads of garlic in my pantry.  To me Rice and Beans is comforting, delicious, nutrious and for a struggle young professional the perfect budget meal!  Canned beans are CHEAP!  I have said it before and will say it again!!


Now with a bit larger food budget this culinary favorite can be amp'ed up veggies, pulled pork or yummy guacamole

Spinach! - I know I said before that oatmeal had more uses than duct tape, but Spinach could be in the running for that title.  I eat spinach at breakfast in smoothies, eggs benny', in egg sandwiches; or at lunch in giant Salads & sandwiches or at dinner in quick soups, sauteed w/ a bit of oil and vinegar or in a casserole.  Spinach is a nutritious powerhouse that I eat usually 6 out of 7 days a week! 

The wonders of Rotisserie Chicken! We all know I love to cook, but sometimes I am tired or our apt is 100 degrees and the thought of turning on the oven is too much to bare.  For times like these a simple roasted chicken from your local grocer is your hero.  I tend to stick w/ the plain roasted to avoid extra sugars and salts from the store flavors.  I take home the best $6 spent that day and whip it up into several meals.  That night it might consist of a quick salad topped with chicken, or a mexican burrito wrap of 90sec rice, chicken, canned beans and salsa/guacamole. You can also add the chicken to any quick weeknight soup or shred it into an egg omelet.  If you truly want to get all your $$ worth, save the chicken carcass after you remove the meat and make a homemade stock with it (bring that and a bunch of root veggies (onion, celery, carrots and herbs) to a boil.  Strain and freeze and you have homemade stock for less than $10!

Ok, I think that is enough for everyone to take in for now.  I still have another 20 items on my list, (Mac N' Cheese, Fresh Salsa, Bean Salad, Pork Tenderloin, Sweet Potatoes!) but I am sure you all get the point..  I love food and I love to be creative with it.  If you take anything away from my ramblings is that cooking should be fun and enjoyable!  Don't be afraid of your kitchen or the ingredients in it.  Of course there will be epic failures (i avoided cilantro for almost a year once after a recipe experiment went wrong) but there are those times that you throw things in a pot and what comes out makes you speechless!  Enjoy those moments and remember to write down what you did!  How else will you be able to recreate it for others!