Monday, April 30, 2012

Creamed Mushrooms

This morning, the hubby said he wanted steak and potatoes. It's just one of those days. Sometimes a man just wants a big hunk of meat and some taters to eat along side. I get it. But that doesn't mean it has to be a plain steak. Creamed Mushrooms would go very nicely on top or along side any beast.
  I love creamed mushrooms. I remember the first time I had them, I asked my dad what he did to the mushrooms to make them so amazing - he said "Nothing. It's just mushrooms and cream." I ate the whole dish.
   I have since added a couple complimenting flavors, and this dish is still one of my most favorite ways to eat mushrooms.  As most of my dishes are - this is fast, easy and delicious.

Here's what you'll need:

A whole mess of mushrooms. (I have a little over a pound here I think. They cook down a lot, so this was just enough for tonight's meal, with no left overs - but we do have family of 6 . . . 5 that can eat solid food.) This is the part where I remind myself that even though these fungi look remarkably similar to the poisonous ones that used to grown in the front lawn of my childhood home, these ones are o.k. to eat.  My mom must have scared me pretty good, warning me about the mushrooms in the yard, if I still have issues with mushrooms all these years later. Good job mom. :)

Any mushrooms will do. I prefer Portabella's or Criminis, but today I'm using white button mushrooms. I cleaned them, and then snapped off the stems.

Then sliced them into 1/4 inch slices.

When they are all cut, you'll have a huge pile of mushrooms.  You'll be thinking, "Do I really need all this?" Yes, you do. Once you taste it, you'll wish you made more. Think of it cooking like spinach - it starts out as a lot, but then cooks down to just a little.

I put a couple tablespoons of butter in a pot.  And because mushrooms are little sponges and like to suck up fat, I put a little olive oil in the pan too (Not too much. You don't want your mushrooms to be greasy later.)

Put the mushrooms in the pan, and cook on high. Nothing else. Just the mushrooms, fat and high heat.

When the mushrooms start to cook down a little, you can add the thyme (about 1 1/2 tsp).  I can't wait until my fresh thyme is big enough that I can use some straight from my garden. For now, it's dry thyme fresh from my jar. (Rub the dry herbs between your hands before adding to the pan. It releases more of it's flavor.)

Still, on high, I let the mushrooms do their thing and start on the aromatics. I need 1 clove of garlic and about 1/4 of a medium onion. (Yes, I'm using the same knife and cutting board as I did for the mushrooms. It's not like I'm dealing with raw meat here; and I don't like to do dishes. You'll just have to look at my dirty cutting board with me.)

I dice the onion and minced the garlic.

I added them to the mushrooms - see how nice and brown they are now?

When the onions are soft, I add 1 cup of cream, and about 1 tsp of salt. I also grind in some fresh black pepper.

Still on high, I bring the mixture up to a boil. Reduce to medium and continue to boil. It will get thicker . . .

and thicker . . .

and thicker until you can see the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat. You don't want to go anymore, or the cream will separate and you will have a big greasy mess. (I almost took mine too far.)

Now just put it in a bowl and enjoy. Or . . .

You can serve it over your big hunk of meat. My husband took this picture of his dinner plate. That's a NY Strip Steak under his mushrooms, served along side steamed and buttered cabbage, Hot Mess Potatoes and an Accidental Butter Roll. Yum Yum!

Here's the recipe:

Creamed Mushrooms

1 pound of mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
2 Tbsp of butter
1 1/2 tsp dry thyme
1/4 medium onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup of cream
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a large skillet, and add mushrooms. Cook on high until brown. Add thyme, onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are soft. Add cream, salt and pepper. Boil on medium heat until the mixture has thickened. Serve warm as a side dish or over steak or chicken.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fettuccine With Mushrooms And Artichokes

While visiting my in-laws in Wyoming a few years back, we had a dish from a local restaurant. They just called it Fettuccine Alfredo, but it wasn't your run of the mill Fettuccine Alfredo. In addition to the noodles and creamy white sauce, it also had small, whole mushrooms and artichoke hearts. I was a little weary at first. I mean - why mess with a classic? Fettuccine Alredo is famous for a reason - fattening, creamy, lucious sauce dripping over startchy long noodles that you can't help but get all over yourself when you're eating. Innevitably one of the noodles will come up and smack the side of your mouth as your slirping it through your lips. I can't remember a time that I have enjoyed this classic dish and not had a napkin with smears of cream sauce on it, from wiping my satisfied mouth.
But . . . I can't argue with the result. This new twist, was definitely a tasty dish, and one that I have recreated quite a few times. It has some textural contrast and bite to it, thanks to the large chunks of mushrooms. And there is also a slight tang that comes from the brine of the artichoke hearts. It's quite pleasant.
Sometimes I will opt for the full fat version with cream, and other times (like tonight) I will make it a little healthier by making it with non-fat milk.  Either way it's a quick and delicious vegetarian meal for any of my hectic nights.
Anytime I can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes, I'm all in!

Here's how I put it together:

I dice 1/2 an onion,

and put it into a large saute pan with 1/2 stick of butter.

Then I get two garlic cloves,

smash them with the side of my knife, and take the peels off.

Then I mince the garlic, and put it in the pan with the onions and butter.

While the onion and garlic cook, I get out some mushrooms. Today I have large ones I found at Costco. I give them a quick wipe-down to get off any dirt.

Then I snap the stems off. (You can save the for making veggie stock, or whatever you wish.)

I cut the mushroom tops into large chunks. (I want them to have a strong presence in the dish.)

I add the mushrooms to the saute pan, and let them brown up a bit.

I put a large pot of water on the stove. When it came up to a boil, I salted it generously.

And I dropped 1 box of fettuccine in. Stirred it and then went back to the sauce. - Dinner's almost done. Isn't it great?

When the mushrooms are brown, I add 1/4 cup of flour, and stir it around so everything is coated.

Then I slowly add in 2 cups of milk. (I'm using non-fat to cut down on fat and calories but you can use what you would like.) It's important to whisk as you add the milk, so you don't get any lumps.

Now I add my salt. - I didn't add it earlier, because then the mushrooms wouldn't have browned so well. I also add a little freshly ground pepper here. (White or black, you decide. I won't yell at you for having black flecks in your white sauce.)

When the sauce is thick and bubbly, the noodles will be done (about 6 minutes). Just drain the noodles, but RESERVE 2 cups of the pasta water for later! Add the noodles to the sauce and use a pair of tongs to coat everything.

This is when I get my artichokes. I used the canned version, in water, but you can use frozen ones as well. You'll just want to defrost them first.  You don't have to get the kind with the funny little French man on the front, it was just the cheapest kind in the store that day. 
 I make this one of my pantry staples. I have at least 2 cans at all times. They are wonderful for making quick pastas, casseroles, dips and pizzas. Definitely a must have in our house. 

I drain them and dump them on a cutting board.

Then I cut each artichoke heart in half; any smaller and they would just fall apart.  You want to be able to see them, and have them hold their integrity in the finished dish.

I add all the artichokes to the noodles and sauce, and add 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. (I still have 1 cup reserved for later if the pasta gets too dry.)

I toss everything to coat and we are in the home stretch.

The last thing to do is grate some cheese. I used Pecorino Romano, but Parmesan would work too.  I put about 1/2 cup in the pasta dish, and then reserve a little for sprinkling on top.

Here's the recipe:

Fettuccine With Mushrooms and Artichokes

1 pound fettuccine
6 -8 oz of mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 13-14 oz can on artichoke hearts in water, drained an cut in half
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 cups milk
1-2 cups pasta water (from cooking the fettuccine)
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for top

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, add the butter, onions, garlic and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat. When the water is boiling, add a good amount of salt and the fettuccine. Stir and boil for 6 minutes. When the onions are soft and the mushrooms are brown, add the flour and stir to combine. Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the salt and pepper. When the sauce is smooth, thick and bubbly the pasta should be done. Drain the noodles but reserve 2 cups of the starchy pasta water. Add the noodles to the sauce and combine, turn the heat down to low. Stir in the artichoke hearts and 1 cup of the pasta water (keep the other cup to add later, if the pasta gets dry.) Turn off the heat, add the Romano cheese and stir. Plate and add a little more cheese on top.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Peanut Butter S'more Granola Bars

The lighting is better in this shot . . . .

But you can see all the yummy goodness in this one. :)
So, I made my Trail Mix Granola Bars, and everyone loved them so much I wanted to make another version. The kids wanted S'mores and I thought peanut butter might be nice, so we did both!
   This version is softer than the trail mix kind, because of the peanut butter in it. If you want a crunchier granola bar, just omit the peanut butter or you can cook the honey, butter, sugar mixture for 3 minutes instead of 2.
   I'm officially addicted to making my own no-bake granola bars. They are insanely simple and healthy, and fun to create new flavor combinations. Have fun and try your own.

Here's how I made them:

Put 1/4 cup each honey in butter in a pan with 1/3 cup dark brown sugar.

Bring it to a boil and cook on low for 2 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add 1/4 cup peanut butter. Stir well.

I put all my granola bar ingredients into a large bowl. I had 1 3/4 cups oats, 1 cup rice cereal, graham crackers pieces and 1/2 cup mini marshmallows.

To get the graham cracker pieces, I just took two whole graham crackers, broke them into fourths and then into 1/2 inch or smaller pieces.

I poured the peanut butter mixture over the mixed granola ingredients and stirred well.

After everything was combined, and the mixture was just a little warm (definitely not hot anymore) I added 1/3 cup of chocolate chips.

I dumped the mixture into my pan (A 9x9 would be best, but I just used my 9x13 because I had just finished my Trail Mix Bars moments before so this pan was all ready.)

I used my hands to really compact the mixture to make solid bars. (I have it smashed up to one side because my pan is too big.)

They looked a little plain, so I added a few more chocolate chips on top.

I put them in my freezer for 5 minutes (I was too impatient to wait 15 minutes in my fridge. - Man that says a lot about me. lol). Then I cut them into bars. This was my husband and kids favorite, but I think I might like the trail mix version better . . . . maybe. 

See all the gooey marshmallows and chocolate? You can see the chunks of crispy graham crackers too. Yum!
Here's the recipe:

Peanut Butter S'more Granola Bars

1 3/4 cups oats
1 cup puffed rice cereal
2 honey graham crackers, broken into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1/3 cup chocolate chips (plus more for top)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter

Put butter, honey and sugar into a pot and bring up to a boil. Cook on low for *1 to 2 minutes, then turn off the heat. Add the peanut butter and stir well.  In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, cereal, graham cracker pieces and marshmallows. Pour hot peanut butter mixture over the top and stir well. When mixture is just warm (NOT hot), add 1/3 cup chocolate chips. Stir quickly and dump into 9x9 pan. Press bars down firmly until flat and even. Add a few more chocolate chips on top (optional). Cool in fridge for at least 15 minutes and then cut into bars.

*For a chewier bar, cook only 1 minute.