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The best pot roast EVER

26 Oct

I am the first to admit that I have been seriously slacking on maintaining this blog. I start getting sassy Facebook messages from friends and then I know that I need to get my act together! Part of the reason that I’ve been slacking is because I hate the way that my photos turn out with my old Nikon Coolpix. Great for an everyday camera, but not so great in the food photography department.  Notice I said, “old camera?” Thanks to my awesome sister Lauren, I am the proud new owner of a new digital SLR camera. Lauren never used hers and she just let me have it. For free. Thanks Lauren!!

The pot roast pictures below are some of my last with my Nikon camera. As fate would have it, halfway through the cooking process my battery died so I won’t be posting a step-by-step as usual, but I still think the pictures turned out pretty decent, but in no way do the deliciousness of this pot roast justice.

Now onto the pot roast. This thing is seriously amazing. The hubs declared it “The best roast he’s ever had.” And he didn’t even douse it in barbeque sauce, which lets me know he was telling the truth. I got the recipe from The Pioneer Woman’s blog, but adapted it just a bit. I made this in a dutch oven, but it could be easily made using a crockpot. Just dump all of the meat, veggies, and beef stock in the crock pot and heat on low for 8 hours. I haven’t tried this so I can’t speak for how it will turn out, but if you have the time (think Sunday dinner), seriously try it this way. You won’t be sorry.

The Pioneer Woman’s Pot Roast

Ingredients

  • 1 whole (3-4 Pounds) Chuck Roast
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 whole Onions
  • 6 whole Carrots (Up To 8 Carrots)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 container of Button Mushrooms
  • Salt To Taste
  • Pepper To Taste
  • 1 cup Red Wine (optional, You Can Use Beef Broth Instead)**I didn’t have red wine on hand, so I used more stock.
  • 2 cups To 3 Cups Beef Stock
  • 3 sprigs Fresh Thyme, or more to taste
  • 3 sprigs Fresh Rosemary, or more to taste (**I didn’t have fresh rosemary and didn’t miss it!)

Directions

First and foremost, choose a nicely marbled piece of meat. This will enhance the flavor of your pot roast like nothing else. Generously salt and pepper your chuck roast.

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or you can do a butter/olive oil split).

Cut two onions in half and cut 6 to 8 carrots into 2-inch slices (you can peel them, but you don’t have to). When the oil in the pot is very hot (but not smoking), add in the halved onions, browning them on one side and then the other. Remove the onions to a plate.

Throw the carrots into the same very hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so. Remove the carrots to the plate and add the mushrooms and garlic.

If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.

With the burner still on high, use either red wine or beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a whisk to get all of that wonderful flavor up.

When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pan and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2 to 3 cups). Add in the onion, carrots, and mushrooms, as well as 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and about 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.

Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 3 hours (for a 3-pound roast). For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours.

(Recipe courtesy of http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/09/2008_the_year_of_the_pot_roast/)

Carrots and onion browned and transferred to plate. *Note, the point is not to cook these veggies, just to brown them. Only have them in there for a couple minutes or so. They will get plenty of time to cook when they get transferred to the oven.

Mushrooms and garlic browning in pot.

I added another 1-2 tbsp of olive oil and put the chuck roast in the pot to sear.

Let sear on all sides, then remove to a separate plate.

See all the garlic and brown bits on the bottom? That is flavor that you want back in your sauce! This is the point where you will add 1 cup of red wine or beef stock and deglaze the pot. This is also the part where my camera died. 😦 After you deglaze the pot, add the chuck roast back in (make sure to put all the drippings from the plate back in, too!) Put the veggies on top of the roast and pour the remaining 2-3 cups of beef stock and sprigs of rosemary and thyme in the pot. Put the lid on the pot and put it in the oven at 275 for 3-4 hours (depending on size of roast.)

About 45 minutes before the roast is done, start making the mashed potatoes!

Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Light Buttery Spread (I use Brummel & Brown)
  • 1/2 container (4 oz.) Light Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Black Pepper

Preparation Instructions

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 20-25 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the stove and add 2-3 Tbsp. of butter, 4 oz. of light cream cheese and about 1/4 cup of milk. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and ½ a teaspoon of black pepper. You may need to add a little more butter, milk, or Lawry’s salt depending on the taste/consistency you are looking for.

I adapted this recipe from the Pioneer Woman, as well. Her recipe called for real butter, cream cheese, and half & half. She also puts hers in the oven and warms them through. I didn’t see the need, so I skipped that step. This was my attempt to “lighten” the mashed potatoes and they were seriously delicious. The Lawry’s seasoning was the secret ingredient that made them over the top amazing.

Recipe adapted from: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/11/delicious_creamy_mashed_potatoes/

To make a quick pan gravy: pour some of the broth into a pan over medium heat and whisk a teaspoon of flour into the liquid. Make sure there are no lumps! Add pepper to taste. This makes an excellent gravy on top of the meat/potatoes!

3-4 hours later, you have perfection.

This would be a great meal to make for company. Since it’s just Matt and I, we dined on this for 2 nights. It was even better the next day. Again, no BBQ sauce in sight…SUCCESS!

Salmon with lemon-cilantro vinaigrette and couscous

23 Sep

I found this recipe in an issue of Real Simple magazine last year and I just had to try it. For some reason, I was really intimidated at the thought of making fish at home. I don’t know why, because it really couldn’t be easier and we now make it often. This recipe has become one of our go-to meals. We eat it probably every other week. It’s simple, delicious, and an easy meal to make on a weeknight. It also looks really beautiful on a plate, so it would be a great meal to make for guests. (They don’t need to know how easy it was to make!)

Ingredients

  • 1  box couscous (5-10 oz. depending on how many people you are cooking for.)
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 salmon filets (sometimes I buy it with the skin on the bottom…Matt likes it.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of chopped, seeded tomatoes (or use grape tomatoes cut in half)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Cook the couscous according to the package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Season the salmon with the paprika, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  5. Place salmon filet on a bed of couscous and spoon the lemon-cilantro vinaigrette over the salmon. Enjoy!
(Recipe adapted from Real Simple Magazine, October 2009)
Ingredients for lemon-cilantro vinaigrette

It’s really more of a salsa than a vinaigrette, isn’t it?

Cooks in 5 minutes! Woohoo!

Boil water, olive oil, and flavor packet (optional) according to package directions. Add dry couscous, stir, remove from heat and place cover on top. In 5 minutes it will be ready.

Fluff with a fork and set aside!

Season both sides with salt, pepper, and paprika.

I make 3 pieces of salmon when making this dish because Matt will eat 2 pieces.

Over medium-high heat, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and place salmon filets presentation side down. Don’t be tempted to move the salmon around once you lay it in the pan. It needs time to sear and get golden brown. If you try to flip it before it’s ready, you will have a layer of salmon stuck to the pan. Not good.

While this is cooking, I take this time to clean up any mess I’ve made in the kitchen. My mom always told me to clean the kitchen as I go whenever I’m cooking or baking so that I don’t have a huge mess to clean up when everything is said and done. It really does make a huge difference! Thanks mom! 🙂

After 3-4 minutes, salmon should be ready to flip to the bottom side. Give it another 3-4 minutes and it’s done. You won’t want to cook it too much longer or the salmon could be dry. If the salmon flakes with a fork and is light pink in color, it’s ready!

Serve over a bed of couscous and spoon tomato mixture on top. Yum! In less than 30 minutes, you have a healthy, delicious meal that is super easy to make. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do! 🙂

Aztec Cake (Mexican Lasagna)

14 Sep

I first had a version of this dish on my honeymoon in Mexico. I had never even heard of Aztec Cake before, but it looked like a yummy, cheesy casserole, so of course I had to try it. (Did I mention that this was at the breakfast buffet?) Anywayyy, it ended up being the thing that I looked forward to eating every day on our trip. This version was layered with corn tortillas, ham, cheese, refried beans, fresh salsa, cheese, cheese and more cheese. Definitely not the wisest choice to eat in the morning before laying on the beach all day, but you only live once, right? I couldn’t wait to come home and try to recreate a healthy version of this recipe. Turns out, it was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. This past week, Matt and I made fish tacos (which I will save for a later blog post) and we had a bunch of leftover corn tortillas. I became determined to find a recipe for Aztec Cake. I finally found one that I liked and made a few tweaks. If you are doing a google search, it is also sometimes called “Mexican Lasagna.” It turned out even better than we expected. This will definitely become a “make again” recipe in the Engler household!

Aztec Cake serves 4-6, or if your last name ends with Engler, 2)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound plum tomatoes (appx.5)
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • corn tortillas (don’t even think about using flour…it won’t be the same!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • corn tortillas (about 12-15)
  • 2 chicken breasts, shredded (I used a rotisserie chicken)
  • 3/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels, drained
  • 2 cups reduced fat mexican shredded cheese
  • 1 cup light sour cream

Forgot to include the onion in the picture, but you get the idea.

Directions

  1. Blend the tomatoes, onion, garlic with a little bit of water (about 3 tablespoons)
    until smooth in a blender.**
  2. In a saucepan, over medium high heat, pour in the blended mixture, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until it changes its color to a darker one, about 10-12 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 375ºF
  4. Heat the corn tortillas in the microwave by placing the tortillas on top of a plate with a damp paper towel. Place another damp paper towel on top. Microwave for 1-2 minutes until tortillas are soft. This will keep them from drying out and breaking while they bake.
  5. In a baking pan, put some sauce and then cover with a layer of tortillas. Then put some of the chicken, black beans, corn and cheese and drizzle with sour cream. (I microwaved the sour cream for about 20 seconds to make it drizzle-able. (Not a real word, I know.) Repeat 2-3 times and end up with sauce and cheese.
  6. Bake until cheese melts, about 15 minutes. I let it stand for about 5 minutes so that everything will come together nicely when you slice into it.

**Note, if you don’t have a blender, food processor, or magic bullet to blend the tomato mixture, you can substitute 2 cups of really fresh tomato salsa in this recipe. If you do this, try to get the best quality salsa you can find. Because this recipe is relatively simple and includes few ingredients, you want the flavors to shine through.

(Recipe adapted from http://www.flamingtortillas.com/recipes/chicken/aztec_cakelasagna)

Meet Bella, my sous chef.

Just a side note, I strained the sauce after I blended it to remove extra pulp from the tomatoes.

Spices added, things starting to simmer

After 10 minutes, it will look like this! Warm, fresh salsa goodness. This is the point where you really want to taste it to see if you need to add extra salt and pepper. This is the only part of the recipe where I add salt, so you want it to be well-seasoned.

All the fillings

Layer 2-3 times with sauce, tortillas, chicken, beans/corn, cheese, sour cream. Final layer should have tortillas on top with sauce and cheese. I forgot to do that. It still turned out great.

TA DA!! Like I said, I should have placed more tortillas on top and then put sauce and cheese on top of that. It definitely doesn’t look as pretty as it tastes.

This was heaven on a plate. I had at least 2 servings and Matt ate almost the rest of the pan. I have one square left for lunch tomorrow.

This is seriously insanely good. The sauce and tortillas become melt in your mouth delicious together. If anyone tries this, let me know what you think!