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I’m a late with my St. Patty’s Day post, but my excuse is that we actually didn’t even make this “traditional” meal until Saturday. I know…what were we thinking? Something that takes three to four hours to cook just isn’t practical on a week day, but we were determined to give this Americanized meal a try this year, so we indulged ourselves a few days late. The only complaint I have about our corned beef and cabbage is that we didn’t corn our own beef. There’s always next year though, right? Right.

While corned beef and cabbage is in fact an Irish meal, it most definitely isn’t a St. Patty’s Day (or any other day, for that matter) tradition in Ireland. (As noted in one of many interesting articles we found while researching recipes last week.) After reading about Ireland’s “foremost cooking authority,” according to Epicurious, we decided to go with Darina Allen’s recipe with a few Martin twists. Traditional or not, it certainly was delicious.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 6 to 8
– 4 lb corned beef brisket
– 6 onions, quartered
– 1 tsp dry English mustard
– 1 large sprig of thyme and 3 parsley stalks, tied together
– 3 to 4 large carrots, cut into large-ish chunks
– 1 head cabbage, cut into 6 to 8 wedges
– 2 to 3 russet potatoes, quartered
– salt and pepper

As far as one pot meals go, this is a winner. It takes little to no prep work, makes the house smell absolutely fantastic and the end results are worth the time it takes to cook. In a large Dutch oven, put the brisket with the onions, herbs and mustard and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer (covered) for two hours. During this time, you don’t need to do anything to the brisket, just let it simmer away over low heat.

After the brisket has been simmering for two hours, remove the lid and add the carrots, cabbage and potatoes. Make sure everything is submerged in liquid, then return the lid to the pan. Continue to simmer for another 30 minutes to an hour, until all the veggies are nice and tender. Remove the brisket from the pot and let it rest before slicing it. Serve the meat and vegetables with lots of cooking liquid, some good bread and spicy mustard.

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes and Carrots

I happen to love corned beef and cabbage, so I had pretty high expectations for our first attempt at it. The results of three hours of simmering on our stove was delicious. The brisket picked up all the flavors from the mustard (though, I would put more next time) and herbs and the veggies picked up all the delicious flavors from the cooking liquid. Everything was perfectly tender, and the meat pretty much just fell apart. Billy made a delicious Irish soda bread (more on that later) to go along with it, and was absolutely perfect for soaking up all the juices.

I think probably the only thing I would do differently next time is actually corning our own beef. I’ve heard this takes like 10 days, so next year I’ll have to remember that before it’s too late! Luckily, a lot of recipes called for prepared brisket or said it was an okay substitute if corning your own wasn’t possible.

Darina’s original recipe can be found on Epicurious.

One night a week or two ago we found ourselves short on veggies for dinner. One thing we did have was a half a head of cabbage left over from when we made fish tacos. While Billy was out grilling, I decided to (attempt to, at least) throw something together with the cabbage. The results turned out better than either of us could have expected — we even decided to make it again (only, on purpose this time) the next week!

Here’s what you’ll need
– 3 tbsp butter, divided
– 5 cloves garlic, minced
– red pepper flakes
– dried, minced onions (you can use real onions, I was just in a pinch and the dried onions actually worked really well)
– salt and pepper
– 1/2 head cabbage, cut into strips (or however you prefer)
– 1/4 cup white wine

Melt two tablespoons of the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. When the butter begins to bubble, add the garlic, red pepper flakes, minced onions and salt and pepper. Saute until the garlic becomes fragrant, one to two minutes. Make sure not to let it turn too much because it will continue cooking while the cabbage is sauteing. Add the cabbage to the pan and saute until it begins to cook down, about three to five minutes. Once the cabbage is heated through and has cooked down (you’ll notice a considerable difference in how much room there is in the pan), add the wine. Deglaze and let the wine reduce. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter, check for seasoning and you’re done!

Sauteed Cabbage

We were totally amazed at how flavorful this cabbage was. We’ve had it two or three times since the first time I threw it together, and it goes well with pretty much everything (I think it goes great with steaks). The leaves of the cabbage pick up a ton of flavor from the garlic and wine, and you get just a hint of butter in each bite. We love this because it’s really simple to throw together and it’s different than a lot of other veggie side dishes that can get old after a while. It has become one of our go-to favorites for weeknight dinners.

We love Chinese food, but trying to replicate restaurant-style food at home doesn’t always work out. While it’s usually really good cooked at home (and probably way healthier), it’s just not the same. Until now. One of my (new-found) favorite bloggers, Kathy over at Las Vegas Food Adventures, did a post on a basic stir fry recipe that you can use as a base and adjust however you like. Let me tell you…this base stir fry recipe is spot on. My only complaint is that, when we made it, we went a little crazy with the veggies and there wasn’t enough sauce (this was totally our fault, Kathy mentioned in her post that the recipe isn’t very saucy). regardless, it was delicious.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: about 4, depending on how many veggies you add to the base recipe
– 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– 3 to 4 tbsp oil for frying
Marinade
– 1 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tbsp sherry
Sauce
– a few drops sesame oil
– 2 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tbsp brown sugar
– 2 tbsp sherry
– 3 tbsp water
– 1/2 tsp cornstarch
(- for a more saucy dish, add 1/2 to 3/4 cups chicken broth and an extra 1/2 tsp cornstarch)
Seasoning
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
– 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Apparently, the secret to making super tender chicken without going through all the trouble they do in Chinese restaurants is pounding it out before cooking. Not to mention that pounding out food is a perfectly acceptable way to take out your frustrations!

Pound out the chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap (or using a Ziplock bag) until it’s an even 1/2 inch thick. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and toss in a bowl with the soy sauce and sherry. Set aside and prepare any veggies you need to chop up.

Once all your prep work is done, combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until the sugar and cornstarch have dissolved. Set aside (you won’t be using the sauce until everything is cooked).

In a large saute pan or wok, heat the oil over high heat. Once the oil and pan are very hot, add the garlic, ginger and scallions. Stir the ingredients around, they will only cook for about 30 seconds — until they become fragrant. Add the chicken to the pan and fry until the chicken begins to brown and is mostly cooked through, about three minutes. Add in any veggies or other ingredients that you’re using and continue to fry until everything is cooked and a little brown, time will vary depending on your ingredients (probably anywhere from one to five minutes).

Whisk the sauce to combine, then add it to the pan, stirring continuously. Cook until the sauce thickens, one to two minutes. Spoon over freshly cooked jasmine rice or Chinese noodles (or a combination!).

Garlic Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry

The flavor of this sauce was amazing. It really did taste like something you’d get in a restaurant. Best of all, the chicken doesn’t need to marinade for a lengthy period of time — just long enough for you to prep everything else. The chicken came out very tender, and the veggies were all cooked perfectly. It’s amazing how quickly a steaming hot wok will cook things and make them taste delicious.

Like I said earlier in the post, my only complaint was the lack of sauce. There was plenty to coat all the food, but not enough to really drizzle anything extra over. I think this was partially due to the fact that it wasn’t a very sauce recipe to begin with, but mostly because we added a ton of veggies.

Check out Kathy’s original post here. Her’s looks more like chicken stir fry than ours — I should have called titled my post veggie stir fry with a side of chicken!

When it comes to Arabic food, there’s one main ingredient that’s pretty consistent in most dishes — rice. In the old days, it was probably (don’t quote me on this) used as a way to make a small amount of food go farther — just like pasta for Italians — but today it’s just an essential part of any Arabic dish. It’s a perfect vehicle to soak up all the delicious juices that the food cooks in, especially when it comes to ruz-al-loubi.

This dish of green beans and lamb is braised in a light tomato sauce and then served over rice. It’s packed full of flavor, and without the rice, you’d loose a huge amount of that flavor.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 4 to 6
– 2 tbsp butter
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 to 2 lbs lamb, cut/chopped into small pieces
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp nutmeg
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1 small can tomato paste
– about 5 cups water
– 2 lbs frozen green beans (Billy’s grandma always insisted on using frozen, so we’ve never tried using fresh)

In a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Saute the onion until translucent and soft, about five minutes. Add the chopped lamb to the pan and brown, stirring to insure all of the meat gets color. Next, add the garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, then add the tomato paste and water, scraping the bottom of the pot to get any brown bits. Bring to a boil and add the green beans to the pot, stirring to combine. Finally, cover the pot, reduce to simmer and let cook for one hour.

While the lamb and green beans are cooking, cook one to two cups of rice and set aside. You will serve the lamb, green beans and plenty of sauce over the rice.

Ruz al-Loubi

I love the tomato sauce that the ruz al-loubi cooks in. It’s full of flavor and the rice soaks up every drop of it. The green beans always cook perfectly, as does the lamb. Everything in this dish is really juicy and flavorful, and I love the hint of cinnamon you get in every bite.

This makes a great side dish, but can easily be a full meal if there’s a lot of meat in it. Another great way to eat the green beans and lamb (can you say leftovers?) is to make a sandwich using Arabic (or Greek, because it’s way easier to find in the regular grocery store) pita bread.

When I was a kid, I loved a lot of veggies that other kids despised — brussels sprouts, asparagus, okra. In fact, I’d rather (then, and now) eat a plate full of veggies instead of meat. (The complete opposite of most Americans, right?) Fried okra has always been one of my favorites. Okra isn’t exactly something we think of making all the time, but every time we do make it I wonder why we don’t buy it more often. Okra is deliciously crunchy on it’s own, but adding a breading of corn meal to it makes it even crunchier — and quite tasty!

Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 2
– 12 (or so) okra pods, cut into slices
– 1 egg
– 1 cup cornmeal
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying

In a small bowl, beat the egg and toss the okra to coat. Let the okra pieces soak in the egg for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and set aside. Also, heat the oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.

Remove the okra pieces from the egg bath and dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Test the oil with one piece of okra — if it sizzles when you drop it in, the oil is ready. Carefully place all the okra into the hot oil. Make sure to keep the pieces moving otherwise one side will burn. Once the coating begins to brown, reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until all pieces are golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt while still hot.

Fried Okra

This was some of the best fried okra I’ve ever had. We had never used cornmeal as the dredging vehicle before, but it worked out much better than flour (it stuck a lot better and stayed on while it was frying up). The texture from the cornmeal gave the okra a whole new dimension and added a nice crispy layer. Inside, the okra was nice and tender and burst in your mouth. Considering the only seasonings that we used were salt and pepper, the crust (and the okra itself) had a great flavor (I loved the extra salt that was added after it came out of the oil). I personally really like the texture of cornmeal, but if the grittiness is too much, you can probably mix in some flour. I wouldn’t suggest skipping the cornmeal all together though, because it really makes this version of fried okra what it is.

While we were in Colorado over Christmas, Billy’s grandma invited everyone over for an Arabic feast. It was one of the highlights of our trip, but for me the best part was getting to taste the real version of all the things we’ve cooked at home. As much as I love Billy’s cooking, nothing will ever be as good as when his grandma makes it.

During our feast, I got to try some new things. From that day forward, I had a new favorite Arabic dish — chicken and rice (and cauliflower, but for some reason everyone always leaves that out…I haven’t quite figured out why yet). It’s the perfect blend of rice, fried cauliflower, chicken and spices. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 4 cups water
– 3 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
– 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and dried
– 1 onion, cut into strips and 1/2 onion, cubed
– 2 cups uncooked rice, rinsed and drained
– oil (enough to fry the cauliflower)
– cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste
– salt and pepper

Bring the water, the cubed 1/2 onion, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper to a boil in a large pot. Once the water starts to boil, add the chicken and boil until completely cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a high-sided frying pan, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Fry the cauliflower (in batches, if necessary) until golden brown. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and allow to cool on a paper towel. In the same oil, fry the strips of onion until they just begin to turn brown. Remove from the pan and drain on a separate paper towel.

Once the chicken has cooked through, drain the water into a bowl and remove from the pot. Layer the ingredients, starting with the onion, then cauliflower and finally chicken, in the same pot. You should use all of the ingredients in one set of layers. Cover the chicken with the rice, then pour the water that was used to boil the chicken over everything. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 20 to 30 minutes.

Chicken and Rice

While we were eating this, I told Billy that I’m always shocked at the way Arabic food is prepared. The meat is almost always boiled (sometimes twice, as is with this dish), but it never gets overcooked or dried out and it’s definitely never short on flavor. I think the flavor combination created with the different spices used in most dishes infuses each bite with the distinct flavors of Arabic food.

I know I’ve said this just about every time we’ve made Arabic food, but chicken and rice is by far my favorite dish (so far, of course). I had never had fried cauliflower before, but after eating this I might have to try it in other applications. The flavor of the cauliflower totally changes when it’s fried, and it’s delicious. It adds a great flavor and texture to this dish. Since I’ve already had the real version of this, I know what it’s supposed to taste like and I can actually say that Billy’s version is pretty dead on. The biggest different we noticed was that his grandma’s was much darker. I think she fries her cauliflower and onions until they are pretty dark and we stopped ours before they turned completely brown, so that may have been part of the reason.

You can serve the chicken and rice with yogurt, but this is actually one application where I don’t think it’s necessary. Using yogurt will make everything really creamy (which is delicious), but everything stands perfectly well on it’s own, too.

I love brussels sprouts. Even as a kid, they were one of my favorite veggies. When I once suggested to Billy that we make them as a side dish, I got the weirdest, most disgusted look. Apparently he wasn’t a fan. Somehow I got him to try them anyway, and now he can’t get away from them! Our favorite way to prepare them is to roast them in the oven. It’s simple, but oh-so-delicious.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1/2 lb fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
– 2 tsp butter, melted
– salt and pepper
– garlic powder (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the brussles sprouts on the baking sheet and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Pour the melted butter over the brussels, making sure to get a little butter on each one. Toss everything together (it’s easiest if you use your hands, they get coated better that way) and throw in the oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I really wasn’t joking when I said these were super simple (yikes, Sandra Lee). Roasting the brussles sprouts in butter gives them a delicious caramelized, sweet flavor. They become tender, a bit crispy on the outside and totally mouthwatering. We usually end up making these a few times a month because we just can’t get enough of them. They’re great when roasted with potatoes, as well.

We love risotto. It’s a lot of work for a typical meal, but the results are always well worth it. One of the great things about risotto is that there are so many flavor options and Giada de Laurentiis’ variation is a perfect example. The natural sweetness of the squash combined with the vanilla gives the risotto a whole new flavor base that you wouldn’t expect for a normally (very) savory dish.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
– 1 large vanilla bean
– 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 1 cup Arborio rice
– 1/2 cup white wine
– 1/2 Parmesan cheese
– salt and pepper

This recipe is ultra easy because there’s no extra pots for cooking meat or anything else that you add to the actual rice. Like all risotto, you want to start by heating the broth — bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer and let it hang out while you’re cooking.

You’ll want to add the vanilla bean to the broth right away. Cut it in half, scrape out the seeds and put everything in the broth. The big difference here is that you’ll cook the squash in the broth, so once it comes to a boil add the squash and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the squash is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the squash from the liquid and set aside. Leave the heat on the broth in order to keep it at a warm temperature.

Meanwhile, in a pot (or pan) large enough to cook all the rice in, heat two tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Saute the onion with salt and pepper until tender and see-through, about three minutes. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat all the grains with butter. Next, add the first batch of liquid — the wine. Stirring constantly, let the wine simmer until it has evaporated almost completely, about three minutes. After the liquid has evaporated, begin adding the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, letting it evaporate almost completely before each addition. Make sure to continue stirring throughout the cooking process. Continue adding liquid and letting it evaporate until the rice is tender, but still a little firm, and creamy, about 20 minutes after adding the wine.

Once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off and stir in the Parmesan cheese, cubed squash and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

DSC_1455(r)

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto

I absolutely loved this variation on risotto. Billy…not so much. The sweetness of the squash and vanilla added a hint of sweet to this normally savory dish, but Billy seemed to think it was overpowering. I thought it was perfect. It was a great meal for a fall day — not to mention that it made the house smell delicious. The one thing I didn’t like about the dish were the cubes of squash. I would have rather pureed them or just left them out completely because the flavor that was left in the broth was enough for the whole dish. An alternative to the over-sweetness that Billy tasted could be to leave out the vanilla…maybe that’s a test for the future.

This recipe can be found in Giada’s latest book, Giada’s Kitchen, or on the Food Network Web site. Even though Billy wasn’t a huge fan of the dish, I highly recommend it for anyone who loves risotto!

Since we’ve been trying to eat healthier, we’ve found that making healthy foods doesn’t mean skimping on flavor. The recipe for Asian style salmon from The New American Plate is a perfect example. It’s got all the great flavors that you would find in many Asian dishes without frying or using other unhealthy cooking methods.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1/2 cup soy sauce (the recipe calls for reduced sodium, but if you have “regular” on hand, that will work too)
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
– 1 tbsp Chinese hot mustard
– 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice
– 1 lb salmon (4 fillets)
– canola oil
– 2 small carrots, julienned
– 1 leek (white part only), julienned
– 1 cup chicken broth
– 1 tsp sesame oil
– 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

This recipe is really easy, but be prepared to wait about an hour while the salmon marinades before you do any cooking. Combine 1/4 cup of the soy sauce, the lemon juice, mustard and five-spice powder in a resealable plastic bag. Mix together, then add the salmon fillets. Coat well and let marinade in the refrigerator for an hour, turning once.

Preheat the broiler (if your broiler is built in to your oven, make sure to put a baking sheet inside to warm it as well).

Meanwhile, heat a skillet on the oil over medium-high heat and saute the carrots and leeks until tender, about five minutes. Add the broth, the remaining soy sauce and the sesame oil and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, 10 or 15 minutes. The salmon will take about 10 minutes per inch of thickness, so you can probably start it right after adding the liquid to the pan. Place the fillets on the heated baking sheet (or broiler pan) four inches from the heat and cook until it begins to flake apart, 10 to 15 minutes based on the thickness.

Asian Salmon with Sauteed Carrots and Leeks and Rice

Asian Salmon with Sauteed Carrots and Leeks and Rice

This was seriously one of the easiest meals to make. It only took 15 minutes (minus the marinading time) and you wouldn’t even know it…it tasted like we slaved over the stove for hours. All the flavors of the soy sauce, five-spice and mustard really penetrated the meat of the salmon. The veggies stayed nice a crunchy, but also had great Asian flavors. We also cooked up some plain white rice, which made it feel like we were really in a Chinese restaurant. This dish is for sure a do-over…especially for us since we love Chinese food.

You can find the recipe in The New American Plate Cookbook, which I highly recommend. Every recipe we have made from this book has been really tasty, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re all really good for you!

There are probably only two (maybe three) meals that I could eat until the whole things is gone. My mom’s sausage casserole is one of them. It’s so simple (both to do and flavor-wise), but the flavor is truly addicting. All this really is is basically layers of potatoes, cabbage and onions, kielbasa sausage and bechamel sauce for flavor and moisture.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 lb. kielbasa sausage (one package is usually a pound), sliced into 1-inch slices
– 1/2 head of cabbage, cut into strips
– 1 large yellow onion, cut into strips
– 1 large russet potato, cut into thin slices
– 1 1/2 cups bechamel sauce (any recipe will do)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

You can use any kind of casserole dish you have, but the measurements above will work best using a 13 by 9 inch pan. First, coat the bottom of the pan with a little of the sauce — just enough to make an even layer. Next, begin layering the ingredients, starting with potatoes, then cabbage, onion and finally, sausage. Add more sauce and layer everything again. Once the pan is full, put one last layer of potatoes and sauce (to help keep the moisture in) and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake the casserole at 375 for about an hour, or until the potatoes are cooked through (this will depend on how thin your potatoes are sliced). Let the casserole cool a little before serving to allow the sauce to thicken a little. And, that’s it! You’re ready to serve up a couple of bowls of deliciousness!

Deliciousness on a Plate

Deliciousness on a Plate

I can’t even tell you what the best thing about this casserole is. The sauce gives everything a wonderful creamy texture and the potatoes, onions and cabbage cook to absolute perfection — the perfect balance between crisp and fresh and soft, melt in your mouth goodness. The great thing about this dish is that everything is good on it’s own, but when you get a bite filled with a little of every component, it’s like a flavor explosion. The creamy-ness of the potatoes and cabbage mixed with the smoked flavor of the kielbasa is pure heaven. This casserole really is a must-try meal…and it’s perfect for this time of year!