Thursday, September 5, 2013

KFC-Style Coleslaw

Coleslaw is impossible to make.

What I mean is, coleslaw recipes vary so widely. People use mustard or no mustard, add other vegetables, make it tangy or sweet or both or neither. It can be sloppy and wet or dry and barely dressed.

It's always a gamble ordering coleslaw at restaurants because you never know what you're going to get and if you'll like it. And the same principle applies to coleslaw recipes. I mean, if you know you like a mustardy slaw or a creamy one, you can look at recipes that look like they'll result in the kind you prefer. But it's hard to tell.

I do know I usually like KFC coleslaw. It's a bit too sweet and sometimes a little gloppy, but overall it has a list of things I like--finely chopped cabbage, a touch of carrot and onion, creamy and sweet but still with some tang.

So when I went to make my own coleslaw with some of the bounty of CSA cabbage in my refrigerator, I went hunting for the KFC recipe. And if you want to clone a restaurant's recipe, you go to the Top Secret Recipes website.

I made a couple changes, and the resulting slaw--is very KFC-like.

KFC-Style Coleslaw
Adapted from Top Secret Recipes.

Gluten Free
Grain Free

Use your food processor to finely shred two small or one medium heads of cabbage and two carrots or a generous handful of baby carrots.

Use the food processor to mince an onion (red preferred) and add 2 Tablespoons minced onion.

Mix the vegetables together in a large bowl.

In another bowl, combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, between 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4  cup milk, 1/4 cup buttermilk (I used the lemon-juice-in-milk trick), 2 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice, scant 2 1/2 Tablespoons white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Combine. I like to put the ingredients in the tall cylinder that came with my immersion blender and then use the immersion blender to blend everything. This ensures that the mayonnaise gets thoroughly mixed without leaving big chunks of mayo in the dressing.

Pour dressing over the vegetables and mix well.

Cover and refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

The verdict? It really does taste like KFC coleslaw, only slightly tangier and a little less sweet. The only problem is that I used homemade mayo and my recipe has a bit of dried mustard in it, so the coleslaw ended up tasting mustardy, which is exactly what I didn't want. SIGH. I wasn't thinking about the tiny bit of mustard in the batch of mayo, but it comes through really strongly. So if you're using homemade mayonnaise, leave the mustard out of it! But if you're using storebought, I'm sure it will taste exactly right.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Miscellaneous Summer Food Projects

I've actually been getting better at blogging the meals we've been eating, but here's a little taste (sorry) of some of the other food projects I've been working on:

Sourdough Starter

I've been feeding a sourdough culture for a couple months now. I've used it to make delicious sourdough pancakes, amazing sourdough English muffins, and two giant bricks that were supposed to be bread.


Pickled jalapenos and pickles.
The DDH and I (well, mostly the DDH, honestly, while I ran baby-control) pickled a couple pounds of jalapenos and some cucumbers. He loves the results; I don't. I think it's the pickling spice he used.

Other Preservation

Blanched basil drying before being frozen.
I've turned tomatoes into sauce and tossed it in the freezer. I've been chopping and freezing jalapenos and strawberries, roasting, skinning, and freezing green chile, and blanching and freezing basil. This bit of work now will make the winter so much tastier!


Fried okra.

Delicious CSA watermelon.

We've been loving our CSA share from my friend Don at Bootstrap Farm. Most of the jalapenos and some of the green chiles have come from the CSA, as have all the cucumbers, basil, and most of the other produce I've mentioned (the strawberries, though, were just on sale at Aldi). It's great to pick up a giant bag of tasty, local, organic produce every week that I've already paid for. :-) It's forced me to get creative in the kitchen and try out some new recipes, from fried okra to eggplant parmesan and more.

Bone Broth

I made my monthly-ish chicken and bone broth batch this past week. This is seriously one of the best things I can advise anyone to do in the kitchen. Roast a chicken (I use the crockpot because it's easy, but I make the World's Best Roasted Chicken in the oven). The meat gets used for meals immediately and/or shredded and frozen for quick meals later. All the bones, organ meats, skin, etc. get dumped back in the crockpot and turned into delicious bone broth, which I also freeze. Whenever you see a recipe on here that calls for chicken broth or stock, this is what I use. It's practically free, delicious, and super good for you--stock from the store (or bouillon) is none of those things.

So that's what I've been up to in the kitchen this summer--how about you?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Pepper Lime Pork Chops

Clearly we like citrusified meats around here. A splash of fresh citrus juice and a bit of zest really does add a brightness to the flavor of pork and chicken that makes something fast, easy, and healthy taste more like something fancy from a restaurant.

This would work equally well with lemon instead of lime (or a mixture; you could use lime zest and juice and lemon-pepper seasoning, or a mixture of lemon and lime zests/juices). It would also work on chicken breasts instead of pork chops.

The chops are dredged in flour which gives them a bit of a fried texture and flavor (and some nice crisp, especially when reheated on the stove), but you can always leave out the flour and still have a tasty rub for your meat.

Pepper Lime Pork Chops

Dairy Free

In a shallow bowl, combine zest of 1 lime, 1 Tablespoon dry mustard, 1/2 Tablespoon dried parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 2 Tablespoons flour.

Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a skillet large enough for your pork chops over medium-high heat.

Dredge 2-4 pork chops in flour mixture. Add to hot skillet. Cook 3-5 minutes on one side.

Continue to cook pork chops 3-5 minutes per side until almost done. Just before the last time you think you will need to flip the chops, add juice of 1 lime and 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce to pan.

Flip pork chops and finish cooking in juice. Be sure to scrape up the tasty brown bits for your sauce!

Serve, pouring extra sauce over.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Lemon-Parsley Chicken

T-Rex really liked this chicken. Of course, he seems to like most chicken, so perhaps that's not quite the endorsement it could be.

The DDH and I liked it, too, though, so there's that. ;-)

As written, this makes very lemony and kind of sour chicken. If you like less lemon, cut back on the juice and/or omit the zest from the rub.

You can also make this chicken on the grill; remember to preheat your grill before you begin chopping and mixing the rub so it will be hot when you're ready to cook.

Lemon-Parsley Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Light September 2013

Gluten Free
Grain Free
Dairy Free

Combine 2 Tablespoons (approximately) minced fresh parsley, 2 teaspoons lemon zest (about the zest of one lemon), 4 garlic cloves, pressed, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bone.

Sprinkle mixture on 2 large or 4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts. Rub into the chicken and let stand ten minutes.

Heat a skillet large enough to hold the chicken in one layer on medium high heat.

Add the chicken and cook on medium high for three minutes on each side.

Turn the heat down to medium low and continue to cook chicken five minutes per side until done. This will vary greatly depending on how thick your chicken breasts are. Thin ones might have been done after the initial six minutes; thicker ones will take closer to thirty minutes.

While chicken cooks, combine juice of one lemon, an equal amount of extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. (The juice of a lemon is usually 2-3 Tablespoons, so if you don't want to measure, use 2 Tablespoons oil for a smaller lemon and 3 Tablespoons for a larger lemon.) Whisk until emulsified.

When chicken is done, pour dressing over and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly.


Friday, August 23, 2013

White Bean Tacos

So, I have a confession to make.

About a month ago, a storm knocked out power to our house for almost forty-eight hours. When it became clear that the power wasn't coming back any time soon, I packed the meat into coolers with ice and took them to my in-laws' house, where at least they would be in the air conditioning (she only has the one side-by-side freezer and it's so packed I can barely fit a bottle of milk in there for when she watches T-Rex, so our food clearly wasn't going to fit in the actual freezer).

Luckily everything still seemed pretty frozen by the time our power came back and we could get it back to our freezer, but for various logistical reasons, the DDH took the meat back on his way to work. And since he was in a rush, he just piled everything, still wet from the ice in the cooler, into the freezer in no particular order.

This was about a month ago, and I still haven't managed to go out and reorganize the thing. Every time I need some meat or chicken broth or whatever, I have to pry it apart since everything is frozen together in big chunks. Sometimes the plastic rips and then I have to use up two things of meat. The freezer itself has big weird chunks of ice in it, because it's old and not frost free and all the frost melted and then refroze, sometimes around the meat that was put back in.

It's a mess. And so, honestly, I've kind of been avoiding cooking meals with meat in them, because it's such a project to find what I want and pry it out.

Hence these white bean tacos. They are actually quite delicious and DDH approved, but I'll be doubling the recipe next time since this only made enough for five or six tacos and we needed at least eight to cover dinner and lunch the next day.

You can also include some wilted spinach with the beans if you have those lying around.

A Note on Salt: I used dried beans that I had previously cooked and frozen, which are not salted. I wrote 1 teaspoon in the recipe but I think I might have used closer to two. If you are using canned beans, you may wish to start with less salt and add more to taste, since even rinsed, canned beans are more salty than dried.

White Bean Tacos

Gluten free (with corn tortillas)
Dairy free
Vegetarian (depending on tortillas) 
Vegan (depending on tortillas)

Heat 1 Tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Swirl to coat.

Add 1 onion, vertically sliced, and saute five minutes or until soft and lightly browned. Add 4 cloves garlic, minced and saute thirty seconds.

Add 2 cups white beans (1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed) (cannellini are perfect), 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir. Cook two minutes or until beans are thoroughly heated. Feel free to let it simmer longer while you prepare the salsa, especially if there's still some liquid from the beans. Just be sure to turn the heat to low and stir occasionally so the beans don't burn.

In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups chopped tomato, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 jalapeno, sliced, and 1 Tablespoon lime juice. You can add either fresh cilantro here or two teaspoons dried cilantro to the beans.

Warm flour or corn tortillas. You can do this by covering them with a damp paper towel and microwaving for about thirty seconds, or, if you prefer them crispy and delicious (my preferred method), heat in a dry skillet for two minutes or so on each side (you'll have to check to make sure they brown and don't burn). This is how I prep tortillas for just about everything I make and I much prefer it to the microwave method, but since you have to do it one at a time it does take longer if you're cooking for a crowd.

Fill each taco with bean mixture. Grate cheese (we usually use Colby-Jack) onto each serving, then top with a spoonful or two of salsa.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cabbage and Tomato Soup

Soups are a winter standby meal. There's not much easier than chopping up some vegetables and meat and tossing them in a pot, and hot soup makes a comforting meal on a cold winter's day.

I don't usually make as many soups in the summer (neither the DDH nor I are fans of chilled soups), but I did yesterday, and I realized something that probably should have been obvious: just as with all other preparations of vegetables, soups taste completely different when made with summer-fresh produce than with winter-stored or canned stuffs.

I guess I thought that when you're boiling the heck out of something, it doesn't much matter how fresh it is. And that's true, in that a flavorful broth can make less-than-stellar produce still taste pretty darn good.

But soup made with fresh produce? Tastes even better. Or at least different.

This soup would be vegetarian with vegetable broth instead of chicken, but would also benefit from some chicken, or some sausage, browned and thrown in at the end. The DDH went for seconds even without meat, so it's plenty tasty and fairly hearty without it.

I used fresh tomatoes (the real source of the flavor difference--there's nothing like a garden fresh tomato no matter how it's prepared, but potatoes and cooked cabbage, I think, are pretty much the same always. Though actually the potatoes really had a nice flavor in this, too. Anyway.), but in the winter would usually use a can or two of diced tomatoes, so feel free to substitute. I used two big and several small tomatoes; I'm guessing it ran about a half pound or so.

As with most vegetable soups, you can switch around the vegetables easily. Add some carrots or parsnip or green beans or whatever you have lying around.

Cabbage and Tomato Soup

 Gluten Free
Dairy Free
Vegetarian (with vegetable broth)
Vegan (with vegetable broth)

Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a large pot on medium high heat.

Add 1 onion, chopped and 1 small head of cabbage, cored and thinly sliced. I forgot to add any garlic because T-Rex was trying to pour the dog's water bowl out all over the kitchen again, but you really should include 3 cloves garlic.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until onion is soft and cabbage is getting there.

Add 1/2 pound tomatoes, diced, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 4 cups chicken broth, and enough water to finish covering the vegetables, if necessary.

Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for about an hour or until potatoes and cabbage are tender.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beef Stroganoff

The DDH doesn't make requests often. He's usually pretty content to just eat whatever I make, and will admit that he has discovered he loves lots of foods and flavors he had never tried before I made them for him.

However, I always ask him if he has any requests when I'm making my meal plan for the week, and this week he had one: beef stroganoff. Apparently he was feeling nostalgic for his mom's beef stroganoff.

The problem is, I really don't care for beef stroganoff. For one, it's usually served on egg noodles, of which I am not a fan. I'm not a fan of "cream of whatever"-type foods in general. Maybe it makes me a bad Lutheran, but I skip all those casseroles consisting mostly of different canned "cream of" soups. Blech.

But the DDH so rarely makes requests, and he clearly wanted beef stroganoff with egg noodles like his mom used to make. So I agreed to try it if he could get his mom's recipe.

A call to his mom led to the discovery of an old church cookbook containing her beef stroganoff recipe.

While the stroganoffs of my youth involved flank steak or some other sort of chopped beef, this recipe gave ground beef as an option and the DDH agreed that that would be fine.

The rest of the ingredients seemed fairly innocuous, other than the condensed cream of mushroom soup (and the strange specification that the sour cream be "dairy sour cream," which makes me wonder what other sorts of sour cream they ate in the eighties).

If I could figure out how to replace the soup, then I had all the ingredients except egg noodles. I picked some of those up and also bought some fresh mushrooms, since they were on sale at Aldi (I do often use canned mushrooms, but I'm not sure how this recipe will work with them).

I consulted Katie Kimball's cookbook Better Than a Box* to figure out how to replace the soup. Turns out, condensed cream of whatever soup is essentially a thick bechamel sauce with your vegetable or meat of choice for the base. Excellent.

I adjusted the procedures in Katie's book, added the seasonings from my mother-in-law's recipe, and went to work while T-Rex took an obligingly long nap.

Well, guess what? I still don't really like beef stroganoff. Or egg noodles. But I did find a way to make a dish that apparently people who do like beef stroganoff think is super tasty, and it didn't involve a single can of anything. The DDH declared it tasted just like he remembered, which means that clearly the flavor of the dish comes from something other than the cream of mushroom soup, and also that the addition of Worcestershire sauce to his mom's recipe didn't change much.

I don't have any pictures of this because a) I was trying to work quickly while the baby napped and b) beef stroganoff looks like barf. Not appetizing.

Real Food Beef Stroganoff

In a large skillet or dutch oven, brown 1 pound ground beef or beef cut of your choice. Set aside.

While the meat browns, roughly chop up 1 package mushrooms (8 oz) and 1 medium onion.

Heat about 2 Tablespoons oil or butter in the  skillet in which you cooked the beef. Add your onions and mushrooms. Cook down for about twenty minutes (stirring every five minutes or so) or until onions caramelize some and everything is soft.

While your mushrooms and onions cook, mix in a small bowl: 2 Tablespoons ketchup, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1-5 cloves minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.

When the mushrooms and onions have cooked down, gradually add up to 1/2 cup flour, stirring until well incorporated.

Add 1 cup beef broth and 1 cup milk, whisking constantly.

Bring to a low boil and boil for one to two minutes, whisking frequently.

Add ketchup mixture. Stir to incorporate.

Add beef. Mix well.

Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened and warmed through. Just before serving, stir in 8 oz. sour cream. Serve over egg noodles.

I made the stroganoff (sans sour cream) while T-Rex took his afternoon nap, then left it on the stove (heat off) until just before dinnertime. Then I turned the heat on the stroganoff to medium low and stirred it occasionally while I cooked the egg noodles, and it was warm and ready to go by the time the noodles were done.

I forgot to add the sour cream. The DDH thought it still tasted fine, but I could tell it was missing something and I'm pretty sure the sour cream would have fixed that. However, I'm limiting my dairy intake because it doesn't seem to agree with the baby's digestion, so, having forgotten it, I just left it out.

Like I said, I didn't think it was that fantastic, but it did indeed taste like beef stroganoff. The DDH was super happy. He made me write down what I did and even texted his mother to tell her how well it turned out. It was definitely not as terrible as some stroganoffs I've had, and I promised the DDH I'll make it again. Overall, a success.

Best of all: no cans required! :-)

*I bought this book on sale; $17 seems a lot to pay for an ebook. But it is a very interesting and educational read, going into the process behind adapting recipes to use less-processed ingredients, as well as including a number of recipes for real food versions of precisely those potluck-type foods that I don't actually like but everybody else does. ^_^


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