Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bean Salad. WITH BARLEY!

I love barley but I never make it. Heck, unless it's in a soup, I never eat it. Today I decided to go into my first foray into making barley as a major part of a meal.

Enter: Bean and Barley Salad

This salad is crunchy, chewy (in a good way) and filling. It's also incredibly cheap. All these ingredients cost maybe $15, and you wont be using nearly all of it for this recipe. The most expensive ingredients, the vinegar and oil will last for MONTHS.

1 can of mixed beans
1 cup of cooked barley (cook according to the package)
1/2 cucumber diced
2 tbsp diced red onion
1 handful of chopped cilantro
big handful of grape tomatoes, cut in half
balsamic vinaigrette
salt and pepper
baby spinach
Optional: whatever other veggies you might like... hot peppers, olives, maybe a green apple?

Let's do it!
Throw the beans, barley, and veggies (except spinach) plus maybe about 2 tbsp of vinaigrette and a squeeze of lemon into a leak-proof container. Give it a taste. Season with a dash of salt, and more lemon, pepper and vinaigrette as needed. In an effort to use less salt, try adding more balsamic or lemon instead. What you're looking for is a nice, full flavour, without destroying your kidneys. Let this marinate in the fridge. Shake it up every couple of hours to really let the flavours meld. Or eat it right away, whatever.

If you've never made balsamic vinaigrette before, it's very simple. 1:1 ratio of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Put in a jar and shake. Because my coworkers don't steal food, I have a bottle of both balsamic and olive oil in the cupboard. I put them in a jar and shake before pouring over my salads. Yes, you're also supposed to add some mustard, chopped garlic and salt, but I don't always do it and it ends up just fine. I tend to put a little more balsamic than olive oil, but only because I love sour flavours.

Lunch it up!
If you're going to eat your lunch within maybe 4 hours, you can throw your spinach in a container, then top with the bean salad and some more dressing. The dressing will season the spinach without making it too soggy. If you love your spinach crunchy, package it in a separate container. If you can, bring some vinaigrette in a jar so you can season it to taste when you get to work. I tend to drench my salads in dressing, particularly balsamic vinaigrette, thus my salad-dressing supplies at work.

There you have it, a healthy lunch that combines whole grains, protein, dark greens and vitamin C! This recipe will yield about 4 servings, which makes it a great thing to make on a Sunday night and eat throughout the week.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bob Blumer's 5-Minute Turkey Dinner

(Yes, I wear pearls to work. But no makeup. I like to keep them guessing.)

I haven't posted much since I've been too busy to make anything different. I've been sticking with all the basics, or going out.

In an effort to save some time, I tried a recipe online that worked pretty well, Bob Blumer's 5-Minute Turkey Dinner. I paired it with some brown rice and sauteed veggies and it was a great lunch. The gravy part didn't work out very well for me, as I didn't have marsala, or any other wine, in the house. Just beer, which though refreshing, does not make a great gravy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Garlic aioli.. semi lazy style

I still have some corned beef left from this post, so it's sandwich time. But not any ordinary sandwich.. my supremely lazy take on Vietnamese subs (in the future, non-lazy Vietnamese subs. I promise.) The star of this sandwich is the garlic aioli, which gives it an intensely savoury flavour, plus a delicious smell that makes you want to rip into your sandwich even though you're sitting in the dentist's waiting room (I didn't).

Garlic Aioli
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp grainy dijon mustard (I use the President's Choice brand)
2 heaping tbsp mayonnaise - do not cheap out here, Miracle Whip and "Mayonnaise-style dressing" do NOT count.

Let's do it!
Peel the garlic and chop it finely. Transfer it to a mortar and pestle (I don't know which one is the bowl) and go to town with it. Mash it up really well. You want it to be a paste. Mix the garlic paste with the rest of the ingredients in a sealable container. I have no idea how long this keeps for, we usually use it up pretty quickly.

Some thinly sliced cucumber
Sliced canned corned beef
Fresh basil
Garlic aioli
Vietnamese sub bun (different from regular buns as it uses rice and wheat flour)

Let's do it!
I don't need to tell you how to do this, do I? Okay fine.

Cut the bun in half lengthwise and spread a thin layer of the aioli on both halves. Cucumber on the bottom, corned beef in the middle and basil on top. Now you have a garlicy, savoury and crunchy sandwich! Roll it up in some parchment paper and secure with a rubber band. Now you're good to go.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fried Vermicelli with Canned Corned Beef

Canned corned beef. The food of my childhood. It's comforting, easy, and cheap. If I see it on sale, I usually buy a couple of tins because I really like having it around.

1/2 pack thin vermicelli, cooked according to directions, drained and rinsed with cold water
1/2 can corned beef, cubed
1 large shallot, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small carrot, grated

1/8 cup fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp turmeric
squirt of Sriracha (a mild hot pepper sauce with a rooster on it. Found in Asian grocery stores, or in the International aisle of conventional grocery stores)
2 drops sesame oil

A handful of chopped, fresh Thai basil

Let's do it!

Cook and rinse the vermicelli. I used Y&Y brand, the green one. Let it drain in the sink while you do everything else. You want it to be pretty dry. Take some kitchen scissors (or regular, clean scissors) and snip the noodles until they're all roughly 2 inches long at the maximum.

Mix all the sauces, turmeric and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a wok to medium heat. Fry the garlic for about 30 seconds, then add the shallots. When things start to turn colour, add the corned beef and carrots. Stir fry until the corned beef is soft and comes apart easily.

Dump in the noodles and turn up the heat to high. Stir quickly until everything is mixed well. Add the sauce mixture and keep frying. If the noodles are drained enough, it shouldn't stick. Keep frying until it's all dry and you hear a crackling noise. Stir in basil. Taste test, and adjust the flavour to your liking.

You can stop stirring every once in a bit if you want crunchy parts, but this is where I get lazy and just throw it into a lunch container.

Diagnosis... delicious! I've never made this before and I looooooved it. I might put some more turmeric so the colour is brighter, and add some chopped up chili peppers in it, since I like things hot, but I'm definitely making this again. Here's hoping the husband likes it, too.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Roast Chicken - The meal that spawns more meals

Roast chicken is the perfect Sunday dinner. Throw together some veggies on the side, like steamed carrots or peas, a grain, like brown rice, and you're DONE. After dinner, you can sit in front of the tv and shred the meat off by hand and put in a container for lunches for the week.

Here are some basics on how to make a roast chicken

There is some conflicting thought about how effective brining is for keeping moisture in your chicken. I like to do it. Here's how:

In a small pot, boil some water.
1/4-1/2 cup of salt (I don't measure this, I just dump salt in)
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
a few bay leaves
some peppercorns
dried or fresh thyme, rosemary and sage (once again, I don't measure. Maybe I use 1/2 tsp of each)

Boil for a few minutes and let cool a bit.

If your chicken came trussed, cut the strings. They will slow down the cooking. Think about it: do you want a pretty chicken, or a half overcooked, half undercooked chicken?

Place your chicken in a sealable container that will hold the whole thing. Fill halfway with cold water. Pour in the brine mixture and add more cold water until it covers the chicken. Put the lid on and let the chicken sit overnight (or at least 6 hours)


Set the oven for 350ºF.

Drain and rinse your chicken. Pat it dry with paper towels. Cover the chicken breast with two layers of greased tin foil.

(I realize that all these pics look kind of gross, I blame it on the chicken being frozen before cooking. I found chicken on sale and didn't have a plan for it right away!)

Place the chicken in some bakeware that will fit it. If you like, you can roughly chop some carrots, celery and onions to sit the chicken on. That adds to the deliciousness and gives you chicken-flavoured veggies as well.

Roast the chicken for 30 minutes for each pound. Every half an hour, open it up and turn it 180º so it cooks evenly. When it's halfway done (according to your calculations), take off the foil.

Half an hour before you think it's done, take the dish out and tip it towards the opening. If the juices come out clear, it's done. If it's still bloody, it's not. Put it back in. Ideally, you have an instant read thermometer and use that. Stick it in thigh, close to the body. It should read 150ºF. If so, take it out and let it rest on the counter (on a trivet!) for about 15 minutes to finish.

That's it. Roast chicken. Time consuming, but ultimately easy, and ultimately delicious.

You can use the chicken in the following LLL recipes:
Chick'n Chicken Salad
Crunchy Chicken Salad Sandwiches
or dress up just about any salad or pasta. In the top pic, I just threw the chicken on some field greens, chopped up some avocado and poured balsamic vinaigrette over it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chicken and Red Peppers with Rice and Sauteed Asparagus

I don't want to alarm anyone here, but I need to tell you all something very important: it is currently asparagus season. Asparagus is woody and gross the rest of the year, but in June, it is amazing. Go buy some now!

This recipe is a way simpler Chicken Basquaise, though it would seem that it takes the same amount of time. But, I stress, that it's still way easier.

Chicken and Red Peppers
1 chicken thigh
3 red peppers, seeded and sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp paprika
cooked rice. I should note that this was my first successful attempt in making basmati rice. The key? Read the package and follow the directions. What a crazy world!

Heat some oil in a pan on low and throw in throw in the red peppers, onion and garlic. We want to caramelize these, so keep the stove on very low and stir it every once in a while. This step takes maybe 30 minutes. If you have the confidence, go read a book or something, but keep your ears and nose sharp for loud sizzling or a strong pepper smell. This means that it's burning, or very close to it. If it's about to burn, add some water to the pan and scrape up the brown bits. Actually, you're going to want to do this the entire time.

When everything is nice and soft, and the onions are little tangled messes, stir in the paprika and put in your chicken, skin side down. If everything looks very dry, add maybe 1/4 cup of water. Cover and let this slowly cook for about 10 minutes. Check for burning and turn the chicken every 10 minutes until cooked, maybe another 30 minutes. It should be falling off the bone.

When that's done, extract the bone (I used a pair of tongs and a fork) and shred the meat a bit. Stir it around so that it's covered in sauce. Serve with rice!

There are a lot of ways to make asparagus, but first, some basics. When buying asparagus, try to get the thinnest ones. Also, make sure they are nice and green, and don't look like they're going to crumble in your hand as soon as you get home.

When you're ready to cook them, break off the bottom ends. This will ensure that you actually break off the woody parts, otherwise you'll be chewing this stuff forever. I like to give the stems a good peel, as well.

Heat a pan with some oil and toss the asparagus in. Toss to cook evenly, sprinkle with a dash of salt and put on a nice plate. You can also cook these on a grill or in the oven. Squeeze some lemon on it before you're ready to eat.

I like it chopped up in salads, or just as a nice side dish. Just make sure you're not giving any urine samples in the next couple of days, or you will make some lab technician's job even more unpleasant than usual.