Corned Beef from Scratch

Corned Beef is a favorite in this house.  No two ways about it, Rob, Nik and Aaron would eat it every day.  No exaggeration.  I even have two in the fridge right now.  These pictures are from last summer and a whole batch of recipe pictures I found.  So the next few posts will have a ton of pictures!  Anyways…… like I was saying, they love the stuff.  So I came across this posting last spring a week or two before St Patricks day.   With some of the special ingredients and the fact it has to brine for 10-14 days, I knew it wouldnt be ready before the holiday so I put it aside.  We had our traditional St Patricks Day meal and that was it.. or so I thought.  The idea was stuck in my head.  I was in trouble.  It was stuck in the brain.. no getting away from it now.  So I jumped on to the google to find and buy the hardest to get ingredient.

“Pink curing salt, or sodium nitrite, goes by many names, such as Prague Powder #1 or DQ Curing Salt #1” (this is the quote from the original post, I need to give credit here) was hard to find.  Here is the link to where I got it online, dont take the 4 hours of research to make sure you have the right one, best price, etc.  Just go here or amazon, which will link you back to the site anyway.  I bought the lb package, which is no longer available, and we have made corned beef 5-6 times and hardly dented the bag, so a 4 oz bag should be enough for someone to just start off.  Anyway, this is what makes the corned beef pinky-red.  If you dont care if it is pinky-red or prefer gray corned beef you can forego the specialty item.  We happen to like it and the gray looks funny to me.   There I said it.  I am a corned beef snob.

I will warn you though, while this is totally worth it, it is not a recipe for the impatient.  Though this did teach me how to be patient, corned beef is not something you can whip together on a Sunday and have for dinner that night.. you might be able to have it a couple sundays away but it is something that takes patience and some fridge space to make.  And there are three steps.  BUT it can be prepared in an hour or so and put away in the back of the fridge for 10-14 day (or even longer I am sure but I have only been able to get Rob to wait 11 days.. I am hoping for two weeks on this batch.

First you have the make the spice mix.  We tried to traditional one that was on the original site but have since increased and decreased some ingredients to get the flavors we like.  Here is our spice mix.

Ingredients for the spice mix
Makes enough for 3-4 corned beefs but it stores forever so I wouldnt just make the whole batch.

1 Tbsp whole allspice berries
1 Tbsp whole mustard seeds
1 Tbsp corriander seeds
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp whole black pepper corns
2 tsp whole cloves
12 cardamon pods
3 inches of cinnamon stick broken into smaller bits
10 bay leaves crunched up
2 tsp ground ginger

Get all your ingredients together and get a medium frying pan.  A square sided pan would be better but i used a sloped sided to get better pictures.  Measure out everything but the ginger.

Put the spices in the pan and brown over medium heat until you can hear the mustard seeds start to pop.

Once toasted and you can smell them getting toasted put into your mortar (or if you dont have one, let them cool a bit and put them into a zip lock bag) and using the the pestle break up into smaller pieces.

You now have your spice mix.  Add the ginger and put aside.

Now for the meat.  What you normally buy for St Patricks Day is corned beef brisket but you dont have to corn just briskets.  In fact, plain brisket can be expensive.  In fact other than I MUCH prefer our homemade ones, making it yourself is more expensive than buying it already made.  I thought that was funny myself.   Anyway.  We have only corned (and this type of preserving and brining meat is called corning it) brisket and eye round.  We really prefer the eye round because it is so lean.   You have to get a thinner eye round, meaning not more than 5 inches in diameter, or you can get a thicker one and just use a meat tenderizer and pound it a bit thinner.   We usually buy brisket if we are serving it to someone else because alot of people like the fattiness of the brisket.  We are currently brining an eye round and another roast we had in the freezer, not really sure what type it is.  It is round and has a string around it. The men in this house aren’t picky, its meat and it is being made into corned beef.  They will eat it.

Making the brine

Ingredients for the brine
The original recipe was for a gallon.  We only make 1/4 gallon and can do 2-3 pieces of meat at a time in a ziploc bag, so this is for only 1/4 gallon but if you need more, just make some extra.  This is what works for the gallon size ziploc.
2 cups water + ice to make 4-4 1/2 cups
1/2 cup canning salt or sea salt (DO NOT use kitchen/table/iodized salt)
2 tsp pink curing salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp of brining spice

This is what the salt looks like in the package, like pink granules.  And it has a weird almost wet texture.

Bring all your above ingredients to a heat where the sugar and salts have melted .  Add 2-3 cups of ice cubes so that you have a total of 4-4 1/2 cups of brine.   DO NOT add to the meat until it is cold.
Now you have the corning brine.  Put your brisket, etc into a large bowl with a cover and cover the meat with the brine, or into gallon ziploc bags and then divide the brine up making sure you divide up the seasonings as well.  Let it sit for a week to two weeks in the fridge.

Dinner Time!!  You have waited your two weeks (okay atleast a week) and it is time to make your dinner!  Ready for the fun yet?  Take the meat out of the old brine and rinse it off.  No need to get all the old spice bits but you dont want the salty brine anymore.  That can go.
It will have this weird sheen to it.  That is normal.
Make a spice bundle with cheese cloth and 2 Tbsp of your remaining spice mix.
Put in a large pot with water, bring to a boil, turn down to a medium simmer and cook for 3 hours.    I usually have to add a bit more water somewhere in the middle.
After the three hours of a medium simmer, add your veggies.  For us I wash 3 lbs of new potatoes, 3 lbs of washed carrots (Rob LOVES carrots, so you could probably get away with just a lb or two), 2-3 peeled onions, a quartered cabbage and one turnip in large chunks.  Boil until all veggies are tender.  Drain and serve with butter.  And brown bread.  Which I will be posting in a couple days..
I love this.  I mean, yes it is labor intensive. I mean even writing this took a year.  Okay I am exaggerating but it did take forever.. but it is so worth it.  We have it every few months and it is so good.  I would love to make it more often but dont want to ruin the specialness of it! HAHA  Anywho.. If you dont try it, I hope it has struck a cord to try making new things..

Happy Cooking!


Loaf of the Meat

OR as my husband wanted to name this.. Meatloaf Robbie Will Actually Eat!  HAHA  it took me three or four tries to get him to even try it.  But then he was hooked.   Now he asks for it 4-5 times a month.  I dont let him have it that often but that is how often he asks for it.. LOL  Keep them wanting more! 

I found the origins of this recipe in some magazine about 6-7 years ago.  For many years my meatloaf was kind of a big meatball in loaf shape.   So in true Kim form I took a recipe and kicked out what I didnt like and put in what I did.  It has been a very popular recipe among my friends and I am  happy to say is actually pretty low fat.  This recipe makes atleast a 9 x 13 pan (I tripled it and get four bread loaf pans) and it only works out to 5 points on WW for a pretty large serving.  

My mom always looks at me weird when I make this because it is different than the one I was raised on but the added veggies and odd spices make for a flavorful and healthy addition to my menu.  And Robbie will actually eat it.  Nik and Aaron dont eat it, they devour it!!  Sometimes 2-3 helpings.  My favorite way to serve is with my garlic mashed potatoes which i will be posting in a couple days, and with corn!  SOOOOOOO Yummy!

1 9 x 13 pan makes 9 servings  (the pictures are of a tripled recipe)  WW Points~5

1 1/2 lbs ground meat, I do half and half 93% beef and 93% turkey 
1/2 lb (3-4 links)  sweet sausage, optional but it adds depth 
1 1/2 cup bread tore up into small pieces (6-7 slices)
1 egg
1 medium sized onion
3/4 cup carrot** (these are not exact measurements, I just take some carrots)
3/4 cup broccoli ** (again, just enough broccoli to be about 3/4 cup)
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/8 tsp sage
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg (or the equivalent fresh grated)
1 cup ketchup, divided
1 tbsp hot sauce or brown sugar (depends on if you want it hot or sweet)

** I have also used red and green pepper, celery is good too, hell even pea pods would be good, but carrot is always in it.  I cannot eat much celery and Rob doesnt like peppers.

Cast of Characters

With a food processor (or this handy little food grinder thingie I got) grind up the veggies. 

Put your meat and veggies in a large bowl and break up the bread into little bits.

Lightly beat the eggs and add to the bowl.

Mix the spices up and sprinkle evenly over the stuff in the bowl.

MMMMMMMMMM doesnt that look tasty!

Since I always use fresh nutmeg I always do this at the end so I can judge how much to put in.

Then add 1/2 cup of ketchup.

And mix.
Plop (and yes it does plop) it into the pans you are using.  You can use 9X13, loaf pans, even deep dish large muffin pans.

Bake at 350 total for about 45-60 minutes for loaf and 9×13, about 25-35 for muffins.  They will release alot of fluid from the veggies and the fat and that grosses me out to have my food sitting in that so once or twice I will drain off the yucky stuff into the meat container or a can or something so that I can discard it later.

When done cooking you take the other 1/2 cup of ketchup and the hot sauce/brown sugar (or both for a sweet hot mix), combine and put on top of the hot meatloaf and broil on high for 4-5 minutes until it is done to your likings!!

Here it is served with garlic mashed potatoes (which I will post in a couple days) and some of the leftover broccoli.  I didnt have any corn in the house.   😦

Meatloaf has always been one of my faves and while I do still love my moms, this is more healthy for you and tastes damn yummy.  I make large batches like this because it freezes so well.  Simply wrap in a double layer of aluminum foil. You take out the night before and put in the fridge.  About 45-50 minutes before serving put it in the oven still in the foil and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.  I do eliminate the glaze/broil part for ones I will be freezing and do that the evening I heat it up!   OR you can just cut off pieces and heat up individually in the microwave.  YUM!

Happy Cooking!!

Recipe Swap! Baked Campanelle with Spinach and Meatballs

This is the second in what I think will be quite a few of these recipe swaps.  On my What Cooking board we have a group of fellow foodies who love cooking and baking and wanted some new recipes! So one of the ladies coordinates these recipe swaps.  She collects the recipes from the participants and then randomly sends them out to their new chef.   This was the one I won!

I did the recipe pretty much as listed except I made my own meatballs, which is back in the blog a couple weeks/month (time is running together) and I used a different pasta.  Here is the original recipe by Jey.

My review….. I liked it, alot.  I will have to tweak it a bit to make it more WW friendly but I loved how creamy it was.  I LOVED the spinach and the basil I added.   The kids loved it.. and ate it up pretty quick!  For them it was like a meatball lasagna!  LOL   Mr Pickypants wasnts as impressed.  He isnt a huge fan of ricotta, so this didnt do much for him.   We will see how well he likes it once I tweak it a bit. 

I didnt put this in WW for point because I was scared too.. so this was a splurge meal for me.  It took about an hour to make including baking time.

1 onion chopped
4-9 cloves of garlic (the recipe called for 4 I used 9 because that is what Rob peeled)
1 14 can diced tomatoes
1 jar of pasta sauce
1 box of pasta cooked aldente.  I used campanelle, they look like trumpets!
1 16 oz bag of spinach
1/4 cup fresh basil
12 oz of ricotta
Pinch of nutmeg or grate fresh
S & P
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
4 oz of fresh mozzarella
25-30 Meatballs

Cast of Characters

Set up your pasta pot and fill w salted water.

Chop the onions

And the garlic

Add them to another dutch oven/ 8 quart pot.  No  need to add oil or anything.

Turn the pot onto medium high, and then drain the tomatoes.

Add the juice to the pot and use that to cook the onions and garlic.  No need to waste the flavor or to add any oil.

Next is to prep your spinach.  In a large bowl tear up the spinach. If using baby spinach then you really dont have to but if you are using regular I tear it up and take out the large center stalk.  I think they are bitter. 

Add the tomatoes once the onions are translucent.

And then the pasta sauce.

And then the meatballs.

Let simmer for 20 minutes while you finish the rest of the dish, stirring often.  I love the smell of sauce cooking.  The warm richness of the tomato and the onion and the spices!  I love alot of basil in my pasta which is why I added basil rather than parsley (like the original recipe used).  One of my favorite things to eat is a caprese salad.  Tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella drizzled with balsamic vinegar!  HEAVEN….  Oh and extra salt!    Okay back to this recipe….. haha   cut up your fresh basil into ribbons.

Add to the bowl with the spinach.  I like the barely cooked/slightly crisp aspect of the spinach and the sharp bite of the basil is a nice contrast to the creamy sweetness of the ricotta.

Grate the nutmeg into the bowl with the spinach/basil.

Then the salt and pepper.  You wont need too much salt since you salted the pasta water.

Check on the pasta frequently, you do not want it too cooked or else it will turn to mush in the oven. 

About this time your meatballs and sauce should be ready.. Just turn it off because you dont want it too thick.   MMMMMMMM I love the smell of sauce and meatballs cooking.  I just want to dig in and eat like 3-4 of these on a piece of garlic bread! 

Add the ricotta to the spinach reserving 3/4 a cup or so for the top, and combine.

Drain the pasta when it is al dente.

Then add quickly to the spinach.

Add the meatballs and most of the sauce leaving some in the bottom….

Then mix to incorporate. 

Dump back into the dutch oven..

Dot with the remaining ricotta, and the parmesan and fresh mozzarella.  Bake for 10-15 minutes  covered in a 350 oven.  Remove the cover and bake until the desired browning melting has occurred..

Then plate up with your favorite veggies.

This was a melty yummy fresh tasting wonderful mix of flavors.  I adore ricotta so this worked for me.  I would cut back to about 1/2 a container next time to make it more palatable for Rob but for the most part, this was a success with the recipe swap..

Happy Cooking and Swapping!

Slow Roast Brisket with Onion Gravy

I am now about 9 days out from my foot surgery.  I am still a bit sore, sick of studying for my HESI Nursing School Exit Exam, and sick of being cooped up in the house.  The doctor gave me my driving ability back a couple days ago but said I should still be on the crutches.  Okay….. not sure how that makes sense but okay.

We had Aaron take us grocery shopping a couple days ago and I found two nice looking briskets that were about the same thickness and had little fat!  I was happy.  SO I got them home and started looking for a good new recipe.  I had my standard rub I have used in the past that I like but I needed a break from studying and wanted something different.  I found it, in an old Better Homes and Garden recipe I had ripped out over Christmas break.  I do that alot.  Recycle the magazine and just take out the recipes I want to try.  I literally have two paper boxes full of clippings and a huge stack of magazines to go through.  Rob just shakes his head in disgust when I come home from work and have yet another pile of magazines.  LOL

I totally get that from my Mom.  I will go and visit her in Vermont and she will have a stack of magazines for me to go through.  My Dad is not too adventurous when it comes to food but with Moms not so gentle reminder that he will eat what she cooks, he is branching out.  He still will not eat chicken but is definitely not a strict beef/potato or pasta/vegetable man anymore.  I love it. 

Now.. onto brisket.  It is a wonderful meat.  You can totally impart yummy flavor to it.  You can slow cook it and it is always juicy!  Since it is a long fibered meat it is important to slice it against the grain and you will have perfection. 

Total cooking and prep time: 3 1/2 hours  at 325
4-5 lbs of fresh beef brisket (not brined)
2-3 large onions
6 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup liquid smoke ( I had mesquite on hand)
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup steak sauce
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee, or simmer 1 cup until it is reduced like I did
S & P

Cast of Characters

Spray your pan.  I used an aluminum since it was what I had upstairs and I didnt want to go to the basement.  Slice the onions and garlic.

Once sliced make a bed in the bottom of the pan.

This is to rest your brisket on.  You want the pan to be a pretty good size fit for the meat or else it wont get enough of the contact with the juice.

Mix together the remaining ingredients.  I used about 1/2 tsp salt and pepper each. 

And pour over the brisket and onions.

Cover tightly with 2 layers of aluminum foil and put into the oven for 3 hours.

When the timer goes off, remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes.  Take off the foil and with tongs remove from the juice, put on a plate and cover with the aluminum foil.

Remove the onions and garlic from the juices.

Using a stick wand and some of the pan juices puree into a nice thick gravy.  Add more juice to find the correct balance of thickness.  It will not be pretty, but it sure does taste good.

Cut the meat across the grain for the best tenderness.

Plate up with your fave starch and veg and add some of the lovely gravy.  Heaven!

I will admit I was very skeptical about the gravy.  I mean the ingredients were strong flavored and when we snuck a lick of the broth makings before we put it in the oven, well lets just say, I wasnt sure it was going to make it into the blog.  HAHA I was wrong.  This was fantastic!   The gravy was actually sweet and oniony and very flavorful.  The meat had all the flavors coursing through it and it was…  wonderful!  I cannot think of any other way to describe it.  I totally enjoyed it.  I cannot wait until tomorrow for a wonderful sandwich.  And here is the surprising part.  Since I used a very lean cut of brisket and had only 4 ounces with a 1/4 cup of gravy, the WW recipe builder says that this is only 5 points.  Ummmmm  hello happy girl. 

Happy Roasting!!

Steak Chili

My family loves chili.  Spicy and smoky and rich tomatoey chili.  Rob and the kids dont like beans but I do so I always scoop out some and add some beans to mine.  I know that alot of chilis are made with ground beef, or chicken or whatever but my favorite way and my familys favorite is with steak.  One of the things that is great about this recipe is that you can take a relatively tough and inexpensive cut of beef and make it tender and good.  

Picking the meat is important.  Some people think you need to get a tender piece of meat to do something like this but you dont.   The secret is braising.  Braising is the method of browning the meat and then using moist heat to break down the tough collagen and fibers in the meat.  If done right you can take that tough piece of meat and make it into something soft and fork tender!  I will use what is on sale; stew beef, chuck steak, 7 bone steak, hell even a roast will work.  You do need to have some marbling in the meat.  This will help with your tenderness factor and give a nice richness without adding a ton of fat.  That is another advantage of using steak and not hamburger, there is less fat so it is better for you! 

3 lbs of steak or a roast, cut into cubes cut slightly larger than bite size
3 cans of tomatoes with diced jalapenos
1 large onion
3-4 cloves of garlic chopped
2 jalapenos
1 small can tomato paste
3-4 tbsp chili powder (to taste.. this is medium for us)
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/3 tsp red pepper flakes
1 can of kidney or black beans drained (optional)

First cut up your beef.
Then ask your son to prepare the jalapeno, onion and garlic…… this is the mess he makes.
After said child cleans up his mess and brings the dregs out to the composter, you grind up the veggies with a mini processor.

and brown the meat in a large dutch oven. 
Add the veggies.
And saute for 2-3 minutes and then cover with 3-4 cups of water (or stock if you have it but it isnt necessary). 
This part is not exact.  It depends on the cut of meat.  Some need more fluid than others to get tender.  Bring to a rapid boil and let it go until the water is almost gone. Test a piece of meat.. is it as tender as you want?  If not add some more fluid and let it go again. I usually only add a cup of water at a time at this stage.

Add your  spices.  

And your tomatoes and paste.  If you are adding the beans you can do it now as well.

Simmer until the flavors combine and it is to the desired thickness.  This is when I scoop some out into a small sauce pan and add some beans for my own personal chili! 

Millie wants her own personal chili too……. 

We were so excited to eat it, I forgot to take a picture of it all prettied up.  This is my cup with some cheese on it.. lol 
It is fun to personalize, you can add a dollop of sour cream, some minced onion or just eat it plain.. whatever works for you.   From start to finish this recipe takes about 1 hour to make depending on the cut of meat.  So good and so filling! 

Happy Braising!