Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No More Boring Leftovers Continued: Asian Meatballs with Udon and Beef Broth

Soup is a quick and easy thing to prepare at the last minute. Unfortunately, the idea equated with soup is generally a huge vat with tons and tons of leftovers. With this soup, I've tried to create just the right amount, using my pre-made ground meat mixture .

I used store bought beef broth for my base, because it's flavorful and simple. I generally buy organic is possible, the increase in quality is well worth the small increase in price when it's the entire base of a dish. Then I supplemented the meatballs with scallions, mushrooms, and udon noodles for some added texture and flavors to my soup.

The result was quick: 20 minutes max from start to finish, and an incredibly comforting, warm, and homey feeling dish. Perfect for a cold night.

Asian Meatballs with Udon and Beef Broth

Served 2.
Leftover Potential: Take out just the right amount of meat so there are no leftovers!

1 cup ground meat mixture
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup bread crumbs (or panko)
1 tbsp oil, for cooking

1. Combine meat mixture with the egg until well combined.
2. Add the bread crumbs/panko and mix thoroughly.
3. Using your hands, divide the meat into small balls (slightly larger than bite size).
4. In a medium pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Place the meatballs around the pan, allowing them to sear until browned, approx. 1-2 minutes.
5. Turn the meatballs over, repeating the cooking on the other side. Cover the pan and let steam until finished, another 2 minutes. You can test the meatballs by cutting into them. Set aside.

1 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 can beef broth
2 oz noodles (wide noodles or lo mein work best)
6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
other vegetables, as desired, thinly sliced
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

2 scallions, cut into 1/8" strips
meatballs, cooked

1. In a small pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until aromatic, about 1 minute.
2. Add the beef broth, and bring to a gentle boil. Add the noodles and allow to cook until tender.
3. When the noodles are nearly finished, add the mushrooms and other vegetables and allow to cook until tender.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and finish with scallions and finished meatballs. Allow meatballs to heat through if they've had time to cool.
5. Serve in warm bowls with spoons and chopsticks.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No More Boring Leftovers Continued: Homemade Dumplings

I love dumplings.  If you've read my previous blog, you know that the day I discovered how easy they are to make was a very happy day in my house.  And just to make the whole thing even easier, the pre-made ground meat mixture is waiting for me in the fridge when I come home.  I can take out just the right amount  to make 6, 10, or 20 dumplings depending on how many people I'm feeding. 

Paired with some frozen edamamme, it's a super simple and really delicious meal prepared in no time!

Homemade Dumplings

Served 2.
Leftover Potential: Take out just the right amount of meat so that there will be no leftovers!

1 1/2 cups flour
pinch salt
1/2 cup water, or as needed

1.  Mix flour and salt together well.  
2.  Slowly add water, mixing dough into a smooth mixture that comes together completely.  Add more water as needed.
3.  Cover with a damp paper towel and let sit for 15 minutes.

soy sauce or sweet chili sauce, for dipping

1.  Roll the dough into a thin log, about 1/2" thick.  Using a knife, cut the dough into even pieces.
2.  Roll each piece of dough into a thin circle (about an 1/8" thick).  Place some filling in the center.  
3.  Dip your finger into some water, and run it around the edge of the dough.  Bring the edges together in the center, and press firmly to seal.
4.  Pan fry or steam as desired.  Pan frying will take about 4 minutes, steaming will take 3-5 minutes.  
5.  Serve with dipping sauce and salted edamamme!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Answer to No More Boring Leftovers

Sometimes I like to use the weekend to prepare meals for the week ahead - especially when I know I have a lot on my plate. But I also don't necessarily like to rely on leftovers. It's easy to get burnt out after eating the same thing three days in a row. Which is why I got the idea to prepare a base using ground turkey that I could use to make multiple meals throughout the week.

I combined the turkey with some other basic ingredients and a marinade that would keep the turkey moist and flavorful. Then I kept it tightly wrapped in the refrigerator, taking out only the amount that I need each day.  

It may appear that there's a lot of specialized ingredients, but these simple and inexpensive additions to your cabinet will enable you to make a huge amount of asian dishes, so it really is worth it!  You can alter the marinade as you wish.

Asian Ground Meat Marinade

Serves for three-four meals
Leftover Potential: made for more interesting leftovers.  Provides 3-4 meals.

1 lb. ground turkey, pork, or other meat
1 container mushrooms, finely chopped
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp ginger, finely minced
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp  fish sauce
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper

1. Mix ingredients to combine.  Add more ingredients as necessary.

***Check following posts for the meals made using this mixture.

Other options:
-saute the ground meat with veggies and noodles for a stir fry.
- saute the ground meat and serve with lettuce leaves and raw veggies for wraps.
-form the meat into balls, cook until done, and cover with a spicy curry or other sauce.  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Cookies - Apartment Style

Christmas is a time of year when everyone is expecting (or needing) some baked goods in their lives. Company is always stopping over, and there are parties galore - at work, kids' schools, and for family and friends. But for someone who lives in an apartment - this can be a scary time. My current baking equipment consists of a cookie sheet and a muffin pan...but that isn't even the main enemy to my Christmas baking's time.

My mother makes these delightful morsels of chocolatey goodness every year at Christmas because they done in the blink of an eye...making it the perfect last minute hostess gift or cookie contribution. I made them this year for some friends stopping by because I didn't have much time to think creatively about how to use my limited supplies.

These cookies are a perfect holiday standby. Especially because everyone loves them. The combination might sound strange at first, but trust me - you can't have just one.


Makes about 15 haystacks
Leftover Potential: last well for up to a week when kept in an airtight container.

1 bag chocolate chips
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 bag chow mein noodles

1. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips in the microwave. Depending on your microwave, this could take anywhere between 2-4 minutes, but be careful not to burn the chocolate. You can also do this over a hot water bath on the stove top.
2. When the chocolate mixture is mostly melted, remove from heat source and stir to combine and complete melting.
3. Add the chow mein noodles and fold slowly to combine. Make sure all the noodles are entirely coated with the chocolate mixture.
4. When the mixture is completely combined, scoop cookie-sized portions onto a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap using two spoons. The cookies will be free form but roughly in circular shapes.
5. Let sit at room temperature until they're completely set up.
6. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Lime Marinated Steak Tacos with Homemade Tortillas

I love a good taco.  I am, however, a firm believer that the tortilla makes the taco.  Meaning that it should be fresh, light, and most importantly: warm.  And for my favorite tacos, packaged just won't cut it.  Luckily, tortillas are as quick and simple to make as any basic flatbread.  When you taste it, you'll know - it's always worth it.

Combined with tender, juicy pieces of steak that have spent the day marinading in a mixture of garlic and lime, it's the perfect dinner.  All that's needed now is a cold beer or a margarita.  

Lime Marinated Steak Tacos with Homemade Tortillas

Served 2
Leftover Potential: Tortillas are best the first day, but will last another couple days.  If eating leftovers, reheat in an oven.  All other ingredients reheat well.   Provided one meal after the initial dinner.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup water, or as needed

1. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and salt.  Add the melted butter and mix to combine.  
2. Begin adding water and mix until the dough begins to come together, adding more water as needed.  
3.  Let rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
4.  Divide the dough into small pieces, and roll into balls.
5. Roll the dough out to 1/4" thickness.
6.  Heat a small non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Add a tortilla and allow to cook until browned, then flip and allow to cook on the other side.  Keep covered, warm until ready to serve.

Lime Marinade
juice of three limes
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp cumin
2 Tbsp garlic, finely minced
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 # flank steak

1 Tbsp oil

1 can refried beans
cheese, grated, as needed
avocado, sliced, as needed

1. Combine lime juice and spices.  Pour into a large plastic (ziploc) bag.  Add whole steaks and toss to coat.  Let marinate, refrigerated, for at least 2 hours, turning occasionally.
2.  When ready to cook the steak, heat oil in a large pan.  Cook the steak until desired doneness over medium high heat. 
3.  Remove steak from pan, and place on a clean cutting board.  Let rest.
4.  Meanwhile, prepare garnishes, such as beans, cheese, avocado, cilantro, etc.
5.  When well rested, slice the steak into 1/2"-3/4" slices.
6.  Layer steak and garnishes on warm tortillas.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Spicy Szechuan Chicken

I'm a sucker for Chinese food..both classic and Americanized versions.  There's something especially comforting to me about the tastes and flavors.  Plus, I love any excuse to make things spicy.  Now, nothing will replace your combo of choice from your favorite Chinese restaurant, but it's just as easy to make some in your own kitchen.

So if you're feeling bold, try this recipe for a spicy chicken dish that will remind you of Sesame or General Tso's chicken.  It's takes even less time than waiting for the order you've called in!  

Spicy Szechuan Chicken

Served 3
Leftover Potential: reheats decently, but since it is fried it loses some of it's original texture. Provided one meal after the initial dinner.

For the batter:
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
3 Tbsp corn starch
salt, as needed
pepper, as needed
2 eggs

1 pound chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" cubes
oil, as needed for frying
1 onion, sliced

For the sauce:
1 Tbsp oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp ginger, finely minced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup crushed tomato
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp water
cilantro, as needed, coarsely chopped

1. In a medium bowl, mix together the ingredients for the batter.  If the batter is too thick, thin it out with some water.  
2. Add the cubed chicken in the batter and toss to coat well.
3. Heat the oil to 375 degrees in a deep pan.  If you don't have a thermometer, use a piece of chicken as a tester.  If it sinks, the oil is not hot enough, but if it rises easily to the surface, the oil is ready to use.  
4. Fry the chicken in batches until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.  Heat the oil in large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and stir fry until aromatic. 
6.  Add the remaining ingredients except for the cornstarch, water, and cilantro. Mix to combine and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.
7.  Make a slurry with the cornstarch and the water, and add to the sauce.  Simmer until the sauce thickens.
8.  Finish the sauce with the chopped cilantro, and add the chicken.  Toss the chicken in the sauce to coat, and allow to simmer for a few minutes until heated through.
9.  Serve in warm bowls with steamed rice and more cilantro on top.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Caramelized Onions and Bacon

Many people are nervous at the idea of making their own pasta, and I suppose for good reason. Pasta is one of those easy-to-impress dishes, which is only magnified by it's easiness to prepare.  All you have to do to earn rave reviews is to toss a box of dried pasta into some hot water, and take the praise as it comes at you, because everyone loves pasta.  But making your own pasta brings your dish over the top, transforming it from a plain old pasta dish to a magnificent culinary creation.  

Ok, so perhaps I'm being a bit dramatic, but I found a pasta recipe so simple, every apartment cook would be able to make it with no difficulties whatsoever.  It's a classic twist on the well known gnocchi, or Italian pasta dumpling.  Normally made with potatoes, gnocchi are tender and delicious when cooked, though slightly time-consuming to prepare.  With this recipe, ricotta replaces the potato in the dough, making it easier and faster to prepare.  

The end product, however, is no less delicious, rich, or satisfying.  In less than 20 minutes, you too can make your own pasta from scratch...and no one has to know how easy it was.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Caramelized Onions and Bacon

Served 2
Leftover Potential: Reheats relatively well, but do not keep for more than 1 or 2 days as the gnocchi begins to lose some of it's texture.  Provided one more meal after the initial dinner.

For the gnocchi:
2 oz all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
6.5 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
.75 oz olive oil

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 pieces bacon, cooked until done in the oven, then chopped into bite size pieces
1/4 cup chives, finely minced
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
parmesan cheese, to  garnish

1. Mix together the flour and the salt in a medium bowl.  In a separate container, mix together the ricotta, egg, and olive oil.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the ricotta mixture.  Mix until completely combined into a useable dough, 1-2 minutes.
2. Form the gnocchi using your hands and a fork.  For video instructions, check THIS out.
3.  When all the gnocchi are formed, cook them in a large pot of salted boiling water until they are cooked through completely, and rise to the surface, about 6-8 minutes. Drain the gnocchi and set aside.
4.  In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook until beginning to caramelize.  Then, add the garlic and allow to cook until aromatic, about another minute.  Add the bacon and allow to cook until it gets even crispier, 1-2 minutes.  Add the chives, and season with cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste.  
5.  Serve in a warm bowl with grated parmesan cheese.  

Chicken Tikka Masala with Spiced Rice and Naan

There are some foods you just crave.  The thought of it comes into your mind and you can physically not stop thinking about it until it's resting comfortably in your belly.  Chicken Tikka Masala is one of those foods for me.  Though it's widely regarded as an Americanized Indian dish, Chicken Tikka Masala is full of classic Indian flavors.  

As with most Indian food, the ingredient list can look daunting, but it's primarily due to the array of spices used.  And nothing tops off the flavors like fluffy rice and some delicious naan, so all in all, this meal takes a bit more effort.  You could always leave out any of the components, but if you've got the time, it's definitely worth it.

Like a thick, creamy, delicious stew this is comfort food at it's finest.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Served 3, plus leftovers
Leftover Potential: Naan never lasts long enough to become leftovers, but the rice and the chicken reheat easily, and can be mixed together for easy storage in the fridge. Made 2 more meals after the initial dinner.

For the marinade:
1 cup yogurt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp ginger, finely minced
1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into cubes

bamboo skewers, for grilling*

For the sauce:
1 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely minced
2 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp Garam Masala**
2 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream

cilantro, for garnish

1. Prepare the marinade by mixing all ingredients but the chicken together in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and allow to marinate for at least one hour in the refrigerator.
2. Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.
3. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat until translucent. Then add the garlic and the jalapeno, and cook until aromatic.
4. Add the cilantro, cumin, paprika, garam masala, and salt. Stir to combine.
5. Add the tomatoes, and simmer over medium low heat until heated through and good flavor has developed.
6. Add the heavy cream and continue to simmer until the sauce thickens slightly.
7. Remove chicken from the refrigerator and thread cubes onto the skewers. Grill, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 8-9 minutes.
8. Remove chicken from skewers and add to sauce. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice and naan.

* Chicken can also be cooked in a large saute pan without the skewers, or broiled in the oven.
** You can make your own Garam Masala or use a purchased spice blend.

For the Spiced Rice:
1 tsp oil
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1/2 cup short grain white rice
1 cup chicken stock, or more as needed
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin

1. In a small pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic.
2. Add the rice, and then the chicken stock. Season with turmeric and cumin. Allow to simmer until the rice has absorbed the liquid completely. As more as needed. Serve with Chicken Tikka Masala.

For the Naan:
1/2 pound all purpose flour
1/2 oz yeast
1 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup water, or more as needed
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt
1/2 oz butter, melted

butter or oil, as needed for cooking
kosher salt, as needed

1.  Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a medium bowl.
2.  Combine water, yogurt, and butter in a small bowl.
3.  Combine dry and wet ingredients.  If using a mixer, mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, mix for 10 minutes.
4.  Place in an oiled bowl and let rest in a warm place for 30 minutes - 1 hour or until doubled in size.
5.  Cut the dough into smaller pieces, roll into a ball with your hands, then roll out flat with a rolling pin.
6.  Brush both sides with butter, sprinkle lightly with salt, and cook in a small saute pan over medium high heat.  Cook each side until brown and risen slightly.  Serve warm.

Spicy Turkey Chili

As the weather gets colder, I get an ache in my bones for soup. One of the best things about this meal is it is ideal for The Apartment Kitchen. One big pot is all you need to be able to make any soup or stew. And not much sounds more warm and comforting to me than a deliciously hot, spicy chili.

So one particularly cold day here in Hyde Park, I headed to the grocery store and picked up all the ingredients for my perfect chili, which includes lots of great toppings and of course some cold beer. I use ground turkey, because I love the taste and flavor and it's much healthier. I also like to take a slightly Tex-Mex approach to my chili, topping it with good cheese, jalapenos, green onions, and some lime for acidity. And, as is typical with one-pot dishes it's incredibly easy and super cheap.

Spicy Turkey Chili

Served 2 plus leftovers
Leftover Potential: reheats perfectly, but keeping all the condiments makes it more difficult to re-assemble, provided 3 more meals after initial dinner.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely minced
1 pound ground turkey
1 large or two small cans diced or crushed tomatoes*
1 can corn
1 can black beans
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 pinch cinnamon
3 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

green onions, chopped, for garnish
cheddar cheese, grated, for garnish
lime segments, for garnish
pickled jalapenos, for garnish

1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sweat until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.
2. Add the turkey, using a rubber spatula to break up pieces while it cooks. Cook until cooked through and brown.
3. Add the tomatoes, corn, and black beans. Reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer until whole soup is heated.
4. Begin adding spices, tasting the chili along the way to determine if it needs more spices/salt, etc. Reduce heat to low and hold while garnishes are prepared.
5. Chop green onions, grate cheese, if necessary, and cut some segments of lime. Set these ingredients on the table along with the jalapenos to allow diners to top their chili as they wish.
6. Serve the chili in warm bowls with a cold beer. Keep the leftovers in the fridge until you need to be warmed up again.

* This makes a very meaty chili, if you prefer a soupier product, you might want to add an additional 15 oz. can of tomatoes.

The Inaugural Meal: Tortellini with Squash, Leeks, and Pheasant Sausage

About a month ago, I graduated from college. It was, and is, a strange time for me as I began the transition from college student to possibly beginning my life as a grown up. I've been told that the first step in this is to stop referring to adults as "grown ups", but that message hasn't quite sunk in yet. But I started the process: I got a job, I found a place, and I moved out: into my first apartment.

Like most young adults making this transition, I am facing the regular hardships: distance from my friends, continued distance from my family, the difficulties of working a full time job, and, perhaps worst of all, a lack of kitchen equipment. Because unlike other college students, I was not only studying books, maps, and charts, but knife skills, mixing methods, and how to discern chervil from cilantro and parsley. I guess you can say I didn't go to a "normal" college, but for myself and my fellow students, food
is our way of life.  And finally receiving my diploma from The Culinary Institute of America has provided me with an exciting new opportunity: no longer paying room and board allows me to begin to really cook for myself on a daily basis for the first time since I began my schooling three years ago.  And in my own kitchen!

So, with that said...welcome to my kitchen.  I don't have much in the ways of tools, equipment, or even silverware.  But that's not going to stop me from serving up delicious, simple, and cost effective meals (generally for 1 or 2) from right here in The Apartment Kitchen.

Please excuse the mess, this was taken as I was still getting unpacked. But Matt (my wonderous boyfriend pictured above) and I still cooked ourselves our first meal: tortellini with squash, leeks, and sausage. I had purchased some fresh items from my local farmer's market when my parents were visiting me for my graduation, so we bought lots of fresh herbs, seasonal vegetables, as well as farm-fresh eggs, and some pheasant sausage. This was a homemade sausage infused with garlic made at a nearby farm, but for this dish any sausage would work wonderfully. Best of all, this dish was super easy. We used pre-made tortellini, though it would be even better with freshly made.

The verdict: quick, delicious, local, and seasonal.  The squash was incredibly creamy and the sausage provided great flavor throughout all of the ingredients.  An excellent first meal.

Tortellini with Squash, Leeks, and Sausage

Served 2 plus leftovers
Leftover Potential: Keeps nicely, and reheats easily, provided two more meals after the initial dinner.

1 package cheese or meat tortellini

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small squash, such as butternut or carnival, cut into bite size pieces
2 leeks, white part only, cut in half and sliced finely
3 cooked sausages, cut into bite size pieces*
2 Tbsp sage, finely minced or chiffonade

salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
parmesan cheese, to taste

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook until tender.
2.  Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and sweat the onions over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until soft and aromatic.  Set aside in a large bowl.
3.  In the same pan, heat another 1 Tbsp of olive oil and cook the squash over medium heat until tender and caramelized.  Add the leeks and cook until they are wilted and soft.  Set aside along with the onions and garlic.
4.  In the same pan, cook the sausage over medium heat until the edges brown.  Since the sausage is already cooked, this is just to warm and create a crust.  Right before removing the sausage from the pan, add the sage and let cook until wilted slightly.  Set aside with the vegetables.
5.  When the tortellini is ready, drain completely, then return to the large pot it was cooked in.  Add the vegetable/sausage mixture and toss together over low heat.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  
6.  Serve in large, warm bowls garnished with grated parmesan cheese and more sage.  

*You can buy sausages that are already cooked, like the homemade one I purchased with my family.  If you buy a pack of raw sausages, such as Italian sausages at the grocery store, simply cook the amount you need.  Or cook the entire pack and use them for a variety of meals all week long.