Archive | April, 2015

Lea & Perrin’s pulled pork | Recipe report card

20 Apr

I’m gradually catching up on my posts from my recent bout of cooking. I have two brownie recipes to add after this, and then I think I’m done. In my cooking revamp comeback post, my friend Lindsay shared her pulled pork recipe, which she uses to make pulled pork sandwiches with Sriracha mayo as well as pork tacos. Lindsay is not only an awesome cook, but she is the person who introduced me to Mark Bittman’s cookbooks and the Minimalist column, so she’s indirectly responsible for everything good that I cook these days. Long story short, I trust her recommendations, so I made this as soon as I could.

Lea & Perrin’s pulled pork

  • Meal: dinner, sometime last week
  • Kid tried?: Yes
  • Keeper?: Yes
  • Cook’s grade: A. FINALLY! A tasty and easy slow cooker recipe that doesn’t require browning the meat. I followed Lindsay’s suggestion of using pork tenderloin instead of pork shoulder and was glad to have less fat to cut off. The sauce was a little too tangy right after the pork finished cooking, but it evened out after I let it sit for a bit.
  • Kid’s grade: A (?). For the first time, the Bug ate a “big burrito” (with the pork and my corn salad, see below, wrapped tightly in a flour tortilla) and did a pretty good job holding on to it so it wouldn’t fall apart. Not sure if it was the novelty of it or the taste that kept her eating it, but who’s counting?

Browned corn, avocado, tomato, and queso fresco salad

  • Meal: dinner, sometime last week
  • Kid tried?: Yes
  • Keeper?: Yes
  • Cook’s grade: A. I made this up on the fly because I so enjoyed the browned corn side I had made earlier that week. We had an avocado that only had a few more days of life to it, a few tomatoes in the same condition, and the rest of the wheel of queso fresco in the fridge. I squeezed some lemon on it as a dressing/non-browning agent and called it done.
  • Kid’s grade: A (?). Hard to tell because she ate it in the burrito. Even though I put it on the plates as sides, my husband put it inside the burritos as he made them. (I was feeding the Lil Guy, so he pitched in.) It was tasty in the burrito, but even tastier outside of it.

Seared steak with mustard spinach | Recipe report card

19 Apr

One reason I am liking How to Cook Everything Fast so far is that the recipes are for near-complete meals. Half the planning is done! In fact, if I was single, they would be complete meals, but since I’m cooking for two other people with opinions about food and also trying to make sure that the Bug eats at least one serving of veggies at dinner, I like to add one more thing to them. Fortunately, each recipe comes with a list of sides you can make, from the crazy easy (like warmed tortillas) to something a little more involved, like mashed potatoes.

Seared steak with mustard spinach, How to Cook Everything Fast, p. 708

  • Meal: dinner, sometime last week
  • Kid tried?: Yes.
  • Keeper?: Yes. But mix the mustard in better next time.
  • Cook’s grade: A. The steak was easy and tasty–a great way to add some red meat to our weekly meals. (I find it’s easy to cook chicken and pork, but I don’t have that many go-to recipes for beef.) I didn’t pay close enough attention when I added the mustard to the spinach, so some bites had no mustard and some had waaaaaaay too much. But with a tiny bit more care, this would be a great recipe to add to the repertoire.
  • Kid’s grade: A-. The Bug was not interested in her own steak, but could not stop eating mine. This was the first time she really showed interest in beef. Or non-chicken meat, for that matter. (Or, if I’m being perfectly frank, non-chicken-finger-meat.) Cut up into small enough pieces, it was easy enough for her to chew (except the two pieces that most decidedly weren’t, which reminded me why I hated steak growing up). I think she even tried the spinach, too, but one bite had too much mustard on it, which turned her off.

Cooking tips for busy parents:

  • Use bagged spinach. I know, it’s easy enough to use a salad spinner (and Bug LOVES helping by agitating the greens in water and pressing the salad spinner button). But bagged spinach gets this dish on the table just that much faster and with one fewer dirty dish.

Skin-on mashed potatoes, How to Cook Everything Fast, p. 961

  • Meal: dinner, sometime last week
  • Kid tried?: No.
  • Keeper?: Yes.
  • Cook’s grade: A. It’s mashed potatoes. How can you go wrong? Before I left to get the Bug at daycare, I cooked the potatoes with our pressure cooker, which sped things up. All I had to do when I got home was mash the potatoes and add the milk, etc. Which, to be fair, my husband did. I threw in some rosemary from our garden to make it fancier.
  • Kid’s grade: Incomplete. The Bug used to love mashed potatoes but isn’t into them right now. Like any kid, I’m sure she’ll be back on them before long.

Cooking tips for busy parents:

  • Use a potato masher, rather than a ricer. I generally prefer the ricer for mashed potatoes, but the skins will get caught up in the ricer and add to the post-cooking prep time.
  • Do what you do on Thanksgiving: cook this beforehand and reheat it just before dinner.


Chile-rubbed chicken with corn | Recipe report card

19 Apr

The Lil Guy arrived March 19, and we have been fortunate enough to have my in-laws in town, keeping us well fed pretty much ever since. The Lil Guy has been such a good baby so far, so I figured I should try to get back in the habit of cooking while I still had backup. I finally busted open my How to Cook Everything Fast: A Better Way to Cook Great Food and picked out a few recipes, incorporating some of the techniques I learned from Dinner: The Playbook.

When I was cooking the Dinner: The Playbook recipes, I went astray by choosing recipes that were meat dredged in flour and fried. I am not a big fan of that. I can never quite brown the meat properly, and when I eat it, I can’t really see the benefit of all that work. Why not just roast it? This recipe was chicken dredged in a cornmeal mixture and pan fried. But as I made it, I realized that it’s basically chicken fingers, which, at the time, was the only meat the Bug was reliably eating, so I had a good feeling about it. OH BOY, was this a hit!

Also, I really should have taken a photo because this dinner was just as pretty as it was tasty.

Chile-rubbed chicken with corn (and scallions), How to Cook Everything Fast, p. 640

  • Meal: dinner, sometime last week
  • Kid tried?: Yes.
  • Keeper?: Hell yes.
  • Cook’s grade: A. I had dinner on the table within about 20 minutes of getting home with the Bug from daycare. I made the cornmeal coating and cut up the chicken a few hours before I made dinner, which sped things up. Since cornmeal doesn’t absorb water the way that flour does, I think I could have tossed the chicken in the coating then, too, and it would probably stand up to a few hours in the fridge. After you pan-fry the coated chicken, you brown corn in the same pan, adding scallions (which I forgot to buy, hence the parenthetical above), and then queso fresco once you take it out of the pan. I used frozen corn because we had several bags of it in our freezer and I am trying to cook more from our pantry (I defrosted it in the microwave while the chicken was cooking).
  • Kid’s grade: A. Bug ate all of her meat and said, “My like chicken!” (She is still sorting out her pronouns.) Yes, it’s chicken fingers, but it’s really good chicken fingers. The spice from the chili pepper wasn’t too much for her (she has a very low tolerance for spice), but it added enough interest for us.

Cooking tips for busy parents:

  • It’s tough to make this recipe much faster. But, you can mix the cornmeal coating before, cut the chicken, dredge (and even freeze) the chicken, and defrost the corn (if using frozen). But doing most of that as you go works, too.

Chile-cumin baked beans, How to Cook Everything, p. 937

  • Meal: dinner, sometime last week
  • Kid tried?: I think so…
  • Keeper?: Yes.
  • Cook’s grade: A. I have been looking for a good, basic black bean recipe for a while, and this one is basically what I throw into beans when I’m trying to add some flavor: cumin, garlic, a fresh chile pepper, and salt and pepper. But this had the right balance of all those elements, instead of the too-spiced or not-spiced-enough versions I consistently came up with on my own. Except for chopping the chile, this recipe takes just as long to make as it takes to heat up beans.
  • Kid’s grade: B+. Bug eats beans, and I think she ate some of these. I only added half the jalapeno to the beans to keep the heat low (see note above about Bug’s tolerance for spice).

A note on leftovers: If you, like me, don’t often use queso fresco and are left with a big chunk of it after you make this recipe, add it to any meat on a heated tortilla with salsa for a quick taco lunch or make a quick salad of browned corn, avocado, tomato, and queso fresco. Both are pretty yummy.

Note: This post contains affiliate links.