Thursday, March 10, 2011

Healthier Sloppy Joes: Lots of Slop, Not a lot of Meat

This recipe is yet another "make it healthier" comfort recipe, but if you are automatically rejecting the healthier route, can I entice you with "tastier than the real thing" as an ad slogan?

I loved sloppy joes growing up, but I can't eat large amounts of ground beef without feeling sick, so this recipe that asks for a mixture of only 6 oz. of ground beef (or sirloin), kidney beans, and carrot. You get all the great taste of traditional sloppy joes with added fiber and nutrition. When served on whole wheat hamburger buns with fresh side vegetables, this dinner is a promising addition to the "lighter and better for it" dinner category.

Sloppy Joes
(From Mark Bittman's recipe in Cooking Light)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces ground sirloin
1/2 cup grated carrot
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 (15.5-ounce) can low-sodium red beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
4 (2-ounce) whole-wheat sandwich rolls, split and toasted
4 (1/4-inch-thick) red onion slices, separated into rings


1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, salt, black pepper, and beef to pan; cook 5 minutes or until meat is browned and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally to crumble beef.
2. Add carrot, chili powder, sugar, oregano, and red pepper; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook 10 minutes or until thickened and carrot is tender, stirring occasionally.
3. Partially mash 1 cup beans with a fork or potato masher. Add mashed beans and remaining whole beans to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Spoon 1 cup bean mixture onto bottom half of each roll; top each serving with 1 red onion slice and top half of roll.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mushroom Marinara

Please excuse the strangely reddish pink hand holding the beautiful pasta to your left. I absolutely adore strozapretti pasta, and not just because strozapretti means "priest choker" in Italian, but also because of the texture of this pasta in my mouth. It's like long macaroni with a seam down the middle, and it tastes simply divine in macaroni and cheese dishes, or along with a simple marinara sauce.

I cook sans meat three or four days a week (if you couldn't tell by the preponderance of vegetarian recipes I have posted), and mushroom marinara is a great upgrade from simple marinara. If you're looking for a quick and easy weeknight vegetarian meal, this one's for you!

Mushroom Marinara

2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
12 oz. mushrooms (shitake, button, baby bella, etc.)
Good splash of red wine
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
Fresh shaved Parmesan cheese to serve
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until onions are soft. Add mushrooms to the pan and saute until mushrooms darken and soften. Once cooked through, add a good splash of red wine and cook 1-2 minutes, or until reduced. Add diced tomatoes with their juice to the pan, along with the tomato paste, basil, and oregano. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Serve tossed with your favorite pasta and sprinkled with shaved Parmesan.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Homemade Matzo Ball Chicken Soup

About a month ago, the husband unit fell ill after months of being lucky enough to stave off all the wonderful infections and influenzas that come with the territory when one lives in a college town. Proximity to sleep deprived students, financial stress, lack of sleep because of work and the complexities of life, and touching dirty money and food plates in his place of work all combined for the perfect storm. After coming home from work with a fever, poor husband unit spent the night alternately sweating and freezing, so when I woke up in the morning, looking compassionately at the poor suffering soul next to me, I knew it was time for the mother of all flu busters.


The following recipe is for Matzo Ball Soup how I make it (there are a million recipes out there, and this is my favorite because I've made it my own), but you might know it by its other name: Jewish penicillin. It's no joke that this soup has the power to heal, and after four hours of prep, I like to believe that the love and care put into a big pot of chicken soup is enough to fill the sickened with a sense of hope. I might be waxing a little romantic here, but isn't that what chicken soup is for? Hope?

Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls

For stock and schmaltz:
1 whole chicken, gizzards removed and skin intact
1 1/2 onions, divided
2 stalks celery, chopped
Handful of celery leaves
8-10 baby carrots
2 turnips, halved
8 cloves garlic, smashed but unpeeled
2 bay leaves
Handful of fresh dill
Handful of fresh parsley
Black pepper to taste
Water to cover

For soup:
8 cups stock
3 stalks celery, chopped
7-8 baby carrots, sliced
3 tbsp. dill, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

For matzo balls:
1/2 cup matzo
2 tbsp. schmaltz (substitute vegetable oil if not using)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. seltzer water

1. To make schmaltz, remove half of the chicken skin from the whole chicken and place in a skillet over medium heat with 1/2 chopped onion. The chicken fat will melt and produce a ton of chicken oil, but this is liquid gold in the making: DO NOT SKIM. Cook until browned and remove from heat. Strain over a fine mesh colander and reserve golden deliciousness. Refrigerate until ready to make matzo balls.

2. Place whole chicken in a large soup pot with the rest of the stock ingredients and completely cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and lower to simmer. Cook, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat and let cool.

3. Once stock is cool enough, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large container. Shred and reserve chicken meat for another use, like enchiladas, pasta salad, or even BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches. Set stock aside until ready to make soup.

4. To make matzo balls, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and work ingredients together with hands until uniform. Refrigerate for one hour (you can [and should at some point] make this ahead of time in order for the ingredients to produce very fluffy balls [hehe]).

5. Using a tbsp. measuring unit, scoop tablespoons of matzo dough and shape into balls. Drop each ball into a large saucepan filled with boiling water. Reduce heat to medium once all balls are in, and cook, covered, for about 30-40 minutes.

6. While matzo balls are cooking, make the soup. Combine 8 cups chicken stock with the rest of the soup ingredients except for dill. Warm, turn off heat, and add dill. Serve two to three matzo balls with warmed soup poured over.