Archive | February, 2014

Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

24 Feb

I spent last Valentine’s Day eating Ethiopian take-out and attempting to watch Star Wars (but falling asleep halfway through – oops). But Nick came down to CT for it this year and I decided to try and make him a nice dinner for 2. I figured I would make some nice steak with mashed potatoes (we are both Irish, after all). I had made pulled pork a few days before (with this in mind), so I made pulled pork mac and cheese to round out the meal.

It was crusty on top, hot and gooey on the inside, and so delicious that we almost didn’t bother eating the steak and potatoes.

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What I used:
1 box macaroni (4 cups, dry)
3 tbsp butter
¼ cup flour
2 ½ cups whole milk
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz gruyere cheese, grated
2 cups pulled pork (complete with bbq sauce)
2 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper
Cayenne pepper, chili powder, paprika to taste
Sleeve of butter crackers (like ritz)

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What I did:
I started by setting up a medium pot of water for the macaroni to boil in – it’s best to cook it until it’s al dente, drain it, and set it aside.

Grab a 9×13 pan and lightly crisco the inside. Preheat oven to 375.

I put the butter and flour into a large pot and whisked together over medium-low heat. Whisk it for about 5 minutes. Then, slowly add in milk and mustard seed, stirring the whole time. Stir until it thickens, which will be about 10 minutes or so. When it gets thick, turn the heat to low.

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Add in the cheese and stir until it’s smooth. Add salt, pepper, and other spices. Mix in the macaroni to the large pot and stir until combined.

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Add half of the mixture into the 9×13. Add a layer of the pulled pork, and then add the second half of the macaroni mixture.

(I don’t have any pictures of these steps because I was too busy stealing little bites)

Crumble up the buttered crackers and put them on top. I like to spray with a layer of olive oil to make them crisp up while they’re in the oven.

I covered with aluminum foil, and cooked for 15 minutes. Uncover, cook for another 10, and then let sit for a minute before eating!

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Brewday: The Mead

22 Feb

A couple weeks ago Nick and I made mead. It was my first time actually participating in the brewing process beyond just capping the bottles.

For my non-brewer friends, mead is made like this: boil a crapton of water, pour >10 lbs of honey in, put 7 lbs of fruit into a bag and steep it just like tea. Add some yeast, let it cool (and sit for a couple months) and it goes from a hot yummy breakfast drink to alcohol.

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Me adding in 13ish pounds of honey to the pot

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This is what the fruit looked like before it was steeped

At the end of the day, I ended up standing in my kitchen with a giant sack of hot mushy leftover fruit bits, pondering how my life had gotten to this wonderful point. I then started to brainstorm what I could do with the leftovers. Nick and I looked over at the dehydrator on our counter, and decided we wanted to see what happened if we just dried it out.

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I look ridiculous but this is me steeping the fruit bag

After a bunch of hours, the fruit finally turned into a mixed fruit leather. It was a combination of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mangoes, and oranges – it was sweet, citrusy and seedy.

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The fruit, halfway through drying

Nick cut it up into little pieces, and added it into the granola/granola bars. The fruit is so delicious, it makes me so excited to drink the mead (it only has two months left!)

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The granola bars and chopped up fruit bits

Related: Granola bars, made from leftover barley

Sesame Seed Encrusted Tuna

20 Feb

I had never cooked fish by myself until last spring. One day, I ventured out to Haymarket (Boston’s sort of sketchy open air produce market), and stumbled across a wonderful secret – they sell all kinds of fish for $3/lb! I was really weirded out by it, but the guy running the stall insisted the fish was good – even going so far as to cut a piece of the raw fish and eat it in front of me (it’s like sushi!). I decided that I was going to trust the guy (or get food poisoning along with him), and bought 2 lbs of fresh tuna. It was the most wonderful dark red color and just looked delicious.

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I puttered around and picked up a couple more ingredients down there, and made four meals (dinner for 2 that night and lunch for us the next day) for about $10-12 all together… admittedly I did own some of the ingredients beforehand so I guesstimate the cost those would add in, but it ended up being a really reasonable meal for being so classy feeling (to compare, I got a very similar meal at top of the hub for ~$30).

Sorry about the crummy pictures, these were taken with a very crappy camera.

What I used:
About 2 lbs fresh tuna, trimmed of excess fat and skin
salt/pepper
white/black sesame seeds – about 1.5 tbsp of each (maybe more – as we ran low I just added more)
olive oil
optional: flax seed – about 1 tbsp
optional: wasabi sauce
How:
Start with a very, very sharp knife. Cut the tuna into equal sized pieces – we did about ½” thick, but as long as they’re equal, it’ll be fine.

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Liberally salt and pepper the tuna. Spread the sesame seeds (and flax seed, if you’re using it) out on a plate, and press each side into the seeds, coating completely.

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Meanwhile, take out a frying pan, put it on medium-high on the stove, and coat bottom in olive oil. You know that the temperature is right when a sesame seed dropped in the pan dances around.

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Place the tuna in the pan and fry for about 30 seconds. Using a pair of tongs, grab the tuna and turn, making sure that every side gets cooked. Once the pieces are done, stick the tuna in the fridge for a minute (it’ll make it easier to cut).

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I served with slices of avocado and a little salad, with a little wasabi sauce drizzled on top.

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Spicy Chocolate Bark

14 Feb

We’re having a Valentine’s Day dessert buffet today at work. Just the thought of 10 hungry moody girls (and 2 moody boys) each bringing in their own sweet treat to share with everyone gives me cavities and a stomach ache. There have been a couple birthdays at work this week, which means that all of my lunches have already been supplemented by humongous pieces of cake. I wanted to be part of the fun without further contributing to the giant sweet tooth being passed around, but I also wanted to make something related to the holiday.

I decided on making a spicy chocolate bark. It carries some of the sweet, but I think the spiciness helps you forget that it’s candy. I used dark chocolate and made two different batches: one with toasted pecans and one with orange zest and sea salt.

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What I used:
1 12 oz bag of dark chocolate candy (the kind found in Michael’s)
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp chili powder

optional:
there’s a lot of options for what can be mixed in here. I think pomegranates would be delic, but I didn’t have any on hand. I used 1 cup toasted pecans for one batch, and then for a second batch I zested an orange and sprinkled sea salt on it. I think other nuts would also be delicious though.

What I did:
I started by setting up the cooling area. I put a piece of wax paper down (about 18”) for each batch that I was making. I set up the optional ingredients on the wax paper – pecans on one, orange zest/sea salt on the other. I did it this way so they wouldn’t get mixed in with the bark and so people could easily identify what was in there!

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I melted the candies per the directions on the bag (medium heat, 30 second intervals, stirring frequently) until it melted all the way through (being careful not to overheat!) Once it was pretty liquid-y, I mixed in all the spices.

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I spread the chocolate mixture out on top of the mix-in, using a spatula to smooth and spread it out.

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I let cool for about two hours, and then broke the bark up into pieces (and devoured). Mission accomplished – not too sweet, and in small enough pieces that you don’t feel guilty for eating it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Blueberry Compote

11 Feb

A few weekends ago, we had brunch with my parents. I made popovers (a mix I got for Christmas) and my Dad made waffles. We thought we would be clever and make a delicious blueberry treat to put on top of the waffles… after making a big flashy scene of the topping we thought we made up, my Dad looks over and goes “oh, that’s a beautiful compote.”

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Hmm… guess we weren’t so individual and creative. Oh well. It was delicious anyway. We make it a little differently every time we make it, but here’s pretty much our basic recipe.

What:
¼ cup water
½ cup cranberry juice
1 ½ cups blueberries (I used frozen)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp flour

How:
Alright I’m not the fanciest cook, and I’m sure we did a few things wrong when making it, but it turned out pretty well.

Combine the water, sugar and cranberry juice in a small saucepan on the stove. Add the blueberries and bring the heat up to medium high, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes.

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I like my sauce a little thicker, so we combined the 2 tbsp of water with the tbsp of flour in a small bowl and whisked until fully combined. Then I added it to the saucepan and stirred everything together for about 3-4 minutes, and it thickened up great.

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Serve over waffles or pancakes… or anything else your little heart desires.

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(Bonus picture of the popovers)

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Kale Chips

4 Feb

I’m coming off of a four day Superbowl weekend, which means I spent the last 96 hours cooking, eating way too much food, and drinking way too much beer. It snowed pretty aggressively all day today and I was home alone so I got a bunch of cooking and cleaning (and more eating) done. And I mean a BUNCH. I made three loaves of banana bread… nothing makes me happier than having a productive day!

This morning I made kale chips. I know they can be made in either the dehydrator or the oven, but I was already going to be using the dehydrator (and my oven was going to be full anyway). It was super super easy, and they turned out delicious – flavorful and crunchy – even Nick admitted to liking them.

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What I used:
1 bunch of kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp ginger
½ tbsp red pepper flakes
(okay, so I’m guesstimating how much of everything I used, but this should be close)

How:
Start by washing and thoroughly drying the kale – I washed it a few hours before and wrapped it in paper towels while it dried. This was more important than I realized – the one piece that was left wet turned out soggy.

Rip the kale into pieces, being sure to remove the middle vein. How big you make them depends on your preference, just remember that they’ll shrink up when they’re drying.

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In a large bowl, toss the kale with the olive oil and all of the spices. I set it up in the dehydrator and continually taste-tested while it was drying – it ended up taking about two hours until they were crispy.

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If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can do this in the oven on 350 for about 10 minutes.

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