Tag Archives: easy

Confit… con? or fit?

2 Jun

Confit: [kohn-FEE, kon-FEE]

This specialty of Gascony, France, is derived from an ancient method of preserving meat (usually goose, duck or pork) whereby it is salted and slowly cooked in its own fat. The cooked meat is then packed into a crock or pot and covered with its cooking fat, which acts as a seal and preservative. Confit  can be refrigerated up to 6 months. Confit d’oie and confit de canard are preserved goose and preserved duck, respectively.

© Copyright Barron’s Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER’S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/tools/fooddictionary/entry?id=2028#ixzz1OA1VZ100

Confit, as defined above is reserved for slowly cooking poultry in their own fats for preservation reasons. But, lately, it seems as though you can “confit” anything. I’ve seen recipes for tomato confit, garlic confit, lemon confit and most recently, chickpea confit. Personally, I feel that confit is turning into one of those culinary terms like carpaccio. You see anything sliced paper thin is a carpaccio of “fill in the blank.” Granted anything salted and slowly cooked in fat sounds delicious to me, but is it really a confit?

It’s an interesting thought really. Why not just poach these items in oil. They certainly done have their own fat to bring to the party. But what’s the different between oil poaching and confit? Mostly, when you poach something in oil, you are removing the item from the cooking liquid whereas with a confit it is being stored in the fat. Still, doesn’t tomato confit sound so much more luxurious than tomato dip or even preserved tomatoes. And an oil poached tomato kinda sounds like a greasy mess.

Confit or not, I made my version of chickpea confit. The bottom line is that this is a dip or spread. It’s similar to hummus but with infinitely more flavor and texture. Plus it sounds so elegant for a dip. Here’s the recipe:Chickpea Confit

Chickpea Confit
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 large garlic cloves
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low for 45 mins-1 hour. Let the mixture cool slightly and mash with a fork. Serve chilled with fresh baguette or crackers.

So what is my final verdict on the proper nomenclature? Well, I think that whenever something sounds exotic and exciting it makes me want to eat it more. I’m still not convinced that radish carpaccio should be allowed… but the idea of elevating a simple vegetable to new heights by cooking as if it was as special as duck or goose, can only be a good thing.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

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You don’t have to hug a tree to love granola

31 Mar


I love granola. I mean what’s not to like about sweet crunchy whole grains mixed with fruit and nuts. I make granola a lot at work. I serve it to the kids to mix with yogurt and fruit. It holds up well without going stale and it can be flavored in so many ways. Since today is a very rainy day I figured it was a good day to play with the food in the house.

If your pantry is anything like mine, you have a few items in there that are partially used. I always seem to have a 1/4 cup of chocolate chips or a handful of nuts. I also seem to have an assortment of dried fruits left over from different recipes. Granola is great what to use up all those odds and ends. As with most things, granola is a technique. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can tweak the ingredients to customize your mix.

Here’s the basic formula for granola:

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 350. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss until the mixture is crumbly and the syrup has been evenly incorporated. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes. Be sure to stir the mixture every 5 minutes to prevent burning.

Below is a table of combinations to give you an idea of how you can mix and match flavors to make a personalized granola…

Basic Base Dry Goods Syrup Flavor 2nd Flavor Additives
oats no additional maple cinnamon brown sugar dried fruit
oats wheat germ agave pumpkin

pie spice

vanilla powder pecans
oats coconut honey cinnamon brown sugar dried fruit
oats shredded wheat honey nutmeg clove white chocolate chips
oats puffed rice agave espresso powder vanilla powder chocolate chips

Today I made a tropical granola… here’s the recipe:

2 cups oats
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Added after the base was toasted and cooled:
1/2 cup dried mango, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup banana chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

I followed the above technique and viola, a yummy granola! I would also recommend using macadamia nuts instead of the peanuts or omitting the chocolate chips for a slightly healthier granola, but ce la vie… This is what you get what you’re cleaning out the pantry

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Strawberry and Rhubarb Galette

6 Mar

Nothing says spring to me like strawberries and rhubarb. And, now that I’m living in Florida, I have the pleasure of getting local strawberries. I’m sure I’ve bored you all before with my rants on fresh local ingredients, but the simple truth is… the shorter the distance between you and your food, the better.

I was in the grocery store this afternoon and the sale was 3 pounds of local strawberries for $5. I wasn’t really shopping for fruit. In fact, I was there getting a toothbrush, but I couldn’t resist this deal. The rhubarb was cleaned and broken down and conveniently merchandised right next to the strawberries. It was kismet. Dessert was a must for tonight.

I love making galettes. They are rustic free form pies that are less stuffy and finicky than traditional pies. The technique is simple enough. Just make a simple pie dough and roll it out on a cookie sheet. Place your fruit in the center of the rolled out dough and then fold the edges in toward the center. Brush the outside with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. In this case I used pearl sugar. (The pearl sugar doesn’t melt so it gives the effect of salt on a soft pretzel.)

Here’s the full recipe. Make this soon, as rhubarb season is short and the frozen stuff just isn’t the same.

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

For filling:1 pound strawberries, hulled
1/2 pound rhubard, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar

For crust:
1 1/2 cup AP flour
6 T butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1 egg
2 T water

Start by making the crust. Combine the dry ingredients together and then cut the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture resembles cornmeal. In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients. Add the the wet to the dry and kneed to combine. Once everything is incorporated, chill the dough for approx. 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, make the filling. Combine the fruit with the sugar and allow to macerate.

Preheat the oven to 375 degree. When the dough is chilled, roll it out into a 14-16 inch circle. place all of the filling in the center of the dough leaving a 3 inch border around the sides. Then fold the edges in toward the center leaving a 2 inch hole. Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the dough is GBD (golden brown and delicious.) Serve at room temp with either vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

The thing about buttered noodles…

1 Feb

noodlesHere’s the thing. What is so bad about trying something new? I know that the new is scary. When you walk into a dark room you never know what awaits you. It’s the momentary terror your minds spins into reality. You’ve seen way too many episodes of CSI and NCIS to believe that nothing is lurking in the shadows. But wait… what if instead of a horrifying beast or the suspicious murderous foe, waited a surprise party? All your friends joyously welcoming you to a festivity of laughter and merriment. This my friends, is why the new cannot be missed.

Everyday at work I make the obligatory pan of buttered noodles. Not really a big deal but it did get me thinking. Everyday I have kids that choose buttered noodles over anything else. Some of them I truly believe only like buttered noodles, but others take them simply because they don’t know if they will like the other offerings. It makes me wonder what is so wrong with trying something new. I know that when I was a kid we ate what was put in front of us and we were happy. (Well, unless it was my brother and beef barley soup, that combination was more drama then Jersey Shore) Anyway, the point is this: why don’t kids like to try new foods. They try new games, and TV shows. They make new friends and read new books, but when it comes to lunch it seems to be the old standby, buttered noodles.

Do you ever remember looking a food that you had never seen before and then looking at your mom or your dad and asking if you liked it. Usually they would lean down and say yes. In my family when this happened and we did not actually like what we had just tasted, we would say that our taste-buds had changed. And, rightly so as your taste-buds do change over time. What I can’t seem to wrap my head around though, is the complete lack of curiosity. How do you know you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it before. My philosophy is try something twice. Just like when tasting wine, the first taste clears your palette. The second taste is when you really get to know the food. It’s the second date if you will. If the first bite left you unsure, the second will most definitely help you decide.

I can’t knock buttered noodles completely. There was a time during my college career that buttered noodles made up at least 70% of my diet. And, now and then, I love a little butter and parmesan on my pasta. But, if I was presented with the choice of buttered noodles or something much more glamorous, the noodles would fall to second place in a heartbeat. I know what you’re thinking as you read this. If it bothers me this much, why not stop making them. The real answer is that there are kids that will not eat anything else. Literally these kids would rather starve without lunch then eat what else is for lunch. So, I must continue with the buttered noodles. Just in case you’ve never had them and are wondering what’s the big deal…

Buttered Noodles alla Katie

1 pound pasta, cooked
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

in the microwave melt the butter with the salt and garlic. Pour the butter over the cooked noodles and stir to combine serve hot, garnish with grated parmesan cheese if desired. (the last step classes it up a bit)

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Week One…Do and Do Not try this again!

17 Oct

“Woke up in the morning. Put on my new plastic glove. Served some re-heated salsbury steak
With a little slice of love. Got no clue what the chicken pot pie Is made of.
Just know everything’s doing fine Down here in Lunch Lady Land.”

So week one. I have to say that I had no idea how hard this job was going to be. This past week I was helped by the guy who was filling in for me over the past 5 weeks before I was able to move down. The weekly menu was: Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese, Chick-fil-a, Chicken Teriyaki with fried rice, and Baked Ziti. I was feeling pretty confident in my menu choice. I knew that I had made all of these dishes before and that they were all successful. There was no need for doubt, I had blind ambition and engine full of steam.

Monday- Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. I thought this would be a piece of cake. Toast the sandwiches in the oven and make soup. I even took the sandwiches to a fun new place by using 1 slice of whole wheat bread and 1 slice of white bread. The soup was made from canned tomatoes, condensed tomato soup (only because I inherited some and needed to use it up), Italian herbs and spices, salt, pepper, onion, garlic and water. Since the soup was cooking for 4 hours I figured the water would simply stretch the canned tomatoes and not lessen the flavor too much. After I received my lunch count for the day I panicked. I wasn’t going to have enough soup for all the orders. My counterpart suggested I add more water to the soup to stretch it and then correct the seasonings as necessary. What choice did I have, I didn’t have anymore tomato product and there was no time to run out for more. I added water and corrected the seasoning. The flavor was actually very good. It was the texture that was off. The extra water made the soup too thin. It was more of a tomato broth than a tomato soup. At the time, I didn’t have a food processor, blender, or immersion blender so there was no incorporating air for added volume. I had no cornstarch, butter or flour to thicken it with. So it was served as is, along side of perfectly toasted cheese sandwiches. The kids said the soup was perfect for dipping and the grilled cheese was the best they ever had. Day One… 7 out of 10

Tuesday- Chick-fil-a Day. This day happens on the second Tuesday of every month. I provide chips, fruit and a dessert, and the fast food joint provides the chicken. It makes for an easy prep day for me. Although no one told me that I needed to provide the extras until the day before, it all turned out fine. Day 2… 9 out of 10

Wednesday- Chicken Teriyaki with Veggie Fried Rice. Ok so I was really excited about this day. It was a brand new menu item that the kids had never had before. The thought process was to bake the chicken in the oven and then serve with the fried rice. As a side I had orange slices and for dessert, fortune cookies. I was like a little kid at Christmas. Who wouldn’t be excited about this for lunch. Little did I know the horror that awaited me. I had marinated the chicken over night and it smelled awesome. I started cooking the rice and prepping the fruit. The chicken went in the oven and we were rocking and rolling. 35 minutes into the cooking process, the chicken still wasn’t cooked. I started to panic… This was only the first batch of 3 and the clock was ticking. I had finished the rice and it tasted delicious. I was stuck on the chicken. Everything else was on it’s way, but the chicken was no where near done! There is a flat top in the kitchen that had never been used by the school before. It’s always been used be the Knight’s of Columbus for their pancake breakfasts, so I figured it was my only option. I started throwing the chicken on the flattop and bada bing it was beautiful. The searing made the whole kitchen smell like ginger and sweet soy sauce. I was feeling better. What I didn’t realize was that the kids have the choice of what they want to eat at lunch. So, each kid gets the main dish from me but then can choose from the offered sides that are offered by the volunteers. The lesson here is that these kids don’t like rice. Not many of them took it, and some of them didn’t have oranges either. This left them with a lunch of chicken and cookies. I was heartbroken. I thought for sure this would be a huge hit, but alas, not so much. Day 3… 3 out of 10

Day 4- Baked Ziti. I knew the baked ziti would be a hit. My counterpart had made it the week before and the kids went gaga for it. My version was a little different and I was not offering garlic bread. I did offer instead the school’s first salad bar. I’ve applied for a grant through Whole Foods that would provide the school with a salad bar. I wanted to test out the theory of the bar before we had one and then the kids weren’t interested. Well, they LOVED it. Despite seeing 1 kid eat ranch dressing and bacon bits as his salad or the kid who only had plain pasta and and croutons on his plate, everyone seems to be eating veggies. This is a huge step in the right direction. Day 4… 9 out of 10

I’m not what to expect out of this next week. There are lots of new recipes and I’m not sure how the kids will react. I have vendor meetings and inventories to do. When I first got married I thought it was had cooking or 2 people. Little did I know 5 years later I’d be cooking for 300.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Impressive dinners

25 Feb

Tonight’s dinner was a great one. I have pretty high expectations for myself and it’s not too often I think that a dinner is spectacular. Tonight was one of those dinners that you wish your stomach was bigger, just so you can keep eating.

The menu was seared pork porterhouse chops over white bean ragu and tamarind BBQ sauce. I know it sounds intimidating, but it really is simple. Start with the most important step, brining.

Make sure you brine your chops before you cook them. The cut that I used, is simply a bone in chop that has the loin and the tenderloin on the same cut. This meal will work just as well with boneless or even the tenderloin.

White Bean Ragu

1 can Great Northern Beans
1 cup red pepper, bruniose
1/4 cup white onion, bruniose
1/4 cup fennel, bruniose
1/2 cup carrot, bruniose
1 large clove garlic
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch dried thyme

combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the ragu has thickened. Season and serve.

Tamarind BBQ sauce

1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons tamarind paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons honey
1 large clove garlic, minced

Wisk all ingredients together, adjust the cayenne to make the sauce to your heat levels.

Ragu in general gets better as it sits, so the leftovers (if there are any) will be better the next day.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Eggs, versatile and delish!

2 Feb

For me mornings mean eggs. Both me and the hubby love them. We like them anyway you can cook them. Ryan likes them a little more well done than I do, but that’s one of the best things about eggs, they cook so fast, so you can make everyone happy in a quick minute.

This morning I made one of our favorites, eggs in a basket. I’m not really sure of the origin of this easy, delicious meal, but it’s one that is sure to impress. Here’s the recipe:

Eggs in a basket
serves 2

2 slices bread
2 eggs
2 slices cheese, we use American but cheddar or swiss would be great
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a griddle on medium heat and add in the oil
2. remove the center of the bread from each slice leaving about 1 inch from the crust, you can reserve the centers if you want to, but it’s not necessary
3. Add the bread into the pan and allow to toast slightly.
4. Crack an egg into the center of each slice and season
5. Let the egg set for about 3 minutes
6. Flip the bread and add the slice of cheese and finish cooking

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that this will definitely make you feel like a king. Eggs have gotten a bad wrap recently, and I’m feel the need to dispel the myths. Eggs, like everything else, are fine in moderation. If you cook them in healthy oils, like olive oil, they can be a great addition to any diet.

If you are watching what’s going into your belly, just substitute use 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie