Beef Ragu

spaghetti

When I made this I had no idea what to call it. I started with a recipe that I got from a friend in college that was called “Farfalle Di Sera” (which means evening butterflies in Italian) as the base, but I made some changes to it so I’m not sure it’d still be called that. But after looking at this wikipedia page, I’m pretty sure it can be categorized as a ragu.

As you may or may not know, I typically cook dinner for around 25-40 people most Sundays for my church community. Normally I do things that are fairly simple because I don’t really start thinking about what I’m going to cook until Sunday afternoon and then only have a few hours to shop and cook. This Saturday the husband was out of town for a work trip and I had some extra time on my hands so I decided to try something different/more complicated.

I’m not sure I’ve ever braised that much meat at once before. After 5-6 hours the meat still seemed really tough, so I was a little worried. But a friend assured me that all would be ok if I just kept cooking it, and it all worked out!

I think it turned out really well and people seemed to enjoy it. Sadly it’s not very vibrant looking and hence not super appetizing, but it tasted good and that’s what matters right?

It’s only been 10 days since my last post, so I don’t really have a whole lot else to add.

Ingredients (note that this is probably enough for 30-40)
10 lbs chuck roast
5 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
7 medium zucchini/yellow squash, diced
5 small yellow onions, diced
3-4 cups chopped carrots
Heavy cream
Oregano
Salt
Pepper
Garlic powder
Basil
Olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot (I used a 12-qt stock pot… and then eventually had to divide into a second pot) and cook onions until soft and translucent.

Cut chuck roast into large pieces just so that they’re small enough fit in the pot you’re going to use. Season sides with salt and pepper. Brown all sides of the pieces of chuck roast and put them in the stock pot over the onions.

Add all the crushed tomatoes and simmer for 10-12 hours or until the meat is tender and shreddable with a fork. Allow to cool and skim extraneous oil from the top.

In a large pan, sauté the carrots with salt, pepper, and garlic powder until tender crisp and put aside in a bowl. Do the same with the zucchini.

Remove the large chunks of chuck roast and shred with two forks. I did this in the second pot I ended up using. When all the meat has been shredded, add about half back to the first pot and transfer about half the liquid from the first pot to the second. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and garlic powder to taste. Add the carrots and zucchini (drain any extra liquid first) and continue to simmer until the carrots are soft.

Add heavy cream to your desired level of creaminess.

Serve over your favorite kind of pasta!

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Cauliflower crust pizza

kalebaconpizza

bbqchickenpizza

I guess it’s the last day of 2016. Weird, huh? It’s been a good year though! And I suppose next year we’ll be celebrating the new year in our new house! Crazy! Life is moving FAST and owning a house feels super way too adult. But I guess at some point I have to come to terms with the fact that I am an adult.

Today has been a good day so far. Started off with an 8:30am showing of Moana. I’ve been meaning to see it for a while now. In fact, I had planned to watch it last Tuesday ($5 Tuesdays at Marcus) but every showing that day was sold out! I guess schools are out right now and parents are all taking their kids to the movies. Anyhow, I finally saw it this morning and it was really good! Definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it already.

Then some friends and I made these cauliflower crust pizzas. Super delicious! We made two pizzas – one with bacon and kale (traditional red sauce and mozzarella cheese), and one with chicken and red onions (with homemade bbq sauce and cheddar jack cheese). Recipes for the crust and bbq sauce are below.

To assemble we put the sauces down first, then cheese, then the bacon/kale or chicken/onions. And then with the bbq chicken we drizzled more sauce on top before and after baking.

Then we sautéed the leftover chicken, kale, and onions in the leftover bacon grease! A simple but excellent use of all the leftovers!

Now we’re just lazing around watching the Little Prince and tonight we’ll be heading to our pastor’s house to ring in the new year. A great day to end a great year!

Well, I think that’s all I have to say for now. Happy New Year!

Cauliflower crust (per pizza):
1 large head of cauliflower
1/2 cup shredded cheese (we used Mozzarella)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt

Process cauliflower florets in a food processor until it has a rice-like consistency.
Bake 20 min at 400 degrees.
Use a dish cloth or cheese cloth to squeeze out all the liquid.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Spread on parchment paper covered baking sheet and bake for 20 min at 425 degrees.
Add sauce and toppings, then bake 5-6 minutes at 425 degrees.

Homemade BBQ Sauce:
I started with this recipe but didn’t really measure anything. I used all the ingredients from the recipe and added garlic powder, chili powder, and a few drops of liquid smoke. I also manually whisked everything instead of using my food processor.

Totoro cake and cooking adventures

totoro_cake

Cooking_comp

It’s only been a little over a month since my last post! I’d say that’s pretty good for me =)

I don’t know if this counts though since I’m not really going to post any recipes. But I had a bunch of pictures on my phone so I figured I’d post them.

The top picture is from my friend’s birthday. She loves Totoro, so I thought I’d try to make a Totoro cake. I’m really not very good at baking though so I was pretty nervous. I found this video and recipe so thought I’d give it a try but at the last minute I decided I didn’t want to attempt making the blueberry lemon cake, so I went with Funfetti instead. I mean, who doesn’t love Funfetti cake? I used plain buttercream for the stomach and eyes, the blueberry frosting recipe from the link for the rest of the body, and plain black frosting for the eyes and v’s on the stomach. I also had a couple friends help me with baking the cake, making the frosting, shaping the cake, and decorating the cake. So really I didn’t do a whole lot.

The bottom panel of pictures is from a cooking competition my church had between the family groups. Each group had to use chicken, kale, and strawberries to make an appetizer, entree, and dessert. Technically we only needed to use one of the ingredients in each course, but I thought a) it would be more interesting and b) our team would would get more creativity points if we used all three ingredients in all three courses.

Our group split into three team, one for each course. For the appetizer we made mini chicken tacos with shredded kale, cheese, and a strawberry salsa. For the entree we made Hmong stuffed chicken wings – that is, de-boned chicken wings stuffed with ground pork, rice vermicelli noodles, shredded carrots, onion, Hmong/Thai peppers, and kale (this was a substitute for cabbage), seasoned with salt, pepper, and oyster sauce. This was served over a bed of garlic/cilantro rice with a side of sweet and spicy Hmong pepper sauce (traditional Hmong pepper sauce (Hmong/Thai peppers, cilantro, green onions, fish sauce, lime) with pureed strawberries). And finally, for dessert we made chicken and buttermilk waffle cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting topped with a popcorn chicken and maple glazed kale chip garnish. All in all I thought our team did a really good job with everything and even though we didn’t win the competition, we had a ton of fun cooking together.

Anyway, I don’t have much else to say. So I’ll end it with the rest of the random pictures from the cooking competition that I had on my phone.

Vegan Stuffed Peppers

Stuffedpepper

I feel like every time I start a new post it begins with something like “so…. I haven’t posted in a while…”. This time it’s been over 7 months… so… I haven’t posted in a while. As usual, it’s not that I haven’t been cooking, but more so that I’m lazy and a) don’t measure anything which makes writing a recipe fairly difficult, b) don’t make things that look nice enough to take a picture, and c) forget to take pictures. This time (a) and (b) are still true and while I did take a picture, it’s a fairly crappy iPhone picture so (c) is pretty much true too (forgot to bring the DSLR). I figured I was due for a post though, so here it is.

The husband and I recently decided to go to Haiti this year with a team from our church. One thing the team decided to do to help fundraise this year was to make a steak dinner for people at church. It was quite the event – over the course of one night we fed ~80 people a three-course meal from salad and bread, to steak (or chicken) and mashed potatoes, to five different dessert options.

I love steak. If you’ve never had steak prepared in a sous vide cooker you really should give it a try. Sadly I, and several others, did not partake in the steak deliciousness due to various forms of fasting for lent. So I was in charge of making an alternative option. After perusing the internet for “vegan main dishes” I settled on stuffed peppers – mostly because they had the highest presentation potential.

Most recipes for stuffed peppers include rice and cheese but some folks were doing more restrictive fasts, so rice and cheese were out. I’d never made stuffed peppers before and was a little nervous that they’d be disastrous, so I decided to do a test run the day before. It turned out ok, but I’m glad I did the test run because I was able to make some adjustments before the actual dinner.

Some things I learned:

  • Pick peppers with the flattest bottoms you can find.Otherwise they might tip over.
  • If the peppers are not able to stand up by themselves, they can be baked in muffin tins. For presentation purposes this isn’t ideal because the muffin tin will leave a ring around the outside of the pepper.
  • Most recipes will say to bake for 45min-1 hour. If all the ingredients inside the pepper are fully cooked it really only takes ~25-30 min to soften the pepper.
  • When using naturally sweet vegetables like red peppers, sweet potatoes, and corn, extra seasoning is needed to offset the sweetness.

I’m not going to post a complete recipe because as I mentioned earlier I didn’t measure anything. Plus, people have different taste preferences, so the ingredients can be combined in whatever ration one prefers. For the dinner we served the peppers with a side of guacamole, which makes everything better. Here’s how I made my peppers.

Ingredients

  • Red bell peppers (2)
  • Sweet potatoes, diced (1 medium cut into ~1 cm cubes)
  • Frozen sweet corn (1-2 cups)
  • Canned black beans, drained and rinsed (1 can)
  • Tofu, diced finely (1/4 block)
  • Yellow onion, diced finely (~1/4 onion)
  • Tomatoes (1-2, not entirely sure what type they were)
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Paprika
  • Cumin

Wash and dry the peppers. Cut the top off (but save it) and clean out the seeds from the inside of the pepper. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut tomatoes into 1/2 inch chunks. Cook over medium heat in a pot. Use a potato masher or fork to mash the tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste and allow to simmer until thickened (20-25 min).

While the tomatoes are simmering, heat olive oil in a frying pan or wok and cook the onions until tender (3-5 min). Add the sweet potatoes and continue to cook until the potatoes soften (8-12 min). Add the tofu,. corn, and black beans and continue to cook for another 3-5 min. Add salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, and cumin (I have no measurements for any of those – my method is to add sparingly and taste as I go).

When the tomatoes have reached the desired consistency (make sure they’re not really watery), add them to the pan and mix thoroughly.

Scoop filling into the peppers and place the top of the pepper on top. I cooked five peppers in a dutch over and three in a muffin tin. For the ones in the muffin tin, I wrapped them in aluminum foil. Bake (wrapped in foil or covered in the case of the dutch oven) for 30 min. Uncover/unwrap, take the tops off, and broil (tops as well) for 3-5 min.

Sous Vide Pork Sliders

The plate was tiny, so this picture is a bit of an optical illusion.

The plate was tiny, so this picture is a bit of an optical illusion.

Today my fiance and I went to a church potluck today for the “families” in the church. It’s a little weird in my mind to think of us as a family since we aren’t quite married yet and we certainly don’t have any children (at least not that I know of). I guess we’ll get there soon enough though.

For the potluck, we ventured into the land of sous vide. A good number of years ago a friend of mine told me about the concept and how he was thinking of buying a semi-ghetto build-your-own sous vide machine kit. The idea is that you seal (or vacuum seal) meat with seasoning and cook it in a water bath at a low temperature. This prevents it from getting overcooked. Then you take it out and sear the sides for texture. At that point I thought the method was kind of cool, but thought this friend was pretty nuts to buy a make your own kit.

Fast forward a few years to now. A different friend (although these friends do know each other) has gotten into a sous vide craze. It’s great for cooking meat and for cooking things in large quantities. Today was my first time doing it by myself. I don’t really know where I got the idea for asian style sliders, and as usual I ended up just winging it. So I’ll go into what went into it, but I don’t have any measurements.

So what I did was marinate pork tenderloins overnight in gallon size ziplock bags. I put them in a pot with water and the sous vide cooker at 140 degrees (F) for around 3.5 hours. Then I seared the outside. To make the sliders I used King’s Hawaiian Roll and topped with some Asian-style slaw made with cabbage, carrots, green onions, and some seasoning.

They turned out pretty well. The pork was really tender and the flavors paired well with the sweetness of the Hawaiian rolls. Overall I’d call this one a success!

Pork tenderloin marinade:
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Minced garlic
Brown sugar
Salt
Pepper
Rice vinegar
Red pepper flakes

Slaw:
Shredded cabbage
Shredded carrots
Finely chopped green onions
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Sugar
Salt
Pepper
Rice vinegar
Minced garlic
Sriracha sauce