A Dud

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This week for my new recipe goal, I made banana bread using a recipe from The Prudent Homemaker. It wasn’t a complete failure, but it wasn’t anything to write home about, either. I did substitute some applesauce for the bananas (the recipe called for six).  And the recipe uses very little added fat, relying on the bananas for moisture. I rarely enjoy very low-fat baked goods, so I’m not sure why I thought I’d care for this one. I also had to bake it for much longer than indicated and it was still a little gummy.  We have about half the loaf left and I will probably use it to make French toast this weekend.

I know every new recipe can’t knock it out of the park, but I always hope they do!

Grilled Bacon Burgers w/Caramelized Onions

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These burgers were amazing. I got the idea from The Frugal Girl, who had just posted about her own experience trying out this recipe. I looked it up right away on the Cook’s Country website (it may expect you to sign up for a 14 day trial membership — I didn’t get this message two of the three times I searched for the recipe, but one time I did…) because I thought this might be just the thing for our 4th picnic food. And it was. Everything else we had was pretty simple (but good), but these burgers knocked it out of the park. The recipe uses a technique where the bacon is cooked inside of the burger. I’d heard of this before, but never tried it out — we don’t eat a ton of burgers, so I tend to not be very creative. Cook’s Country has a bit of a twist in that you grind the bacon to a paste and then cook the ground up bacon for about five minutes to help render out the fat and give it a head start on cooking. It works. And it’s actually really simple. Michael loved these so much that he thinks we should make up big batches for the freezer. These seem a little decadent to me for a part of the regular meal rotation, but at the same time…if my husband wants to get in on some meal prep, I will not complain!

Some things I did differently than what is called for in the recipe:

  • I used 4 slices of thick-cut bacon
  • I used 93% lean ground beef
  • I added a little Worcestershire sauce and Montreal Steak seasoning to the beef mixture
  • I did not compose my patties on a cookie sheet
  • I didn’t use any cheese at all, they were rich enough as is
  • When I make these again, I will make slightly smaller burgers — these were huge!

All in all, I highly recommend this recipe if you are looking for a really good, but not totally crazy (I was just reading about a bulgogi burger…) new burger recipe.

This year I am committing to trying out at least one new recipe every week, inspired by Frugal Girl. They’re all tagged “new recipe Thursday” should you want to see all the posts on this subject for some reason. 😎

New Recipes: A Catch-Up Post

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Although I’ve committed to trying a new recipe every week this year, I’ve only posted about 12 of them. I have still been making new things, I just got pretty frazzled before my blog break. I’m not going to post a recipe and review for each one, just list here what I made and briefly share whether or not we enjoyed it.

  1. Lentil Sloppy Joes — FANTASTIC! We really loved them and the recipe has been added to my list of semi-regulars. A couple of notes: I use regular brown lentils, they always take more than 18 minutes and 2 cups of water to cook. Probably closer to 30 minutes and maybe 2.5 cups water? I add a little mustard to the sauce and like to serve them with mustard, too. I have used thinned out tomato paste instead of tomato sauce with no problems. Also this make WAY more than 4 servings, unless you are planning to eat a LOT of lentils.
  2. Roasted Cabbage Steaks — Really good. Really, really good. You do have to like cabbage, though. I haven’t made them again because we’ve moved into warmer weather but I think there are a few things I might do differently when I make them again — mostly regarding how to get them uniformly tender. Really this is more a technique than a recipe, but my end product looked close to the photo on this recipe. I did not use honey or thyme or nearly as much olive oil, but I did use balsamic vinaigrette!
  3. Egg Roll in a Bowl — We loved this, too. I’ve made it a couple of times since. It feels healthier than the Korean Beef while sharing a similar flavor profile. You can use pretty much any ground meat here, I’d think.
  4. Zucchini Bread — not my first time making this, but first time for this recipe. It was ok.
  5. Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins — good, especially for a low-fat, healthier muffin.
  6. Blueberry Oatmeal Bars — really tasty; not very sweet, which is a nice change from the recipe I have that is similar to this but uses pie filling or jam instead of fresh fruit.
  7. Lemony Greek Pasta Salad — I did blog about this, but didn’t think to include it in my new Recipe Thursday round up. Why? Who can know.
  8. Tuna Noodle Casserole — again, I’ve made this dish before, but used a new to me recipe. Mostly because I was looking for what would be the right ratio for the ingredients I had on hand. It was good. I make tuna noodle casserole maybe once or twice a year and it fills a craving; otherwise I tend not to think about it all that much.
  9. Crockpot Taco Chicken — this was really simple and really good. It called for chicken breasts, a packet of taco seasoning and a jar of salsa. Nothing else. Cook till chicken can be shredded. I’ve not made it before because of the packet of taco seasoning and because I had a recipe that I thought was similar. They actually taste fairly different and I think I prefer this one for actual tacos. Usually I make my own taco seasoning, but I wasn’t sure how it would work in a recipe with so few ingredients. Also, I made this when my sister was here and needed to be sure the seasoning wasn’t too spicy for the kids — which my taco seasoning definitely is.
  10. Roasted Veggie Salad — this is more a technique than a recipe and, to be honest, I’ve made something similar many, many years ago. But I made a big batch for a picnic while my sister was here and it was absolutely delicious. So delicious that I’ve added it into a semi-regular rotation and we are loving it. It’s perfect for picnics because the salad is best served at room temperature, not cold (it doesn’t have any mayo or dairy for those whom the words “room temperature” make nervous). From The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.
  11. Crispy No-Oil Roasted Potatoes — every once in a while I get into researching odd diets and recently the Potato Diet came across my path again (basically you eat nothing but potatoes w/a little salt for three-five days to help reset your ability to sense satiety). It’s unlikely that I’ll be pursuing that particular method (although I’ve done a variation before and it is less difficult than you would think — and also nutritious), but I did get hungry for healthier roasted potatoes so I used this recipe to whip up a batch. Um, they are awesome. I’ve actually mixed up a larger batch of the seasoning so that I have it on hand whenever I want more of these!

Japanese Pork and Ramen Soup

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The Frugal Girl has posted about this recipe several times and I knew early on that we would really enjoy the flavors of this soup as well. I also happened to have the cookbook which includes the recipe — The Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve made it a couple of times this spring/summer, but obviously haven’t gotten around to blogging about it! The photo is from the first time I made it; since then I’ve made several changes to the recipe, both in ingredients and how I prepare it. Since Kristen has posted the recipe on her blog, I am not going to add it here, but I will note the changes I’ve made or plan to make (I’m always assessing recipes for how we would better enjoy them).

  1. Less pork. The recipe calls for a pound and a half of boneless, country style pork ribs. This makes WAY too much meat for me; now that I’ve made it twice with the same results, I will cut back to just a pound.
  2. I’ve started using soba noodles instead of ramen noodles. I think they are more nutritious and they taste better, too. I cook them separately and add the noodles to each bowl, then cover with broth and meat. The soba noodles I buy come packaged in 3.5 oz bundles, so I just use two. I buy them at my local Asian grocery, but they do sell them in the ethnic aisle at the grocery store and definitely most natural food stores carry them too. Usually at these more mainstream stores they are packaged like spaghetti and you will have to eyeball the amount to use.
  3. I toss the noodles in a little sesame oil to keep them from sticking to each other. So later I add just a drop or two on each serving  instead of the called for 3 tsp. to the whole pot.
  4. I don’t care for how slimy spinach gets after sitting in a soup for a long time, so I also add this to each bowl separately. Or if I am reheating enough soup on the stove, I’ll add it then. I just don’t want it to sit in the fridge getting slimier and slimier. Ugh.
  5. I use a pound of mushrooms and save about four oz. to add to the soup after the pork is cooked. The other 12 oz cook along with the pork and onions. I slice the mushrooms very thin using my mandolin.
  6. I also slice the onions rather than chop them — this way all of the major components of the soup have more or less the same shape.
  7. I cook this on the stove top — beyond slicing the onions and mushrooms, there isn’t a ton of prep required for this soup and most of the cooking is pretty passive, so since I work from home it’s an easy enough meal to fix toward the end of an afternoon.
  8. Since I make this on the stove, I sear the pork ribs in a little oil first and get them browned on all side. Remove from the pan and add the onions. Allow to cook until translucent and wilty, then I add the garlic and ginger. After about a minute (once those two aromatics have bloomed), I add the mushrooms and just very quickly saute them. I add some chicken broth to scrape up all the goodness from the bottom of the pot, then nestle the pork ribs back in among the veggies. Cover with the remaining broth and let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. At this point the ribs are usually tender enough to easily shred (I remove them to a plate or cutting board to do this, although you could probably do it in the pot). Then finish with the soy sauce, mirin, etc.
  9. I don’t always remember to add in the miso. Ideally I heat up a portion of the broth/meat in a separate pan, add the miso and maybe the spinach and then serve over the noodles.

I feel like my nine steps make this recipe seem unwieldy, but it really is very easy and a great way to satisfy a craving for Asian food without resorting to take-out.

This year I am committing to trying out at least one new recipe every week, inspired by Frugal Girl. I am off track a bit in recording these recipes given my blogging break, but at some point I will make out a list that includes even those items that haven’t been blogged.

Also, I just borrowed Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark from the library and there are some wonderful looking recipes that I want to try, so I’m excited to get back to documenting this process.