Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Too Busy to Cook? Try Some Easy Dinner Ideas

Too Busy to Cook? Try Some Easy Dinner Ideas

Full-time mothers, not to mention working moms, definitely lack the time and energy to work up delicious and nutritious meals for the family at the end of the day. Making elaborate dishes, no matter how delectable, can seem like an enormous task to the harried parent. So, in order to tone down the strain brought on by meal preparation, here are some easy dinner ideas to try out.

1.    Don’t Eliminate the Basics

Good old American staples like hamburger meat and macaroni and cheese can be prepared in unconventional ways to make appetizing dishes everybody will love.

Hamburger meat can be easily acquired at your local butcher’s shop or grocery store. This protein-rich staple is wonderful when paired with clove garlic, minced onions, pepper, mushrooms, flour, minced parsley, butter, sour cream, and cream of chicken soup and served with piping hot pasta to make hamburger stroganoff. Another quick hamburger meal is Potato Burgers Quick Meal, which contains potatoes, onions, pepper, and salt. The best part is that this meal only takes around fifteen minutes to prepare!

It is always possible to come up with something new just by adding herbs and spices to a simple meal. You can also add different ingredients to spice up a meal. For the usual mac n’ cheese, you can put in some shrimp and scallops to add that special seafood touch, or, as Food and Wine suggests, you can add in some carrots to make a healthier meal.
2.   Make Use of Appliances to Lessen the Workload

There are kitchen aids that help make cooking easier. Get a wok when you feel like making a stir-fried dish. Stir-fried dishes can be kept for days, and they are the perfect leftovers to save you time. The appetizing chicken and broccoli stir-fry gives you all the nutrients you need from protein and veggies. You can make it with chicken, garlic, scallions, broccoli, sesame oil, soy sauce, and noodles or jasmine rice.

For meals that need to be prepared in a hurry, a panini grill is very useful. You can make all kinds of hot sandwiches with a panini grill in ten minutes or less. If you are craving a more exotic tasting sandwich, experiment with recipes like the Chorizo-Pear Panini, a favorite of The Food Network. It contains manchego cheese, Spanish chorizo, fig jam, and crunchy pear slices stuffed into a soft roll. 

Slow-cooked stew, which won’t spoil for days if kept in the fridge, is another problem-solver to your cooking dilemma. A crock-pot or slow-cooker cooks meat and veggies to perfection while you’re away from home. All you have to do is put some meat and vegetables in, and eight hours later, you have a delectable meal. Feel free to add your choice ingredients like corn, chives, carrots, celery, turnips, potatoes, beans, spices, and sauce. For a twist, you can put in some wine or exotic spices.    

3.   Check Out Meals the Grocery Store Prepares for You

If you are particularly pressed for time and can’t feasibly prepare a meal, you can stop by the grocery store on your way home from work. There are a lot of pre-cooked meals and dishes cooked there. If you prefer green veggies, you can visit the salad bar. Many stores also have rotisserie chicken with side dishes. You can pick up starters like guacamole and chips, and you can find a whole range of delicious desserts that taste homemade. With these grocery store meals, all you need to do is buy and serve!  

It is not necessary to spend hours in the kitchen in order to eat healthy and tasty food. There are plenty of ways to enjoy dinner at home together with a little inventiveness and timesaving kitchen equipment.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tacos al Pastor

Tacos al Pastor

Tacos Al pastor is a dish developed in Central Mexico, likely as a result of the adoption of the shawarma spit-grilled meat brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico
Having derived from the shawarma, it is also similar to the Turkish doner kebab and the Greek gyros. Whereas doner is usually lamb-based (thus the "shepherd style" name), gyros and tacos al pastor in Mexico are made from pork.

Serves 6 to 8
If you cannot find guajillo chiles, New Mexico chiles may be substituted--the dish may be slightly spicy. Boneless pork butt roast is often labeled Boston butt in the supermarket. To warm tortillas, place them on a microwave-safe plate and cover it with a damp kitchen towel; microwave on high power 30 to 45 seconds. For best results, keep warmed tortillas covered with damp towel and use immediately.

1 ½ cups water
2 ounces guajillo chiles (about 10 large chiles), rinsed and stemmed
1 ¼ pounds plum tomatoes, cored and quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
¾ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 pounds boneless pork butt roast
1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch-thick rounds
Vegetable oil, for brushing
18 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed

1 small onion, chopped fine
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
Lime wedges

1. Bring water, chiles, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, sugar, cumin, and cloves to simmer in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chiles are softened and tomatoes mash easily, about 20 minutes.

2. While sauce simmers, trim exterior of pork of any excess fat and slice against grain into 1/2-inch-thick slabs.

3. Transfer chile-tomato mixture to blender and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Strain puree through fine-mesh strainer, pressing on solids in strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Return puree to pot, add pork slices and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat, and gently simmer until pork is tender, but still holds together, 75 to 90 minutes. (Pork and sauce can be prepared to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

4. Transfer pork to large plate, season both sides with salt, and cover tightly with foil. Pour off all but 1 ½ cups sauce from pot (extra sauce can be reserved for another use). Bring sauce in pot to simmer and cook until reduced to 1 cup, 3 to 5 minutes; season with salt to taste. Transfer 1/2 cup sauce to bowl for grilling; leave remaining 1/2 cup sauce in pot for dressing cooked pork. Brush both sides of pineapple with vegetable oil and season with salt.

5A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

5B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium.

6. Clean and oil cooking grate. Brush one side of pork with ¼ cup reserved sauce. Place pork on one side of grill, sauce-side down, and cook until well-browned and crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Brush pork with remaining ¼ cup sauce, flip, and continue to cook until second side is well-browned and crispy, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Transfer to cutting board (do not tent with foil). Meanwhile, brush both sides of pineapple slices with vegetable oil and season with salt. Place on other half of grill and cook until pineapple is softened and caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes per side; transfer pineapple to cutting board.

7. Coarsely chop grilled pineapple and transfer to serving bowl. Using tongs or carving fork to steady pork (it will be hot), slice each piece crosswise into 1/8-inch pieces. Bring remaining 1/2 cup sauce in pot to simmer, add sliced pork, remove pot from heat, and toss to coat pork well. Season with salt to taste.

8. To serve, spoon small amount of pork into center of each warm tortilla and serve passing chopped pineapple and garnishes separately.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Make your own pasta without a machine!

Handmade Pasta
Makes about 1 pound, enough to serve 4 to 6

The longer the dough rests in step 2, the easier it will be to roll out.
Use a large spinning wooden rolling pin for this recipe.
If your chef’s knife is not very sharp, use a serrated knife to cut the dough in step 4.
This pasta pairs well with cream and butter-based sauces (see following recipes,) but will work with any type of sauce. It can also be used to make filled pastas like ravioli or tortellini.

2 cups (10 ounces) 00 flour,that is the finest quality you can find. You can use ordinary flour but the 00 is the best!
2 large eggs
6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Process flour, eggs, yolks, and oil in food processor until mixture forms cohesive ball that rotates around processor bowl, about 30 seconds.

2. Turn dough ball onto dry surface and knead until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Shape dough into 6-inch-long cylinder. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to relax for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

3. Cut cylinder crosswise into 6 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough (rewrap remaining dough), place cut-side down on clean counter and press into rough 2 ½ inch square. Using heavy rolling pin, roll from center of dough away from you in one motion. Return rolling pin to center of dough and roll towards you in one motion. Repeat rolling out until dough sticks to counter and measures roughly 11 inches long. Lightly dust both sides of dough with flour and continue rolling out until dough measures about 24 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide (You should be able to easily see the outline of your fingers through dough). If dough sticks to counter and wrinkles when rolled out, lightly dust with flour.

4. Dust dough heavily with flour, particularly at ends. Roll both ends of dough up until they meet as two cylinders in center (forming a scroll). With sharp chef’s knife, slice scroll crosswise into 3/16-inch-thick noodles. Thread wooden or metal skewer under pasta between cylinders; lift skewer so that pasta unravels on both sides. Use fingers to uncurl pasta ends and remove excess flour, then prop skewer between two tall cereal boxes or books so noodles hang freely (alternatively, noodles can be tossed with generous amount of flour and spread out on baking sheet). Repeat rolling and cutting remaining pieces of dough. (For best results, cut noodles should be cooked within 4 hours).

5. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta and cook until tender but still slightly toothsome, about 3 minutes. Drain pasta and toss with sauce of your choice; serve immediately.

Fettuccine with Butter and Parmesan

Serves 4

After draining pasta return to pot and add 5 tablespoons softened unsalted butter and ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Cook over low heat, tossing to combine ingredients, for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper; serve

Fettuccine with Lemon and Cream
Serves 4

Heat 1 1/3 cup heavy cream, 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, and ¼ cup lemon juice in 12-inch skillet over low heat until butter is melted and cream comes to bare simmer. Turn off heat and set aside. After draining pasta add to skillet with cream mixture. Add 1 cup grated Parmesan and 1 teaspoon lemon zest; cook over low heat until sauce is slightly thickened and coats pasta. Season with salt and pepper; serve
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All the recipes here have either been sent to me, adapted by me or found on the web. If I know the source I always give credit to the author/website. If you know of a source I may have missed please let me know.