Sunday, January 29, 2012

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Brining

After being sick for a little over two weeks I can not tell you how happy I am to have meals in the freezer and easy recipes on hand. When you have kids the best thing you can do for your family is to plan ahead. I believe my husband and kids have survived on homemade chili and chicken most of the week. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures - this week I have a cooking tip. 

I have several customers tell me about how they brine their turkey for Thanksgiving. I recently made a pork loin roast with a salt and brown sugar brine. Both are delicious.

This week I decided to bake some boneless skinless chicken breasts. I have tried to get the temperature right so that they aren't dry but are fully cooked. Let me just say - this is super tough to do. But that all changed when I took out 4 pieces of boneless skinless breast and brined them overnight in a 1/2 cup of sea salt, a gallon of water in a large bowl. The next day I made them for dinner for my family. I butterflied 2 of them, rubbed pesto all over them, and then rolled them up. The other 2 I did not butterfly, I just rubbed pesto all over the outside. I wasn't sure if cutting them would affect the purpose of the brine. I am pleased to announce that even the butterflied chicken turned out delicious and very moist. I baked the chicken breast uncovered in a glass dish at 400 degrees for about 20 - 25 mins. I wanted to check if they were done without taking them out and cutting them up because they didn't brown a lot . I grabbed my meat thermometer and checked to see if it registered 170 degrees for the internal temp. I think I am going to be investing in a new thermometer very soon. It was close enough so I took them out and covered the dish with tinfoil. I let them sit, fully covered for about 15 more minutes. I know that with pork and beef - if you cover them after you take them out of a hot oven they will cook a little bit longer. I decided to give it a try with the chicken. It worked great! Even my husband and kids commented on how moist the chicken was. They ate on these for about 3 days and even warming them up didn't dry them out. I am definitely sold on brining.

Please share if there is anything special you brine or your thoughts on trying to cook your chicken breast this way.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rice Cooker - Country Style Ribs

I am not sure I know a man who can resist 
BBQ Ribs. 

This is my husband's favorite meal of all time. It is something he always ordered at a restaurant when we went out, until I developed this recipe.  Now it is my favorite thing to make when we have company or if I just want to score some brownie points!

A little while back my husband's grandma bought me a Wolfgang Puck rice cooker, which I love by the way. This is my favorite thing to cook in there, but you can also use a dutch oven or any other baking dish that you can cover tightly even if you need to use tin foil. For Christmas my mom bought me a cast iron dutch oven that I can hardly wait to try out, but I haven't made it that far yet. I will however update this post when I have had a chance to make the ribs in it. 

I should mention that I make this recipe with both the Baby Back Ribs and the Country Style Ribs - in the winter I prefer the country style ribs ( they are actually sliced pork shoulder - which is also referred to as pork butt) They have a little bit of bone which is very important for flavor but they are very meaty. 

Country Style Ribs - BBQ:

1 pkg or 4 pieces of J.H. Country Style Ribs or 1 slab of Baby Back Ribs

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

3/4 cup Brown Sugar

1 12oz bottle dark Beer
(I use Guinness)

2/3 cup Thick & Spicy BBQ Sauce

1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce

Place olive oil in the bottom of your pan and heat.

 Pour 3/4 cup packed brown sugar in to a bowl and roll ribs - be sure to coat well. This will help to create your caramelized sauce at the end. 
Once coated, brown ribs in oil.

Once browned, add any brown sugar you have remaining as well as the beer.

Don't forget the BBQ sauce & Worcestershire sauce

 It is all foamy and ready to cook now - Secure the lid and press cook.
Or it's ready to go into the oven now.


 My rice cooker shuts off automatically when it's done - Usually after an hour.
If cooking in the oven you may want to check it after an hour as well.

 I usually start to break apart the ribs at this point. When using Baby Back ribs you do not need to do this, but the Country Style ribs have much more meat and you want to be sure you cover them with the sauce. Let stand for about 15 minutes in the sauce - it will thicken slightly. 

It is time to eat up!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hearty Beef Stew

Brrrr.... it's cold outside. Haha! Just kidding. Here in Michigan the weather changes its mind just about every hour. I had a surprise this week, we had a day of almost 60 degrees, in January to say the least. 

Almost any time of year I am in the mood for beef stew. It's warming from the inside out and oh so good. 

Here is a recipe I just made up for you. As always, feel free to be creative yourself and use whatever you have available, but this is what I did - this time at least :-) I make a large batch, we eat it for dinner and lunch the next day, then I freeze the rest for later. Freezing for later is a HUGE TIME SAVER!

*Several of these ingredients came from my own garden or something I had canned previously. It sure does save a lot of time and money when I have most of the items already prepared for this. It is also a great feeling to know where your food came from.  

 Beef Barley Stew:

4 cups *Beef Broth
3 lbs J.H. Stew Meat
2 cups *Tomato Sauce
8 cups Water
2/3 cup Lentils
1/2 cup Pearled Barley
1 small bag baby carrots
6 med. Red Potatoes
4 cups *Green Beans
1 cups *Frozen Corn
1 tablespoon Lemon Pepper
3 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon Parsley
2 teaspoon Minced Garlic
Salt to Taste - I had to add about 1/2 - 1 tablespoon to mine. 

* These are items from my garden or things I have canned.

The step-by-step below: 

Be sure to try John Henry's Beef Stew Meat from Sirloin Tip.

I start my meat a little bit different- it takes a little bit longer but it isn't any more work. In my crock pot (6qt) I place the 3 lbs of Beef stew meat - and I slice 2 small to medium onions to place in there as well.

Sprinkle liberally with salt and lemon pepper (add any other seasonings you would like). Add about 1 1/2 cups of water to crock pot and cook on low for about 4 hours.

Once meat is done cooking it is time to start the actual beef stew... Yay!
Start by dumping the entire contents of the crock pot into your stock pot. You will have a nice beef base. Next add the rest of the ingredients.

Dice potatoes and slice carrots and throw those in there as well.... feel free to add any other veggies you would like. 

It's basically going to look like brown water with a bunch of veggies swimming around... now simmer for a few hours and it will come to life. 

After a few hours your stew will evolve into this thick deliciousness. The barley becomes plump and all the flavors mix together. Pure heaven for those cold evenings or anytime.

Beef Barley Stew.... it's whats for dinner :-)