Monday, June 29, 2015

Mushroom Ragu

One of the things that I really cut back on when I was trying to lose weight was pasta. But sometimes I just really want a good, hearty bowl of pasta. But I knew I could make something that still tasted wonderful but might be slightly healthier than your regular meat sauce. Insert one of my favorite veggies - mushrooms! 

To start, I took an entire package of button mushrooms and diced them finely using this chopper I have. You can easily just put them in the food processor and pulse it a few times until you get a coarse consistency. Basically, the mushrooms will look like ground beef when cooked, so you want the pieces smaller than a pea, but not much smaller. 

My secret to this sauce is the marsala wine I add to the ragu. I'm going to preach here for a second - DON'T buy that cheap stuff in the vinegar aisle that's $4 a bottle. Spend the extra $6 for this better (this brand or similar brands - I'm not endorsing one particular brand) $10 bottle of Marsala wine. First of all, you get more for that $10, but you'll also get a MUCH better flavor out of it.

I whipped up some garlic parsley butter a few days prior with some fresh herbs my mom gave me from her garden just by softening some unsalted butter, adding in some diced garlic and some minced parsley. I took about a tablespoon of this and sautéed the mushrooms in it.

Don't salt your mushrooms yet, it will make things watery right now, and we don't want that. Once sautéed, add in about 1/2 a cup of the marsala wine and reduce it down. The mushrooms will absorb all of that wonderful flavor and the wine flavor will concentrate.

Once reduced, add your favorite marinara sauce - about 2/3 of a cup and let it cook about 10  minutes. Pour over your favorite pasta and enjoy! This might be my new favorite pasta sauce right now. The marsala adds such a nice flavor and I don't even miss the meat. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tomatillo Pulled Pork

I love tomatillo salsa. I only discovered it last year, and since then I've made it many times. I saw something somewhere online, I can't remember where, about someone making a roasted pork butt with tomatillos and I knew I had to try it. Unfortunately, it's not tomatillo season, so I couldn't buy any fresh ones at the grocery store. Luckily, I know I really enjoy frontera's tomato salsa, so I figured I'd give their tomatillo salsa a try in this dish.

To start, I took one jar of frontera tomatillo salsa and added in about 8-10 jalapeño slices to a food processor along with about a cup of cilantro leaves, the juice of two limes and one large shallot and pulsed everything together. I wanted my pulled pork to have a little heat, so I added the jalapeno's. If you don't like heat, omit that. I also wanted a little extra zing, hence the extra lime juice.

I poured the sauce over a pork shoulder and covered it in foil and cooked it at 325* in the oven for seven hours. Unfortunately, it wasn't done and I had to go to bed. I took the pork and refrigerated it and two days later, when I knew I was going to have it for dinner that night, I put it in my crock pot and turned it up to high for another six hours. If I were to do this again, I'd do the whole thing in the crock pot for 8-10 hours to see how it turned out.

To serve, I added a bunch of meat to a soft flour tortilla along with some cheese, tomato salsa and sour cream. Next time I might try some fresh tomatoes too. I think I might add a few more jalapeno's as well since I would have liked even more of a kick since it was only slightly there. Use your discretion based on what you enjoy for heat level. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pesto Chicken Bruschetta

I had this idea the other day based on a pesto chicken stuffed shell dish I made a while back. What if I took some shredded pesto chicken and added it to bruschetta? I absolutely love bruschetta, so why not make a meal out of it by adding some protein? 

I started by simply boiling some chicken breasts. I boiled about a pound of chicken and placed it in my KitchenAid mixer with the paddle attachment. Did you know that if you put cooked chicken in the mixer with the paddle attachment it will shred the chicken for you? No? It's super simple and takes about all of one minute.

While the chicken was still warm and shredded, I added about 3 heaping tablespoons of pre made basil pesto sauce to the pound of shredded chicken. You can add more, but I wanted to control the amount of oil I was adding. Because the chicken was still warm, it absorbed all of the yummy goodness here.

I then took a few slices of seven grain bread and spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese on top. I love ricotta, and if I were making pesto chicken stuffed shells, I'd add the ricotta right to the shredded chicken (along with a few other cheeses before stuffing the shells).

I then added a layer of the shredded chicken on top of the ricotta. I'd say I added about two tablespoons of chicken here. Not a ton, but enough to give me some great flavor and protein.

Finally, I topped the bread with some tomatoes I had marinading in some white balsamic vinegar, which adds a nice tang and contrast against the creamy ricotta and herby-pesto chicken. I used about five plum tomatoes for my dinner, but I like a heavy hand on the tomatoes. I had three nice slices of this for dinner last night and was very satisfied. It was the perfect dinner to kick off summer. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Lemon Dill Carrots and Seared Scallops

With grad school finally over (crazy!), I'm really hoping I have more time to cook healthier dishes for myself instead of relying on takeout like I so often had to do with my crazy schedule.

To start, I made myself a nice dinner of lemon dill carrots and seared scallops. I bought some pre-sliced carrots at the grocery store and put them in a pan with about 1/2 a teaspoon of lemon dill butter from the grocery store. I added about 1/4 cup of dry white wine and sautéed the carrots for about 20 minutes or until a little soft, but they still had a nice snap to them.

Once the wine has soaked in and evaporated, the carrots start to sear a little with the butter and the pan. I used a simple non-stick pan over medium heat. If you just lay the carrots out in the pan into a single layer and leave them for about five minutes, you'll get some nice color. 

About half way through cooking, I started the scallops. I patted them dry on a paper towel and sprinkled them with my favorite seasoning. If you don't have this garlic/salt/crushed red pepper mill, just use some salt and pepper. You can add some garlic powder if you want too. 

I melted about 1/2 a teaspoon of bacon fat in a skillet once it got to a medium-high temperature and put the scallops in. DON'T touch them for at least 3-4 minutes. You want to sear the scallops on each side for about 3-4 minutes depending on the size. The key is to make sure your skillet is pretty hot.

This is such an easy dinner because it requires very little work. The scallops get started just about when the wine evaporates for both of them to finish up at the same time. 

One of my tips is to fill half my plate with veggies. I always like a generous helping of veggies to fill me up. When you have a lot of veggies, you're more likely to eat them.