Category Archives: Entree

Instant Pot Korean Braised Short Ribs (galbi jjim)

PICTURE TO COME. DAMMIT, I FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE.

I love my instant pot. It is groundbreaking, even more so than the microwave–because instead of reheating things, it MAKES things. I love braised meats, but don’t often make it, because WHO NEEDS TO WAIT 4 HOURS FOR FOOD? The instant pot is a game changer–braised meats are ready in about an hour. BOOM.

So with that–I’m going to share the Instant Pot version of my galbi jjim with you.

I’ve made it several times–twice with Whole30 adjustments (coconut aminos instead of soy sauce, and minced apples instead of sugar) and twice the way I always do. Both delicious. It comes out a bit soupy–but you can easily remedy that by adding corn starch or potato starch at the end, and letting it sit for awhile.

Serve over rice (of course–unless you’re WHOLE30’ing it, in which case…just eat it).

Recipes follows after the jump…
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Toddler Loves

photo (6)

I’ve posts on quick and easy meals for new moms–ones that can be prepped with minimal (or no) chopping, and minimal time in front of a stove or oven. I had a baby in a sling at the time. I was exhausted. But I had to eat. And I barely did. I had some horrible postpartum depression that kept me from taking care of myself. I lost thirty-five pounds in four months.

The quick and easy meals I provided are really for mom (and dad)–especially those who don’t have much support. I was starving and exhausted and the highlight of those first few months was when I bought myself a rice cooker. I was ELATED–hot food at will! This, after burning pot after pot of rice on the stove, because I would forget that I set the water to boil, or have to tend to my baby.

Meanwhile, the baby grew up and started eating solid food. First there were purées, which don’t have many requirements in the way of recipes (steam/roast, maybe add an herb or spice, then purée–freeze in ice cube trays for subsequent meals).

I got treatment for my PPD. My baby is now a full fledged toddler. She turned one last year, and she is now eating solids full time. She’s exploring the world of food and developing her opinions on textures and flavors and temperature. And I’d like to share some of the food she likes to eat, here. And share those recipes. Because sometimes we’re at a loss for what to cook. And the baby canNOT eat plain pasta every damn day. Or maybe she can? Because it sure looks like she is? Oh boy.

Some caveats: Toddler P loves spice. I’m not sure whether it’s because I purposely ate as many spicy foods as I could during my second and third trimesters to build her palate in utero (yes, I did that), or because I added spices in her purées, or because that’s just how she is. But she doesn’t mind a pinch of cayenne in a pot of soup. And she’ll eat kimchi, even without rinsing. She likes spicy beef jerky and spicy chicharrones (she’ll eat one, say “HOT!” and then hold out her hand and ask, “More?”). I’ll note where you can take the spice down.

Some of the recipes already on this site that Toddler P likes:

Quick and Easy Kimchi Fried Rice for New Moms

"New mom kimchi fried rice." Using precut frozen peas + carrots as veg. Also has some finely chopped onion (optional) as well as cabbage kimchi (not as optional). Less than 15 min to make if u have the rice ready in a rice cooker.

This kimchi fried rice is in no way “authentic.” I’m Korean, but I’m going to bet that there are non-Koreans who can cook more “authentic” fried rice than this particular recipe. But it’s just the way I make kimchi fried rice, especially now that I’ve a newborn. Also, it’s got vegetables in it. Pre-chopped frozen vegetables, so you don’t have to chop stuff up. Vegetables are important. If you can only get one meal a day together, it might as well have vegetables.

Before you start–spoon out some rice from rice cooker. It’s best if you use some cold cooked rice from the day previous, but if you can’t have that, take the rice out of the rice cooker and put it in a large bowl to let off some steam and cool off before you fire up the wok/frying pan. Take out quite a big spoonfuls–like, as much cooked rice you could hold in your hands and then some.

And then…here’s the recipe

INGREDIENTS (you will need a big wok or the biggest nonstick frying pan you’ve got–if it’s a deep frying pan, all the better):

  • Big heaping pile of cooled, cooked rice. 5-6 cups, cooked.
  • 2-4 tablespoons cooking oil (corn/canola is fine)
  • handful of chopped pancetta (optional)
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1 onion finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 package (about 1 lb) of frozen pre-chopped vegetables like peas + carrots. Or peas + carrots + corn. Whatever you like.
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • about a cup of cabbage kimchi + juice

DIRECTIONS:
Mix eggs. You don’t have to whip it up a lot. Just make sure the eggs are mixed.

Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in the frying pan/wok.

(If you want to get fancy, you can saute pre-chopped pancetta and use the oil from the pancetta to scramble the eggs and fry the rice–if so: fry pancetta, then set pancetta aside and use the pancetta fat to cook things. then add pancetta back at the end).

Scramble the eggs lightly (not all the way cooked, but mostly cooked). Put the mostly-cooked eggs in a small bowl (can be the same bowl in which you whisked them), set aside.

In the frying pan/wok, heat up the remaining oil. Put heat on high. Add onions (optional). Sauté until onions are softened and golden. Add package of frozen veg. Sauté until vegetables are softened.

Add rice to mixture in pan. Mix + Saute for about 5-10 minutes until rice is coated in oil and “sizzling.”

Add the lightly scrambled eggs. (If you’ve cooked pancetta, add the pancetta now). Make sure they get a bit “chopped up” with your wooden spoon or spoonula, or whatever you are using to move stuff around in the pan.

With the heat still up on high, add a splash of soy sauce. Drizzle some sesame oil for flavor.

Add the chopped kimchi + kimchi juice.

Enjoy.

(you an also serve with a lightly fried egg on top).

Quick and Easy Meal: Sriracha Sloppy Joes

Sriracha Sloppy joes

The idea of making sloppy joes intrigued me, because the last time I had sloppy joes, I was nibbling them off a lunch tray in the multipurpose room at school. At elementary school. And we never ate them. Or at least, I never did. And neither did my friends. They were gloppy and disgusting.

But you can’t judge a dish when you only know it in the context of the school cafeteria.

And I thought I’d give it another try as an adult, especially since I figured I could whip this up pretty quickly as a new mom. Now I know one of the rules is “no chopping,” but you could skip the onions if you hate them–or you can pick up a package of pre-chopped onions from trader joes. Or you can put your kid in a high chair for about 5 minutes while you chop the onions and put garlic through a garlic press. (Or if you were really desperate like me–yes you can reach for the garlic powder–because when you’ve got a small baby, you can’t sweat the little things like fresh garlic versus powder. You’ve gotta figure out how to make food and EAT).

I looked up a few sloppy joe recipes, with the intention of finding one that was simple and quick. And then I decided to give it an extra kick with not the more traditional tabasco, but Sriracha. It was tremendous. Hope you enjoy. Recipe after the jump!

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Easy Meal: Chicken Marbella

Chicken marbella

This is an amazing recipe out of the Silver Palate Cookbook–it’s one of those dishes that I can’t believe I waited so long to try. If dishes could be icons, this would be an icon–there are no imitations, it has stood the test of time, and everyone who’s tasted it, loves it.

I made it for the first time last year, wondering how on earth the ingredients would meld together. I mean really–capers, olives, prunes? But I was game; so many people rave about this recipe, I didn’t dare balk.

And it was amazing–such an easy to dish to make, with results that belie its simplicity. It immediately went into my meal rotation.

So when I had a baby, chicken marbella was one of the first meals I got together. It does take some time, as you need to marinate the ingredients overnight or at least 8 hours, but prep and cooking are straightforward and easy: throw everything into a ziploc bag with a bunch of chicken thighs, kind of shake/mash the bag so all the ingredients are mixed up together, and then stick the bag of chicken in the fridge overnight. The next day/evening, empty out the bag into a baking pan, top with brown sugar and add white wine, and pop into an oven.

No chopping. No open flames. And if you’ve got a rice cooker, you’ve got an easy mechanism with which to serve the chicken. It tastes great atop basmati rice.

Great also to send over to a new mom, too. 😉

Recipe after the jump…

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Quick and Easy Meal: stovetop lasagna

Bowtie lasagna

Another Quick and Easy Meal for new mothers/beginning cooks/harried-people-with-no-time-but-desire-for-a-hot-meal…

This meal made my husband’s eyes light up (we were in dire need of a home cooked meal). It makes both my meat-lover husband and pasta-carb-loving me, satisfied; my husband is not the kind of man who takes seconds of pasta dishes, but I caught him going for seconds, immediately. And then eating the leftovers the next day. We made this TWICE in the same week, it’s that simple and filling.

It takes about 15 minutes to cook–and even if you don’t time everything perfectly, the prep (what prep? there’s pretty much zero prep) and cook time is definitely under 30 minutes. There is no chopping involved, and minimal sautéing (aka exposure to spluttering oil). Again, I was able to cook this meal in its entirety with my 5 month old in a sling. Yes, even the past-draining part, because what I did was scoop out the pasta into a big bowl, drained the pot, and then scooped the pasta back into the pot. You could also set the baby down for about a minute while doing this step. And if you’re using a big-enough skillet/frying pan for the meat, you can just scoop the pasta into the pan holding the meat. This isn’t baking, so you can fudge quite a bit.

I think you could dress this up as you please–add some chopped black olives or a dash of red chili peppers or parmesan or whatever else you like in your pasta or lasagna. Make it your own!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 box (16 oz) bowtie farfalle pasta (or rigatoni)
  • 1 jar (3 cups) spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp basil
  • 2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

MATERIALS:

  • 1 skillet/frying pan
  • 1 dutch oven/chef’s pan
  • optional: colander
  • wooden spoon for stirring

DIRECTIONS:
Salt and boil water in a dutch oven (enough to cook a box of pasta). When water comes to a boil, add pasta (farfalle takes about 11 minutes to cook).

Heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan. Add ground beef. Add a dash of salt (about 1-2 tsp) in the beef. Cook until meat is browned. Set aside unti noodles are cooked through.

When noodles are cooked, drain water (either with a lid on the pot and tipping the pot to drain–or drain in a colander and then put the pasta back into the pot–or scoop it out with something like a Chinese spider utensil, drain the pot, and then scoop the pasta back into the pot).

Start adding things to the pot of cooked pasta:
Add the ground beef.
Add garlic powder, basil, and oregano.
Add spaghetti sauce.
Add sour cream.
Add cheese.

On low heat, mix up all the items, until the cheese is melted.

DONE. This makes a healthy amount of pasta–so you’ll have enough for leftovers and meals the next day (always a good thing for new mothers).

red beans and rice

homemade red beans and rice

I looooove red beans and rice. If offered, I never pass up a chance at a big bowl of long grained rice topped with the savory saucy spicy beans. And it’s not just red beans and rice–I just love beans and rice, period! I knew a guy who lived on welfare in Wyoming as a child–he described an entire year spent eating solely beans and rice. He did not remember it fondly for obvious reasons and hated beans and rice. That’s just about the only scenario in which I would UNDERSTAND hating beans and rice.

Given how much I love this dish, you’d think I would cook it at home regularly.

But nope. Get this: I have NEVER made beans and rice at home! Not even in the form of chili (and yes, I’ll tackle chili next). Seriously. And it’s just the best comfort food, and the most straightforward thing to make.

Of course now that we’ve made the vow eat in more often (avoiding that restaurant sodium), I couldn’t just bolt out the door to a restaurant for red beans and rice. It was clear: I had to make some at home.

And dudes–I can’t believe I waited this long. It is the BESTEST dish EVAR. We’re making this again. And again. And again. My husband wolfed down the first bowl and ran (RAN!) back to the pot for seconds. Moreover, he-who-hates-leftovers also took some red beans and rice with him to work for lunch. Seriously.

It took me back to the first time I had red beans and rice–sometime in college, cooked for me by a friend from the South (oh how I loved the dorms for bringing us all together in a delicious nexus), feeling the pleasant burn of cayenne in my mouth. I fell in love. I imagine for my husband, it took him back to his Louisiana childhood with muggy bayous and crawfish boils.

It takes awhile to make–the beans need to soak overnight (and even with the quick soak method, they still take a few hours to prep). But the process is straightforward: everything goes into a pot and then gets boiled and simmered over a few hours. Great on a slow day or evening. Not so great if you need dinner on the table in 30 minutes.

Recipe follows after the jump

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Matzo Shortage 2008!

ready for the Seder

I guess I wasn’t the only one who drove all over town looking for matzo last week before Passover began. Unlike others, I found one box of matzo. However, I could not find, to save my life, kosher-for-passover matzo meal or chrain (grated, bottled horseradish).

I drove to no less than seven stores in search of matzo meal and chrain (I’d bought the matzo a few days earlier on what turns out to be a fortunate lark). I’m talking: Whole Foods, Andronico’s, Afikomen, Star Grocery, two Safeways (note to self: Safeway had the best assortment of Kosher-for-Passover foods, sans matzo, matzo meal and chrain), and (you never know–but they ended up having no Passover items at all) Trader Joe’s. NO matzo meal. NO chrain. And though this was a day before Passover began, I was still surprised: after all, Passover lasts EIGHT days. There’s got to be enough kosher-for-Passover eats for eight days and it was incredible to me that stores ran out before the holiday even began.

But here’s the important question, the reason for my frantic matzo meal and chrain search…

How was I going to make gefilte fish?! Matzo meal is a crucial ingredient (other than ground up whitefish) in gefilte fish, and chrain is a crucial accompaniment. And gefilte fish is, at least in our household, a crucial dish served at the Seder table. Alas, I found an old container of matzo meal from Passover past. Not entirely kosher–and I fretted before I used it, rationalizing that I’d done my best to hunt down matzo meal, to no avail. (I wonder how many other Jewish families had to make compromises this year with the matzo shortage).

gefilte fish prepared

I was first acquainted with gefilte fish when I used to buy and devour the kind in jars. I remember my preference used to be Rokeach brand over Manischevitz. But that all changed when I tasted my mother-in-law’s gefilte fish for the first time. She made hers by hand. It was fantastic–the texture of the gefilte fish was firm but not like something out of a rubber mold, the aspic just light and with distinguishable flavors.

I had to make mine from scratch too! I watched her make gefilte fish the next year, helped her form them, put them into the boiling broth, complete with fish heads, and vowed to make my own from that point on.

I thought it would be complicated–it isn’t very complicated at all. Just a tad time consuming with a very delicious outcome. You’ll want to start the gefilte fish the day before the dinner because it requires overnight chilling in the fridge to assure a firm aspic. And remember to put your order in for ground up whitefish far ahead of Passover (and also to buy your matzo meal in advance) so that you have all you need without the stress of hunting down ingredients.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Hedonistic crawfish boil, topped with etouffee…!

Crawfish Etouffee

I know, it’s been a month since the last post on Muffin Top! March was a crazy month with a lot of business-oriented travel. In terms of food, that meant a lot of rushed and convenient meals at home resting between trips…and then a lot of rushed and convenient meals on the road. But we’re back. It’s April. And good news: it’s crawfish season.

We have a crawfish boil every year–an homage to family roots in Louisiana. We began our tradition tentatively several years ago, not knowing at first where to order live crawfish, and treading through the logistics carefully. We did our research and found the Louisiana Crawfish Company–every year they deliver 100+ pounds of fresh, live crawfish to us, with nary a dead shellfish (impressive).

Just make sure to have them delivered the same day as your boil, they don’t keep very long at all! We hunt down the outdoor burner at a local party rental place, and have industrial-sized boiling pots from our local Smart and Final. The list goes on. But we’ve got that list down pat.

And now we have our own tradition, resembling those of my husband’s childhood. He boils the crawfish, and I make the etouffee halfway through the boil. The organization is now like second nature, and the boil proceeds with a breezy familiarity, despite the hustle and bustle and occasional wayward crawfish making his way to freedom. We do sometimes wonder if one or two make it, as we don’t live too far from a creek.

crawfish

Crawfish boils are a jolly occasion. I love cooking, as you know, but I especially love food as a center of social gatherings. And there’s just something about getting an order of live crawfish, boiling them along with potatoes and ears of corn in a spicy concoction, spreading them out in a large pile on a table, and then, communally, shelling each one.

Crawfish pile

Food tastes better when your friends are a part of the cooking process, when there is a community around the eating. Mrmmm. And not just because it makes shelling go faster! (Seriously, when you’ve got over 100 pounds of crawfish, it takes several hours to plow through it as a crowd, let alone as an individual).

There’s always a communal bowl on the table–not for the shells, but for tail meat. We make sure everyone knows to keep shelling and filling the bowl with tail meat. Don’t stop shelling! we joke. Keep filling that bowl! Because that bowl of crawfish tails becomes…etouffee.

Oh yes. Etouffee, a Creole dish of butter smothered crawfish, is my favorite culinary part of the boil. There’s something about the red crawfish stacked in piles on the table, the cheerful hubbub of shelling, everyone focused on getting that tail meat out that makes it one of my favorite annual occasions. But nothing beats the etouffee part of the boil for me. I eagerly eye the communal bowl–and as soon as there’s at least four handfuls in that bowl, voila! I whisk it off to the kitchen and disappear for about half an hour as I make the etouffee.

It takes about as long as it takes to make basmati rice. So start the rice when you start making the etouffee, and you’ve got a perfect pairing at the end: rich buttery smothered crawfish paired with rice. Say it with me: mrmmmmmmmm.

And–later on, the crawfish tails that don’t make it into the etouffee? You pack that up in little ziploc bags, and give to your guests to take home. No one ever seems to get sick of crawfish. One of our guests also takes home a garbage full of shells each year–he makes crawfish butter with the stash, in an illustration of the adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The gorgeous crawfish keeps delivering!

By the way, there’s never ever any leftover etouffee.

Recipe for crawfish etouffee follows after the jump…

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Wednesday, Thursday, Fried-day…

It's

About once or twice a year, I open my freezer to find…that I have trouble closing it again.

This occurrence doesn’t happen on a strict schedule or anything, but it seems I have a packrat sort of mentality when it comes to frozen goods. I’ll find some great steaks on special, and I’ll buy some–stick them in the freezer, “for later.” Or I’ll find some short ribs, get a sudden hankering for braised short ribs, change my mind once I get home, and stick THEM in the freezer, “for later.” Same goes with chicken, with fish, with fresh pasta, and other frozen goods.

Until, one day, I have real trouble closing that freezer door. It takes a good amount of readjusting the contents and pushing on the door with my knee to get the magnetic strip to stick. Why I never learn my lesson, I do not know.  But then I go on a frenzy eating everything out of our freezer, refusing to buy any more meat or frozen goods until that freezer is empty!  Eventually, that “for later” timeframe is NOW!

Most recently, I took some catfish and chicken breasts out of that fridge to thaw. I didn’t have a particular idea of how I would eat them, but necessity breeds invention, doesn’t it?

And so, “Fried-day” was born. I had a sudden brainstorm to FRY all of the items and make chicken schnitzel, fried catifsh, as well as fry some cauliflower…and make some hush puppies!

You’ll want to fry the items in a particular order–most importantly, the catfish last (otherwise everything will have a fishy taste). I fried them in the following order: hush puppies, cauliflower, chicken schnitzel, and then catfish.

Organizing is pretty easy–Prep the chicken first–pound the breasts until they’re about 1/4 inch thick, squeeze some lemon juice on them. Dip them in flour, egg, and then breadcrumbs, and set aside before frying. (The full chicken schnitzel recipe is here).

For the cauliflower–blanch the florets. Then shake them in a bag with matzo ball mix (that’s my version of “semi-homemade”). They’re ready to fry, too.

For the catfish (and you can use either corn meal or flour–but we prefer flour): Cut the fillets into about 3-4 pieces. Combine some flour, baking powder, and Lawry’s seasoned salt. Beat a few eggs in a separate bowl. Keep the flour and egg in separate bowls. Dip the catfish pieces in the flour mixture, then the egg, then back into the flour mixture. Set aside before frying.

The hush puppy recipe is below–and you’ll want to form them into balls right before putting them in the oil, so you’ll want to start frying them first.

What you end up with is a tasty pile of fried goods! And that’s usually a great thing.

The hush puppies (if you’ve never had them, they’re fried corn meal balls–but much more delicious than that sounds) couple well with ranch dressing if you’re someone who needs to dip them into something. The fried cauliflower, in our household, disappears like lightning–it is SO delicious cooked this way. And the schnitzel and catfish get nibbled on throughout the day, whether on their own, or made into a sandwich with pita, hot sauce, and hummus.

Recipe for hush puppies follows after the jump…

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