Monday, May 31, 2010

spicy peppered beef

Three day weekends are wonderful, but they are also exhausting.  I'm falling asleep as I sit here writing this...I'm so tired!  I look forward to sharing with you what I did this past weekend in future posts (it involves a fabulous vacation with my sister and her boyfriend all over northern California), but for now I'm going to just get to the basics.

The basics of beef, that is. :-)

After a long, tiring weekend like this one, the last thing I want to do is slave over a hot stove.  If you can identify with me, then this is the recipe for you.  It involves a slow cooker...a bit of beef...a smidgen of spices...and a lot of taste.

Let me introduce you to the cast of characters.  The star of the show is a slab of beef (I used a 2 1/2 pound beef chuck tender roast).  Any beef would do...or pork even.  This is a very versatile recipe.

The Oscar for the supporting roles goes to salt, Italian seasoning, thyme, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, black pepper, white pepper, ground red pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Did someone say pepper?

Place your meat into a large slow cooker and pour a half cup of water over the top.  I recommend placing the meat with the fatty layer on top.  When it cooks, the fat will drizzle through the meat to flavor it.  What can I say...we like flavor in our house. 

Mix together 1 teaspoon each of the salt, Italian seasoning, thyme, paprika, and cumin.

Add to those spices 1/2 teaspoon each of garlic powder, freshly ground black pepper, ground red pepper, and white pepper.

Finally, finish off your spice mixture with 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  Mix it up well!

Pour your spice mixture right over the top of your meat.

There's no need to rub it in (although you could if you wanted).  Just let it all rest on top, put the lid on, and cook for 7-8 hours on low.

And this is my favorite part...the waiting.  During those 7-8 hours, you can take a nap, read, watch TV, clean your house, work on a hobby, or just go to work knowing that you won't have to worry about dinner when you get home.  I love slow cookers!

When you take the lid off, this is what you will find...'s tender, it's juicy, and it's got quite the kick!

To ensure that the spices make it into each bite, place your cooked meat and all of the juices in a dish and shred with two forks..

The result is a fabulous pile of deliciousness.

You can serve this any way you like.  Here's how we enjoyed it...

We served it plain alongside a baked potato and salad.

We enjoyed it in between two thick slices of bread, drizzled with barbecue sauce with homemade fries on the side.

We loved adding it to a simple pasta medley - it added such a nice burst of flavor!

And we really enjoyed crunching down on a delicious fresh salad topped with our warm, peppery beef.

We hope you had a wonderful weekend.  Now go relax with's what's for dinner!

Spicy Peppered Beef
2-3 pounds beef tenderloin, roast, or other favorite cut
1/2 cup water
1 t. each salt, Italian seasoning, thyme, paprika, and cumin
1/2 t. each garlic powder, black pepper, white pepper, and ground red pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper

Place beef in slow cooker, fatty side on top.  Pour water over the top.  Mix together all of the spices, and pour evenly over the top of the beef.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Shred and mix with juices before serving.

Note: This spice rub would be amazing on any grilled meat!  Check out today's FoodBuzz daily special - a Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N.   It's a panini grill, flat press, contact grill, and griddle all in one! FoodBuzz has daily specials going all summer long - check back every day to find the best deals on kitchen ware!

This recipe is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday , Tasty Tuesday, and Tuesdays at the Table 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

blueberry vanilla pie

Important things first - have you signed up to win a free Gooseberry Cookbook, Dinners on a Dime?  I'm drawing the name first thing Friday morning, and I don't want you to miss out!

Now...back to the task at hand...

Does anyone out there like pie?

I do.  I know my husband does.  I'm actually surprised he didn't add "must make pie" to our wedding vows.  His love for pie is pretty darn serious.  So, just because I love him, I made him a pie...a blueberry pie!

Since blueberries and cream cheese are a match made in heaven, I decided to try out a recipe I saw by A Cozy Kitchen on Tasty Kitchen for cream cheese pie crust.  It was amazing!

For one pie crust, you mix together 3 teaspoons of cold water and 1 teaspoon of cold apple cider vinegar.

In a separate bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1/2 teaspoons salt.

Add four ounces of cold cream cheese and four ounces of cold butter, cut into small pieces.

Notice that so far, the key word has been cold.  Everything must be cold for the crust to bake effectively.  Brrrrrrrr.

Cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour until the mixture resembles course crumbs.

Add the water and vinegar to the crumbs and mix together until a soft dough forms.  I found that this worked best if I just got down and dirty and used my hands.  Don't worry - I washed my hands first, and then I licked them afterward.  Haha...I'm kidding about the licking.  Maybe...

Once you you've got a ball of dough, flatten it out, wrap it up in plastic wrap, and then refrigerate until it's firm (it took me about an hour).

A very important fact: those were the instructions for one pie crust.  This recipe calls for two.

Once your pie crust is firm, you want to pull one out of the refrigerator, roll it out, and place it in your greased pie dish.

Trim any excess dough around the edges (add that to the other pie crust you have in the fridge), flute the edges the best you can, and then put the pie dish back in the fridge.  We've got to keep it cold!

Now for the filling!  This would probably taste amazing with fresh blueberries, but I'm too cheap for that.  I went ahead and used frozen...and nobody could tell!

My surprise ingredient was this little guy...

Adding an apple helps the pie's texture (something about the pectin in the apple).  I peeled it, sliced it, and then shredded it.

I thawed a small package of frozen blueberries (I think it was 14 oz...might have been 12...doesn't really matter though, either will work), and then I dumped the whole thing into a saucepan.  I added the shredded apple to the blueberries.

 I cooked the blueberries until the juice was bubbly and used a potato masher to smash half of the blueberries.

I added two tablespoons of tapioca and then turned off the heat.

Then I added 3 cups of frozen whole blueberries, 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar (depending on your sweet tooth),  about 1/4 t. of freshly ground nutmeg, a few tablespoons of butter (optional...I didn't use it), and my other secret ingredient...a vanilla bean.

What's that?  Never cooked with a vanilla bean?  Don't worry - it's easy.  You run a knife down the length of the bean to split it open.  Then, take a spoon and scoop out the insides.  Those insides can go right into the pot with the blueberries.

After you do this, smell your hands - they'll smell so good you'll never want to wash them again.  Then you'll start dreaming up ways of using the leftover bean shell to scent the house...or you.  Unless, that is, you are a normal person who is content to light a candle and splash on some body spray.  Me?  I played with the remains of my vanilla bean.

Mix everything up, pull your prepared pie crust out of the refrigerator, and fill the crust with the blueberries.

Doesn't that look delicious!

For the top crust, you have a few options.  You could roll it out, lay it over the top, cut pretty slits in it, and be happy.  Or, you could do it my way and be happier.  Just sayin...

I rolled the pie crust out to about 1/4 inch thickness.

I used a table knife to cut it into smaller bits.

Then, I literally sprinkled these bits of crust over the top of the pie!  It's fast, it's easy, and it's quite the showstopper.

To finish it off, I sprayed the crust with cooking spray and then sprinkled on some sparkling sugar (just for show).

Baked your pie at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

This pie tastes amazing (if I do say so myself).  It's light, fresh, and holds together nicely when sliced.  The cream cheese in the crust and vanilla bean in the filling add subtle and delicious touches to the flavor.  I highly recommend having a slice won't regret it!

P.S. As you know, I like taking photos of my husband while eating.  Well, I've now started a new of him when he's realized that he has no more pie.  What a puppy dog face!

Blueberry Vanilla Pie
6 cups (approximately) frozen or fresh blueberries, divided
1 small tart apple, peeled and grated
2 T. tapioca
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 t. freshly ground nutmeg
1 vanilla bean
3 T. butter (optional)
2 prepared pie crusts

In a small saucepan, heat about 3 cups blueberries and grated apple until juice is bubbly.  Mash approximately 1/2 of the blueberries with a potato masher.  Add tapioca and then remove from heat.  Stir in the rest of the blueberries, 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, nutmeg, the insides of the vanilla bean, and butter (optional).  Pour into one prepared pie crust and top with remaining crust.  Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Serves 8.

Gluten Free Variation - use an almond or rice flour crust (see Bob's Red Mill rice flour package for recipe).

Are you sure you want to read the nutritional info?

Really?  You sure? asked for it...

...don't say I didn't warn you.

Nutrition (blueberry pie filling without butter): 124 cal, 1g fat, 0g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1mg sodium, 31g carbs, 3g fiber, 24g sugar, 1g protein, 1% vit. A, 6% vit. C, 1% calcium, 1% iron.

Nutrition (cream cheese pie crust): 368 cal, 22g fat, 13g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 61mg cholesterol, 463mg sodium, 37 carbs, 1g fiber, 1g sugars, 7g protein, 14% vit. A, 0% vit. C, 4% calcium, 13% iron.

Linked up with
Gooseberry Patch Recipe Roundup
This Week's Cravings: Pie!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

chicken 'n' dumplings

Chicken 'n' dumplings....these are so good, I almost feel that they don't need an introduction.  It's hard to find comfort food as good as this.

Since I've had to go temporarily wheat-free, I've been without my chicken 'n' dumplings...and cakes...cookies...bread...pasta...basically everything that is good in the culinary world.  But that's okay!  Why?  Because I figured out how to make my favorite chicken 'n' dumplings in such a way that I could enjoy it.  And enjoy it I did...  :-)  I'm still full!

A note before I get started.  I'm including the original recipe at the bottom, for all of you who are lucky enough to be able to eat flour.  In the tutorial, however, I'm going to describe how I made it (wheat free and dairy free!).  It will be pretty similar (except for whole flour part).  This recipe is not gluten free (I added a small amount of gluten to help with the texture), although I imagine that it could be done with a few modifications!

And...have you entered to win a free cookbook?  If not, you should!

The base for chicken 'n' dumplings is none other than cooked chicken and chicken stock.  You could go to the store and buy these things...or you could make it yourself!  My suggestion - pull out your slow cooker, buy yourself a chicken, and do it yourself.  Your taste buds (and budget) will thank you.

To make the dumplings, I used 2 cups of Bob's Red Mill gluten free all-purpose baking flour.  Because this flour doesn't have gluten in it, it doesn't hold as well as wheat flour does.  To combat that I added 4 teaspoons of gluten!  This is obviously not ideal for someone on a gluten free diet; however, it does work for those of us who just need to avoid wheat and don't have a problem with gluten.  A gluten free option would be to add xantham gum.

The original recipe calls for self-rising flour.  In order to make my wheat-free mixture self-rising, I added 3 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt.  I then added 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

Whisk these dry ingredients together, and then add some fat. :-)  Tried and true Southern cooks prefer vegetable shortening.  I prefer Smart Balance Light (dairy-free)...I like to go easy on the hips, if you haven't noticed.

Add 1/3 cup of the fattener of your choice and then cut it into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. 

Now we are going to add some buttermilk to our flour mixture.  I'm going the dairy free route, so I mixed a little under 3/4 cup of almond milk with about a tablespoon of vinegar.  It looked questionable, but it did the trick.

Otherwise (for all you "normal" people out there), pour 3/4 cup buttermilk into your flour.

Stir everything together with a fork until it forms a soft dough (like the picture below).  If you need to, add extra flour to get it to that point.

On a floured surface, roll out your dough until it's about 1/4 inch thick.

Then, using a table knife, cut it into little squares (mine were about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch).

At this point, bring 4 cups of your chicken stock to a boil.  Drop your dumplings, one at a time (to avoid sticking), into the boiling stock.

While you are dropping your dumplings in, make sure you are stirring everything around.  If you are trying to take pictures while doing it, get my husband to help you stir...he's good at that.

Once your dumplings are all in, add 4 cups of cooked chicken.  Don't stir the chicken in - let it sit on top of the dumplings.  By sitting on top of the dumplings, the chicken forces the dumplings into the broth and makes sure they get cooked.  That's some pretty smart chicken!

On top of your chicken, pour 1 cup of milk (or milk substitute).

At this point, you want to cover your pot, reduce the heat to about medium-low, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes so that the dumplings can cook.  At that point, you can add more milk if it's too dry...otherwise, you are ready to eat!

I loved these, even with the wheat-free alterations!  Just in case my taste buds were warped from wheat-deprivation, I made my husband try them...he loved them too!  This is an easy meal to make, only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, and will feed a crowd for very little cost.  Why wouldn't you want to try it? :-)

Chicken 'n' Dumplings (the normal way)
2 cups self-rising flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour plus 3 t. baking powder and 1/2 t. salt)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. sugar
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup Smart Balance Light or shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk (see instructions above for dairy-free substitute)
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups cooked chicken
1 cup milk or milk substitute

Mix together flour salt, sugar, and black pepper.  Add Smart Balance Light or shortening and cut in with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add 3/4 cup buttermilk; stir with a fork until soft dough forms (adding more flour if necessary).  Roll onto a floured surface until 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into 1/2 inch squares with table knife.

Drop dumplings one at a time into 4 cups of boiling chicken stock, stirring constantly.  Place 4 cups of cooked chicken over the top of the dumplings.  Pour 1 cup milk over chicken.  Cover and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer for 20 minutes, or until dumplings are cooked.  Serves 10.

Nutrition (calculated with Smart Balance Light, low fat buttermilk, and skim milk): 267 cal, 8g fat, 2g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 51mg cholesterol, 682mg sodium, 24g carbs, 1g fiber, 4g sugar, 22g protein, 11% vit. A, 1% vit. C, 17% calcium, 11% iron.

This recipe is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday , Tasty Tuesday, and Tuesdays at the Table 
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