She works with willing hands.

Korean Slaw

I top my Korean tacos with this easy slaw, and I always prepare it shortly before I plan to serve it.  (There’s nothing scrumptious about wilty cabbage.)

These are the ingredients:

korean slaw ingredients

There’s extra virgin olive oil in that little jar.

Plus this pot of golden deliciousness:

honey

Throw your slaw mix into a bowl and dice two scallions.  Add them in, too.

slaw mix

Measure one-half of a tablespoon of black toasted sesame seeds and pour them in.

sesame seeds

Now give those ingredients a nice toss to combine.

Next juice half of a lime.

lime

I had a blonde moment and juiced the whole lime.  You only need half a lime.  Don’t be like me.

Pour the juice of one-half of a lime into a Ball jar.

ball jar

Then add one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the jar.

Plus one tablespoon of rice vinegar.

Plus one-half of a tablespoon of soy sauce.

Finally, add one tablespoon of honey, and give it all a furious shake.  Pour it on top of the slaw and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

INGREDIENTS

5 cups napa cabbage, carrots, and celery mix

2 scallions

1/2 tbsp. black toasted sesame seeds

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. rice vinegar

1/2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. honey

Korean Tacos With Slaw

I love Korean food.  More heavily seasoned (and typically spicier) than Chinese and Japanese cuisines, Korean food incorporates ingredients like chili pepper, sesame oil, and ginger, all three of which make my mouth water.  I cobbled this recipe together on my own, and it is not intended to be an authentic Korean dish.  But it does incorporate authentic flavors, and it hits the spot when I’m craving Korean tacos.  I often make it the day before I plan to serve it.  You’ll see why in a bit.

I start with chuck roast.  Perfect for braising, chuck roast falls apart when it’s cooked low and slow.  It’s ideal for shredding and throwing into a tortilla shell.

chuck roast

I buy a family pack from Wegmans and use one of the roasts, freezing the other one.  Each of these cuts is between 2.5 and 3 pounds.

Gather this stuff:

korean taco ingredients

That’s fresh ginger on the front right.

Now locate your dutch oven.  I use my large (7 and 1/4 quart) Le Creuset.  It’s perfect for braising.

Place your chuck roast in the dutch oven.  (Note: you do not need to rinse the meat first!  Read here to find out why.)

Measure one-half of a cup of soy sauce.

one half cup soy sauce

And pour it on top of the chuck.  Now use the same cup and measure one-half of a cup of water.  Pour that on the chuck, too.

Next measure one-half of a cup of brown sugar.  (You can use dark or light.)  Dump it on top of the meat.

brown sugar korean tacos

Measure one tablespoon of minced garlic.  I used jarred (because I’m lazy) but of course fresh minced garlic is even better!  Add it to the pot.

garlic on chuck

Now for the secret ingredient!  This is gochugaru (or Korean red chili flakes).  Different than American chili powder or cayenne pepper, gochugaru has a specific taste that is unique to Korean food.  You can find it at the Asian market.  Gochugaru varies in heat (depending on where the peppers were grown and how it is prepared), so don’t go crazy the first time you use this.  I use one-half of a teaspoon in this dish (but you might want to use less if you are heat-sensitive or it’s your first time cooking with this spice – go easy).

gochugaru

And if you have no desire to drag your butt to the Asian market, then just substitute with red pepper flakes.  The flavor will not be the same, but the result will still be yummy for your tummy.

Now grab your sesame oil and measure one tablespoon.

sesame oil

Add it to your other ingredients.

Using the same spoon, measure three tablespoons of rice vinegar.

rice vinegar

Oh my gosh, this was the cuteness going on in the midst of me preparing this.

cuteness

“I shopping, mommy.  I go to eat and shop.”

We call the grocery store “eat and shop” for obvious reasons.  I ply my children with snacks the entire time we shop in order to maintain the peace, and my sanity.

Oh, you’re getting cranky?  Here, want a cookie?

Oh, your brother just hit you?  Want some goldfish?

What’s wrong?  Your [insert body part] hurts?  Would you like a frozen yogurt?

Go ahead and judge.  You may call it bribery.  I call it survival.

But I digress…

Back to the tacos.

Add the three tablespoons of rice vinegar to the pot.

Now grab six scallions, and lob off the ends.

scallions

Then dice.  Look at that beautiful natural ombre.

ombre

Throw ’em in the pot.

Now cut one inch of fresh ginger and peel it with a spoon or a potato peeler.  Find your hand grater and grate the ginger into the pot.

grate ginger

Finally, grab a big spoon and give it all a mix to combine the ingredients.  Slap the lid onto your dutch oven and put it in a 275 degree oven for roughly four hours.  The beef is done when it’s fall apart tender and shreds easily with a fork.

At this point you can either shred it, stir with the sauce, and dig in; or you can let it cool and pop the whole pot into the fridge for several hours or overnight.  When you pull it out the next day, the fat will have hardened and separated, and you can easily skim it off and discard it before re-heating the beef.  I prefer the latter method and usually always prepare this one day before I plan on serving it.  (But again, it’s yummy either way.)

Serve in tortilla shells topped with this slaw and some dashes of sriracha sauce.

INGREDIENTS

3 lb. chuck roast

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. gochugaru

1 tbsp. sesame oil

3 tbsp. rice vinegar

6 diced scallions

1 inch grated fresh ginger

My Wegmans Favorites Part 2

After teaching my Mojo Fitness class this morning, I headed over to Wegmans for my lifeblood (aka a cup of Wegmans Donut Shop Blend Coffee).  Happily, Wegmans was having a party to celebrate their 100th anniversary.

There was live music, and an enormous (and tasty) cake.

wegmans cake

Everyone in the store got a piece.

I also picked up a few of my favorite Wegmans items that are perfect for pairing.

1. Wegmans Organic Rosemary Olive Oil Loaf & Wegmans Mild Cave-Ripened Brie

rosemary bread

wegmans brie

This pairing is a staple in my house.  While I myself did not experience the delight of brie cheese until I was in my twenties, my children consider this milky brie their favorite.  (How times have changed.)

We schmear sizable slices of this milky French brie on that aromatic rosemary bread, and gratify both our taste buds and our noses.  Just look at those rosemary leaves baked into the bread:

wegmans rosemary bread

It’s oh so yummy.

2. Wegmans Italian Classics Grandpa’s Sauce & Wegmans Italian Classics Spaghetti

grandpas sauce

wegmans spag

Listen, I’m an unbored housewife and I’m not above popping open a jar of sauce for dinner.  And when it’s Grandpa’s Sauce, no one in my family minds.  This traditional Italian red sauce has just a hint of heat, and it’s the best jarred sauce I’ve ever had.  I always keep a jar or eight in my pantry.

I pair it with the Italian Classics Spaghetti.  The rough texture of this pasta (made in the Puglia region of Italy from semolina flour) holds the sauce when it’s swirled on a fork.  Make it for dinner when you’re feeling lazy.  It’s so good, no one will mind.

My Wegmans Favorites Part 1

I love Wegmans.  As in, I’m there nearly.every.day.  I go for coffee in the morning, and then pick up produce for my dinnertime meal.

Wegmans has some of the freshest produce around, which I already knew from experience.  But then last year The Washington Post did this fab article about the greatness of all things Wegmans, which confirmed my observations about the store’s produce offerings.  According to the article, “[T]he average supermarket turns over its inventory between 18 and 20 times a year…Wegmans, by contrast, goes through its produce as many as 100 times a year.  ‘That’s why their produce is almost always fresher than their competition’s.'”

Just look at that produce section.  It’s a place of beauty, with a wide array of conventional and organic fruits and veggies, both ordinary and exotic.

wegmans produce

I’ve been shopping at Wegmans almost daily for over six years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had problems with my produce being unsatisfactory.  And in those handful of times, the customer service folks either gave me a refund or allowed me to make an exchange – no fuss, no muss.

So I recommend their produce.  It’s fresh stuff.

Along with their fruits and veggies, I have a repertoire of Wegmans’s house-owned and branded items that I love.  And here are a couple that I’ll be highlighting in this Part 1 of my new continuing series of posts I’m calling “My Wegmans Favorites”:

Wegmans Donut Shop Blend Specialty Coffee

donut shop blend

This is my lifeblood, and therefore an appropriate place to start.

I am a coffee snob.  And as a recovering Starbucks addict (I no longer touch the stuff), I now have a deep appreciation for a smooth and mellow cup of joe.  Do not be deceived, this coffee tastes nothing like the sub-par flavor of a cup of Dunkin’.  This inexpensive blend is perfection, and I drink it every day.  It makes me happy.

Wegmans Mini Vanilla Bean Scones

Need something sweet and carby to enjoy with that perfect cup of Donut Shop Blend?  I have just the thing.

Wegmans makes a variety of tasty little scones:

scones

But see that stack with the lavender label?  There is a reason that fewer of them remain on the table.  They are really darn good.  In fact, they are so tasty that I no longer purchase them because I end up eating the whole package myself.  When a box of those lovelies are in my house, I sink as low as hiding in the pantry, mouth stuffed with yummy vanilla carby-ness so that I don’t have to share them with my kids.

They’re really good – but beware – they may turn you into a selfish and gluttonous mommy.  Purchase them at your own risk.

vanilla scones

Basic Pimiento Cheese

Pimiento cheese is a southern thang, y’all.  And as a gal with southern roots, I grew up eating it.

But here in the northeast (where I’ve lived for many years), it is more of a curiosity.  Folks may be aware of it, but they’ve probably never made a batch of this yuminess from scratch.

A perfect appetizer, pimiento cheese is delish on good crackers or fresh veggies.  Lots of southern folks also use it to make grilled cheese sandwiches – which are crazy good.

It’s easy to make, and this basic recipe only contains a handful of ingredients.

Make some now.  You’ll thank me later.  Here’s how.

Grab this stuff:

pimiento cheese ingredients

And two eight ounce blocks of good and sharp cheddar cheese.

cheese2

Now grab a large bowl and your grater.  You’re going to use the side that shreds the cheese finely.

bowl and grater

Grate the block of orange cheddar.

orange cheddar

Now grate the block of white cheddar.

white cheddar

A word of caution – do not use pre-packaged shredded cheese.  The results will be no bueno.  You want to buy good cheese and do the shredding yourself.

Now grab your one-third measuring cup.  Make sure it matches your bowl.

one third cup

Measure two-thirds of a cup of good mayonnaise.  Some folks are picky about their brand of mayo, and I gotta say, Wegmans makes some good mayonnaise.

Plop it in with the shredded cheese.

mayo

Grab a spoon and stir to combine.

Now grab your pimiento and thinly slice it in one direction,

pimiento

then the other.

pimiento slice

Throw your diced pimentos in with your cheese and grab a fork.  Mash to combine well.

Next add one-half of a teaspoon of black pepper, and a few pinches of cayenne pepper, to taste.  (A little goes a long way.)

cayenne

Now use your fork to mash it all and combine well.

Chill in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight, so that the ingredients have plenty of time to make friends and get good and tasty.

Serve on good crackers like so:

final pimiento cheese

This is a basic recipe, and you can zhoosh it up to your liking.  Some folks add diced jalapenos, garlic, finely grated onion and even dill pickles.

So pretend you’re a genuine southerner and make some pimiento cheese.  It’s darn good stuff.

INGREDIENTS

8 oz. block of extra sharp orange cheddar

8 oz. block of extra sharp white cheddar

2/3 cup of good mayonnaise

6.5 oz. jar of pimientos (strangely, pimientos can be found in the Mexican section of my grocery)

1/2 tsp. black pepper

a pinch or three of ground cayenne pepper, to taste

Nana’s Caramelized Onion Dip

Last weekend, we traveled to Dirty Jersey to visit Big E and Nana.  (And no, I don’t actually think that Jersey is dirty.  Most of it is quite lovely.  But I’m a Pennsylvanian and we pick on New Jersey just like any annoying bigger sibling would.  Consider it a term of love.)

Anywho, Nana is Jewish, and she held a little Hanukkah party.  We read the Hanukkah story, lit the menorah,

lit menorah

and played dreidel.

We also ate some yummy and traditional Hanukkah food, including melt-in-your-mouth brisket and potato latkes.  But my personal favorite dish of the day was Nana’s Caramelized Onion Dip.

To borrow the words of any good New Jerseyan, this dip is bangin’.  I plan to serve it on Christmas Eve.

After our church’s Christmas Eve service, Jersey Boy and I are hosting a big open house, and I need to serve food that can be prepared ahead of time and simply pulled out of the fridge when it’s party time.  This dip will be perfect.  Much tastier than the junk you find in the chip aisle at the grocery, this onion dip contains seven simple ingredients, and it’s easy to make.

Just don’t tell Jersey Boy that there’s mayonnaise in it.  He hates the stuff.  Happily unaware that this dip contains mayo, he gobbled it down at Nana’s house and proclaimed, “This stuff is good!”  What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

Here’s how you make it:

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cups thin-sliced onion

2 tsp. chopped fresh sage

3/4 cup mayo

3/4 cup sour cream

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and sage.  Stir.  Turn the heat to a low simmer, and continue to cook.  Stir occasionally, adding a few splashes of water to bring up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Continue until the onions are deep golden brown, 25-30 minutes.  Remove and cool.

Whisk together the mayo and sour cream.  Stir in the onions and season with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Vegetable Beef Soup

I always keep chuck roast in my freezer.  I use it often and for a variety of purposes.  It is a wonderfully flavorful cut of meat – full of marbling and perfect for cold weather cooking.

Yesterday I took out a sweet little baby chuck roast (only about 1.5 – 2 pounds) and thought, “now, what am I going to do with you?”

Too small for a pot roast or beef stew, I needed to concoct a dish that wouldn’t require a ton of meat – a meal where the chuck roast could play second fiddle because that little hunk of beef wasn’t made for the spotlight.  And then it came to me!  Vegetable beef soup.

This soup is so comfy and so yummy that I ate a big bowl of it right before I went to bed last night.  (I actually ate my bowl of soup while I was sitting in bed.  Just don’t tell anybody.)

Here’s what you need to make it:

veg beef soup ingredients

That’s vegetable oil peeking out from behind the garlic and bay leaves hiding behind the celery stalks.  Bay leaves are shy, with their subtle background flavor.  Much like my mini chuck roast, they never steal the show, but they’re a valuable player.

You also need two of these:

beef bouillon cubes

Plus salt and black pepper, to taste.

Start by cutting your beef into roughly two inch chunks.  I’m not nuts about this, but I always remove the larger pieces of fat, leaving the thinner marbling throughout.

chuck

The fat adds flavor, baby.

Now dice one large sweet onion.  I had a huge onion, so I used half of it.

dice sweet onion

Next locate your prettiest stock pot and heat two tablespoons of vegetable over high heat.  When the oil is good and hot, place your beef into the pot in a single layer.  Brown your beef on one side and then flip.

Once it’s looking nice and brown on both sides, throw in your onions.

browned chuck

That’s a masterpiece of a photo if I ever saw one.

Give it a stir.  Then measure two tablespoons of minced garlic and throw that in, too.  Give it another stir and let your beef, onions and garlic hang out a few minutes (maybe 2-3) and make friends, stirring frequently.

Measure one cup of beef broth,

1 cup beef broth

and pour it into your pot, scraping the bottom to dislodge any brown bits that are stuck there.  Then crack open your can of diced tomatoes and pour the whole thing into the pot.  Now grab the rest of your beef stock and pour it all in, too.

pour in broth

Measure one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and add it to the pot.

Then measure one-half of a tablespoon of Italian seasoning,

italian seasoning

and stir it in with your other ingredients.

Throw in two bays leaves.

Finally, unwrap two beef bouillon cubes and throw ’em in, too.

Bring your ingredients to a boil and then lower the heat to a low simmer.  Cover the pot and allow it to cook for an hour-and-a-half.  This gives the chuck roast plenty of time to get nice and soft.

While it’s cooking, chop a handful of baby carrots.  Do you like that precise measurement?  It’s about this many:

handful carrotsThen dice two celery stalks,

celery stalks

and two small potatoes.

cut potatoes

The operative word here is small.  Large potatoes will soak up too much of the broth.

After one-and-a-half hours, stir your soup and throw in the carrots, celery and potatoes.  Open and drain the canned green beans, corn and black-eyed peas.  Add them all to the soup and stir.

Cover the pot and simmer the soup on low for another hour.  The soup is done when the veggies are soft but not mushy.

After it’s done cooking, season the soup with salt and black pepper, to taste.  Add a little salt and give it a taste.  Then add a little more and taste again.  There’s nothing worse than over-salting a pot of soup that you just spent the whole afternoon preparing.

Garnish with a bit of grated parmesan cheese.  I planned to garnish with a little fresh parsley too but then I had a blonde moment and forgot – but I didn’t even miss it!

veg beef soup

This soup is so yummy and so comfy I’m getting sleepy just writing about it.  I’m going to go eat a bowl in bed and then turn out the lights.  Nighty night.

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1.5 – 2 lb. chuck roast

1 large sweet onion

1 tbsp. minced garlic

32 fl. oz. beef broth

28 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 tbsp. worshtershire sauce

1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning

2 bay leaves

2 beef bouillon cubes

handful baby carrots

2 celery stalks

2 small potatoes

14.5 oz. canned green beans

14.5 oz. canned whole kernel corn

14.5 oz. canned black-eyed peas

grated parmesan cheese (optional)

fresh parsley (optional for garnish)

Cookbook Love – Lemon & Salt by Ashton Keefe

I love me a good cookbook, and this one is great:

2

Yes, I borrowed it from the library (which I also love).  I bring my littles to the library at least once a week and let them scour the shelves for anything that piques their interest (age-appropriately, of course).  It brings me back to when I was a wee one and Mimi let me wander our tiny public library for what felt like hours, exploring all manner of genre.

Books are one of my love languages, and this cookbook gives me the warm and fuzzies.

Lemon & Salt – a modern girl’s guide to ordinary revelry is as much about the photography as the recipes.  The pictures are so pretty, in fact, I think I’m buying a copy to display in my kitchen.  I mean, those tomatoes on the cover look so yummy I want to lick the course salt right off of them.

cover

But my favorite part is the food.  With approachable recipes featuring easily procured ingredients, the dishes are, in the words of the chef-author, “unfussy, practical and memorable.”  That’s my kind of cooking.

Here is the table of contents:

contents

Because who doesn’t want to “treat yo’self?”

This is at the top of my “recipes to try” list:

5

That salmon is so darn pretty.  And I want to stick my finger straight into that pea smash and give it a taste.  Nom nom nom.

Other notable recipes include Date Night Carbonara (when you’re looking for a “sexy weeknight dinner”), Warm Herb Potato Salad (perfect for my mayo-averse Jersey Boy) and an Easy Mixed Berry Jam (which I may just jar and store up for winter).

If you have a modern girl to buy for this Christmas, gift her this cookbook.  With recipes that are easy, elegant, accessible and impressive (all at the same time), it’s sure to give her the warm and fuzzies.

[Once again for the avoidance of doubt, no one paid me a dime for this review.  But I suppose I would accept payment for reviewing cookbooks if someone forced the job upon me.  It wouldn’t be a terrible way to make a buck or two.] 🙂

 

Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Carrots & Parsnips

I roast a whole chicken once or twice a month.  It’s crazy easy, and I’m always left with enough chicken for at least one night of leftovers.  Because some days, this unbored housewife just needs to serve leftovers.  Seriously, I just prepared an amazing meal last night!  You need to eat again already??

Sorry, I’m talking to myself again.

Back to the chicken.  If you add veggies to your roasting pan, it’s a complete meal, and seriously yummy.  My kids always fuss over who gets the biggest piece of that gorgeously golden brown, crispy and flavorful chicken skin.

chicken skin

Mmmmmm.

Here’s how to make it.

Start with a whole chicken, and remove and discard the bag of giblets that sometimes comes stuffed in the bird’s cavity.  Now pull out and discard the plastic pop-up timer.  Those things are fairly useless.

pop up timer

Next grab this stuff:

this stuff

Those are a few handfuls of baby potatoes, baby carrots, one Vidalia (or sweet) onion, fresh garlic and a parsnip.  If you’re unfamiliar with parsnips, get to know them.  They’re like a carrot, only sweeter, and they’re delicious when roasted.  Of course, you can use more than one parsnip – I recommend it, in fact.  But I only had one of these babies lingering in my produce drawer.  Simply guesstimate how many veggies you’ll need to roast based on how many mouths you’ll have to feed.

Now grab some fresh rosemary and thyme.  I snipped this straight from my little backyard garden.

rosemary and thyme

If you don’t have fresh herbs, go ahead and use dried.  I won’t judge.

Now rinse your baby potatoes and carrots and throw them into a bowl.  Quarter your onion and throw that in, too.  Then peel four garlic cloves and crush them just a bit to release their aroma.  Peel your parsnip (just like a carrot) and cut it into smallish chunks.  Throw it all into your bowl and grab this:

lemon olive oil

If you don’t have lemony olive oil, grab regular extra virgin olive oil.  Drizzle the oil on top of your veggies, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

s&p to taste

Now toss it all to coat well.

Next place your chicken into a large roasting pan (I use a Pyrex pan) and drizzle the chicken with olive oil.  Halve a fresh lemon.  If you’re using regular extra virgin olive oil, squeeze one-half of the lemon on top of the bird.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and black pepper.  Now stuff both lemon halves into the cavity.

lemon into cavity

Arrange your veggies around your bird, and pour the oil at the bottom of the bowl onto the chicken.  Don’t waste that goodness!

oil in bowl

Now grab your rosemary and thyme, strip off the leaves, and sprinkle them on top of the chicken and veggies.  Stuff a few sprigs into the cavity.

chicken with herbs

Pop your pan into a 425 degree oven for approximately an hour and a half (stirring your veggies a few times so that they don’t stick and burn), or until the chicken is cooked through but still moist in the center.  (This depends largely on the size of your bird.)

When you remove it from the oven, your chicken’s skin should be a gorgeous golden brown.  Loosely cover the bird with foil and let it sit for at 10 minutes before carving.  Then dig in.  Yum yum.

roast chicken

INGREDIENTS

whole chicken

baby potatoes

baby carrots

1 sweet onion

4 cloves of garlic

1-2 parsnips

rosemary

thyme

extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon

salt & black pepper, to taste

Trader Joe’s Highs and Lows

I was naughty and hit up Trader Joe’s twice this week.  I typically limit myself to one TJ’s visit per week, but I needed to return something, so of course I took the opportunity to once again fill my basket with my favorite goodies.  Why not stock up?

This week’s high:

cowboy salsa

This jar emblazoned with a seriously cute cowboy boot contains some seriously tasty salsa.  It is a tomato-less combination of corn, black beans, red bell peppers, jalapeno peppers and chipotle peppers.  It features a healthy dose of heat with a touch of sweet, and the chipotle peppers are a prominent flavor.  If you love spicy food  – go for it.  TJ’s gets it right with this little jar of yumminess.

This week’s low:

tj's pot roast

Okay, just stay away from this roast.  The packaging claims that it is “fully trimmed,” but I beg to differ.  Instead it should read “gristly with a healthy dose of sinew” (but I guess that wouldn’t look great from a marketing perspective).  The meat isn’t cut well and the flavor is nothing to boast about either.  While Trader Joe’s excels in many areas, their meat department isn’t one of them.

So there you have it – this week’s Trader Joe’s Highs and Lows.

Have you recently tried any TJ’s items that knocked your socks off?  What should I try next?