Friday, January 4, 2013

January 4, 2013

I didn't get a chance to do all the freezer cooking that I wanted to do this week, but I did find time to make a few batches of cookies for the kids school lunches.  Priorities, right?  A few recipes are still out for me to work on this weekend, so we shall see if I can follow through on that!  I know I will be so happy if I am able to make it happen and get a bunch of meals in the freezer - so wish me luck!

Do you eat black beans?  I am not a huge bean fan (well, I love green and wax beans, but I am talking about all those other kinds of, pinto, kidney...).  In fact, I avoided them all as much as possible until a few years ago when I gave back beans a try.  They are small, and if made well, pretty decent.  I don't like to eat them on their own, but don't mind them at all in a meal.  So, I guess black beans are now my friends.

Black beans - they stretch a lot of different meals, and they are a cinch to make and freeze.  I keep them on hand in the freezer in about 3/4 cup batches.  You can puree them to meld more in with your dish, or keep them whole (they are fairly small). I find them to be very versatile, and add them so many different entrees.   I even have a black bean brownie recipe!   They are especially economical if you make them yourself.

This week we had two keepers.  A ravioli dish - super easy and very tasty, and a pork roast recipe which was also very easy and left me free for the day while it cooked itself!  Let me know if you give one (or both) of these a try!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Fiesta RAY-violi
Slow Roasted Pork

Slow Roasted Pork

* 2 tbsp fennel seeds
* 1 tbsp sea, rock or kosher salt
* 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and roughly chopped
* 4 medium carrots
* 3 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
* 1 bulb of garlic, cloves peeled and roughly smashed
* bunch of fresh thyme
* large pork shoulder on the bone, skin scored
* olive oil
* 750 ml bottle white wine
* 1 pint chicken or vegetable stock

1. Preheat your oven to maximum (I set it to 550).
2. Smash the fennel and salt in a pestle and mortar until fine.
3. Put the roughly chopped vegetables, garlic, and thyme into a large roasting pan or Dutch oven.
4. Pat the pork with olive oil and then sit it on top of the vegetables.  Massage all the fennel and salt into the pork.
5. Roast the pork for 20-30 minutes or until it is beginning to color.  Turn the oven down to 250 degrees, put the top on, and cook the roast for a long time.  As a reference, if your roast is 11lbs or larger, 9-12 hours.  If your roast is 5 lbs, 5 hours.  
6. Take the top off the pan and pour the wine into the bottom of the pan.  and let it cook for another hour.
7. Remove the roast from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes in the pan.  After 30 minutes, move the roast to a cutting board.
8. Strain the vegetables from the liquid.  Place the vegetables in one bowl, and add the stock to the remaining liquid in the pan.
9. Mash or blend the vegetables to create an accompanying vegetable puree to serve with the roast.
10. Bring the stock and roasting liquid to a boil to create a gravy.  If desired, add a little thickener to alter the consistency of the sauce.
11.  Carve or shred the pork and serve with the gravy and vegetable puree.

Ryan and I are not licorice fans.  I was a little nervous about all the fennel...but fear not!  The flavor of the roast was mind but fantastic! 

My roast was 5 lbs.  I used 1 fennel bulb, 4 carrots, 2 onions and about 2/3 of the head of garlic.  I also made the full 2 tbs fennel seeds/1 tbsp salt, but probably only used about 1/2.  I also used a little more than 1/2 the bottle of wine. I also didn't have fresh thyme, so added some dried in with the vegetables.  I roasted my pork fat side up.

Once the roast was out of the oven, I forgot to add the stock to the sauce!  I boiled the sauce and added a little Wondra, and the gravy was excellent.  Also, I've never pureed vegetables like this before, and was quite skeptical.  My reaction when I tried them was "Wow!  This tastes a lot better than I expected!"  I ended up really enjoying them and dipped my pork in that instead of using the gravy.  It was also a nice substitute for the mashed potatoes that I served.  My kids love mashed potatoes with gravy. Ryan and I ate the puree, Owen tried it, but the other kids didn't try them.  Everyone loved the pork, though, so this recipe is definitely a keeper!

I used the leftovers later in the week for pork and caramelized onion quesadillas.  So nice to re-purpose leftovers!

Fiesta RAY-violi

* 25 oz bag of frozen ravioli (your choice on filling)
* 10 oz enchilada sauce
* 1 cup salsa
* 6 oz shredded cheese, divided (cheddar, Monterrey jack, pepper jack)
*  small can sliced olives, optional
* 1 cup corn, optional
* 1 cup black beans, optional

1. Cook the ravioli according to the directions.
2. While the ravioli cooks, combine the enchilada sauce, salsa, 4 oz cheese, and the optional ingredients you've chosen.  Stir to combine and heat over medium.
3. Drain the ravioli and add to the sauce. Pass the additional shredded cheese for people to top their ravioli with if desired.

How easy is this meal!  From putting the pot on to boil to getting it on the table - maybe 20 minutes?  The original recipe called for more cheese to be added to the dish and melted on the top, and no beans or corn.  Not everyone at my table likes melted cheese, so I incorporated most right into the sauce, and added the black beans and corn to the dish to round it out, and it helps stretch it as well!  I served it with fresh pineapple which the kids just devour.  And there is something about spicy food paired with pineapple - it is very refreshing!