Monday, June 18, 2012

A big week, and a potluck request

I haven't been cooking much lately. There was a bridal shower at work, and then a friend of mine had a baby, which involved spending about 10-plus hours at the hospital and an early run to Starbucks. This was totally worth it, however. The newest Amazon is a beaut!

I have three bags of grain waiting to be ground up and processed into wort for beer, and about six cups of currants in the fridge that need to be cooked into jam, as soon as I get the other ingredients. This weekend involved grilling and vegetables, all of which I've written about here already. So, this week, you might get a jam recipe with a canning tutorial, if we're all very, very lucky. Also on the list is banana bran muffins, cornmeal waffles and beer, apparently.

In other news, I'm looking for a potluck dish. It has to taste good, weather heat well and feed about 75 people. Ideally, it will be easy, take less than 15 ingredients and fit into the two disposable pans I bought for the occasion. Magical powers optional.

Any ideas? I'm open! Post away!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Decant, decant, decant: An addiction to Mason jars

I read a ton of home renovation articles. Pinterest is my new mistress, and Country Living has taken out a mortgage on my email inbox. Midwest Living claims my living room table. It's a sickness.

Anyway, the one bit of advice about home decor and organization that seems to stick with me is this: Decant, decant, decant.

I think it was an article about bathrooms, and it talked about the idea of trying to store items that have to be in sight. Now, I don't know about your bathroom, but ours is about the size of a closet. Storage is a joke, so everything is out in the open. However, this article made a point that not everything has to be in its original package....

It started there, with a squat, clear Presto jar full of cotton balls and q-tips. Then makeup brushes, and jewelry. It's shocking how much better the place looks with things contained in jars. Honestly. And now, of course, it's out of control, and it's really to do with the Mason jars.

When my grandma died, we ended up going through her basement, and there were a ton of jars, and not just any Mason jars, mind you -- these were the blue Mason jars.

These things are collectibles, and they had the original Presto white porcelain lined metal lids. Some even had the glass lids with the metal see-through screw tops. It was a canning nerd's dream.

Anyway, as you might imagine, I took a ton of them home, and they sat on my kitchen window. I didn't want to use them for canning. It seemed like a waste. But they were pretty with the light coming through.

Then, when the cat pulled the bag of whole wheat noodles from the pantry today -- again -- I had a thought. Why not use these guys?

So, today, I decanted rice and pasta. I have jars with orzo, arborio, barley, wild rice and egg noodles. And now, I keep thinking of the jars in the basement... and what to do with them. I might be addicted.

Sausage and mushroom risotto

Refrigerator dinners do not usually end up as risotto, but it just so happened this past week that I had everything I needed on hand: Protein, veggies, boullion, wine and arborio rice.

I am trying to eat more vegetables, so there is half a box of mushrooms and a whole zucchini in this. You could easily replace the zucchini with another green vegetable, about 1 1/2 cups chopped or so, such as broccoli or asparagus.

Usually I like to make risotto out of barley, but for some reason, I'm having a hard time locating pearled barley in the local store. Barley has a lot more fiber and is generally better for you, although it lacks that creamy texture of arborio rice. And by some twist of fate, I had recently bought a packet of the arborio rice.

I actually remembered to get sausage out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge the night before. I can only claim insanity on this. Also, I had bought mushrooms for kabobs which we never made. In other words, the stars aligned for this dish alone.

I should mention that in no way did I think this would end up on the blog, so as a result -- no photos. :( Lesson: always keep the camera by the stove... ? Maybe I should get a camera canister?

Anyway, here's the recipe, as I made it.

Sausage and mushroom risotto

1 lb. mild ground sausage
4 cups water
2 chicken boullion cubes
1 beef boullion cube
4 T olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 pack baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
1 green zucchini, cut into quarter slices
8 oz. mozzarella cheese

Heat 4 cups of water in microwave or on stove. Add all boullion cubes and whisk to dissolve. Set aside.

Turn large burner on stove to medium-low. Heat 2 T. olive oil in the largest saucepan you have. Do not skimp on the size here, as there are several ingredient to fit in the pan.

Add onion, mushrooms and garlic to the pan. Saute til onions turn translucent. Push mixture to the sides of the pan, creating a small well.

Add remaining olive oil to middle of pan, and add rice to the pan. Stir to coat rice with oil. Once coated, stir entire mixture together. Saute until rice is translucent save for a small dot in the middle. Add salt and pepper.

Add wine to pan, and stir. Cook until liquid is absorbed. Add 1 cup of broth, and cook until liquid is absorbed again. Add zucchini to risotto, and another cup of broth. Cook until absorbed. You'll know when the risotto is ready for more broth, as you'll be able to scrape a line down the center of the pan.

While this is cooking, turn small burner to medium. Place sausage in medium skillet and break up into pieces. Brown and drain. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate, and press with a double layer of paper towel to soak up grease. Set aside.

Add the third cup of broth, and cook until liquid is absorbed again. Add last cup of broth and the browned sausage to risotto. Stir.

Shred mozzarella onto a plate. Once risotto is bubbling, taste with small spoon to check seasoning. Top with mozzarella, and turn off heat.

This took about an hour to make, and that's a lot of time for a weeknight. However, the result was a one-dish meal that was worth the wait. :) To save time, you can brown the sausage ahead of time, and pre-prep vegetables. Or, you can wait for the weekend. Either way, enjoy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Roasted vegetables

We roast vegetables all the time here at Casa TinyCounter, but the most recent roasting surprised us both with the flavor. We used a mixture of things we had on hand, and popped it in the oven to cook while we sat outside and waited for the grill to warm. Going back in the kitchen, the aroma was awesome! This is what we did.

Roasted Vegetables

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced into chunks
1/2 yellow onion, peeled, cut into 1/2 in. chunks
1/2 zucchini, unpeeled, cut length-wise and then into 1/4 in. slices
1/2 yellow squash, unpeeled, cut length-wise and into 1/4 in. slices
1 green pepper, sliced, and cut into 1-2 in. chunks
2 small sweet hot orange peppers, sliced and cut into chunks
2 T. olive oil
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep all vegetables. Coat pan with olive oil. Spread vegetables on top. Drizzle with more oil and toss with salt and pepper.

Bake at 400 for 40-45 minutes.