Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sous vide lamb chops

Just threw together this quick lunchbox for tomorrow. Sous vide rack of lamb: Fresh chopped rosemary, thyme and oregano cooked at 134F (56C) for four hours. Accompanied with Sauteed mushrooms (button and golden needle), garlic spinach and zoodles with tomato sauce.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Microwave and Mugs: brunch in a box

So this paleo/gluten-free friendly mug bread has been making the rounds on facebook recently. Mug/microwave cooking has been around for a bit but people have gotten pretty creative over the years. I mentioned that I should created a bento box out of mug items made in a microwave. Since it's a rainy crappy day outside I decided to play in the kitchen.

The microwave is a surprisingly versatile piece of equipment. I usually use it to reheat items (never to my satisfaction). There's some debate what the nuke box does to nutrients, some say it preserves them, other say they get nuked to death. All the supporting scientifically measured evidence I've read seems to support the former. Anyhow, that's not the subject of this post, the challenge: make a bento box around items you make in a mug and a microwave.

I settled on brunch because it's probably the easiest thing to do because eggs are easy and most every other recipe out there sort of dessert or cake so brunch is the closest thing I could use to compose a meal. I already had a bread so I figured on some sort of "golden arches" type breakfast muffin with an accompaniment. I'll admit I cheated and used a ramekin because it has a wider mouth and allowed for better pictures, it's just a large handleless mug.

First up I had to test the english muffin. All of these recipes were pretty simple. Ingredients: 1/4 cup almond flour, 1/8 tsp baking powder, 1 egg, 1 tbsp butter, and a pinch of salt. I nuked the butter for 30 seconds in the microwave and stirred the butter until it was fully melted. I then tipped the mug on it's side and coated the edges. Stir in the ingredients and mixed until incorporated. Set the microwave for 90 seconds on full power and let it go.

The resulting bread was pretty dry, not exactly like an english muffin, but it had air pockets and was pretty springy.  It's definitely a gluten free bread. As one of my friends pointed it looked like  the insta-bread that Rey made in the new Star Wars movie.

Ok bread: check. Best thing to do with this thing was some sort of egg type muffin. And the easiest was a scrambled egg. I didn't have any milk on hand but I did have some coconut milk since we're doing the paleo thing. Ingredients: 2 eggs, 2 tbsp coconut milk, a pinch of salt. I sprayed the mug with cooking spray and whisked everything together and put it in the mug. I set the microwave to 70% power and nuked it in 30 second increments stirring along the way. After the third trip the egg was as you see in the photo, still a little runny but the carryover heat from the mug and egg let it set nicely. The eggs were well cooked and still soft. Beware overcooking, they become tough and rubbery if you nuke them too long.

Now for a side. Veggies are the easiest thing to prepare in a microwave. Many super markets sell broccoli and cauliflower in a bag and you microwave them for 2 mins and they steam in their own baggies. I figured I could probably do the same thing with green beans. Ingredients: 1/2 tbsp butter (optional), pinch of salt, 1/2 cup green beans, 2 tsp water. I hand snapped the green beans to fit in the mug, dropped in the butter, pinch of salt and added a bit of water to the bottom of the mug to help with steaming. I sealed the mug with cling wrap and poked a few holes at the top and set the microwave to 90 seconds. The green beans were soft and retained their color I think 60 seconds would be fine if you still want some snap to your beans.

I thought the egg muffin was probably too dry on it's own. I figured a topping of a simple tomato sauce would probably spice things up a bit. I had some left over crushed tomatoes from a can, garlic in a tube (I'm not too proud of that one) and fresh thyme, so I went to work. Ingredients: 1/2 cup crushed tomato (or diced), 1 sprig of thyme, 1 tsp minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil (not pictured). If you want some dried oregano and basil would go well here too. I mixed everything up and added a splash of olive oil. I covered the mug in cling wrap and poked some holes and set the microwave to 60 seconds.  I gave it a final stir before topping.

Here's the meal plated. Total cooking time: 10 mins with prep. I wouldn't call this a masterpiece but, if you have a few mins and are at the office I could see how you could make this happen. It's definitely tastier than some of the microwave breakfast items I've had from the freezer.  For the speed and convenience I'd give it a thumbs up.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Korean Beef Short rib over Zoodles

As usual it's been a busy work season, but that really hasn't prevented me from cooking. In fact I've been doing a lot of cooking over the last few months and I have a pretty big backlog of posts to put up, just no time to post. We've been doing a lot of paleo cooking, it's had modest results on the waistline but done wonders in terms of saving money. Living in a big city it's often easier to walk down the street to grab some food than to buy a ton of groceries and prepare it yourself (especially after a long day at work). I try my best to do a lot of cooking over the weekend but there's only so much leftover I can take. First world problems, I know.

Anyways, I saw this Slow cooker Korean Grass fed short rib from Nom Nom paleo (they modded it from America's Test Kitchen), and as you know I'm a big fan of using the slow cooker so I wasn't going to pass it up.  I couldn't get grass fed beef or some of the paleo friendly sauces but I was able to gather most of it.

The recipe called for broiling the ribs to get them brown, this is a great way to brown the meat, as six pounds of beef rib is a bit unwieldy and messy to brown up in a skillet. The Test Kitchen's book suggest microwaving which also helps brown the bones, something I'll have to try next time.

The braising liquid was a sauce made of vinegar, asian pear, ginger, garlic, scallions, fish sauce, and cilantro whizzed together. They used the cilantro as garnish but I decided to put into the sauce.

Toss it all together in the slow cooker and let it go.

Nine to Eleven hours was the cooking time, I would probably go with closer to eight on low. The beef was a little *too* fall apart. The fat renders and there's a surprising amount of liquid when it's all done, so don't worry about the possibility of it drying out.

Not the prettiest of pictures but very tender and the asian pear gave the beef a slightly sweet taste. I was quite happy with the results. I served the beef rib with a helping of sauteed "zoodles" to round out my lunch box. This time the zoodles were less about the noodle effect and more of a vegetable component. I think if you wanted to go with a more "classical" side dish you could do a roasted vegetable or cauliflower mash, I was pretty happy with the zoodles though.

Slow Cooker Asian Pear Beef Ribs over Zoodles from Nom Nom Paleo
6 pounds of Beef Ribs
1 Asian pear, peeled and cored
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup coconut aminos
1" of garlic
2 teaspoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon coconut vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
7 zucchini

Set oven to broil. Salt and pepper all sides of the beef rib and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Broil for 5-7 mins per side (depends on your broil setting) until meat is browned and fat has some crispy bits.

Place pear, garlic, coconut aminos garlic, fish sauce, coconut vinegar, chicken stock and cilantro in a blender and puree until smooth.

Place beef in a single layer in the bottom of the slow cooker and pour sauce over the ribs.

Cook on low heat for 8 hours or longer depending on your desired texture.

Spiral slice zucchini and place in a colander. Liberally sprinkle with salt and let stand for 30 mins. Shake dry.

Pan fry zucchini noodles for until soft.