Monday, October 20, 2008

Bison loaf!

Tonight's Menu

  • meatloaf
  • twice-cooked potatoes
  • green salad "bar"
Okay, I'm just going to come right out and say this: I've been buying ground bison instead of ground beef. Yeah, I don't know what to tell you. My local supermarket carries it and it doesn't cost much more per pound than the "natural" ground beef I had been buying, plus it's supposed to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol AND it's free of growth hormones and antibiotics. Best of all, it's darn tasty!

So this meatloaf was made with ground bison. I didn't measure anything -- just tossed a pound of ground meat into a large plastic zipper bag, then dumped in some dry bread crumbs, an egg, some chopped onion, some chopped fresh parsley, garlic powder, salt and freshly ground pepper. I also added about a tablespoon of bottled barbecue sauce, just for grins. Then I kneaded the bag until everything was mixed thoroughly.

I prepared my loaf pan by spraying it with cooking spray, then covering the bottom with a sprinkling of brown sugar and a drizzle of ketchup. I read a recipe years ago for meatloaf prepared with this sweet glaze on the bottom of the pan, and I've been making it that way ever since. It sounds weird, but it's so good! Anyhoodle, then I dumped the meat mixture into the pan and, just because I was feeling EXTRA NAUGHTY, I layered strips of bacon on top. (I know, right? I'm pretty sure I negated any health benefits of using bison vs. beef in this recipe, but whatever.) Then I just popped it in the oven at 375 degrees F for about an hour. It was really yummy -- I haven't made meatloaf in forever and it's a total comfort food for me. Perfect for a day when I was feeling kind of gross.

The potatoes were a variation on my usual chuffed potatoes, except that this time I used russet potatoes (instead of the waxier red-skinned variety) and cut them into bigger chunks. I simmered them for about 20 minutes in a pan of water, as usual, then cooked them again in a hot skillet with butter to get them nice and brown and crispy on the outside. I also sprinkled in a bit of garlic powder along with the usual salt and pepper at the end. Delish!

Tonight's salad bar was mixed lettuces (I had a moment of weakness and bought a bag of salad mix last week when DH was out of town and it was just me and the kids at home) with sliced green onions, sliced celery, and thinly sliced carrots on the side.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Always an adventure

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled skirt steak
  • sweet potato fries
  • caramelized Brussels sprouts w/lemon
We had a bit of a late dinner tonight -- my parents brought the kids back from a sleepover after filling them with junk, so they weren't all that hungry at our usual dinnertime, and DH and I had had a late lunch (in the midst of a lovely afternoon of kid-free shopping).

I think I've mentioned before that in the summer it's almost too hot to grill at my house; our back patio faces due north and in high summer there is no shade at all. I'm always thrilled in autumn when the sun moves south and the days begin to shorten, bringing evening shade to the back patio once again. It does pose a problem when it comes to late dinners, though -- this one was cooked mostly in the dark! Thank goodness for those floodlights the previous owners installed on the back of our house!

ANYWAY, the skirt steak was prepared exactly as for fajitas -- rubbed on both sides with a prepared beef fajita seasoning mix, marinated in a mixture of fresh-squeezed lime juice and EVOO, then grilled for four minutes per side and sliced thinly across the grain. We just ate them as-is instead of folding them into tortillas with all the fixings.

The sweet potato fries were made with CSA sweet potatoes in the usual way, EXCEPT I accidentally discovered a way to make them crispier than usual! See, the plumbing in this house was installed by trained monkeys, apparently (along with the electrical wiring, the air/heating ductwork, the floors, etc. -- but that's a story for another time and another blog). What that means is that our garbage disposal backs up at the drop of a hat. Even though I was using PLENTY of hot running water and running them through only a few at a time, the peels from the sweet potatoes were too much for it. So DH had to do an emergency disposal-ectomy in the middle of my dinner prep, which meant that the fries were finished cooking long before I was even able to START the Brussels sprouts. (And I had this all timed down to the minute, too -- argh!) I didn't want the fries to get cold, and I was afraid that if I covered them they'd get all soggy, so I just turned off the oven when they were done and left them in there while everything else finished. Sitting in the warm, turned-off oven actually made them crisp up without getting overdone -- who knew? I think I'll factor this wait time into the recipe from now on!

Anyway, geez, I'm writing a novel here and this was actually a really simple meal, except for the mishaps! The Brussels sprouts were from Everyday Food and this dish was completely serendipitous -- I had bought the sprouts a few days ago and really needed to use them up, when I happened to open the October issue of Everyday Food this afternoon and there was the recipe! We always have lemons in the house so this was a no-brainer for me, and really tasty, too!

Whew! There you have it. A simple dinner that wasn't so simple after all! We are totally having leftovers tomorrow.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Using up the CSA veggies

Tonight's Menu

  • sausage and vegetable stew
This might better be called Kitchen Sink Stew, because I'm pretty sure I threw everything but that into the pot! I am determined not to let any of our CSA veggies go to waste and a stew seemed like the best solution, particularly since I knew the leftovers would freeze well.

So here's what I did. First I chopped up a pooload of veggies: onions, garlic, celery, sweet bell peppers, zucchini, pattypan squash, and a variety of mixed eggplants (ichiban, rosa bianca, some skinny white ones and some skinny green ones). Plus we had a tomato that didn't travel well in the CSA box, so I chopped that up as well, along with some unidentified greens (some variety of chard, maybe?).

Then I browned off a chub of bulk pork sausage (Pederson's breakfast sausage, in this case) in a big heavy pot, breaking it up as it cooked. I was all set to drain off some of the fat, but this particular sausage didn't render much out at all -- I actually had to add some olive oil to moisten everything up! With the sausage still in the pan, I added the onions and garlic and stirred everything around really well until the onions had gone just a tiny bit translucent. Then I added the peppers and celery and stirred those around a bit until I could smell them.

Once the sausage, onions and peppers were all happy in there, I dumped in my mixed squashes and eggplants, along with my chopped tomato and greens, about a tablespoon of tomato paste, one small can of crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen Fire Roasted, in my case), two cans of water, and maybe half a cup of dry white wine. Then I sprinkled on a good teaspoon or so of dried oregano, a healthy pinch of salt, and several grinds of fresh black pepper. Stir, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour or until the veggies are nice and tender. Taste it and adjust your seasonings before serving.

I thought this was absolutely delicious! So fresh-tasting from all the veggies, and the sausage and tomatoes made it nice and hearty. If I had it to do over again, I would have peeled the rosa bianca eggplant -- the skin is a little tough on that one, even though the flesh came out nice and tender.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that the kids wouldn't even touch the stuff, and DH didn't much care for it. But then, he doesn't like squash, peppers OR eggplant and this stew was chock-full of all of them. Oh well. I froze a bunch of it and will look forward to having fresh vegetable stew all winter when those yummy summer vegetables are gone!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

More ribs!

Tonight's Menu

  • baby back ribs
  • chili potatoes
  • tangy apple coleslaw
Why yes, ribs ARE all we ever eat around here! Thank you for asking! (Hee!)

These were pork baby back ribs; I'm not sure of the weight but it was a rack of 14 ribs. I rubbed them on both sides with a mixture of brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, dried oregano, salt, pepper and a wee bit of garam masala. Then I stuck them on a rack in a roasting pan (I had to cut the rack of ribs in half to make them fit) with a bit of water on the bottom, covered the pan tightly with heavy-duty foil, and popped them in the oven at 300 degrees F for two hours. I finished them on the grill like this: meat-side down over high heat for about five minutes, then flipped to meat-side up and basted with bottled Memphis-style barbecue sauce. As soon as I basted them, I turned off one of the burners on my grill, turned the other two burners to low, and put the ribs on the unlit burner for about 10-15 minutes, just to bake the sauce onto the ribs. They were tender and delicious, and honestly, they probably would have been fine without the sauce. What can I say, I like messy ribs!

For the potatoes, I just cut some unpeeled baking potatoes into chunks, tossed them in a foil-lined pan with some EVOO, and sprinkled them with salt, pepper, chili powder and garlic powder. I popped those in the oven at 450 degrees F for 30-35 minutes (this was after the ribs came out), stirring every 10 minutes or so, until they were nice and crispy. Yum!

The coleslaw was kind of an experiment. I wasn't in the mood for my usual creamy coleslaw, so I went the vinegar route instead. I actually paid attention to what the heck I was doing so I could write this one in recipe form for a change! Yay, me!

Badger's Tangy Apple Coleslaw

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
1-2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and shredded
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. canola or other mild vegetable oil

Toss the shredded cabbage and apples together in a medium bowl. Whisk the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl or glass measuring cup and pour over the cabbage mixture; toss to coat. Chill for at least 2-4 hours. Can be made the night before. Serves about 4-6 people.

This was way yummy and made a nice change from my usual coleslaw. The vinegary dressing was a great complement to the richness of the ribs!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Short ribs!

Tonight's Menu

  • slow-cooked beef short ribs
  • steamed rice
  • green salad "bar"
It's finally fall, and that means short ribs! Our favorite recipe is this one from They slow-cook in the crockpot all day -- what could be easier? I used boneless short ribs and thickened the gravy on the stovetop instead of in the slow-cooker (my crockpot is ancient and doesn't do high heat well), but otherwise I followed the recipe exactly. Yummy!

The rice was steamed in the microwave, and the salad was left over from last night. WAY easy!