Wednesday, April 20, 2011

DIY Butter (Y'all)

Butter. Amazing in sauces, or schmeared atop a slice of crusty baguette, it's delicious yet incredibly simple to make. You may have grown up hearing stories from your grandparents about churning butter (it's not just a dance move!), though now we all simply run to our nearest grocer to feed our butter fix. 

Butter is produced by agitating cream, which separates the milk from the fats by damaging the fragile membranes surrounding the milk fats. Once broken, the fat emulsifies into butter grains. With increased agitation, the fats continue to clump together, and leak a liquid known as buttermilk. The butter is then rinsed of any excess buttermilk and worked into its desired consistency. 

You can easily make your own butter with a food processor or blender, but, if you prefer to be more low-tech, all you need is a jar with a good lid. Bonus - you'll get a great arm workout (who needs a Shake Weight?).

Friday, April 8, 2011

White Beans & Cabbage (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Lately, I've posted a LOT of MEATMEATMEAT recipes. And though I am a total omnivore, and could never go vegetarian/vegan/etc, I have no problems eating a meatless meal. Without getting on a portion size soapbox, I'll just say that, with the availability of so many vegetables and other protein sources out there, we could ALL stand to eat a meatless meal every so often. That being said, this recipe would be amazing with some kielbasa

I've been thinking about this recipe ever since Jaden of Steamy Kitchen posted it last week. Feeling a bit burned out from so many meat dishes lately, I decided that I HAD to cook this dish, and I'm SO glad that I did. It's definitely a meal fit for the BF, who absolutely loves cabbage and Great Northern beans. Even though it's both vegetarian AND vegan, it's still filling, full of flavor, and incredibly affordable. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Macaroni Salad (Vegetarian)

It's already been established that I REALLY like pasta salads. For Southerners, no summer picnic or BBQ is complete without a bowl of crisp, cold macaroni salad. There are hundreds of variations on the recipe, but I prefer to keep things simple - this recipe is completely vegetarian (for vegan, feel free to substitute Vegenaise for the mayonnaise), so everyone can enjoy it. Not only does this salad make a great side, but I like to eat it for a quick, healthy (ish) lunch. 

Though the name is "MACARONI salad", I tend to just use whatever small pasta I have on hand; often I use ditalini since I love how it looks! For extra Southern points, be sure to serve this salad in your favorite vintage Pyrex bowl. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Slow-Cooker Creamy Pork Chops

I'll be honest. Sometimes I REALLY, REALLY don't feel like cooking. And as anyone who has ever shared a meal with me can attest, I am THE worst about picking a restaurant when it comes to eating out somewhere. But, I'm getting better, even though it means I ALWAYS choose from the same pool of restaurants

Thank goodness for my slow-cooker and a well-stocked pantry and freezer. I've been trying to use up some of the pork loin that I packed away back in January, and remembered a recipe I stumbled upon (literally, I was still using Stumble Upon) from Rachael's amazing site, La Fuji Mama. Unlike most of her recipes, which reflect the time she spent living overseas in Japan, this recipe is a simple, easy, toss everything in the slow cooker and let it go kind of recipe. 

And it's fantastic. You only need a handful of easy-to-find, inexpensive ingredients (which you probably already have), there's hardly any prep work, and you can even use FROZEN pork. Most people I know were completely unaware that, when using a slow cooker, you can use frozen meat - I do it all the time, and everything has always ended up perfectly cooked. In fact, whenever I use chicken breasts in a slow cooker recipe, I ALWAYS add them when frozen solid since breast meat has a tendency to dry out when slow cooked. Rachael's recipe calls to serve the pork over rice, but I prefer egg noodles or mashed potatoes. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nikujaga (Japanese Simmered Beef & Potato Stew)

Nikujaga is a Japanese simmered (nimono) dish invented in the late 19th century by chefs of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Popular during the colder winter months; it is considered a form of "comfort food" (ofukuro no ajiand consists of beef, potatoes and onion, stewed slowly in a dashi broth sweetened with mirin and soy sauce until the broth has nearly evaporated. Perfect for those "meat and potato" people who might be unwilling to try Japanese cuisine!

My recipe for nikujaga is compiled from numerous recipes; in traditional fashion, I still prefer to serve this dish in a Japanese donabe, a ceramic cooking vessel glazed on the outside but still porous on the inside. I also like to add konnyaku or shirataki noodles to absorb the delicious cooking broth. This meal needs no other sides other than perhaps a bowl of freshly steamed Japanese rice. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

After spending the better part of a lazy weekend watching reruns on Travel Channel, Food Network & Cooking Channel, we got a craving for blueberry muffins. Not the kind that come in a dry mix pouch or the kind made my the local grocery's bakery, but REAL, homemade blueberry muffins. The kind that are light and fluffy in the middle and crunchy and sweet on top. I remembered that, thanks to a co-worker, that I had a bag of Alabama blueberries in the freezer. After a quick scouring of the internet, I came across a recipe using frozen blueberries. 

These muffins turned out PERFECTLY; the extra step of making a mini batch of blueberry jam really ups the blueberry flavor, and the lemon sugar topping was crusty and delicious. This will definitely be my new go-to blueberry muffin recipe, and now I can't wait until blueberry season returns (definitely one of the few high points of August in Alabama).