Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Meatloaf Burgers

Re-purposing a recipe for something different
In an era where the workplace is filled with words and phrases such as "synergy" and "finding efficiencies" and "ways to re-purpose," this week's theme dish fits right in. Why not try meatloaf burgers? These will do in a pinch for anyone craving a tasty and juicy burger that’s different from fast food. Just take our meatloaf recipe (minus the hard boiled eggs), and divide and shape portions into ½ inch hamburger patties. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Next, take a baking sheet and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Space patties on greased baking sheet. Place sheet in oven for 25-35 minutes, depending on your preference for "done-ness." Let patties rest 5 minutes before serving.

Helpful hint: If you like cheese, you can adjust. As you form your burger patty, stuff the center with a small piece of your favorite cheese and then cook your burger. **Also, you can cook the patties on a skillet on the stovetop for a change.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Meatloaf Gravy

Accessorizing the main course's accessory

Meatloaf and gravy go hand in hand. But just as The Mixed Stew has suggested changing up meatloaf for a twist, gravy can get a little jazzed up in a different way too. Sliced mushrooms and sliced onions can add a nice bite to saucy gravy. But those are familiar characters. Want to try something different? The Mixed Stew suggests adding diced water chestnuts, bell pepper, or garlic instead. Like some kick in your sauce? Try a dash of Tabasco, pinch of cayenne pepper, or a drop of fish sauce in the blend. Think about what savory flavor you like and give your gravy a shot of it. Here is our basic recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 metal fork
1 saucepan
1 small bowl
1 (14 oz) can low-sodium beef broth
½ small yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, left whole
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup water
2 tablespoons cooking oil or beef fat drippings
Salt and pepper

Cooking and directions:

Dilute all-purpose flour in water in small bowl by whisking vigorously with fork. Set aside. Heat sauce pan on medium high heat. Add cooking oil or beef fat drippings. Next, add onion and garlic. Saute until onions turn translucent. Be careful not to burn garlic. Add whole can of broth. Bring to a slow simmer while stirring occasionally. Pour in flour and water mixture. Keep stirring. Let the flour cook and the liquid thicken to a nice consistency. Finally, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Meatloaf Additions

Harmonious variations on a tasty theme
The same old song sometimes could use a little change -- even when it's an old standard. And when it comes to classic meatloaf, there are many ways to add something new. We’ve given you the hardboiled eggs trick and explained different binding agents. What about changing the flavor by adding a different type of ground meat? The Mixed Stew Crew suggests replacing ground pork with Mexican chorizo for a spicy kick. Simply remove the uncooked insides of three or four links. Take the seasoned loose meat and combine it with the ground beef and turkey. A log of country breakfast sausage will also do in a pinch to make a tasty meatloaf. Both breakfast sausage and Mexican chorizo add a lot of flavor to meatloaf; however, beware of their high fat content. Do you add anything unique to your meatloaf recipe?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Meatloaf Binding Agent

Bring it all together with different methods

If you take a look at many meatloaf recipes, there are several different and specific agents used for binding the ingredients. Here are some common examples:

Bread crumbs soaked in milk: This may come from old-fashion recipes for Italian meatballs, which call for these two ingredients for binding and keeping moisture.

Beaten egg/s: The gelatinous consistency of a raw beaten egg/s may be the reason why this binding agent is popular. Also, egg proteins harden when they’re exposed to heat, which may help a mass of meat hold together.

Shredded cheese: The Mixed Stew has never tried binding with shredded cheese; however, we’ve read about it in some recipes. This might be the way to go for hardcore cheese fanatics.

Do you use something else as a binding agent? If so, what?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Meatloaf

A masterful mix for a meaty main course
The Mixed Stew undresses a recipe that turns a blend of ground meats into a delightful loaf that makes a flavorful cut. This recipe includes ingredients and cooking strategies that can really bring out and compliment the flavor of a regular meatloaf. It is an accumulation of parts of recipes we have picked up from other sources and through trial-and-error over the years.

What you will need:

1 large bowl
1 wooden spoon
1 big baking pan
1lb ground beef
1lb ground pork
1lb ground turkey
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 slices of bread, toasted and then cut into small cubes
1 raw egg
1 teaspoon kosher salt or any coarse ground salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
pinch celery seed
½ teaspoon ground oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground parmesan

Secret Ingredients:
3-4 whole hard boiled eggs, peeled
2 bacon slices

Cooking and Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ground meats in large bowl. Add salt, pepper, celery seed, ground parmesan, oregano, bread crumbs, garlic, and onion. Mix well with clean hands. Break raw egg in small bowl and mix slightly then add to help bind ingredients with meat. Again, mix the ingredients using your hands. Mold half meat mixture into bottom part of loaf in the center of the baking dish. (Think of shaping it like a long rowboat almost.) Take hard-boiled eggs and lay them evenly spaced along the top of the molded meat. Place them so that most slices of the meatloaf will have some egg. Take the other half of the meat mixture and mold over top so that the eggs become safely centered inside the meatloaf, which should resemble a log in the baking pan. Take bacon slices and stretch them on top of the loaf (side by side or else forming a criss-cross pattern). Place baking pan in preheated oven for one hour. Then take it out and let the meatloaf rest for at least 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Boxed or Frozen

Macaroni and cheese in an instant

The Mixed Stew has a recipe for macaroni and cheese that will knock your socks off, but what if you have a craving for mac 'n cheese and need a quick hit until you have the time to create that homemade delight? You don’t have to go very far to find instant macaroni and cheese options at the grocery store. Kraft’s Macaroni and Cheese comes in three different variations: regular, Deluxe, and Kraft Easy Mac. Regular requires milk and butter or (margarine). The Deluxe requires no additional ingredients and comes with a vacuum sealed pouch of cheese sauce that you must add to freshly cooked macaroni. Finally, the Kraft Easy Mac consists of individual servings, which just need water and zapping in the microwave. At Giant, we’ve also seen an organic alternative of boxed macaroni and cheese, which is made by Annie's Homegrown Inc. On a related note, Velveeta Shells and Cheese is actually a product made by Kraft Foods.

The Mixed Stew has found that frozen macaroni and cheese comes in either family size or individual servings. Stouffer’s Family Size Macaroni and cheese as well as Banquet Family seem to be the most prevalent. Picky eaters may find Amy’s Rice Mac & Cheese or Glutino 3 Cheese Macaroni & Cheese (a gluten free variety) in some specialty markets. Look for frozen individual servings of macaroni and cheese by Lean Cuisine, Stouffer’s and Michelina’s.

Helpful hint: As with all packaged foods, practice moderation. High sodium content combined with preservatives can make these products work against any New Year's resolution to follow a healthy diet plan. Remember to take in generous portions of vegetables and protein for a more balanced diet.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Parmesan Crisps

A treat almost like fried chips
These are so easy to make and cook. The baking (and melting) process helps bring out more of the sharp flavor of this popular Italian cheese. Crumble parmesan crisps over your favorite salads, hot soups, and toasted bread slices. Also, try munching them with freshly sliced apples, cold cuts, and butter crackers. Prepare them in a timely fashion so that they can be enjoyed immediately after preparing and cooking. Here’s our recipe:

What you will need:
1 wooden spoon
1 cookie sheet
1 small spoon
1 medium-size bowl
Parchment paper
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon pepper

Cooking and Directions:
Preheat oven at 325 degrees. Carefully line the cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine parmesan, cheese, paprika, and pepper in bowl. Mix well. Take small spoon and place spoonfuls of seasoned shredded cheese on parchment paper. Space them out accordingly. Pat them down in round circles. Place cookie sheet in oven for five minutes or until cheese melts to a nice light golden brown. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Gruyere

Say 'Gruyere' for an extra special cheese
We've heard of Swiss, cheddar and Brie, but Gruyere? What's that? Servings of this cheese rock for several different reasons. Gruyere belongs to the Swiss family of cheeses and the cheese is named after the town of Gruyères, Switzerland. Only a certain type of Swiss cheese can be labeled Gruyere cheese. Real Swiss Gruyere has no holes. Meanwhile, look for air pockets or small holes in French Gruyere cheese. The flavor is sweet and slightly salty. The flavor goes from nutty and creamy while young to sharper and more complex with age. Gruyere is a good melting cheese that adds a savory component to different dishes. The state of Wisconsin produces Gruyere in the United Sates. Look for Gruyere in the specialty cheese section of your supermarket deli -- near Gouda, Gorgonzola and Brie. It's not cheap. These days, the real stuff can run up to $20 a pound. What are your favorite dishes that call for Gruyere cheese?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: History of Macaroni and Cheese

A pasta dish that is not just kids' play
Forget about apple pie and hot dogs, when it comes to all-American comfort food for many, there is nothing like macaroni and cheese. How exactly did macaroni and cheese get so popular and what are its origins? One legend asserts that Thomas Jefferson invented and first served macaroni and cheese in the White House in 1802. Experts think that he did serve it in the White House; however, he did not invent it. A similar dish of cream cheese and macaroni had come from England with the Colonists to the Americas. The dish was especially prevalent in Southern kitchens. The introduction of Kraft’s Dinner (macaroni and cheese) in 1937 made macaroni and cheese popular among families around the U.S. The company reports that more than 1 million boxes are sold every day. There are now many recipes and different variations of this yummy dish. Traditionalists stick with elbow macaroni, but we've seen it made with pasta shells or rotini. Chefs may include their favorite cheese blends but almost all include cheddar.

Note: The Mixed Stew's recipe uses a French interloper, gruyere.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Macaroni and Cheese

A warm and gooey delight
A yummy serving of macaroni and cheese really makes for a satisfying meal. The Mixed Stew adds gruyere cheese to give regular macaroni and cheese some flavorful zing. Of course, there’s also a hefty amount of cheddar cheese in the mix. We also use whole wheat macaroni to inject more fiber and nutrition in every bite. The Food Network provides the foundation for our rendition of macaroni and cheese.

Note: This recipe is big enough to bring to a potluck.

What you will need:

1 large pot with lid
1 wooden spoon
1 colander
10 cups water
Kosher salt
1 quart heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed whole
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 14.5-oz. box whole wheat pasta
2 ½ cups gruyere, grated
1 1/4 cup cheddar, shredded
½ cup Parmesan, shredded finely
Worcestershire sauce to taste
Sriracha hot sauce
Panko mixed with crushed corn flakes
Freshly ground white pepper
Cooking container: 13 1/2 in X 9 5/8 in X 2 3/4 all-purpose aluminum roaster pan (use a large, sturdy cookie sheet to support the bottom through the baking process)

Cooking and Directions:
Bring water to boil in large pot. Add salt until it's almost like sea water. Pour in uncooked macaroni. Be careful to constantly stir the macaroni while (8-10 minutes) cooking to al dente. Next, reserve 1 cup of the liquid from the pot. Then pour the al dente macaroni into a colander and run cold water over pasta to stop the cooking process. Using the same pot, bring the cream, garlic, and reserved liquid to a simmer. Add mustard and 2 ½ cups Gruyere. Keep stirring so liquid stays smooth. Add pepper to taste. Add Parmesan and 1 cup of cheddar and keep stirring to keep liquid smooth. Add Worcestershire and sriracha sauce. Stir again and then taste for right seasoning and flavor. Carefully mix cooked macaroni into sauce. Remove the pot from heat and let the macaroni rest for 8 to 10 minutes so that pasta can absorb the flavors. Remove and discard garlic cloves if you desire. (We keep them in the dish.) Fill a roasting pan with cheesy macaroni and then sprinkle remaining 1/4 cheddar on top with the panko and corn flake mixture. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese melts and crumbs toast brown on top. Serve immediately.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Banchan

Korean dishes that kick off the meal
A traditional Korean meal comes with several small side dishes, which are known as banchan. They’re placed at the middle of the table for everyone to share. The most popular of these dishes is kimchi. These dishes go well with warm sticky rice. Meals can come with anywhere between two to 12 banchan. A general rule of thumb means that more formal meals come with more small side dishes. Where have we had an impressive banchan spread? Mirocjo Korean restaurant in Ellicott City, Md.. Just look at the selection in the photos. The Mixed Stew likes banchan since the servings are shared and usually arrive before the main course dishes. Here are a few:

Gam-ja Salad - a sweet potato salad that’s seasoned with mayonnaise
Kong-na-mul - bean sprouts that have been seasoned with sesame oil
Ma-nul Kim-chi – green onion kimchi
Doo-boo Cho-rim – seasoned and fried tofu
Kak-tu-gi – cubed radish kimchi
Kket-nip Cho-rim – seasoned sesame leaves

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daily Special: Help Haiti

The Mixed Stew pauses to remember earthquake victims
Support Doctors Without Borders in Haiti

Thursday’s Side Dish: Yellow Pickled Radish

Crunch on with this sour sidekick
We remember snacking on pickled daigu in Guam after a long day at school. Mom-and-pop stores or the snack truck near the Cathedral would sell it out of huge jars at 50 cents per sandwich bagful. The daikon used is originally white and ranges in size between 6 inches to 12 inches. Don’t get turned off by its neon color acquired from pickling. Yellow pickled radish (aka Takuan) is also a popular condiment in Korean and Japanese cuisines. It’s sold in the prepared foods section of Asian supermarkets. Also, look for various packages of (whole) unsliced yellow pickled radish in H Mart’s chilled foods section. The sweet, tangy, and salty flavors compliment many Asian dishes served with sticky rice. The flavors and texture -- pickled yet crunchy – are almost a contradiction. Finally, pickled foods are believed to help curb appetites so have some more daigu.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Flanken-Style-Short Ribs

A cut above the rest
Beef ribs cut across the bone are called flanken-style cut short ribs. Cuts sold this way come from the first five ribs of the ribcage. The Mixed Stew suggests using thin pieces of flanken-cut beef ribs for grilling or barbecuing. The high fat content and marbling of beef ribs guarantee lots of flavor. Braise thick flanken-cut ribs in your favorite stews. Also, cook them until tender in a beef soup.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Kalbi Marinade

The secret is in this sauce

Kalbi marinade is a nice departure from the popular tomato-based and smoked-flavored bottled sauces on many store shelves. Also, try using this sauce on pork country ribs or chicken pieces for grilling. The sesame oil and sesame seeds give it a distinct flavor. Here is our recipe for the sauce:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 medium-sized bowl
½ cup green onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped small
2 tablespoons cup sesame oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey*
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup or three tablespoons of rice wine vinegar


Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well. Let short ribs, chicken pieces, or pork country ribs marinade in sauce overnight. Grill meat as usual; however, be careful not to overcook or burn the since there is a significant amount of sugar in the sauce.

*some cooks use apple sauce or brown sugar as the sweetner

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday's Bread Bowl: Kalbi

Short ribs that make your tastebuds tingle
Beef short ribs that are seasoned in a sweet soy sauce-based marinade and then grilled are called kalbi (or galbi) in Korea. Other main ingredients include garlic, sugar, green onions, and (sometimes) pepper paste, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and rice wine. Several different sweet components may be used, such as honey, lemon-lime soda, or pureed apples. There are different variations; however, the outcome is always sweet with a strong soy sauce flavor. The short ribs are sometimes deboned and other times served flanken style. Kalbi (usually the deboned version) is served at Korean restaurants with lettuce leaves, raw garlic, hot bean paste, sliced fresh green pepper, and steamed rice. The meat and other accompaniments are then rolled like a burrito inside the lettuce leaves. At some Korean restaurants, you can get the experience of cooking the ribs at your table. The seasoned beef arrives raw and the server will assist in grilling the kalbi pieces for everyone at the table.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Field Trip

Mango's Grill: Laurel, Md.

Mango's Grill is a charming mom-and-pop restaurant that puts some fancier dining establishments to shame. The seafood ceviche is just one of the menu items that keeps The Mixed Stew crew hooked on the casual joint. Two types of ceviche are offered. On the menu, ceviche ($10.99) made with white fish is listed. But not on the menu, is the bolder, tastier ceviche mixto. The dish is a blend of white fish, shrimp and baby squid (tentacles and all) drenched in a delightful, light marinade of citrus, cilantro and onions. It is served with wedges of lime or lemon to squeeze over the dish and wake up the flavors on the table. With a side order of flour tortillas, the ceviche can be eaten as an entree, even though it is on the appetizer portion of the menu. Another little tip: If you like heat, ask for the "hotter stuff" when you are delivered one type of salsa. While the regular salsa is delicious, Mango's has a pico de gallo that is made with habanero peppers and onions. It will make your eardrums pop. It's that hot. But it's also that good. The platanos maduros consists of a generous helping of sweet fried plantains with crema Mexicana. It works with the spicy Mexican entrees, such as carne asada, chicharrones, and steak fajitas. Make sure to finish the meal with the tres leches cake. Trust us, you will want to save room for the tres leches.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Frozen Seafood Mix

An ocean flavor in a pinch

A quick and easy option is available for cooks who think that fish sticks are the only shortcut to a fast seafood meal from the freezer. Have you seen the frozen seafood mixes available at Asian supermarkets, such as Lotte or H Mart? The mixes contain at least three seafood items, such as squid rings, shrimp, imitation crab, and mussels. Look for 1lb bags by Ocean Gem, Supreme Choice, and Geisha. Add a (still frozen) whole bag to a simmering pot of marinara sauce and let it cook for at least 5 minutes or until seafood is hot and well-incorporated into the sauce. Serve the seafood marinara with your favorite al dente pasta. The Mixed Stew also suggests sautéing some pieces in a little butter and adding beaten eggs to make a seafood frittata.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Calamari or squid

A slinky seafood
Squid are mollusks related to the octopus and cuttlefish. They have 10 tentacles and vary in size from one inch to more than 70 feet. For cooking purposes, an ideal size squid is 12 inches or less. The meat is firm and white with a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Be careful not to overcook squid or else the meat will turn rubbery. Calamari is the Italian name that many fine dining restaurants prefer to call squid. The edible parts of the squid are the tentacles and main section of the body, which can be stuffed or sliced into rings. Look for squid sold fresh, frozen, and canned. Also, chefs can use squid ink (a defense mechanism) to make squid-ink pasta. How do you like calamari?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Hot Kimchi Dishes

A welcome temperature change
There’s more than just cold pickled veggies when it comes to kimchi as a seasoning component or main ingredient. The Mixed Stew has enjoyed kimchi jigae (Korean kimchi and pork stew), which combines pieces of braised pork, tofu, veggies, and kimchi base, in a yummy broth. Korean restaurants serve kimchi jigae in traditional clay pots. The spicy stew arrives sizzling (or rather, bubbling) hot. Another dish that incorporates kimchi is kimchi bokkumbap. It’s a kimchi seasoned pork fried rice that topped with fried egg. At one local Korean supermarket, customers may purchase chicken parts marinated in kimchi base and ready for grilling. Have you tried any hot dishes that use kimchi?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Kimchi Calamari Stir-fry

A seafood delight for the senses

Have you ever tried a kimchi sauce seasoned stir-fry? The Korean sauce isn’t just for pickling Napa cabbage and similar chilled condiments. Calamari (or squid) offers an alternative to more popular stir-fried seafood, such as shrimp. This kimchi dish is best served hot. It’s VERY spicy, so be prepared for a real hit of heat. In fact, if your tolerance for peppers is low, you might want to skip this all together. If you want to tone down the spiciness, use less kimchi sauce (1/2 the bottle). Also, remember that the frozen calamari rings will release liquid in the process of cooking. Here is the recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon1 frying pan
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 (6.70 oz) Momoya brand kimchi base (available at most Asian supermarkets)
12 oz frozen calamari rings
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
Pinch of salt and pepper
Optional ingredients:
½ cup carrot, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced

Cooking Directions:

Heat frying pan on medium-high heat. Add oil. Sprinkle in onion. After about 30 seconds, add garlic and keep stirring so the garlic doesn't burn but the onion turns translucent. Next, add calamari, salt, and pepper. Let the calamari cook, which will take several minutes. Next, pour in all kimchi base. Stir well. Finally, remove from heat and place on serving plate. Garnish with minced cilantro. Serve immediately with brown rice or over whole wheat pasta.

Helpful Hint: If you want to add the optional ingredients, throw them in a few minutes before the calamari in the cooking process. They will need the extra time to cook.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Years!

The Mixed Stew is recovering from ringing in the new year. Here's a fun link to one of the most memorable viral videos of 2009. May it remind us to put a little fun into everything and savor every moment as we start 2010!