baked blueberry clafoutis

Since our decision to kick cable t.v., to the curb, there’s a lot less television-watching in our house.  We’re down to NetFlix and about 25 channels, twelve of which are in Spanish and of no use to anybody.  The other twelve or so are home shopping (still not useful), local affiliates (mainstream programming not my taste), and PBS.  So, I’m watching a lot of PBS.  And, hey, I’m a member, so no guilt trips, please.

One of the shows we see…well, I see pretty regularly as my partner-in-crime is snoozing away on the other half of the couch, is a great gardening show called Growing a Greener World.  One of the best things about it is the cooking segment at the end of each show.  Chef Nathan Lyon (Tweet him @chefnathanlyon – he even tweets back), always seems to be cooking up something fresh and easy-to-prepare with nutritious ingredients you don’t have to hunt down at a specialty store.  It’s nothing over-the-top.  Just healthy, simple fare you can throw together for a weeknight meal for your family, and always a little unique to impress your guests.  I don’t own his cookbook, but I’m definitely going to get it given the rave reviews I’ve gotten with his recipes, so far.

This one was from an episode we watched last night.  Again, I watched, hubby dozed.  I’d made a traditional cherry clafoutis at my mom’s one summer a number of years ago.  It was delicious.  How could it not be delicious?  It’s full of eggs and a tiny bit of sugar and fresh fruit.  And, it’s fun to say!  What I discovered after baking this one; blueberry, is the French are particular about their clafoutis.  It’s apparently only a clafoutis if it’s cherry.  If you bastardize it, as the French would undoubtedly claim, by baking it with blueberries, or any other fruit, it’s considered a flaugnarde – not nearly as fun to say, but equally yummy.  They’re not too sweet, since there’s really not much sugar compared to other desserts, and have a wonderful texture – more like a custardy-tart, since you use a minimal amount of flour to bind all the egg and creamy loveliness together.  The texture is creamy, a very thick custard, and melts in your mouth.  The berries hold their shape nicely, so there’s good texture in the fruit, as well.  Call it what you will: clafoutis or flaugnarde, it’s good eats!

Serve it warm, dusted with powdered sugar or a little heavy cream.  Personally, I found it just as delicious served cold.  Personal preference.  Enjoy!

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Baked Blueberry Clafoutis

Recipe Courtesy: Nathan Lyon, Growing A Greener World, Episode 116

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp granulated sugar, separated
  • 5 whole eggs, large
  • 1 cup half and half, or whole milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tsp)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pint blueberries (12 oz)
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F
  2. In a medium, oven safe, non-stick sauté pan, combine the butter with 2 Tbsp granulated sugar and place over medium heat. (Be careful not to let butter brown).
  3. Meanwhile whisk the eggs plus the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar on high speed until tripled in volume and pale yellow in color (about 5 minutes). Then, by hand, gradually whisk in the half and half or milk, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and flour until just incorporated. It should look light and foamy at this point.
  4. Pour this mixture into the hot pan, top with the blueberries, then transfer into the oven. Bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top, and the Clafoutis has puffed up.
  5. Remove from the oven, and turn out onto a cutting board. Slice, and serve with the optional powdered sugar.

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***Baker’s Notes:  Don’t try to skimp too much on the calories with low-fat or skim milk.  Your end product will be watery and unsatisfying.  At the very least, I’d say 2% milk, but whole milk or half and half are truly best.  I used the full pint of berries and, even though I love blueberries, I thought it was a lot of berries.  I might experiment with 8 ounces next time.  Mine baked for 24 minutes and I actually spun it under the broiler for a few minutes to give the top a more golden appearance.

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pan-seared steak with red wine-cherry sauce

I’m a huge fan of the sweet cherry – being a native Michigander, and all.  My husband, a native Ohioan, believes Michiganders are willing to put cherries in anything; pies, bread, wine, soda, sausage, you name it.  And, on that count, he’s right.  Frankly, I think it’s just a jealousy thing.  He’s from Ohio who managed to marry a girl from Michigan.  Ohio has….um, well, no cherries.  Their state tree breeds a poisonous nut, for Pete’s sake.  Yeah, it’s totally jealousy.  Not to mention, Michigan is full of peninsulas and Ohio is pretty square.  Not a peninsula to be found.  Hence, I dubbed this syndrome “Peninsula Envy.”  He thinks I’m being funny.  Denial is the first sign.

If you’re married to a Michigan girl who grew up spitting cherry pits into the sand on the front porch of the family cottage, and cherries start to show themselves in grocery stores (sadly, not Michigan cherries) round about Father’s Day, it’s a good bet you’re getting something for dinner with cherries in it.  Fortuitously, the July issue of Cooking Light arrived at the house late last week.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  Cooking Light is one of my all-time favorite cooking magazines.  Everything I’ve cooked from the magazine has been consistently good.  This issue certainly doesn’t disappoint – it’s full of amazing looking dishes, and even gave a shout out to Traverse City, Michigan, home to the Cherry Festival, on The Hungry Traveler 2013 top 10 list of delicious food excursions across America.

The red wine cherry sauce was quite good, especially infused with the star anise.  I had to make two alterations; one discussed below and the other being obvious from the photo.  The recipe called for beef tenderloin steaks, but I sent the man to the store and he came home with filets.  Cooking time quickly adjusted and they came out pink and perfect!  I served the steaks with garlicky almond green beans (poo poo’ed by the kiddo…too much garlic, apparently), which were delicious, and the man of the day gave the meal two thumbs up.  A perfect manly meal for a perfectly wonderful dad.  Enjoy!!

Seared Steaks with Red Wine-Cherry Sauce (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, July 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 4 (4-ounce) beef tenderloin steaks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 cup sweet cherries (such as Bing), pitted and halved
  • 1 star anise
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine (Merlot or Pinot noir)
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 425°.

2.   Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Sprinkle steaks evenly with salt and pepper. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add steaks; cook 4 minutes. Turn steaks over; bake at 425° for 5 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steaks from pan.

3. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sauté 2 minutes or until just tender, stirring frequently. Add cherries and star anise; cook 1 minute. Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Discard star anise. Stir in butter. Spoon sauce over steaks.

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Cook’s Notes:  I couldn’t get whole star anise in the bulk spice section at my local organic grocer, so I ended up with anise seed, instead.  Very fragrant, but supposedly not as flavorful.  Because it was anise seed, I didn’t add it with the cherries.  Instead, I bound the anise seed in cheese cloth and let it steep in the wine for about 30 minutes ahead of cooking.  The wine really picked up the anise flavor and it definitely flavored the sauce.

beef and lentil sloppy joes

First off, I’m going to apologize for posting two sandwich recipes in a row.  Generally, I like a little more variety in my rotation than that.  But these just…happened.  And they were too good not to share.

Second, this recipe sort of just happened after a conversation with the husband about buns, and how bad buns can spoil the whole….sandwich experience.  (You see now why my mom always liked to call them rolls).  Anyway, in a rush through Target a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a package of their Market Pantry brand hamburg buns.  Wow!  What a huge mistake.  If ever there were Worst Buns Ever competition, that’d be the winning bun!  They were flimsy, flavorless, flaccid, and forgettable.  Not that the bun (roll – sorry, Mom) needs to knock your socks off.  But to hold up to sandwich fixin’s with any sort of juicy, gravy, or sauce, well…flimsy, flavorless and flaccid won’t cut it.

Not that this post is about buns.  Ahem…rolls.  Just saying, if you make these, select a better quality bun.  Oh, and a skim coat of butter and a little time under the broiler doesn’t hurt, either.

So, on to the real reason for this recipe:  it just sounded good.  My husband had his cholesterol checked a while back and, despite my predominantly healthy cooking choices, it was still elevated.  With exercise and supplements, he’s been able to get it in to a healthier range, but it made me ever more mindful of how food choices (especially if you’re pre-disposed to high cholesterol) are so very important.

What attracted me to this recipe in the first place was the lentils.  They’re a super source of protein, inexpensive to purchase, easy to cook, and provide a whole host of health benefits.  You can read more about lentils here at Whole Living and Alive, but if you’re not including more lentils in your diet, you really should give them a try.  Adding them to Sloppy Joes is just an act of pure genius!  The original recipe actually used lentils as a replacement for the beef, but I followed the adapted recipe, then made a minor change of my own to adjust the seasoning for my sometimes picky eater.   After having tried them (they were delicious), I think completely replacing the beef with lentils would be a perfectly acceptable way to go for a truly meatless dish.

As you can see, my little Sous Chef was helping me cook dinner that evening.  We only had one minor disaster!!  Yikes!  Thankfully, the tomato sauce was right out of the can and wasn’t hot when it sloshed over the edge of the pan.  We decided that one might have gotten us downgraded on Worst Cooks in America!!  The end product, though, was really good.  Lots of flavor, even without the chili powder, and great texture.  Next time I might actually try them without the beef.  Enjoy!

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Beef and Lentil Sloppy Joes (recipe adapted from One Ordinary Day)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked green lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder (I left this out completely, but 3 Tbsp is just way too much chili powder: adjust according to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • burger buns or sandwich rolls

Directions:

  • Place lentils in a sauce pot with the 4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and and simmer for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft.  Drain and set aside.
  • When the lentils are about halfway cooked, heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute ground beef until crumbled but not fully cooked through.  Add the onion and saute until beef is no longer pink. Add garlic and saute about one minute.  Add the cooked lentils, oregano, and salt and mix.
  • Add tomato sauce and tomato paste and combine…gently.  Cook for about 10 minutes and then add brown sugar and mustard.  Stir until well blended.
  • Reduce heat to lowest setting and let the favors come together for about 10 minutes.
  • Serve on broiled or grilled buttered rolls.

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Cook’s Notes:  Easily adaptable to a completely vegetarian meal.  I think these would be just as delicious with only lentils and no beef.

pulled pork bbq (slow cooker style)

Can you ever get enough pulled pork?  I think not.

A friend gave  me this recipe a while back and I hadn’t made it for fear of being accused of being on some strange shredded meat binge.  Finally, the temptation was too great and I gave in, even though I had made shredded something-or-other fairly recently.  But it’s about the easiest recipe ever written and I was in an “I don’t want feel like lingering over dinner” kind of mood.  Four ingredients, people.  Four ingredients and that’s about all the lingering over dinner you’ll need to do.  I always feel like there’s some kitchen fairy magic going on with these meals.  Ingredients in, lid on, twelve hours later, dinner is served.

I’ve seen various recipes like this one calling for the addition of a carbonated beverage.  Does anyone know why?  Honestly, I’m not sure what the added benefit might be, because I think the meat really gets it flavor from the onions and whatever spectacular bbq sauce you choose.  So, if anyone can offer any hints as to why soda of any kind is frequently seen in slow cooker recipes like this, I’d love to know.  The finished product had absolutely no Ginger Ale overtones, whatsoever.

We always top our shredded meat with coleslaw.  We’re quirky that way.  Feel free to do the same, or just slather in more saucy deliciousness.  Enjoy!

2013-03-12

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Pulled Pork BBQ

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs pork roast (shoulder or butt)
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 cup ginger ale
  • 1 (18 ounce) bottle favorite barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s) barbecue sauce, for serving (optional)

Directions:

  • Slice one onion and place in crock pot.
  • Put in the roast and cover with the other onion, sliced. Pour over the ginger ale. Cover and cook on LOW for about 12 hours.
  • Remove the meat, strain and save the onions, discard all liquid. With two forks, shred the meat, discarding any remaining fat, bones or skin.
  • Return the shredded meat and the onions to the crock pot and stir in the barbecue sauce. Continue to cook for about another 2 hours on LOW.
  • Serve with hardy rolls and additional barbecue sauce. Any leftovers freeze very well.

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Cook’s Notes:  Shoulder or butt are recommended because the meat shreds very well.  It is a fattier cut, but the fat pretty much falls away after cooking and is easily removed from the crock pot before shredding.  Also,  the original recipe cooked for 12 hours the first round, and another 4 to 6 after straining, shredding, and adding the sauce.  I think mine would have been cooked to mush by that point.  Another 2 hours to let the flavors develop was plenty for us.  Also, the original recipe gave a tip on how to freeze ready-made sandwiches.  Personally, that just sounds disgusting.  I can only envision a soggy pile of goo coming out of the microwave upon re-heating.  My preference is to keep the meat and bread separate until I’m ready to eat.  Most importantly (as with any shredded meat sandwich where sauce or coleslaw is involved), make sure your sandwich buns can stand up to all that moisture.  I noted to serve with “hardy rolls” in the directions above, and I can’t emphasize that enough.  Unless you don’t mind eating your pulled pork with a fork.  In which case you can simply call this recipe pork-on-a-fork!

mu shu pork wraps

These were delicious.  I don’t think there’s anything else I can add.  Oh, yes, and messy!  Not to mention really easy to make.  And delicious.  Did I say that already?

I’m a Cooking Light subscriber, but I must have overlooked these somehow when I received this issue, because I’d have been all over them like…well, nothing you want to talk about in a cooking blog.  Whatever the reason, they went unnoticed until I was working on a weekly menu plan some time last month.  The combination of ingredients was enticingly colorful and…crunchy.  I’m a crunch person, so I can’t go wrong with any dish full of  crisp, fast-cooked veggies.

Although the original recipe called for a head of green or Savoy cabbage, the day I did my shopping I was in a purple kind of mood.  This dish wouldn’t have a lot of color otherwise and I thought the purple cabbage would be a nice compliment to the carrots.  (I know you’re all busting out your decorating color wheels right about now).  Also, everyone’s always telling you to eat a rainbow, right?   Purple cabbage is full of antioxidants and has more of vitamins A and C, and iron than green cabbage.  So, it looks pretty in the dish and it’s good for you!

The prep for this dish is really simple and the ingredients go together quickly, so it really is perfect for weeknight cooking.  My only lament is I didn’t find the recipe sooner.  Enjoy!

sauced © ZoupToNuts

Mu Shu Pork Wraps (recipe adapted from Cooking Light, September 2012)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head green or Savoy cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 (8-ounce) boneless pork loin, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots $
  • 4 mushroom caps, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided $
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 package flour tortillas

Directions:

  1. Remove any loose outer cabbage leaves. Shred remaining cabbage to measure 2 cups. Combine soy sauce and next 3 ingredients (through cornstarch). Cut pork crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack several slices vertically; slice pork into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Repeat procedure with remaining pork. Add pork, carrots, and mushrooms to soy sauce mixture; toss.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Add 1/4 cup onions; sauté 30 seconds. Add shredded cabbage and water; sauté 2 minutes. Remove cabbage mixture from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add remaining 1/2 cup onions and garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add pork mixture; sauté 3 minutes or until done. Add cabbage mixture; toss.
  3. Place about 1/3 cup pork mixture into each tortilla, wrap and serve.

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Cook’s Notes:  The original recipe uses the large, outer cabbage leaves for the wraps.  As I’d recently fed my husband dinner wrapped in lettuce, I opted for something a little more substantial and used the tortillas.  You can only get away with lettuce wrapped meals so many times a month!