Monday, January 26, 2009

Cooking Light Mondays: Diner Meatloaf Muffins

Hey everyone! It's time again for Shrink My Butt Cooking Light Monday! Maybe I should just officially change its name to that. Anyway, this week's recipe is Diner Meatloaf Muffins. In the March, 2006 issue, they did a "cooking class" segment on lots of ways to make meatloaf. I've been feeling the need for some comfort food lately with our freezing temperatures out here, and plus I've been craving hamburger. I know there are lots of better types of beef out there, but I am a hamburger girl. Love it!

This was a very simple recipe and luckily it came out VERY good. This is definitely a keeper. Not only did I love the flavor and texture, but I also managed to make it in under an hour. Even with chopping time involved. Let's make meatloaf!

Chop up a cup of onions and half a cup of carrots. This is a fine dice. Heat up a little olive oil and saute them with 2 garlic cloves mushed (I am too lazy to mince) and a teaspoon of oregano for two minutes. This smelled heavenly. I wanted to take a bath in this stuff. However, that would get me lots of alone time. Or institutional time. Whatever.

Set that aside to cool down a little bit. Then pull out your fat free Saltine Crackers which you forgot to buy and had to run to the store for had sitting in your cabinet. I know I could have bought store brand for this, but now I have 3 other sleeves of crackers that I will have to deal with. So I spent the big bucks and got the Nabisco ones. Expect more Saltine Cracker recipes in the near future.

Now for the fun part. Take 20 crackers (says the recipe...I needed 25) and smash them up until you have a cup of finely smooshed crackers. That's an official cooking term. Finely smooshed.

Okay, I'm lying. But you knew that.

My favorite method of smooshing is to put the smooshable object in a big Ziplock bag and have at it with a rolling pin. Anything heavy will do, but I try to use my rolling pin more than once a year for SOMETHING. Plus it's really fun to roll it all over the bag.

That's pretty much all the hard work for this dealie. Next, stick all of the ingredients in a big bowl. Here we have the one and a half pounds hamburger (93% lean), the vegie mix, crackers, ketchup, mustard, a couple of eggs, some Worcestershire sauce (wooster? wistersheer? how do you say this?) and a little bit of freshly ground pepper. Only a little because pepper is hot. It is too. I always seem to bite into a big piece of pepper. Ick. So add more if you like that kind of thing. Notice there's no added salt? It was totally fine without it. But I guess you could put some in at this point if you wanted to.

Make sure you use this kind of ketchup. It is the best. All others suck.
Heinz, need a spokesperson? Call me!

Now for the dirty part. Stick your hands in there and mush it around. Do this as little as possible, just until it's all blended. I speak from experience. Hamburger that has been overly mixed comes out dense and tough. And gross.

I know this looks yucky. But trust me, it's yummy!
No, I didn't taste it. I just know. I'm smart like that.

Now take a muffin tin and spray some cooking spray on there. Fill each tin with some of the meatloaf mix. I had to pat it in pretty good to get it all to fit. Then spread a few teaspoons of ketchup onto each one. You could skip this step if you don't like it, but it helps keep the top from drying out. Some of the reviewers on the Cooking Light website suggested using BBQ sauce instead. That would be good, too. Stick in the oven for 25 minutes at 350*.

Here are the cooked ones. I let them stand for 5 minutes while I took the pictures. I was worried that maybe they would overflow or grease would come out or something, so I cooked this on top of a rimmed cookie sheet and some foil. You know, like I was supposed to do for the Sticky Buns? But I didn't need to. I had no problems or drippage at all. I think the key here is to use the lowest possible amount of fat in your hamburger. These might be pretty nasty and greasy otherwise.

One serving of these is 2 "muffins." I served it with steamed zucchini and some orzo that I cooked in chicken broth. You know, Swanson's flavorless, healthy chicken broth. It worked fine for this and added a subtle flavor to the pasta.

Some of the website reviewers thought these were too moist. They are definitely very wet, but if you've ever had overmixed, dried out meatloaf you will appreciate these all the more. And the flavor actually tasted like sausage, I think because of the garlic and oregano. I wolfed these down and am looking forward to lunch tomorrow. This makes 6 servings, so I plan to freeze the leftovers individually and then put them in a Ziplock so I can pull them out when needed.

Oh, and why do these have the word "diner" in the title? Probably because they were doing a feature on meatloaf and needed different names for each one and that was the best they could do. Regardless of the name, make this recipe and enjoy!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Easy Sticky Buns

The Barefoot Blogger recipe for this week, brought to us by Melissa, is Easy Sticky Buns. And they were not kidding about the easy part. I threw these together and had it all done in under an hour. (It helps that there was no chopping involved.)

Unfortunately, I did these on the same day as my Cooking Light day, so I was tired and up way too late, so really no process photos for you. I'll try to keep the talking to a minimum.

Somehow, I had almost all the ingredients for this already in my house. Why did I have unsalted butter and puff pastry just lying around? I don't know. But I'm glad, as all I had to purchase was a small package of raisins. Here is the short version of how to make these.

1. Let puff pastry sit out for 40 minutes to defrost. Or 60 minutes. Or 75 minutes. Poke them to make sure they're not getting all dried out because you're slowly chopping stuff up for another recipe. They're okay? Good.
2. Hopefully remember to put 2 sticks of unsalted butter out so they will get to "room temperature," which I assume is not the 63 degrees my house typically stays at.
3. Nuke butter for a bit to soften more. Put a bunch of butter in the stand mixer. Add brown sugar. Beat to within an inch of its life. If it had one.
4. Plop a spoonful in each of the 12 muffin....holes? spots? Whatever. Sprinkle some (pre-chopped in the package) pecans in there, too.
5. Nuke a little more butter (because there wasn't quite enough in there to begin with) until melted, cool.
6. Unroll the puff pastry, brush on half the butter. Sprinkle with more brown sugar, (apparently not enough of that, either) cinnamon and raisins.
7. Roll up. Cut into 6 pieces. Put in muffin tin.
8. Repeat with other piece of puff pastry. Bake for 30 minutes. Inhale deeply. Mmmmm.
9. Wait 5 minutes. Flip pan over onto parchment paper and pop buns out of tin. Try really hard not to eat one.

Here are my ready to bake guys. Can you see how far they stuck up out of the pan? I thought maybe my muffin tin was too small, but it said to use a regular sized one. On the right is the butter/sugar mix with pecans on top.

Now, the directions said to put parchment paper on a cookie sheet and put the muffin tin on top of it. I did that, but I didn't realize the cookie sheet should have edges. As this cooked, the butter/sugar melted all over the place and dripped off the pan. And onto my oven. Oops. I also think I cooked them a little too long. I should have checked them 5 minutes earlier, but I got distracted.

This is how they puffed up and settled into the holes? spots? Whatever.

Other than that, these turned out great. I took them to work the next day, and they seemed to go over well. I have to say, I didn't actually eat one. I know, how could I? But I am trying to behave myself right now, and almost 2 sticks of butter does not a light recipe make. I did taste one pecan with some of the caramel-type stuff and it was pretty good. I think these would have been more popular at work if I had served them warm, and if there weren't any raisins in them. Not everyone is a fan. I will probably make these again when I need this type of recipe for a group, but will definitely cut back on the total butter and nix the raisins.

Here is the full recipe, if you want to give it a shot:

Easy Sticky Buns from Ina Garten
Makes 12
We used to make really delicious sticky buns at Barefoot Contessa, but they took two days to make because the yeast dough needed to rise overnight in the refrigerator. I was dying to find a way to make them easier, so I decided to try baking them with Pepperidge Farm puff pastry dough, instead. OMG are they good … and they’re really easy to make! Light, flaky dough filled with brown sugar, toasted pecans, and sweet raisins — my friends go crazy when I make these.
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted for the filling
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.
Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down.
Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2 inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon), and cool completely.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cooking Light Mondays: Chicken Biryani

Today's recipe is an Indian dish. Biryani (beer-YAH-nee according to my food dictionary) can be all sorts of combinations of meat (or not), spices, some vegetables and rice. I love to order this when I go to Gateway to India. Almost as much as I love the Chicken Korma. Almost. Anyway, when I saw a recipe for it in this month's issue of Cooking Light, I knew it would be up next for Shrink My Butt Cooking Light Mondays. Yes, I know the strike through is getting old. But it still makes me laugh. So it stays.

Standard disclaimer: My photos are out of focus. Sorry. Still waiting for the Birthday Fairy to bring me a camera like my friend Kathy's. Or until I steal hers.

This is supposed to be a 30 minute recipe. HA HA HA. They have obviously never met me and my pedantic chopping skills. It took me an hour to chop everything. I'm not kidding. I am the slowest chopper in the world. I think I'm too picky on how it looks. Not that it matters, since it all gets cooked up, but that doesn't cause me to go any faster. So here's all the stuff I chopped.


Plum tomatoes

Chicken breast (bawk bawk!)

Ginger (the spoon works great to scrape off the skin)

Cilantro (these Pampered Chef shears work great for this)

Garlic (okay, I didn't so much chop as squish)


I use this little trick that I picked up somewhere for cutting peppers when you don't need the seeds or membranes. First of all, I put on one of these:

I learned the hard way a few years ago. If you get jalapeno juice on your hands, even if you've washed that hand thoroughly, rubbing your eye with said hand is a horrible idea. So now I'm better safe than sorry. Can you tell that I'm wearing it backwards? I must of lost/ruined the leftie. This is the righty turned around. Looks like my hand is on wrong.

I hold vertically and slice off the sides.

I get this without ever touching the seeds. My eyes are safe.

After all the chopping, I assembled the other ingredients.

Golden raisins

Garam masala
This is a mix of many different spices. Every one is different.

This is the first time I've purchased this so I wanted to know what it smelled like. I swear, I started salivating when I got a whiff. It smells exactly like an Indian restaurant. I wanted to eat some, but decided against it. I guess if I ever need a little pick me up, I will report to the spice rack.

Flavorless chicken broth (I don't want to be a spokesperson for Swanson)

The other ingredients were basmati rice, cumin, salt and sliced almonds and a lime for garnish. Here's how it all came together (once I finally finished all the chopping.)

Saute chicken for 3 minutes.

Add onion and jalapeno. Saute 3 more minutes.

Add ginger, garlic, garam masala, and cumin. Saute 30 seconds. Inhale deeply.

Add raisins, tomatoes, rice and broth. Stir up. Bring to a boil.

Cover, lower heat, simmer 15 minutes.

Stir in cilanto. Then you have this.

Unfortunately, this is not exactly what I was hoping for. If you see the picture of the recipe in the magazine, the rice is all fluffy and separated, the way rice is supposed to be. Mine was very, very mushy. There wasn't any water in the bottom, but the rice just wasn't the right texture. I ALWAYS have problems with rice. I either burn it or get it mushy, like this. Maybe I somehow insulted a gypsy, and she has put a rice cooking curse on me. Or maybe I just suck at something that couldn't be much easier.

On the whole, I liked this. However, it had much less flavor than I was expecting, especially with all those yummy spices. I've decided to blame the chicken broth for sucking up all the good flavor with its healthy flavorlessness. (Wow, I can't believe spell check is not screaming over the word "flavorlessness.") Sorry, Swanson, no love for you.

The recipe for Chicken Biryani is on the CL website if you'd like to try your hand at this dish. When I make it again, I will try chicken thighs even though I know they have more fat. The breast was just too dry for me. And maybe I can get lucky on the rice. I'm not sure what to do about the flavor problem. Maybe add another shot of spices after it cooks. You'd never know there was a jalapeno in there. I couldn't even taste the cilantro I added at the end, so I might up that, too. I really think this has potential. I'll work on it and get back to you. Or maybe I'll just get take out!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

80's Angst

I've been thinking a lot lately about lost love. Don't ask's too depressing. Anyway, these songs keep coming back to me.

A Different Corner

I had never heard this one until recently. The man is Iggy Pop who I've heard of, but never listened to. And the woman is Kate Pierson, a member of the B-52's.


And can I just say, Iggy, please put on a shirt.

I know, I know. No more sad music. I just needed to get it out of my system. Now they can be stuck in YOUR head for a while.

Supper Club, DS, and the Big Hole

Aaaaannnnnnddddd, I'm back. That wasn't too bad, was it? Did all 5 of you survive without my thrilling comments to keep you entertained last week? Yeah. Anyway. This week will be better. After Wednesday my schedule lightens up a bit. I will be back with Shrink My Butt Cooking Light Mondays and will try to be more consistent. As long as I have something interesting to say. Well, at least I'll think it is.

To begin, I FINALLY got to go out for Dim Sum today. I have been looking for someone to go with me for almost a year. People would say, "Oh, yeah. We should do that." And then we didn't. Then my Supper Club decided to do a restaurant version of the group in which we are too lazy to cook and just go out to eat together. We went to the Imperial Garden Seafood Restaurant in Kent. For the uninitiated, Dim Sum is basically lots of little servings of foods, like appetizers, brought out and guests choose what they'd like to try. You pay per plate that you select. We had a great big table and as soon as all of us were there they just started bringing cart after cart of the most yummy looking stuff. I didn't know what half of it was, but I didn't care. I love to try new food and have new experiences. As long as it tastes good, I'm in. There was a giant lazy susan in the middle and things kept flying by. You had to grab stuff quickly before someone else took it. I missed out on a couple of things that way. We probably should have asked for two dishes of stuff. But oh, well. I'm sure I will survive.

A couple of these photos have plates of half eaten food or are way out of focus. I'm tellin' ya, it was every man or woman for themselves. I snapped the pictures as quickly as I could before things disappeared.

Here's our big lazy susan loaded up with goodies.

Shrimp in a mildly spicy sauce. Deep fried, heads on, not peeled. We ate as is. Yum.
(No, I didn't eat the head. I popped it off. POP!)

What was left of the fried calamari before it completely disappeared.
This must have begun as a LARGE squid. The rings and tentacles were pretty big.

On top, chinese broccoli with a yummy sauce poured over it. Two remaining fried shrimp balls.
Can you tell we really like fried stuff?

Maura and Dan enjoying the steamed Shrimp Dumplings. These were my favorite.
Fresh, hot and tons of flavor. I could have had a whole bowl of these to myself.

I have no idea what this was. But this was the last one and they went fast.
It was like a very large rice noodle wrapped around shrimp. The sauce was poured over and the dish was very good. Again, I would have liked more than one of these.

Here we have on top some kind of pumpkin dessert.
The disembodied hand is grabbing a doughnut-type thing. I didn't get one,
but heard they were yummy.
Below are deep fried spring rolls. Maura rescued the last one for me before they all went.
On the right, top are a steamed pork dumpling (I think, they disappeared.)
Below that are baked hum bao.

A closer pic of the hum bao. I always think I like these, but I don't. The sauce is too sweet with the pork filling. I do like the outside of the steamed ones, but those didn't make it to our table.

A closer, fuzzier, picture of the pumpkin dessert. The outside was kind of gelatinous
and had the flavor of  marshmallow. The inside reminded me of almond paste.
I liked it, but should have shared with someone. They were very rich.
And it didn't really taste like pumpkin. But still good.

We didn't try this but it was really fascinating to me.
A big wooden bucket full of a warm soy...beverage, maybe? It looked really neat.
We had a language barrier the whole time, so I never really knew what was what.
If you are a Dim Sum connoisseur, or just smarter than me, please write
and tell me what all these things are.
I am very curious about different cultures, especially the food.

Here's our demolished table afterwards. Look how big this sucker is!

There were more things than I could get photos of, sometimes because they never made it all the way around to me, sometimes because I was busy eating and enjoying. We also had clams in a black bean sauce, pork spare ribs, a beef dish I never saw, some kind of baked roll, don't know what that was. A couple of interesting desserts I did get to try. A fried sesame ball, which was batter wrapped around sweet bean paste, with sesame seeds on the outside, and the same type of thing that was green with a black bean paste inside. These were super sweet and I only ate half of one. I would have preferred more of the savory things, but I guess that's what I get for being near the end of the clockwise moving lazy susan.

All the happy eaters.
From left to right around the table:
Curt, Jennifer, Jill, Pat, Cheryl, Nancy, James, Maura and Dan

Do you see the look Curt, the guy on the left is giving me? I saw that face a lot. I don't know him well, but he didn't really get my take-pictures-of-everything-so-I-can-put-it-on-my-blog approach. Oh well, I'm a nerd. I get that face from people when I'm not taking pictures, too!

So after writing all this, I realize I need to go back to Dim Sum again. This time I want to try more things and eat less of the desserts. It seemed like the actual eating part just flew by. Fifteen minutes, done. Then we sat and talked, which was great. But I'd love to go with a smaller group where I could actually see the food and hear the servers and take more time to enjoy each dish. But other than that, it was fun and very yummy. And each of us only paid about $16 for the whole she-bang. That's including tax and tip. Quite a bargain. Dim Sum, anyone?

Okay, done with Dim Sum. NEXT!

Isn't this the cutest little purse? Don't you love it? I do!
Know what I keep in it?

It's a Nintendo DS.

In case you are not a 10 year old boy, this is the updated version of a Gameboy. My students kept telling me, "I have a DS." And I kept saying, "A what?" Then one of my teacher friends showed me hers and the Brain Age game she plays on it. I was hooked. So I asked for one for Christmas.

This thing totally rocks. It has a stylus (fake pen) that you use to write or tap on the lower screen, and information is on the upper screen. For a lot of the games you turn it sideways, like a book. The handwriting recognition is fabulous. There are only a few letters that I write funny, so it doesn't always get them at first. I also picked up this awesome program called Personal Trainer: Cooking. It's got a ton of recipes and spells out with pictures how to put things together. And the voice recognition allows you to use it to cook without having to touch it (if your hands or sticky, or you're busy chopping or something.) It's pretty darn cool. Technology is amazing. And now, I can say, "I have a DS!" See, Nintendo, I could be a spokesperson for you guys, too. Call me!


The Big Hole!

What are you talking about? you ask.
I am talking about this:

During the recent flooding, there were (I think) pumper trucks or some such thing working out in this area next to my house. I assumed there was just too much water  and they were trying to get it out of a drain or something. Gosh, I sound intelligent. I should be a plumber.

Then earlier this week, I came home to a closed off street and this:

I finally got out in the daylight yesterday to get some close ups of how big this thing really is. I am assuming a pipe broke maybe?

I had to get a little too close for comfort on that last one. See how the pavement is broken off? Weird.

It isn't too big a deal. We just have to park on a different part of the street. Except...on Monday I started wondering, Hmmm, I wonder if they'll be done by Friday. Garbage Day. This thing is directly in front of our back alley, which is where they do recycling and garbage pick up. Guess whose trash is still sitting out behind the house? Yep. That would be ours. And it's not that they CAN'T get to the trash. They would have to drive the garbage truck backwards to get out of the alley again. Which is probably not very easy. But I think they just saw the barrier and didn't even try to get through. So I am a little annoyed about that.

If this thing isn't fixed by next week, I'm going to leave a very nice note stuck to the Caterpillar there, asking them if they might fill up the hole with all the trash we are accumulating.

p.s. Yes, I realize I have now broken my pledge not to post anything Long AND Boring. Only Long OR Boring. Oh, well. Too bad for you. You already read it.