Friday, June 4, 2010

BBQ Buffalo Pasta


About a year ago, I heard about combining spaghetti and bbq’d meat. My initial reaction was, well, picture me wrinkling my nose and shrugging one shoulder as if to say "eh". Even so, I’ve never stopped thinking about it. Yesterday, as I stood at my kitchen counter praying for divine menu guidance as to what to do with the ground buffalo before me, the thought of making a quick bbq came to mind. The only problem was that a) I didn’t have any buns, and b) I only had a mere 1.25 lbs of meat. That’s when I thought of at long last giving the bbq pasta plan a green light.
Oh, why did I wait so long? This was ridiculously easy to prepare, was on the table in just over 30 minutes, and was really very good. Even my picky eaters ate it, including my son who won’t eat sauce on his pasta ... ever. I served mine over gluten free rotini (spiral) pasta, but use whatever floats your boat. This meaty, thick, smokey sauce will hold it’s own quite nicely with a hearty pasta like rigatoni as well as a delicate one like angel hair. (Mmm ... angel hair!)

I used ground buffalo, but use whatever ground meat you’ve got (preferably grass fed). There is minimal shrinkage with buffalo (and I mean zip, zilcho shrinkage), so plan accordingly if you use ground beef. This fed five people.

1.25 lbs ground buffalo
Salt, Pepper, Seasoned salt
1 teaspoon dried minced onion (can substitute fresh minced onions)
1 teaspoon worchestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Scant ¼ cup smoked paprika (the smokey flavor is essential here)
Generous ½ cup ketchup
Heaping tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
3 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce (homemade if you’ve got it)
1 lb spiral pasta (I used gluten free. Use whatever you like best!)
Shredded cheddar cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, season the ground buffalo with salt, pepper, seasoned salt, and dried onion. Brown in a nonstick dutch oven, breaking it up into small bits with a spoon as it cooks. There was no fat in the bottom to drain at all. If you use beef, drain the meat after browning and return to the pan. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and stir around to start carmelizing the meat, maybe 1-2 minutes at the most. Stir in the ketchup, mustard, and worchestershire sauce. Stir in the smoked paprika. Now add the spaghetti sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer until it thickens up a bit ... about 10 minutes. Note that this is a really thick sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Add the drained pasta to the meat mixture and stir to combine. Serve. Garnish each serving with a small handful of shredded cheddar cheese. Enjoy!

This was really very, very good. Quick and easy, too. The balance of meat to pasta was pleasing, and the smokey tanginess of the sauce held it’s own over the pasta without being overpowering. The cheese added a creamy component that I enjoyed. Ya know, this is a case where simple is best. While I wouldn’t balk at adding, let’s say, green pepper, it’s really not missed. You could, however, ramp up the spicy heat index according to your own tastes.

I imagine this would be incredible, too, if made with grilled BBQ pork that simmered all day. So ... do you think you’d give bbq pasta a try? You’ll be glad you did.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Birthday Pancakes! - aka Bob's Red Mill Pancake Mix (gluten free)

Today is an extra special day at It's All Gouda. My youngest, my baby, my littlest gal, my wee sous chef turns 11 years old. What makes this birthday uber special is this:  Birthday girl turns 11 at 11:11 am. Get it?  11 - 11:11!!!  I'm such a number geek, but hey, you've gotta admit that's a pretty cool anomaly!

In honor of her special triple-double-double digit day, we made gluten free pancakes this morning. Now, you gluten eaters stay with me, since this is basically a review of a pancake mix.
Oregon's beloved Bob's Red Mill cranks out many gluten free flours and products, including this one:  Gluten Free Pancake Mix. You can find it at most grocery stores in Oregon or mail order.
Here's the ingredients if you want to check it out. Nothing weird. Those flours and starches are pretty much par for the gluten-free course.

Gluten free products have taken off lately, almost in fad like fashion, and that's fine with me since we follow a gluten free diet because of my daughter's wheat intolerance. Yep, I said intolerance. For most people following a gluten free diet, the condition they deal with is an intolerance NOT an allergy. Stomach aches, indigestion, bloating, headaches, skin issues, feeling blah ... it's not fun. We can chat about that another time. Today's recipe IS  fun, and really quite delicious, too! 

While I prefer to make stuff from scratch, this mix is uber convenient especially since I've not dived into making my own gluten free mixes (will be doing that soon). Since this is a pre-made mix, only a few additional ingredients are required:  an egg, milk (we used part milk/part buttermilk), and oil.  Wisk it all together, and you're good to go.
As you can see here, the batter is kind of freckly. (Is that the correct spelling: freckle + ly?) These cook in a similar fashion to "regular" pancakes except the bubbles you look for to know when to flip are bigger. See that one looming in the upper left corner?  Time to flip!
I'm not a leavening expert, so I don't know if it's due to the buttermilk addition or if this is how it always is, but these puppies really puff up! They aren't dense either ... nice and fully light, and they reheat beautifully. We've made these several times, and have gotten a bit creative along the way.
You can add chocolate chips! Just sprinkle a few (dozen) on right before flipping.
See how light and puffy these are? Um, how about a little pancake to go with the whipped cream and strawberries there, babe?
My birthday girl is a cherry fanatic ... please excuse the excess of whipped cream.
No matter how you serve them, they are finger lickin good! Don't you love my b-day girls new Buddy Holly style glasses? Just picked those up yesterday. She looks so much older now. I, of course, haven't aged a bit (eh, cough cough).

This mix gets two birthday thumbs up in our household. I can totally see me bringing this camping or travelling, as it's so easy to make. And, for those of you who have gluten-free eating loved ones, this would make a great gift pack especially for someone new to the whole gluten-free thing. It made a wonderful birthday breakfast here. Along with a pint of whipped cream. And an orchard of berries. Just kidding. Well, not really, but you know what I mean.

What do you like to eat for breakfast on your birthday?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Pork

One of the perks of living in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest is the abundant diversity of world cultures. Fortunately, much of this diversity makes its way into the food chain and from there into my own kitchen. One of my most favorite cuisines is Vietnamese food. Truth be told, I love all Asian inspired dishes, and one of the first that I ever had was an uber-delicious (don't you say "uber" too? Yeah, I thought so.) rice noodle salad with flame broiled pork. It's called Bun Thit Nuong (according to the Saigon Grill's take out menu), and it is the most amazing combination of textures and flavors. It's loaded with crunchy raw veggies, al dente warm rice noodle vermicelli, hot off the grill pork, and drizzled with an Asian sweet/sour/salty/spicy dressing. I could eat it every day for the rest of my life.
Today's recipe is my attempt to recreate this delicacy at home.  Let me be up front about the prep time: it involves a LOT of chopping. Lots and lots and lots of chopping. And then more chopping. Did I mention you will spend time chopping? This is the recipe to go to when you have something you want to work out of your system, or as in my case, when you want to ponder over a situation. Since it took me a good 15 minutes to gather, peel, and chop everything (and I'm pretty good with a knife), I had a lot of time to run through various scenarios of said situation in my head. Plus, it's a good thing to get me to slow down a bit and enjoy the process, not just the end result. Ahem. But I digress. Back to the recipe. Once you have finished prepping everything, it comes together toot-sweet.
I like this recipe because it fits in with my plan to eat more veggies and less meat. Notice I said "less" meat, not "no" meat.  We are carnivores in this family.  I didn't grill the pork because it was monsooning outside. This turned out great just pan frying the meat. This is equally good with chicken as well as shrimp.

Here we go:

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Pork

1 pkg Asian Rice Noodles - thin, vermicelli style

3 boneless pork chops, 1 inch thick, sliced ultra thin against the grain
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil

5 cups chopped romaine lettuce
4 carrots, sliced matchstick thin (I used one of those serrated veggie peelers)
2 cucumbers, peeled, sliced in thin 1/2 rounds
1 cup bean sprouts
2 green onions - chopped thin
1/4 cup white onion, sliced in thin 1/2 rounds (optional)
1/4 cup cilantro - chopped
1/2 cup salted cocktail style peanuts, chopped

Dressing:
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice or lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons rice vinegar, or use cider vinegar is you don't have the rice one
6 tablespoons fish sauce (called Nouc Cham) (It's stinky, but tastes better than it smells)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 chili chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
6 tablespoons water

On a cutting board, toss the pork strips with the soy sauce, ginger, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and oil. Let sit and marinate while you chop the bazillion veggies.
Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. If necessary, add a tablespoon of oil (like canola) and stir fry the pork strips until they are golden brown.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. I've always wanted to say that. Plus, just wanted to see if you were still with me.  hehe  Anyway, meanwhile, prepare the rice noodles according to package directions. NOTE: The noodles cook really quickly; take care not to over cook them. Drain and keep warm.
Prepare the dressing by combining all the incredients.  Now it's time to assemble! You will need large individual serving bowls.  I used pasta bowls and they worked perfectly.  In each bowl, place a generous serving of the warm noodles. Artfully, surround the noodles with individual mounds of lettuce, carrots, bean sprouts, your choice of onions, cilantro, and meat. Drizzle with the dressing. Garnish with peanuts. (I took the pictures before adding the peanuts. Oops!)
Surprisingly, this is a hit in my family.  My daughters love this, served without the dressing.  My son ate his, but I did serve his on a large plate and didn't have the food touching salad style.  My husband ate two huge salads and rolled away from the table. An added bonus is that it's gluten free, too. Yeah!

This is an interesting salad in that it is sweet, sour, salty, and spicy.  It's also crunchy, soft, and chewy.  Let's not forget that it has warm (noodles), hot (meat), and cold (veggies) taking place, too. Somehow, and I'm not quite sure why that is, it all works together beautifully.  Plus, it's lovely to look at.  It's great all year long, but I particularly like it in the spring and summer. It's a non-traditional salad (for us that is), and I love it.

What's your favorite non-traditional salad? Do share!
Homeschool update:  Youngest daughter is REALLY into Science these days. Here's a shot of her latest science/art combo project.  Volcano!  In honor of the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helen's (which you can easily see from the Portland area), she created her own eruption. She gave a terrific presentation on the various types of volcanos, and then performed an eruption. It was so COOL!!! Tomorrow we are off to the Mt. Hood Community College Planetarium for a field trip! I love homeschooling!

Monday, May 17, 2010

TBS: Tuna and Bean Salad!

Now that warmer weather is at long last blasting it's way through the Pacific Northwest cloud cover, it's time to initiate the summer salad routine. Here's one that I've loved for years. It's kind of peasant fare, but tends to get rave reviews as if it were made of more regal stuff.  I bet 9 out of 10 of you have the ingredients in your pantry and fridge. 

Bean and Tuna Salad 

1 6oz can tuna packed in olive oil
1 15 oz can small white beans, drained and rinsed
2 T green pepper, chopped
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 T red onion, small diced
2 T chopped parsley

Dressing:Whisk together:
1 small garlic clove, minced
Olive oil - 2 parts
Vinegar - 1 part
Salt
Pepper
1/2 teaspoon - dijon style mustard
favorite herbs - such as basil, oregano

In a large mixing bowl, combine tuna, beans, pepper,tomatoes, and onion. Toss with a small amount of dressing, adding more to suit your taste. Serve immediately. Keeps very well, too; the beans tend to really absorb the longer it sits.

This salad is easily a meal in and of itself. The beans have a delicate flavor that pairs wonderfully with the tuna. I've also had this with grilled tuna, and that's over-the-moon good. The peppers add a nice crunch, and the tomatoes provide sweetness. Take care with the onion ... you just want it for a nice flavor addition. The dressing, which is basically a viniagrette, is tangy and garlicy. You could punch this up with some diced jalepeno peppers if you like heat, or some olives or capers if you like those flavors. I like it all! :-)

There you have it. In about 5 minutes, you can create a yummilicous salad that's perfect for the warmer days on the horizon. This holds up very well for potlucks and picnics, and it is gluten free, too. What's your favorite tuna salad?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

New Look!

Playing around with templates today. What do you think of this look? It's kind of fun messing around with different templates!