Leek Newbie…

A recipe for a Wild Rice and Leek dish shared the same Food Network Magazine page as the Cauliflower Tabouli – having never cooked with leeks before, I thought I’d give it a try.

I had taken chicken out the night before and whipped up a marinade of olive oil, garlic, shallots, white wine, thyme and misc. seasonings from my spice cabinet. I knew this would be the perfect side, I even thought I could sell the hub on it.

I got advice from several co-workers and friends on how to properly clean a leek. I even watched a few YouTube videos…God, I love the Internet.

First up…

The Ingredients:

Leeks – the recipe called for 1, I used 2 – next time I might even use 3-4
2 tablespoons butter
Hazelnuts – to be used as a topper
Thyme – A few fresh sprigs worked great
Salt and Pepper to taste
Wild Rice – any kind will do – I used some from Trader Joe’s

I’m having  a lot of fun laying out the ingredients – I’m used to running around the kitchen like a mad woman flinging open cabinet doors, the fridge and pantry. Often forgetting to actually close the fridge…hah! I guess there is something to be said about keeping a clean work area/work station if we’re talking Top Chef or Chopped…not quite there yet. 😉

Getting off work right at 5:00 PM also helped. I didn’t feel rushed or flustered…

I got my wild rice on the stove before I took on the task of preparing the leeks.

Leek Cleaning 101

Everyone has a different take on how much of the green you should leave…an inch or two seemed to be the consensus. Most are pretty consistent with the white portion. It seems that lots of people save the green ends for soup stock. Shhh…I chucked them.

I slit the leeks down the center (not going all the way through) and then opened them up under the water. The silky dirt hides in the different layers.  I then started chopping, the recipe called for thin slices.

The next step was to get them into a bowl of cold water for more washing

I gave them a good swirl under the water and then put them into a colander for more rinsing and draining.

I’ve been wanting to get a collapsible colander and salad spinner…does anyone have one? I’ve seen several different Progressive and OXO models at Target and Bed Bath and Beyond.  I’m curious as to how the silicone holds up. I sure could use the extra cabinet space.

I then used  paper towels to pat dry the leeks before putting them into a pan with the butter, thyme sprigs and salt and pepper.

The thyme/butter combo made the entire kitchen smell amazing. I let them cook in the pan for the suggested 8 minutes on a medium to high heat.

I then added 1/2 the leek mixture to the wild rice. I transferred the rice into a serving dish and added the remaining leeks and chopped hazelnuts to get it ready for it’s photo shoot.

Everything came out great. Next time I don’t think I’ll cook the leeks for the entire 8 minutes and I might make the leek slices a tiny bit thicker.

Dan really like the chicken and wild rice combo. I did notice that he wasn’t a fan of the hazelnuts – so next time I might actually tell them that they are in the dish, LOL…or I will sub them out for slivered or sliced almonds, something that isn’t so bulky.

All in all….I give it 2 thumbs up. I will definitely make this dish again. I’m supper excited to try more leek recipes. I love the mild flavor and the green color is so vibrant – I’ve found a million different soup recipes, but I think I will try Alton Brown’s Grilled Braised Leeks next time we fire up the grill – Come on? Bacon and goat cheese? I’m so there!

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Pure Comfort…

Having a husband that occasionally eats 3 McDonald’s cheeseburgers and 2 McDonald’s baked apple pies* for lunch…I need to get a little creative for weekend lunches to keep the boy fed.

*Dan has been on a search to find the deep-fried pies they used to sell – he actually found a website that talked about the smaller McDonald’s having them due to space issues – they use the deep fryers to cook them…one day, victory will be his!

While I try my hardest to eat pretty healthy, a few comfort food/family recipes still find their way into the rotation. Ace’s Mom and Dad used to make “Meat Cups” for the boys and their simple recipe got passed along to me.

I made them as an appetizer for a block party a few years back and all of my drunk neighbors gobbled them up. I have to say, it is the perfect “drunk food”

For appetizers, I use my small muffin pans – 24 muffins…but this past weekend I wanted more of a lunch sized portion, heavier on the filling…

The ingredients include:
1 lb. lean ground beef (I have substituted ground turkey and shredded chicken before with excellent results)
BBQ Sauce – Sweet Baby Ray’s has become an easy favorite (I’ve made my own BBQ sauce as well)
Refrigerated Biscuits – I usually use the Pillsbury Grand Biscuits and cut them into 4’s for the smaller muffin pan. This time I used Pillsbury Grands! Jr – Golden Layers – Buttermilk, any brand will do…or you can use pizza dough or make your own.
Shredded Cheddar Cheese – Tillamook is my favorite – I definitely prefer using cheese I’ve shredded myself, pre-shredded doesn’t melt right.
Garlic – to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sidenote: Speaking of Garlic – Trader Joe’s carries Dorot – a frozen crushed garlic – I often use it mid-week when I’m pressed for time. They also have frozen herbs by the same brand. LOVE them! Just pop em’ out and put the rest back in the freezer for later.

So the first step is to preheat the oven to the instructions on the biscuits. It varies depending what brand or kind you use. You then need to brown the ground beef with  salt, pepper and garlic. Once the meat has been browned and drained…add your BBQ sauce. Eyeball the amount of BBQ Sauce. I probably used a cup for the 1lb. of ground beef. You want the meat to be coated really well.

Using a non-stick muffin pan – flatten out your biscuit dough and place into each individual muffin hole. If you don’t have non-stick, I would definitely spray or coat the pan, so you can easily get them out.

You then add the meat into the biscuit cup…

and top with the shredded cheese – Like I said above, I used cheddar…but have used jack and mozzarella – just depends what your other ingredients are.

Slide them into the oven – when using the smaller muffin pan, you really need to watch them. They cook much faster.

I made sea salt oven fries for Dan and a spring mix salad for me. While we don’t have these very often, they sure are a great comfort food and substitute for Dan’s obsession with fast food lunches. He definitely prefers the smaller appetizer size, makes it easier to eat one after another.

Combos that would be good – ground turkey, chicken or beef, marinara and mozzarella – ground turkey, chicken or beef, taco seasoning or chili seasoning and sharp cheddar…the possibilities are endless and kids have loved them.

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Gonna dress you up in my love…

So I have a slightly small obsession with salad dressing. Store bought, make my own, I pretty much love salad dressing. I’m about to unveil the ridiculous number of dressings I currently have housed in my fridge door. When on South Beach a year or more ago, I happened upon these delights:

Galeo’s – Their slogan is “One taste and you’re hooked for life” – yep…I pretty much cry when the Nugget is out of stock.  Oh my god how I love me some low-fat miso…What? You don’t get all hot and bothered over salad dressing? 

Miso Sesame is my favorite. With only 22 Calories per tablespoon, 2 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of carbs and the shocking low 35mg of sodium…it’s MONEY! Totally worth ordering online if you don’t have some overpriced/stuffy market nearby.

Mr. Trader Joe’s Champagne Pear Vinagrette also worked its way into the photo – it’s a sweet pear and gorgonzola dressing – shelf life isn’t too long, so I only buy it on occasion…when I have tasty pears on hand. I like a variety…I want to be able to have a different dressing daily if possible. I pretty much eat a salad for lunch on most days.

Next up…Girard’s – I’ve been in love with their Light Champagne since forever. My Mom used to use the full fat version and I found the light version and it was a perfect substitute, still fabulous taste and fewer calories and fat. 

To my surprise….I found 3 additional flavors at the grocery store this past weekend. Apple Poppyseed, Light Raspberry (Love their full fat Raspberry and this one is another perfect substitution) and Peach Mimosa. I got home from the store, whipped out my container of spring mix and started taste testing. I loved both the Apple Poppyseed and the Peach Mimosa…gotta find the right salad fixings for those puppies. Any ideas or perfect combos you can think of? I’ve already used the Light Raspberry on a spring mix, goat cheese, walnut and fresh raspberry salad – Yum!

In the homemade dept. I got a really cool Bonjour salad dressing container/mixer  for Christmas from a girlfriend. She also got me the Salad Dressing 101 book and I’ve been mixing up a storm ever since. I often make the following simple dressing:

Maple Mustard Dressing
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
3 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup – use the good stuff!
1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt

I usually cut down on the Dijon a bit…but overall, it’s great when I’m feeling that I need a change from my other 27 bottles.

The crazy thing…Dan pretty much only likes Thousand Island dressing…

Nothing beats a lunch time salad by the pool with my latest catalog…love me some home decor catalogs. Today’s salad consisted of mixed greens, radishes, tomatoes, asparagus, green onion, feta and pecans…I used the balsamic from my handy-dandy Bonjour container. I teamed that with a Thomas’s Everything Bagel Thin with Laughing Cow Light Cheese. Mah belly is happy.

Now it’s back to work for me.

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