New Year’s Eve Leftovers for Lunch

Well 2013 shot by like a rocket. My great aunt once told me the older you get the faster time goes. As I near 70 I can testify she was spot on with that observation.

I thought I’d try again at keeping Anniespickns going. One would think that a retired person would have tons of time to write and take pictures but I haven’t found that to be true. It’s more like I have found sooooooo many things that peak my interest and take my time that Anniespickns has suffered.  Sometimes the interest has been there but it gets replaced with something even more interesting. So, it’s a new year, a time, they say, for new beginnings.

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New Years Eve I cooked a rack of lamb, garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach for myself. The rack had about eight bones so I naturally had leftovers. After a beautiful bike ride along the river, in sunny upper sixty degree weather today, I came home hungry and ready to eat some leftovers.  I knew I had a few brussels sprouts in the fridge so I decided to saute some in olive with a few shitake mushrooms, sweet Maui onions, and a clove roasted garlic as an accompaniment to the leftover lamb. I also treated myself to a glass of Pinot Nior, also a leftover. Hard to drink a whole bottle of wine by one’s self even on New Year’s Eve.DSCN6544I really love brussels sprouts prepared this way they are quick and delicious. Just cut off the end stem, remove the outside leaves, cut them in half and slice thinly. Don’t overcook them, just saute them lightly. Sometimes I thinly slice bacon, saute it until almost crisp, then saute some onion in the bacon fat, add the slivered brussels sprouts and quickly saute them. In my book there isn’t much that doesn’t taste good with a little bacon.

Other ideas for brussels sprouts can be found at:

How I Learned to Love Brussels Sprouts

Monday’s Two-fer

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A little of this, a little of that and you have the one-pot option.

Have you ever found you have just a few carrots, maybe a little spinach and just a handful of green beans in the refrigerator but there’s not enough of any one of them to feed two people much less three or four?  Here’s an easy solution; The one pan option, or as some might call it stir-fry.

I love stir-fry. I don’t always use it to solve the little of this, little of that problem. Sometimes I choose it because I can cook everything in one pan, which a lot of the time is a huge motivating factor. Whichever reason, I’ve been keeping track of some of the ways I made quick, tasty, easy to clean up meals over the last month and here are the results.

Version 1

A curried version using Crimini mushrooms, onion and garlic, zucchini, carrots and leftover chicken served over brown rice mixed with a little curry sauce.

Version II

An Asian version using Shitaki mushrooms, onion and garlic, snow peas, spinach, yellow summer squash served over brown rice flavored with a little oyster sauce.

Version III

This one I came up with after my experience with the fava beans. In this version I used Crimini mushrooms, onion and garlic, chard and feta cheese served over left over rice penne pasta.

Version IV

A celebration of the first green beans of the season was the occasion for this simple stir-fry of Shitaki mushrooms, onion and garlic, green beans all flavored with bacon bits and served over brown rice.

I start by sautéing the mushrooms, then add the onion and garlic, sometimes I remove those ingredients to a serving bowl then brown the longer cooking veggies like the squash, green beans or chard stems, then I’ll add back in the mushroom/onion mixture put what ever greens I’m going to use on top, add a little liquid (water, broth, wine) to create steam and cover until the greens just wilt and the thicker veggies are just right. If I really don’t want to clean another pan I will sometimes put the rice or cooked pasta in with the thicker veggies and the liquid, cover and let it all steam for a little while then add the greens to wilt them right before serving.

This is one of those things that you’ll want to play around with. There is no wrong way. Just think of the colors and textures of what you have on hand and what might taste good with them as a flavoring. I used curry sauce, oyster sauce, feta cheese, and bacon in these versions but  you might want to try soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or even a BBQ sauce. Herbs are also a good addition.  Nuts and seeds are good ways to add protein if your not adding cheese or leftover meats. And, don’t forget tofu. Tofu is really great in these stir-fry dishes. I usually don’t cook rice or pasta for this dish I usually have some leftovers that I use. If you do cook pasta especially for this, use some of the pasta water when you do the steaming.

I am using a wok style pan but a large fry pan can work too. Just make sure you have a lid that fits the pan you are going to use. For oil I use either olive oil or canola oil. The addition of a little sesame oil to an Asian style version is very nice.

Just use your imagination, the options are endless and now that we have a whole new selection of summer vegetables coming to market I’m sure I’ll be trying some new combinations. How about you? Let me know what you come up with. I love trying new ideas.

My “Magic Three” Saved The Day Again.

There are three ingredients I can almost always count on having on hand in my kitchen, fresh carrots and celery and onions. This handy trio is the basis for many of the recipes I throw together, especially when there isn’t anything else in my veggie bin. Today was one of those days so, I started thinking about what I wanted to throw together using the “magic three”.  I decided to make a peasant-style risotto, which is a favorite that I haven’t made in quite a while.

This recipe is great because it’s so basic it can be easily modified. You can add little bits of veggies you might have left over from earlier in the week. Things like a couple pieces of asparagus, a little broccoli, green peas or mushrooms would all work. You can also add just about any kind of cooked meat or sausage. Spicy sausages really taste great in this.

I had a couple of chicken thighs that needed to be cooked so I coated them with some olive oil and grilled them. I love grilling. It’s quick and doesn’t take an extra pan. I cubed the grilled thighs and set them aside.

Next I chopped one medium carrot, one stalk of celery and one small onion. I also added about 12 chopped crimini  mushrooms since I had them and they needed to be used. The rule of thumb I try to  to keep in mind regarding the “magic three” is that the individual amounts should about the same. You could also add some fresh chopped thyme or sage at this point. Next, measure about 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth into a glass measuring cup and heat in microwave until hot but not yet simmering. Keep warm.

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a large Dutch oven over medium heat on the stove top. Add the “magic three” ingredients any other veggies you have, and the chopped herbs if you decide to include some and saute gently until the onion is golden, about 3 minutes.

Add 1 cup Arborio rice (or I use California short grain white rice) and stir with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes or until the rice is well coated with oil.

Next, increase the heat to medium-high and add 1 cup of the hot broth, stirring constantly. When the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, add another 1 cup broth and continue stirring. Repeat as necessary for approximately 16 – 20 minutes, or until the rice is al dente, or firm to the bite, or softer if you’re like me and prefer it that way. Yes, this does take a lot of stirring, but if you pour yourself a nice glass of wine and put on some great tunes to sing along to the time just flies by.

When you have the rice just like you like it remove the risotto from the heat and stir in a tablespoon of butter and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and any cooked meat you might want to add. In my case this is where I added the chopped grilled chicken. Serve the Risotto immediately.

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market:

Carrots

Celery

Onions

Ever wonder why some onions are yellow, some red and some white? Me too!

Last weekend I was up in Minden, NV. It’s beautiful up in the Carson Valley with the snow capped Sierras framing their western view, and it’s only a short 30 minute trip to Hope Valley and snowshoeing or even less time if you prefer skiing at Heavenly Valley.  But, the best thing about that area is one of my sisters, Judy, lives there. I made the trip “up the hill” to help her move. It was an easy move in that we only had to move her things a few blocks. We’d load up my Explorer and her Escape, drive a couple of blocks, unload, and then go back for more. We worked like this for a couple of days then we decided we needed a break so we took off for a couple of hours of snowshoeing up by Red Lake off Hwy 88. It was a nice break for the three of us. Judy’s black Lab, Ellie, had been having a hard time with the fact that we kept taking the stuff from the only home she has ever known to this other place. The change in scenery and routine was a boost to all our psyches.

There are no year-round Farmer’s Markets in the Carson Valley area. Their market season runs from around May till September. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find local produce. You just have to know what’s available and where to look for it. Luckily, Judy knew that Nevada white onions were available and she knew where to find them. She also knows I love them. So, on one of our outings we stopped to pick up a nice little bag of white onions grown in Yerington. I could hardly wait to cook with them. The next morning I made omelets with white onion, bacon, avocado and cheese. Delicious.

Yesterday as I was photographing the onions I got to thinking about the different colors they come in and wondering what the differences were.

I found the answer on the National Onion Association‘s website:

The Color of Onions
Onions come in three colors – yellow, red, and white. Approximately 87 percent of the crop is devoted to yellow onion production, with about 8 percent red onions and 5 percent white onions.

Yellow onions are full-flavored and are a reliable standby for cooking almost anything. Yellow onions turn a rich, dark brown when cooked and give French Onion Soup its tangy sweet flavor. The red onion, with its wonderful color, is a good choice for fresh uses or in grilling and charbroiling. White onions are the traditional onion used in classic Mexican cuisine. They have a golden color and sweet flavor when sautéed.

I had no idea that white onions made up only 5 percent of the onions grown. Considering how much I love them I’m really glad they grow so well up in Nevada and that my sis lives there so I can buy them local.

How I Learned to Love Brussels Sprouts.

To a lot of folks just the mention of the words Brussels sprouts may bring about memories of being served soggy, mushy, strong tasting little cabbages. Not pleasant memories. Well, you can strike those awful memories from your mind. I’m here to tell you that if you give them another chance you might learn, just as I have, that they can be delicious. There three keys to a successful Brussels sprouts experience. First, buy them fresh; second select sprouts that are small in size; and last don’t over cook them. Brussels sprouts taste best cooked quickly. Here are four ways to enjoy Brussels sprouts.

My favorite way to fix them is to toss about 1 pound trimmed Brussels sprouts that have been cut in half lengthwise into a large Ziplock bag with one onion, that has been quartered, then cut into 1/16’s, about ½ pound Crimini mushrooms, quartered, some olive oil and a little sea salt and cracked black pepper. Toss to mix all the ingredients.  Next, I preheat my little BBQ and put my stir-fry basket on the grill. When the grill and the basket are nice and hot I dump in the Brussels sprout mix and close the BBQ lid. I check back every 5 min or so and toss the mixture so it can cook evenly. It’s done when the mixture is browned and the sprouts are crisp tender. Another nice addition to this mix is to toss in some chopped crisp cooked bacon just before serving. You can also roast this mixture in a 450° F oven for about 45 minutes. For me, this recipe seems to come out much better when I use the BBQ.

They can also be pan browned. Trim ½ pound Brussels sprouts and halve lengthwise. Cut 2 large garlic cloves into very thin slices. In a heavy 10-inch skillet melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over moderate heat and cook garlic, stirring, until pale golden. Transfer garlic with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Reduce heat to low and arrange sprouts in skillet, cut sides down, in one layer. Sprinkle sprouts with 2 tablespoons pine nuts and salt to taste. Cook sprouts with turning, until crisp-tender and undersides are golden brown. About 15 minutes. Transfer sprouts to a plate, browned sides up. Add garlic and ½ tablespoon butter to skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring until pine nuts are more evenly pale golden brown, about 1 minute. Spoon mixtures over sprouts and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

They are also delicious in what I call a stir-fry style. First separate the sprouts into just the leaves and set aside. Next, in a little olive oil, saute some diced onion and pancetta or bacon until softened. Add the sprout leaves and stir-fry until just tender.

For the simplist version try this; Steam 2 lbs of trimmed Brussels sprouts until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Toss with butter and salt and pepper to taste. For this version use the very tiniest sprouts, less than three quarters of an inch in diameter. It the sprouts are larger cut them in half.

The season will be ending soon. At some markets you can buy the entire dramatic-looking stalk and pluck the sprouts off when you get home. Look for stalks that have small sprouts; they will be sweeter than the larger ones. Choose those that feel firm and heavy. Avoid any that have any wilting or yellowing leaves, or that do nor form a tight head. If you haven’t tried Brussels sprouts in a while why not give them another chance? You just might find out how really delicious they can be.

Spaghetti Squash with Thai Yellow Curry

All this cool, foggy weather has had me thinking about one of my favorite meals, Vegetarian Jungle Curry, from Lemon Grass Asian Grill. I can almost taste the crisp, tasty seasonal vegetables and tofu, served over rice and  topped with the most yummy Thai yellow curry sauce. Usually when I have this craving I swing by the restaurant. But today while I was driving around doing errands I got to thinking about the leftover spaghetti squash I have in the fridge and how it might be pretty tasty with some Thai yellow curry. Boy was I right. Tonight, I sautéed some garlic, yellow onion and crimini mushrooms, steamed some broccoli and placed it all over the leftover spaghetti squash. Then I poured on the Thai yellow curry. OH MY! I think I found my favorite way to have spaghetti squash.

Last year Mai Pham, owner and chef of Lemon Grass Restaurant and Lemon Grass Asian Grill, here in Sacramento, started marketing Thai Yellow Curry, Thai Green Curry and Lemongrass Ginger Marinade concentrates.  Since her yellow curry is the one I crave, I was thrilled to know that I could buy the concentrate. It’s now a staple in my pantry.

Tonight’s recipe was yummy and it satisfied my craving, but I can tell you that Mai’s version still calls out to me and you can bet I’ll be suggesting one of  her restaurants the next time I meet a friend for lunch.

If you’re from the Sacramento area you can purchase Lemon Grass Kitchen concentrates at either of the restaurants, they’re also carried at Corti Bros., Whole Foods, or Nugget Markets. Corti Bros also has online ordering.

Farmer’s Market shopping list:

Spaghetti squash

Broccoli

Yellow onion

Crimini mushrooms