Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Coca-Cola Braised Roast Beef Sandwiches

So here's a very important question: Coke or Pepsi? For me, Coke wins it hands-down. I love good ol' Coca-Cola. Pepsi doesn't do it for me. And none of that diet junk. If I'm going to drink a pop (and yes, it's pop, not soda!) I'm going to drink the real thing. And it's because I won't drink the diet stuff that I've pretty much stopped drinking pop and only drink it occasionally. Too many calories that I don't need! However, I still love the stuff!

Just because I no longer drink pop doesn't mean I have to completely strip it from my life, so here's a great recipe that utilizes Coke ... and I suppose you could use Pepsi, but why would you? Now, don't get freaked out about the whole pop-flavored-meat-thing. The cola flavor mellows during the cooking process. The flavor is savory and delicious, and people will be asking you, "What's in this? Whatever it is, it tastes great!"

Everything cooks in the slow cooker, which makes it super easy. And if you have leftovers, the meat is great for tacos. Just reheat the shredded beef in a saucepan on the stove with a little bit of water and some taco seasonings. Delish!

Coca-Cola Braised Roast Beef Sandwiches
Source: Slightly adapted from Crepes of Wrath

3 lbs. chuck roast (or a similar cut of beef)
3 stalks celery, sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced thinly
3 carrots, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 can regular Coca-Cola
1/4 cup MSPI-friendly Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground mustard, or to taste
MSPI-friendly hamburger buns

Spray your slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Add in the sliced vegetables, then the beef. Mix together the remaining ingredients (except the buns) in a bowl and pour over the meat and veggies. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

When the meat is ready, remove from the pot with tongs and place on a cutting board. Strain the juices from the vegetables and set aside. Slice or shred the beef (whichever is your preference) and add some juices if needed.

Layer the beef and then the vegetables on the buns, ladling some of the extra juices on top as needed or serve on the side for dipping.

Tip: If your family doesn't care for spicy food, use the red pepper flakes and cayenne sparingly. The heat intensifies during the cooking process!

Freezer-Friendly: Freeze leftovers in a freezer-safe package. Completely thaw the package in the refrigerator for several hours prior to reheating in a pan on the stove or in the microwave. The vegetables will turn to mush if you don't completely thaw!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Asian Meatballs and Rice Noodles

If you're looking for an Asian cuisine that doesn't rely as heavily on soy-based sauces, take a look at Thai-inspired recipes. Many of these delicious recipes use a combination of fish sauce -- which is quite stinky but incredibly delicious when added to recipes -- chili sauce and lime juice to flavor dishes. The result is super yummy! And if you like your food spicy, Thai is the way to go. But for those of you who want a tamer heat, just take it easy on the chili sauce.

Asian Meatballs and Rice Noodles
Source: Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

3 tbsp. chopped shallots or other milk onion
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1-1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bacon slice
8 oz. ground sirloin
8 oz. lean ground pork
Cooking spray
1 lb. rice noodles -- I used Pad Thai noodles.
1/2 cup warm water
6 tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1-1/2 tbsp. fish sauce
1-2 tsp. chili garlic sauce -- I used sriracha, which is available in the Asian section of most grocery stores.
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro and mint

Combine first five ingredients in a food processor or blender; process until smooth. If using a food processor, add beef and pork; pulse to combine. If using a blender, combine beef, pork and contents of blender in a large bowl until well combined. Shape meat mixture into into a 1-inch balls.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add meatballs; cook 8 minutes or until meatballs are nearly done, browning on all sides. Meanwhile, prepare noodles according to package directions. 

Combine warm water and next 5 ingredients (water through 4 garlic cloves), stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves. Add sauce to the cooking meatballs, allowing the meatballs to finish cooking in the sauce. Add noodles to saucepan and carefully toss with the noodles and the meatballs. Sprinkle with fresh herbs prior to serving. 

Tip: I took a trip to an Asian grocery store and was amazed at the variety of rice noodles that are available, however most grocery stores will only have one or two, such as rice vermicelli or rice stick noodles. Any of those varieties will work. In fact, you could use a wheat-based pasta, as well. Angel hair or fettuccine would be good.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chocolate Almond Chip Coconut Milk Ice Cream

The variety of non-dairy ice cream treats continues to grow at my local grocery store. Have you tried So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream? I just love how it tastes and the creamy texture, however, I don't like the price. Even with the occasional coupon, the price still runs around $5 a pint. Ouch! Since I have an ice cream maker, whipping up a batch of my own coconut milk ice cream isn't all that difficult, and it's much cheaper!

I found this recipe over at Whole. New. Mom. but decided to cut back on the amounts and used more common ingredients. Here's how I made it.

Chocolate Almond Chip Coconut Milk Ice Cream
Source: Whole. New. Mom.

2 14-oz. cans full-fat coconut milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup MSPI-friendly chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life Mini Chips.)
1/3 cup chopped almonds

Add coconut milk, sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, vanilla and salt to a blender or food processor. Mix well. Add mixture to ice cream maker and process following manufacturer’s instructions. When mixture starts to thicken, add almonds and chocolate chips and finish freezing.

Tip: Add 1/2 cup mini marshmallows with the chips and the almonds and you have rocky road ice cream!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bacon Muffins

I realize that with summer's heat upon us, the last thing you probably want to do is turn the oven on. But if you love bacon as much as I do, it's worth the sacrifice of warming up your kitchen to make these. They're fabulous!

I got the idea for this recipe from a Taste of Home recipe, however, their version uses a baking mix. There are MSPI-friendly baking mixes available, such as Bisquick, but I personally prefer to make my biscuits and pancakes from scratch. So I don't keep baking mix on hand. Plus, I realize not all of you are able to use baking mix because of the soy oil/lecithin or milk cross-contamination. So I came up with this from-scratch version of the recipe that all of you can enjoy!

These muffins are great for breakfast or as a lunch or light dinner when served with a salad.

Bacon Muffins
Source: MSPI Mama

6 slices bacon, diced
1/2 cup (or less depending on bacon grease) canola oil
2½ cups flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 egg
¾ cup + 1 tbsp. rice milk               

Cook bacon according to package directions in a skillet; drain, reserving bacon drippings in a measuring cup. Add enough canola oil to fill the measuring cup to the ½-cup line. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. In a small bowl, combine the egg, rice milk and the bacon drippings/oil mixture. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in bacon.

Fill 12 greased muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 400 degrees for 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Serve warm. 

Tip: If you prefer not to use the bacon drippings, just use ½ cup canola oil.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops with Quinoa

One thing to remember when cooking is that you are more than welcome to adapt recipes to your own tastes, preferences and pantries. Recipes are not written in stone! (However, baking is a different story. Too many variables depend on ingredient proportions. It's best not to alter a recipe until you're more familiar with how things work!)

Just because a recipe says to use a certain kind of cut of pork doesn't mean you have to use that cut or even pork! (This rub would work well on chicken, too!) And just because a recipe is meant for the oven doesn't mean you can't cook it in a different manner. Case in point: this recipe. The original recipe uses a pork loin, is baked in the oven and has more heat. I had pork chops, opted for the grill and cut back on the red pepper, but you can go back to the original, if you like. It's your kitchen! Do what you like!

Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops with Quinoa

1 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 lb. pork chops
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the grill. Combine the paprika, red pepper flakes, cumin and salt in a shallow dish. Rub the pork chops all over with the olive oil, then liberally sprinkle the spice mixture over the chops to coat. Grill the pork chops until cooked. (If you are using a thin cut, grill the chops over a high heat for 4-5 minutes. If you are using a thick cut, start grilling the chops over a high heat with the lid closed, flipping the chops after 1 minute. Close the lid for one more minute. Then turn the heat down to low or move the chops to the cooler side of a charcoal grill and grill with the lid on for 6-8 more minutes, flipping halfway through.) Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the quinoa and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and fluff with a fork. Toss with the corn, scallions, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes