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April 5th, 2013

Quinoa with Leeks and Baby Portobellos

finished-quinoa-new

I can’t believe I’m so late in discovering quinoa.

I have probably been avoiding it for a long time because it sounds terribly healthy and boring.

Even its name sounds funky: KEEN-WAH.  It’s one of those names that you’re never sure you’re actually pronouncing right, so you just avoid saying it, ordering it, buying it and making it.  At least I did.

Yes, it’s healthy and that’s a good thing. But boring, no way!  Now that I know its brilliance, I can tell you that it’s light and fluffy and earthy and nutty and easy to make and delicious!  And you can replace your plain old white rice with this healthy stuff and it tastes EVEN BETTER. Who knew?  OK, maybe you did, but I didn’t.

Actually, the first time I had it was last year. I work sort of near the train station in Chicago (which used to be called Union Station and is now called Ogilvie Transportation Center) which is home to an awesome French market.   

You should definitely check this place out if you happen to find yourself heading in or out of our city via the Metra.  So many delicious things to try in there, including a salmon dish that I had for lunch one day. It came from “Wisma“, inside the market.

On their menu this entrée I ordered is called, “Sustainable ocean raised salmon with organic Bolivian white quinoa, asparagus, preserved lemon-oregano vinaigrette.”

Boy does that sound fancy.

Now that I’m writing this I’m thinking that ocean raised probably isn’t the best choice of salmon, right? Aren’t we supposed to be eating wild caught and not farmed salmon? Does ocean raised mean farmed?  Oh well, that’s for another post.

So, I was at the French market with my amazingly fabulous boss, Al (he made me say that), who highly recommended this fancy salmon and so I had to try it. I love salmon, but I wasn’t thrilled about the quinoa that was coming along with it (how judgmental of me!) but I went for it.

Well, the salmon was perfectly delicious and hopefully safe to eat.  But OH MY GOODNESS the quinoa actually out-shined the salmon. I couldn’t believe how good it was. I was shocked. So light and fluffy and lemony, and you could taste the olive oil and sea salt.  WOW. I couldn’t get enough. I immediately felt like I had been missing out on this quinoa business for way too long because I never gave it a chance.

Quinoa is amazing. But what is it exactly?

I know it’s a whole grain and really good for you, but I Googled it to get a few more details for us. It’s a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. So we’re actually eating the seeds of the quinoa plant.

Of all the whole grains, quinoa has the highest protein content. It provides all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Quinoa is a gluten-free and cholesterol-free whole grain, and is almost always organic.

That all sounds really good to me, especially because I have sort of upped my healthy eating a notch or two recently. I watched this documentary called FOOD MATTERS on Netflix and it really opened my eyes to the healing powers of the plant world. I always knew somewhere in the back of my brain that I should be eating mostly plants (fruits and vegetables), but it didn’t really sink in until recently.  Basically what I learned from the film is that plants are very healing and by dousing our systems with loads of veggies, we are setting ourselves up with lots of protection against whatever is going to come up (we all have our issues). And if you eat enough of them, you can take care of some issues that you may have going on currently.

This makes sense to me and I really do believe that what we put into our body matters, so I decided to buy a juicer to get more veggies into me. I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I have ever purchased.

I usually start out with a green apple for some sweetness, and then I add some combination of kale, carrots, lemon, spinach, Swiss chard, cranberries, cucumber & parsley. I’ve also tried beets and celery and I’m not a huge fan of either when it comes to drinking that stuff.  Oh, and cabbage as well. Why did I ever think that would taste good as a juice?  Not for me.

spinach

Did you ever juice anything?  It’s kind of fun. The machine gets really roaring and then you shove the veggies down a tube and they just explode into juice.  Of course when we first got the juicer, Hadley wanted to juice everything.  She said to me, “This is so much fun!” as apples and carrots were bursting. And then when the juice all blended together and came out a dark green color, she looked at it and said, “Ewwwww, gross. You’re actually gonna drink that?”

swiss-chard

I can’t get her to drink a veggie juice with breakfast yet, but I have hope.  For now, she’s sticking to fruit smoothies.

I never really knew that fresh, just squeezed vegetable juice could be so good!  I have been doing it for 6 weeks and I love it.  Every morning I have a fresh green veggie drink on my way to work, and I noticed that my nagging case of Collywobbles has virtually cleared up!   :)

I’m kidding, I don’t have Collywobbles, I made them up. But who knows what I’m warding off, and it makes me happy knowing I’m doing something good for my body each day. (Cleaning the juicer every day is kind of a pain, but it’s worth it.)

I digress. Back to the quinoa.

quinoa-bag

The first time I made this, I made it for Hadley and myself.

portobellos

I just sort of threw this recipe together because I had a leek and some mushrooms in the fridge, so I sautéed those, made the quinoa and then tossed it all together with some olive oil, sea salt and fresh arugula. WOW!

overhead-mushrooms-leeks

Super delicious. The baby mushrooms give it some heartiness and the leeks and olive oil and sea salt give it great flavor.  I always like a little freshness thrown in too, so I threw in some arugula at the end and it was perfect. Hadley absolutely loved it. We were both surprised it was so good, I think we actually polished off the whole bowl. I can’t describe how happy it makes me to see my child eating this stuff.    :)

second-finished-quinoa

I feel the sneaky secret to this tasting so good is cooking the quinoa in chicken broth. Just like the water you would normally cook rice in, use chicken broth to cook the quinoa. Just one simple change adds so much flavor! And if you want a meatless version, I would try vegetable broth for some added flavor.

Speaking of eating more plants (earlier), I started my CSA, or community supported agriculture, back up. Mine is Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks and I’m excited to say my second box arrived last Friday.

CSA

A brown bag of tasty little Shitake mushrooms showed up, along with some kale. This is what’s fun for me. It’s like my own little version of Chopped (do you watch that show?) without the competition. Whatever shows up in my box on Friday, I have to use and figure out new ways of cooking it all week. Food geek fun.

kale

So I made this a second time for a dinner with my friend, the lovely and talented Michael (who is one of the biggest carnivores I know) and he gave it a big thumbs up! This time I used the Shitake mushrooms which I sautéed and the kale that I wilted.  So delicious!  I just love those Shitake mushrooms so much.

kale-shitake-mushrooms

I’m really looking forward to experimenting with quinoa and all the veggies that will be coming this spring and summer in my CSA box (if I don’t drink them first!). I’m thinking sautéed asparagus, lemon, oregano, olive oil and maybe some wild caught grilled salmon to start.  ;)

Happy Spring!

Quinoa with Leeks and Baby Portobellos

(Serves 3 as a side dish)

One leek, sliced
(1) carton of baby portobellos, (about 16-20), sliced chunky
(1) cup quinoa (dry, any kind)
(1) can chicken broth (about 2 cups)
fresh arugula, couple of handfuls
(2) tbsp. olive oil, more to taste
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the quinoa well.

Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Rub and swish the quinoa with your hand while rinsing, and rinse for at least 2 minutes under the running water. Drain.

Dry and toast quinoa: Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, and add the drained quinoa. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, letting the water evaporate.

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Once it’s boiling, turn the heat to the lowest setting, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, add (2) tbsp. of olive oil to a pan and sauté the leeks until they soften.  Add the mushrooms and stir continually until they brown.  Add a pinch or two of sea salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Set aside.

After 15 minutes, turn the heat off the quinoa and let stand for another 5 minutes.  Fold the leeks and mushroom mixture gently into the quinoa and fluff with a fork. Add a splash of olive oil and some sea salt and black pepper to taste. Top with arugula.

YUM!  Serve with fish, meat….just about anything. Even on it’s own!

Note: (1) cup of dry quinoa makes about (3) cups cooked.

 

January 9th, 2013

spanish patatas alioli

Happy 3rd birthday, littleclove!

I can hardly believe it’s been 3 years since my very first post. Back then I was able to post weekly….not so much anymore. But I’m not going anywhere because I have so many recipes I want to make and share with you. I can see on my stats page that lots of you are still with me, so thank you for sticking around!

:)

One of the recipes I’d been dying to try are these Spanish potatoes. A few weeks ago I was making breaded chicken…

…for my brother and sister-in-law who were coming over for dinner and I thought about these potatoes. I knew I had a recipe somewhere, so I started digging through my recipe file…er, I mean my enormous, unorganized pile of ripped out magazine pages, sticky notes, napkin scribbles and website printouts (I really need to remedy this), and there they were, looking all yummy and delicious.

This is the photo from the printout. Oh my goodness, aren’t they gorgeous?

This dish is called Spanish Roasted Potato Salad.

Ah, Spain.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to visit Barcelona for 3 days and I just fell in love with this little slice of heaven city. That’s me and my girl in a quaint little courtyard.

Barcelona is bustling, exciting, and vibrant, full of colors and life and art and people and food!
(And geese!)

Yes, food is serious business here.

I’d never seen anything like the Mercat de la Boqueria, an amazing open food market. Wow! We strolled around taking it all in while eating yummy grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and the best smoothies I’ve ever had. Of course I wanted to buy a little bit of everything, but couldn’t. We drooled over fruit, vegetables, spices, cheeses, cured meats, fish, every mushroom imaginable and row after winding row of everything under the sun. Even whole pigs! Why I can’t find any pictures of this place is a mystery to me because I know I took so many….but click on the link to see a little bit of what I’m talking about. It’s unbelievable!

And at night we had tapas (appetizers/snacks in Spain) in the early evening…..and then late dinners.

Don’t you love a culture that doesn’t eat dinner until 9, 10 or even 11pm? I do, because that leaves lots of time between work and dinner to eat tapas and drink really good Spanish wine.

I didn’t know a lot about tapas when I was there, but thanks to some good friends who are in the know, and our friends at Wikipedia, I’ve recently learned some interesting things. You can skip the next few paragraphs if you want to get straight to the food. I just happen to like learning the little food facts because it’s interesting to me, so I thought I’d share.

The word tapas is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover” and it refers to a wide variety of appetizers or snacks in Spanish cuisine.  They may be cold, tapas frias (such as mixed olives and cheese) or warm, tapas calientes (such as fried baby squid).

The word tapas is actually plural, so if you picked up one of these tasty little snacks you’d be holding a tapa.

According to some, the original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Spanish taverns used to cover their glasses with in between sips to prevent fruit flies from hovering near their drink (tapar-“to cover”-tapas)…Is it just me, or is this stuff really interesting to know?

Because of this, restaurant owners began creating little snacks to serve with sherry, and eventually the tapas became as important as the sherry. There are some other theories out there about how tapas came about…one involving a sick king who could only eat small meals…..and another one about some tavern owners who were selling bad wine, and started “covering it” with the smell of strong cheese to disguise the bad wine. Ha!

Anyway, the whole idea of tapas now is to encourage conversation because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal at once. I love that because this is how I love to eat….sharing one tasty little thing at a time, with lots of good conversation. You are not committed to one large meal, you can stop at any time or continue on if you feel like it. This works well with my indecisive nature. :)

It’s also a more inexpensive way to eat which is also a good thing.

Last week I went out for tapas to this cozy place with my friend Brendan, who has lived in Barcelona and goes back every summer (lucky him). We started out with 2 glasses of red wine, some olives and bread that we dipped in olive oil. Mmmm….I could be happy sitting for hours with just this! (And more wine, of course)

Brendan wanted me to try a dish called tortilla de patata, that he had eaten in Spain. Yummy! It was sort of like a frittata with potatoes in it. He said that this version was too egg-y and traditionally it is flatter and not so fluffy. I really liked it anyway. We also ordered tomato bread with manchego cheese and jamón Serrano (cured ham). The combination of manchego cheese with the ham on a piece of tomato bread was so good! I really wanted to order a few more things to try because it all looked so good and I really do love to be able to taste different things, but we were in a time crunch and couldn’t stay. Oh well, next time!

So these patatas alioli are my little tapas gift to you.   :)

When I first came across this recipe and saw the photo, I assumed these potatoes were served warm because of how roasted they looked. But when I read the original recipe it says to let the potatoes cool after they come out of the oven. I guess the words potato salad should have clued me in to the fact that it’s a tapas frias (or would that be tapa fria?), meaning served cold, or at room temperature. I wanted ours warm, so I decided to serve them right out of the oven, but feel free to let yours cool.

I roasted the potatoes until they were crispy golden brown on the outside, and buttery creamy on the inside. I could eat them one after another just like this right off the pan, but wait…..cue the angels singing….

The alioli.

(Angels singing!)

All-ee-ohlee. We’re talking about the Spanish version as opposed to the French aioli. The name alioli comes from the Catalan words for the two main ingredients, all (garlic),  and oli (oil).  Pure, authentic alioli is made from just 3 ingredients, garlic, olive oil and a little salt.

This authentic version of alioli is time-consuming and tricky, where you use a mortar and pestle and whole garlic cloves are minced into a thick paste. Then olive oil is slowly added, drip by drip and after about 30 minutes of hand mashing and mixing it becomes the consistency of mayonnaise.

The garlic acts as an emulsifier and thickens the sauce. Really?? I still can’t believe it, but it’s true.

But it doesn’t work every time. In fact, as I said it’s tricky to get it just right, so most alioli recipes call for one or two raw egg yolks that help tremendously with the emulsification.

With the addition of egg, you are now basically making mayonnaise.  Mayonnaise has egg in it, a true alioli, does not.

Because just thinking about grinding away at a mortar and pestle for a ½ hour gives me an arm ache, and not being a big raw egg yolk fan (I don’t want to make anyone sick!) I opted for Hellman’s mayonnaise, because boy do I love that stuff. It was actually used in the original recipe, too.

I think I’ll give authentic alioli a try someday, just to see if I can do it, but this was not the night to try.

I mixed the mayo, olive oil, garlic and salt together and then threw in some mustard and fresh lemon juice for some zing. As soon as the crispy warm potatoes came out of the oven, I poured the alioli over them and it just sort of melted into them.

Wow!  They were amazing. Warm and crispy and creamy and garlic-y and the lemon and mustard gave them a great tanginess.  Delicioso!

I really had a hard time getting them to the table. After all, I had to “test” them a few times to make sure they were good.

I have a small confession to make, though. And I’m telling you this so you don’t make the same mistake I did. While the potatoes were roasting, when I pulled them out to turn them mid-way, I boldly salted them out of habit, thinking they are like French fries….never too much salt, right?

Wrong.

There is plenty of salt on them already, plus the added salt in the alioli. Resist the temptation to add more salt as they are roasting!  Mine were a bit on the salty side, but still delicious.

I made these again the other night for a little tapas party I had with some friends. I didn’t add any more salt, and they were again, amazing. I should have doubled the recipe though, because we polished them off and then fought each other to mop up the bowl with our bread! My kind of fun.

Happy New Year.

Spanish Patatas Alioli
Inspired by MySocialChef, via Food52

Serves 3-4

1 pound baby Yukon gold potatoes, skins on, scrubbed clean, patted dry
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
4 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used Hellman’s)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used Grey Poupon)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the potatoes in quarter chunks (or in ½ if they are really small) and place in a medium sized bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ¾ teaspoon of salt and the black pepper. Toss this together and put on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake the potatoes on middle rack for 40 minutes flipping twice during baking.  Make sure they turn a nice golden brown.  Resist the temptation to add more salt!

While the potatoes are roasting, you can make the alioli.  In a bowl, combine ½ teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the chopped garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice and the Dijon mustard. Mix and pour over the potatoes when then come out of the oven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 29th, 2012

grilled chicken kebobs with tzatziki

Wow. I have really neglected my little blog for a long time. But I do have a very good reason and her name is Adele.

She’s the little cutie pie on the right. The beauty on the left is mine.  :)

Look at those little faces….what a great moment in time.  I mean, seriously….the multi-colored fingernails?  Priceless.

Adele is our new little rescue pup and we just love her.  Actually her name is Adele ‘Pickle’. That’s my daughter being funny. I was going for Piper, but was overruled. I know having a second pup may seem a bit crazy since we already have one crazy hound….

But I couldn’t resist her because most times sometimes my heart wins out. It’s just how I’m built. But, wow did I forget how much work a puppy is. She is taking up most of my time these days and I am really busy otherwise! She came from a rescue shelter complete with a parasite, pneumonia and tape worms. Lovely.

For a while  we weren’t sure she was going to make it, but with a little love (shoving baby food down her throat with a syringe), antibiotics and an IV, she pulled through. And now when she has accidents in the house we don’t mind so much anymore.

When we first got her, I mistakenly thought that “mellow and cuddly” was her disposition, but we didn’t realize she was sick. Now that she’s healthy and eating again, she’s doubled in size in just a few weeks, runs around falling over her paws trying to escape our yard, pees constantly, and bites everything in site, including me. Did you see Marley and me?  Yep. She bounced back with a vengeance.

We still love her.

So I finally found some time to find my way back here.  Since I’m not home in time for dinner most nights during the week these days, I always cook on the weekends. I am a big believer in eating together as a family. Even if you’re a family of two like we are, I think it is very important time together. I grew up eating dinner every single night with my family and I know it was definitely a big part of making me the person who I am today.  And that’s a good thing….I think.

So I planned a big Sunday dinner for us a few weeks ago. I had talked to my mom earlier that week and she was talking about chicken kebobs that she had recently made. I was craving them after our talk, so I made some on that Sunday with rice, a salad and tzatziki on the side.

Have you had tzatziki?   It’s delicious.  It’s sort of like an appetizer/sauce to dip bread and other things into. I think I should probably credit the Greeks for this one. It’s made with Greek yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil and sometimes lemon, dill, mint or parsley.

I used fresh dill and it was amazing. I highly recommend it for this after tasting it.

Tzatziki is always served cold, with bread, but I could find lots of other things to dip into it. Like chicken kebobs.  :)  And don’t you love Greek yogurt?  It’s so good, and really good for you, too.

I usually put honey over it for breakfast, but it’s good for savory things like this too. I had never made tzatziki myself before, but I found some recipes that I had and sort of made up my own version.  It was so easy, too!  I love when I discover how you can whip up something so tasty with so few ingredients in very little time.

So all you do is scoop the seeds out of a few cucumbers….you don’t want them making your tzatziki too watery.

Slice them up and sprinkle with some salt to pull out even more water.  Look at what comes out after 30 minutes…

Then I put them into my mini-Cuisinart, with some olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, fresh dill, salt and pepper…..

And mixed this into the yogurt.  Done!

Well, almost.  You really need to let it rest in the fridge for a few hours before serving. This gives the flavors a chance to develop. It comes out tangy from the yogurt and lemon…and tasty from the garlic, and fresh dill.  I will now be making this forever.

So we’re still grilling, right?  Summer is officially over, but I will be grilling until the snow is too high for me to get to my grill. This particular Sunday was a beautiful sunny and 75 degree day in Chicago, so we grilled. I had the feeling that it was our last summer-like weekend. It’s now fall, and we really have to soak these days up here in Chicago because we all know what’s coming. Pretty soon we’ll be digging our cars out and drinking hot chocolate to defrost our frozen fingers.  Sigh.

So I didn’t really do anything fancy with the chicken. That’s the great thing about grilled chicken; you don’t really have to.

If you use olive oil, salt, garlic and any herb, chances are when you grill it, it will be delightful.  So that’s basically what I did, adding some lemon zest and flat leaf parsley because I had some.

That being said, I can’t stress enough how important it is to marinate the chicken for at least a few hours, maybe even overnight if you have that kind of time (I didn’t). The marinade gets a chance to do its job and the chicken comes out amazing. I put the chicken pieces in a ziplock bag and threw it in the fridge for a few hours before putting the skewers together.

I cut up the veggies and kept them separate. For the veggies I used onion, peppers and mushrooms. I would have used cherry tomatoes too if I had some.

The warm grilled chicken with the cool and tangy tzatziki was a pretty perfect combination for a late summer night. I threw a crusty baguette on the grill at the last minute so we could dip that into our tzatziki too.  YUM.

We dined al fresco and my girl talked for over an hour about her new middle school and all of her new friends and the boys who are now texting her…… and I mean like, OMG!  Everything is so exciting! And I just have to take her to Hollister because when she was there the other day with Ryann and Annika she saw like the cutest dress that was 50% off and that means it’s only like 17 dollars or something….and she really hopes coach Adam lets hers play goalie in her game next Sunday for at least like the first half…and did she tell me about Miss Larson her homeroom teacher?  She’s SO COOL!! …..and on and on and on as we devoured our dinner.

Yep…this is exactly what I was after.  :)

Grilled Chicken Kebobs with Tzatziki
Inspired by Carole McCann

For the Chicken:

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon (I would go organic since you are using the rind)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp Kosher salt
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch pieces

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.  Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix to coat with the marinade. Put chicken in a ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight if have that kind of time.

For the Kebobs:

If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes first.  This will help prevent burning, although if you look up there in my photo, mine still burned at the ends but they were fine. Also, my mom gave me this tip: use 2 skewers for each kebob for easier turning.  That way your meat and veggies won’t twist and turn when you flip them, and everything will cook evenly.

You can cut up whatever veggies you like. I did green pepper, onions and mushrooms. Just make sure to try to cut the pieces evenly for even grilling.

So taking two skewers, thread them with a piece of chicken, and then veggies, alternating as you go. I brushed some olive oil over each skewer and added a pinch more salt. Some people like to keep the meat and the veggies separate on their own skewers. I think this has to do with wanting the veggies to cook longer so they aren’t too hard. I like the veggies a tiny bit al dente, not too mushy.  And I think they look prettier this way!  But you can do either.

Heat up your grill with a medium flame, and brush the grates with oil.  Put the kebobs on and leave them for 10 minutes without touching them.  You want a little bit of a sear. After 10 minutes turn them over, and they will only need a few more minutes.  They are done when the chicken doesn’t feel ‘soft’ when touched.  (That’s what Mom told me, and it works).  Don’t cut into them and let all the yummy juiciness run out. I know it’s tempting, but don’t.  They’ll be done if they feel done to the touch.

For the Tzatziki:

3 cups Greek yogurt
juice of one lemon
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced
1 tbsp Kosher salt for salting cucumbers
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Peel cucumbers, then cut in half lengthwise and take a small spoon and scrape out the seeds. Discard seeds. Slice cucumbers, then put in a colander, sprinkle on 1 tbsp salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out water. Drain well and wipe dry with paper towel.

In food processor (I used my beloved mini-Cuisinart) add cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and a few grinds of black pepper. Process until well blended, then stir this mixture into the yogurt. Taste before adding any extra salt, then salt if needed and maybe some more black pepper. Let this rest in the fridge for a few hours before serving. 

This will keep for a few days or more in the refrigerator, but you will need to drain off any water and stir each time you use it.

And one more important thing to keep in mind:

Do not use the marinade from the bag to baste the chicken with as it’s grilling! NO NO NO.  This is contaminated marinade from the raw chicken. If you do this, you’ll be putting raw chicken juice all over your cooked meat and you don’t want to make anyone sick. Trust me, I’ve seen this done and I realize that it’s easy to forget this.

July 6th, 2012

tasty turkey meatloaf

Meatloaf makes me happy.

It’s comforting and delicious, with no pretention. It’s usually not on the menu at fancy restaurants or dinner parties. Nobody makes a fuss over meatloaf and yet it still stands up confidently and makes no apologies. Ground beef and onions and breadcrumbs and spices mixed together with your hands and covered in ketchup. It’s loved and cherished any way you like it and will be eaten forever and ever, amen.

Oh, and don’t forget the added bonus of cold meatloaf sandwiches the next day.

My mom made an all-beef meatloaf when we were kids and it was always really good. Moist and tasty with chunks of onions in it and covered in ketchup. I have made meatloaf a million different ways. Beef, turkey, 1/2 beef 1/2 turkey, I’ve added bbq sauce, ketchup and hot sauce, canned tomatoes, eggs, onions, peppers, parsley, thyme, garlic. I’ve used canned bread crumbs, fresh bread crumbs, chunks of bread (sometimes soaked in milk, sometimes not).

Most of my meatloaves (is that the correct spelling?) have been pretty good, some have been average and others dry and not very good.

My friend Allyson at work gave me this recipe (actually she recently left our company which makes me sad, but happy for her). It’s Katie Joel’s recipe, as in, Billy’s wife and doesn’t that make it fun in a strange way? Allyson said it was the tastiest meatloaf ever, so of course I had to try it, and she was right!  It was absolutely one of the best meatloaves I’ve ever made.

I was about to write the best meatloaf I’ve ever made, but Hadley is reading over my shoulder as I type and asked me to change it to one of the best because she said that she likes mine better. Aw, shucks….but I’m actually wondering which version of mine she means.

I loved it. This meatloaf was so juicy and the flavor was delicious. And it’s all turkey, too!  I think Katie Joel’s original recipe calls for beef, so you can swap the turkey for beef if you’d like, but the turkey is really excellent.

My mom always made mashed potatoes and peas with meatloaf. The peas were canned and mixed with sautéed sliced onions.

When we were little, my Dad, my brother and I used to pile our peas up on top of our mashed potatoes and then mix it up into a mashed potato/pea combo. It seems odd, but it’s really good. My mom isn’t a mashed potato or a pea fan so she skipped this, but I am happy to say that my brother and I still do it and have passed this on to our kids. Hadley requests mashed potatoes with peas whenever we make meatloaf and for some reason this makes me really happy. Probably because it makes me think of my Dad.

She just now told me to make sure I give you the recipe for the peas. So here it is friends: slice 1/2 an onion, sauté it in some oil and throw in a can of peas.  :)

Here is another thing that has been making me really happy. Our fun new pool!

Hadley and her friends have been swimming, splashing, making waves and whirlpools non-stop. Who knew a Target pool could bring so much happiness to a backyard.  And this week we are roasting in Chicago, so it’s been pretty perfect. 100º here today, not even kidding.

I don’t know if it’s all the sun and nice (sorta) weather or what, but everyone just seems to be in a happy place.  I love it.

Recently, I was driving past a church and saw an elderly man standing on the side of the road. Maybe he was a preacher, I’m not sure. He was smiling and waving at every car that passed by. My first thought was: crazy person. (More from the peanut gallery reading over my shoulder….”Mom, that is so mean to say you thought he was crazy!”).

Sorry, but that really was my first thought.

Then it was my turn to pass him and he looked me right in the eye and held eye contact, smiling and waving until I passed. Now, I’m going to sound like the crazy person, but I felt like he was really smiling and waving at me, as if he knew me and I mattered.  He was offering up a little piece of unconditional love as a gift, and it made me feel really good!  I thought about it that whole day and I’m still thinking about it now. A smile and a wave for no reason, and it really affected me in a positive, happy way.

Also recently, my next-door neighbors Bill and Christy were grilling dinner out back and over the backyard fence they asked me to join them. They were grilling shrimp, vegetables and rib eyes. YUM. I declined because I had spent the day at the beach, and my post-beach, sweaty and sand-covered self really could not in good faith crash their beautiful Sunday dinner al fresco, even though the food smelled amazing from my yard.

I poured myself a glass of wine, grabbed a bowl of pistachios and was about to call this dinner, when Christy walked over and handed me a plate of food over the fence. How sweet! This little plate of food was delicious and their kindness and thoughtfulness made me really happy.

So I was thinking about this the other day while I was walking my dog. How tiny gestures can really matter. I have a route that takes us exactly one hour to complete if we walk at a fast pace, and I decided I’d try and smile at every person I saw just to see what would happen. I wanted to make someone smile, the way my neighbors and the preacher made me smile.

The first person I saw was a Comcast worker standing at the back of his open van.  We made eye contact and I gave him a big smile. It was 6:30pm on a beautiful Sunday and he was still working. He glared back at me, no smile from him.

Oh well, I was going to keep trying.

I headed down my favorite street, a big boulevard with old houses and admired the beautifully landscaped yards while Cody happily went after every bird and rabbit he could find.

Next I made eye contact with a guy in the passenger seat of a car passing by. I smiled and I could tell it took him by surprise. He gave me sort of a 1/2 smile that he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to give. OK, not bad.

Then I came across a 12-13 year old girl who was walking right towards me on the sidewalk with her head down. She was so busy texting that she didn’t even look up at the big smile on my face I had waiting for her.

Darn.

Then came the elderly woman walking her Dachshund.  She was already smiling at me from a mile away so that doesn’t count. I love that about older people. They smile. They get it.

I didn’t smile back.

Hahahaha, kidding!  Of course I did and she smiled even bigger in return. (“That was so mean, mom!!!” she says over my shoulder as she cracks up.)

Next there was the 40-something guy sitting out on his lawn fixing something who was super cute and staring at me but for some reason it was really hard for me to smile at a good looking guy. Why is that? I looked down and picked up my pace.  Dang, I could have had a date!

Next I saw a teenage boy sitting on the steps of a church looking sad. I thought to myself, is he lonely, frustrated, and looking for someone to love him? I made eye contact and gave him a really big smile. He looked confused at first and then he really really smiled back.

That’s what I was looking for!  :)

We kept smiling at each other until I passed him. He was probably just resting on the church steps while training for the track team before he goes home to his big, happy family.  But, that one smile at him might have made a difference to him somehow, like the preacher’s did with me.  I hope so.

OK, enough with the lovey-dovey-mushy-gushy. But this stuff actually does relate to my meatloaf because that is how it makes me feel. It’s a big happy hug.

So Allyson gave me a little tip before I made this.  The recipe makes 2 lbs. of meatloaf, which I know sounds like a lot, but trust me you’ll want the leftovers. When you form the meat into a loaf, you should press it down a bit and make a longer, thinner meatloaf.  If it’s a thick high one, it may come out dry. (Sorry about yours, Brad!)

Also, another thing that I think is key to making a good meatloaf is that you sauté the veggies first.

You want that browned flavor. Don’t throw them in raw, it’s just not as good.

I added a bay leaf to the peppers and onions while they cooked, which always adds great flavor to anything, and then took it out before mixing it all up with the meat.

I noticed that the recipe only calls for ¾ cup of breadcrumbs. With 2 pounds of meat, that seemed like not enough to me, fewer breadcrumbs than I’d usually use, but I think it really helped. It was really juicy!  Maybe that’s another secret to good meatloaf, not a lot of breadcrumbs. I used fresh breadcrumbs that I ground up from day-old French bread, but I’m sure store-bought would be fine, too.

And you add a little bit of Worcestershire sauce too, which I typically do not use in meatloaf, but it must have added to its tastiness.

This meatloaf was so good that Hadley and I literally ate 1 pound all by ourselves the first night. I froze the other ½ and pulled it out last week when my mom was in town.  Just as good!  My mom said she really really liked it.

It was everything a meatloaf should be. Juicy, moist and tasty with a zing and a kick and it feels like a great big hug.

You could cut the recipe in 1/2 and make just a pound if you wanted to. But I would follow the 2-pound recipe and freeze the other 1/2 if you don’t eat it. You will love it two weeks later when it tastes just as good and all you have to do is thaw and reheat it.  And don’t forget about the cold meatloaf sandwiches!

Thanks for this, Allyson. I’ll think of you every time I make meatloaf and I’m not sure how you’re going to feel about that.  :)  We miss you.

Tasty Turkey Meatloaf
Adapted from Katie Joel’s recipe, via Allyson Kearns

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium yellow onion, diced (about ¾ cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium red pepper, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 pounds ground turkey
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup breadcrumbs, made fresh if you can
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350º.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Rub lightly with olive oil.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions, garlic and bay leaf until the onions are tender, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook until it’s tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and thyme and cook another 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let the mixture cool.

Discard the bay leaf.

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, eggs, breadcrumbs, ½ the ketchup, the Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and cooled vegetables. Use your hands and mix everything together. Transfer the mixture to the center of the baking sheet and form into a loaf. (Press down and make it long and thin). Coat the meatloaf with the remaining ketchup.

Bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours (mine took 1½) until the meatloaf is firm. Let set for about 5 minutes before slicing.

Serve with mashed potatoes and peas if you want to make me really happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 24th, 2012

roasted cauliflower with anchovies and lemon

Forgive me, Mom.

But I have to share your email with my littleclove world because your enthusiasm was great and it was what prompted me to make this cauliflower at 10:30pm on a school night.

Not even kidding, you know me and food.

So I want to share with you all a little excerpt from an email my mom sent to me the other day:

Jude,

I cooked this today and it was GREAT!!!  There is NO fishy taste, but very different and the zest really brings out the lemony taste. SOOOOOOOOOOOO good!!  Maybe Haddie will L O V E it!!!    :-)  Let me know if you make it.  All is takes is a can of anchovies, one lemon and a head of cauliflower – the rest you must have – or maybe the capers too – I have them on hand for my salads but you might not.  LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

That’s all I need to get excited about trying something new.

Well Mom, I did happen to have a head of cauliflower in my fridge just waiting for me to notice.

I also had lemons, garlic and a can of anchovies. I didn’t think I had capers because I never use them, but what do you know. There they were in the door of the fridge, 3rd shelf down, hiding behind the Dijon mustard, next to Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ sauce.

I should admit, there really was no way of knowing how old those little guys were. I couldn’t even recall when or why I used them last. I don’t particularly like them. So, I opened up the jar and tasted one.  Bitter! Is this how they’re supposed to taste? Or did they go bad?  I couldn’t tell, but I decided to use them anyway. How bad can they be soaking in vinegar like that?

There I was, late-night chopping, roasting and sautéing to my favorite Weezer song. I’m not really a huge fan of the band, but I do love this song so I had it on repeat which I tend to do sometimes when I like a song. Apparently this is very annoying to a certain 11 year old.

I trust my mom when it comes to food because she is an excellent cook. That is mostly why I decided to try this late night. Also, I was hungry! It had been a long time since my mediocre salad at noon.  I usually do not eat this late, but I figured I’d make it for my lunch tomorrow and just have a little taste tonight. (OK, only a few of you get that joke, I do realize that).

So the anchovy thing. I mean personally, I love anchovies. Extremely fishy tasting things with weird little hairy bones don’t bother me at all.

Really.

I especially love just a little bite of them in my Greek salads, mixed with feta and salty Greek olives.

But fish does bother my mom. Which is why I found the anchovies in this dish to be…..curious. She always says, “I don’t do fish.” If it’s fishy tasting she won’t eat it. But here is what’s so perplexing…. she really likes canned tuna, smoked oysters, pickled herring and sardines.

What gives?

More recently (thanks to her husband, Rich) she’s been open to eating fresh grilled fish sometimes, such as Mahi Mahi.  Living in Miami, as they do, how can you not love fresh grilled fish?  Well, she doesn’t love it but she does eat it sometimes.

Anyway, she said she found this recipe in one of her cooking magazines and I was surprised she even tried it because of the anchovies. But I knew that the anchovies in this dish couldn’t possibly give it a fishy taste at all if she loved it, because she would not be down with that.

And, between you and me, cauliflower and anchovies are not a perfect match in my opinion. Fishy cauliflower?  I had my doubts. I’ve read other recipes, pasta dishes mostly, where they say the anchovies in the dish do not taste fishy, but do taste almost nutty. How do you cook the fishy taste out of a very fishy fish?

If someone can fill me in on this, I’d much appreciate it, because it was absolutely 100% true in this case; there was no fishy taste here whatsoever. It was just good.

Also, as I’ve mentioned, I’m not a huge capers fan. What are they anyway, besides bitter?  Tiny little onions?  Pickled tiny little onions?  Buds of tiny little onions that you pickle? I’ve never loved them. Give me a second, I’m going to Google them…

Oh wow, they’re flowers!

Capparis spinosa, the caper bush, is a perennial winter-deciduous plant that bears rounded, fleshy leaves and large white to pinkish-white flowers. The plant is best known for the edible flower buds (capers), often used as a seasoning, and the fruit (caper berry), both of which are usually consumed pickled.

Flower buds, who knew.

My parents never cooked with them growing up, so I’m not exactly sure where I first had them. I’m thinking some random restaurant fish dish which would have been covered in a lemon-y sauce with capers, and I probably picked most of them out, after tasting how bitter they were. I do know that I’ve never cooked with them (why they were found in my fridge I still do not know) and I’ve never thought fondly of them….until now.

WOW.

You roast a head of cauliflower that has been chopped up and tossed with olive oil for 30 minutes so it’s soft and browned.

While that’s roasting, you sauté 3 cloves of chopped garlic with a can of anchovies. The anchovies break down into sort of a paste. You add the capers and fresh lemon juice and zest, and toss over the cauliflower. OH MY GOD!

Mom wasn’t kidding. I was hooked after the very first bite.

I never expected it to be this good. It’s zesty and bright and salty and earthy and SO SO GOOD.  The anchovies, garlic, lemon and capers sort of all just blend together to give it this amazing zing.  I can’t explain how good the capers were mixed with the anchovies and lemon.

Zesty goodness!

I was eating this over my stove at 11PM and couldn’t stop.  I really hope I remembered to pull the blinds down.

And you don’t need to add any salt (which I thought was odd when I read the recipe, but now I get it) because of the anchovies and the capers. A few grinds of fresh pepper at the end make it great.

So, Hadley is not a cauliflower fan, but she does love broccoli with lemon. So, I thought that maybe if she tried this she would like it, fingers crossed.

Well, as I’ve mentioned before, she can’t tolerate bones or skin when it comes to meat. Anything that might clue her in that what she is eating was once alive is a big NO NO for her. And she doesn’t eat fish………yet.

I made this a second time last night for dinner and unfortunately she saw me opening the can of anchovies, which prompted a big raised eyebrow from her.

When it was ready and after some struggling, I actually convinced her to take a bite of cauliflower to see if she’d hopefully like it this way.  Well, she took a bite and……….all of a sudden gave me this look with very big eyes, she started to gag and immediately spit it all into the garbage.

She yelled, “Ewwwww!!!!!  I ate a hair! I ate a bone! It stuck into my cheek! Gross! Why did you make me eat fish bones!??!!!???”

Such drama. I can hardly wait for the teenager inside of her to come out. After she recovered, she did say “I guess it tasted kinda good.”

Noted.  Thank you.

Thanks for this, Mom. I love you and your palate. And actually this dish would go great with…..well, um…….fish.

:)

Cauliflower with Anchovies and Lemon
Adapted from a cooking magazine, via Carole McCann

Here’s what you’ll need for 6 servings:

2 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 cups cauliflower, chopped into small 1 1/2inch  pieces
8 anchovy fillets, minced (1 can, drained)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp capers
zest & juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the chopped cauliflower with 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet.  Roast for 30 – 35 mins. stirring 2-3 times, until softened and golden.  When cauliflower is roasted, heat a sauté pan with 1 tbsp olive oil and add the anchovies & garlic.  Sauté for about  30-45 seconds, stirring regularly.  Add the capers, lemon zest & juice and black pepper and remove from heat.  Add the cauliflower and stir until mixed thoroughly. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

*I added a little more lemon juice and some more black pepper.*