Grilled Orange and Bourbon Salmon

With a name like “Grilled Orange-and-Bourbon Salmon” how could I not try this Cooking Light recipe? And I’m glad I did; it’s terrific. In fact, I prepared this recipe several times this summer — with both salmon and Arctic Char, of course — to test it out for a Cape Cod family vacation dinner-for-16 (yes, cooking dinner for 16 in an only-ok-equipped rental cottage should not be part of anyone’s vacation – but somehow it is for me!)

Grilled Orange and Bourbon SalmonHere’s what’s great about this recipe: it’s easy to make in general and for a crowd, it’s flavorful, and is a healthy choice. All 16 at our family dinner liked it – believable because there was none left!

Here’s what’s not so great about this recipe: it takes a lot of time to prepare the marinade – especially if you are doubling or tripling the marinade. There are oranges and lemons to juice and scallions, chives and garlic to chop. That might not sound like a lot (and it’s not difficult), but trust me, you need 45 minutes to 1 hour to prep this marinade. Just letting you know.

You can easily print the PDF from my Going Lo-Co Recipes page or grab the PDF here: Grilled Orange-and-Bourbon Salmon.  Oh, and some of the Cooking Light reviews suggested saving the marinade and cooking it down into a glaze which is likely delicious, though I didn’t try it but plan to, next time.

Now if you’re like me and are more of a vodka and wine person versus a bourbon person (OK, truth, I know not one thing about bourbon) there’s the liquor store to visit. Where they might sell you Jack Daniels – which may or may not technically be bourbon. Sigh. Twice I made this recipe with Jack because that’s what my liquor store guy sold me – and then when I made it at Cape Cod, I made it with Jim Beam bourbon (I know that’s bourbon because it’s printed on the label, LOL). While I preferred it made with Jim Beam, that might just be because I’d had a lot of wine by the time I finished all the chopping for the triple version of this recipe!

Since this whisky vs bourbon thing was kind of a big part of my experience with this recipe, I was going to include information about whisky vs bourbon but all the sites I visited to learn the difference between bourbon and whisky require you to enter your birthdate, so that would likely lead to broken links. Topline, bourbon appears to be somewhat sweeter as legally it must be made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn (bourbon/whisky people, if I’m wrong, feel free to correct me!). If you care for more details than that, search for bourbon vs whisky and research away. If you don’t care but want to try this recipe, go to a liquor store and get a small bottle of Jack or Jim – they’ll both be fine!

As for fish, I liked this with both salmon and Arctic Char, so take your pick. But do try it – especially now with the summer winding down – making this recipe in September will give you the opportunity to swill a bit of warming bourbon while grilling!

Share

Slow Cooker Part Deux – A Failure and A Find

A prevalent pet peeve is how Facebook distorts reality. With frequent postings of party and vacation pictures plus endless boasting about kids and jobs, it’s easy to conclude that more fun is being had by everyone else. Which is of course not true.

At least, I hope it’s not.

But all this bragging led me to consider recipe blog posts. It’s an apt corollary as the vast majority of recipe blog posts are about successes. Indeed, I do it too. I hadn’t realized until I looked, but to date, all my recipe blog posts have been about recipe successes. So with this post I am bucking the trend, because this post is about a lo-co cooking failure. And I think that it’s an important topic because cooking lo-co is tough enough without the false belief that everyone else’s dishes turn out well all the time. Because they do NOT.

Case in point: last week I tried a slow cooker recipe for Char Siu Pork Roast that had huge promise, but that failed. Miserably. Actually, it was absolutely awful.

This dish was so appalling I threw it out and ate cereal for dinner. Worse, I could not get the stench of this dish out of my house fast enough (challenging when it’s sub-freezing outside, but open the windows I did!)

I was particularly disappointed in Char Siu Pork Roast because: a) the recipe was from Cooking Light, and I always (now nearly-always) have good luck with their dishes; b) it was listed in an article with the promissory title of, “100+ Slow-Cooker Favorites“; and c) there were 108 reviews and it got four stars.  FOUR STARS. OUT OF FIVE. (I went back to see if it was four starts out of ten, but nope, four out of five).

I don’t know who these 108 people are, but their collective tastebuds are very different from mine. Not only that, my easy-going husband didn’t like it either. The problems were many. The five-spice flavor was overwhelming; several ingredients seemed to flavor-fight with each other; and worst of all, it was dry, dry, dry.  I guess I should have paid more attention to the several reviewers who panned this recipe; my experience was eerily similar.

So. A lo-co failure. I should have taken a photo, but there wasn’t time as I could not throw it out fast enough!

And then – another fail – I bought a pork tenderloin a few days later but accidentally grabbed one that was seasoned with pepper when what I wanted was plain.

Sigh. I am not a fan of peppercorn-marinaded anything.

pressure-29744_640But I didn’t want to throw away a perfectly good pork tenderloin, so that inspired a search for a slow cooker recipe that would mask the massive pepper. I readied the cereal boxes in case it was another failure… but was pleasantly surprised last night with “The Best Crock-Pot Pork Tenderloin” dish. Especially since the recipe was from a site I’d never seen before (usually I only cook from Cooking Light or Epicurious).

This WhiskingMama.com site must have really great SEO — the only reason I clicked on this “The Best Crock-Pot Pork Tenderloin” recipe is that it was the #1 result in my search for “pork tenderloin crock-pot recipe.” I decided to try it because I already had the (wrong) tenderloin, these ingredients looked like they’d cover up the pepper, and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand (with a few substitutions: dijon for yellow mustard and garlic cloves instead of garlic powder).

This dish was easy, quite tasty, and while it might not be the “best” crock-pot pork tenderloin recipe (I mean, who’s to judge?), I’d make it again. The cereal’s been put back in the pantry for breakfast as we’re planning leftovers for dinner tonight.

Here’s the recipe for “The Best Crock-Pot Pork Tenderloin” if you prefer a PDF to clicking on the link above. I made it with a one-pound tenderloin instead of two-pounds, and just read this morning in Sam Sifton’s A Simmer View of the Slower Cooker article that I should have cut the marinade in half. Mr. Sifton’s quote refers to different recipe/ingredients but the basic tenet is the same:

“The most important thing is not to have too much liquid in the pot. For a small slow cooker, use a smaller cut of meat and a proportionately smaller amount of fish sauce, hoisin and water.”

The next time I make this Crock-Pot Pork Tenderloin recipe I’ll use regular rather peppered tenderloin and will either cut the marinade in half OR, more likely, I’ll make it with two pounds of tenderloin because it was delicious enough to want leftovers.

So one recipe to avoid – and one to try!  Feel free to send me your lo-co recipe failures or favorites!

Share

A Thai Lo-Co Crock-Pot Winner

Before today’s blizzard that thankfully didn’t hit where we live in CT (strange to be thankful for 6″ of snow and counting), the weather last Saturday was atrocious. I had decided to try a new crock-pot recipe so we would be treated all day to the enticing aroma of curry while stuck inside catching up on a long list of household chores.

And it both looked and tasted delicious. Which is a big thing, because my easy-going husband usually does not enjoy crock-pot casseroles.  A huge shame given the easiness of crock-pot cooking, but there you go.

But this one was a hit. On the plus side, it was relatively easy and quite flavorful. On the down side, it uses beef.  I may try again with chicken but had decided a little beef on a cold, miserable day seemed a fine plan.  And while it does have more cholesterol than I usually go for (50 mg/serving) that really isn’t too bad.

Thai Red Curry CrockPotThe recipe was from Cooking Light – my go-to for new, healthy recipes – and it was in an article entitled, 100+ Slow-Cooker Favorites. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure we’d like it as I’ve tried a few I didn’t love from recipes in this trove, but gave it a go and was glad I did. My plate of Thai Red Curry Beef didn’t look as pretty as the picture on the recipe, but hey, I’m no food photographer. What I can tell you is that it was quite tasty.

If you like curry, give this a try. Before you do, be sure to read the recipe and ALSO read the reviews so you can adjust to your taste, especially vis-a-vis spiciness.  A few things I’d suggest if you give it a go:

  • I used one whole jalapeño with seeds because we like very spicy – and it was very, very spicy.  When I make again, I’ll use only half the seeds …
  • Based on the reviews which said the sauce was thin, I debated dusting the beef with cornstarch before browning it as some suggested.  But that seemed hard. So instead I made a cornstarch and cold water ‘slurry’ (same as if making gravy) and spooned that in after the spinach. Easy and effective.
  • They don’t say to use cubed stew meat – but that’s what the picture looked like so that’s what I did. Buy or cut the meat ahead of time, even though that’s not in the recipe.
  • I did dice some carrots as you’ll see in my photo above (but not in the recipe photo) and that worked well. I cut 4 carrots into relatively big bites and added them when the crock pot had about 1 hour left.  They were great – not mushy; cooked just through.
  • I wish I’d added mushrooms.  Will do next time.
  • I bought freshly diced onion from Trader Joe’s to save time and highly recommend that. Probably would NOT use frozen diced onions as they’d release too much water to a broth that some considered watery.

For today’s blizzard-that-wasn’t I bought some fresh arctic char which I enjoyed last night with several glasses of wine… See recipe for Baked Arctic Char on my recipes page. So easy, healthy and delicious.

For tonight, we’re having chicken breast with bok choy and quinoa. I wish instead I’d bought a whole chicken to roast: my friend Michaela (a talented author who prefers writing to cooking) raves about this whole roast chicken recipe, which I keep meaning to try. She just emailed me to say, “You should try. It is fabulous and I’m an indifferent cook at best! But the bird is completely juicy and the skin crunchy.”  OK, the skin is a lo-co no no, but still – I bet it’s great. And with a name like How To Make The Best Roast Chicken Of All Time – and with video instruction on how to truss a chicken – how could you go wrong?

I’ll let you know about the whole roast chicken – but if you like curry and are of a crock-pot mindset, give Thai Red Curry Beef a shot.

Share

The Lo-Co…Vegan…Thanksgiving

Last year I hosted Thanksgiving, so this year I’m not cooking: we’re going to my brother-in-law’s for the family get together. But I realized a few years ago that not cooking Thanksgiving has a huge, huge downside — I don’t have leftovers for several days of “hot lunch” (as my husband likes to call my preferred leftovers for lunch choice.)

So now, on the years I don’t host the actual Thanksgiving feast, I cook ‘Thanksgiving Friday” for local friends and family.

The beauty is: it’s not the ‘real deal’ so I can experiment a bit.  The downside: I’ve found that as we get older, more of my Thanksgiving Friday guests have dietary restrictions. So this year I’ve been searching for new recipes that meet a bunch of requirements.  First, some kind of low fat, low-cholesterol recipes for me.  Second, vegan side dishes for my niece.  And lastly, garlic & onion free options for one of my sisters.

It’s not easy.

But I love a challenge.

From a lo-co perspective, I refuse to give up gravy and mashed potatoes – so my lo-co choice for Thanksgiving is mostly just to limit portion size of non-lo-co foods. But I am adding one new thing: a healthier, homemade cranberry sauce. The recipe I like is Cooking Light’s Classic Cranberry Sauce which has a lot of sugar but is quite tasty.  Plus you can make it ahead (key) and it at least has the nutrients and calcium of fresh, tart cranberries. So in my view, it’s a decent lo-co choice.  (And hey, it’s easy to have the canned stuff available for those who refuse to vary from tradition.)

For my niece and sister, I am giving Lemon-Garlic Kale Salad from Melissa Clark / Julia Moskin (sorry, can’t tell whose recipe this is!) a whirl this Friday.  By separating out a bit of  lemon juice/salt/olive oil mixture and keeping it garlic-free for my sister, this recipe should work for EVERYONE at my table. Well, everyone except my son who wouldn’t touch kale if I paid him.  He’ll stick with the traditional Campbell’s Soup/Durkee Fried Onion-drenched green bean casserole.  Oh , who am I kidding – he’ll have nothing green. It’s Thanksgiving. He gets a pass.

For other great Thanksgiving ideas, read Julia Moskin and Melissa Clark’s excellent Essential Thanksgiving NYT article and accompanying recipes. I’m trying the turkey leg cooking method (no, not for me – I’m sticking to white meat!) and the mashed potato ideas listed in this well-done, instructional piece.

So my niece has something else to eat besides plain turkey and lemon-garlic kale salad, I’m investigating gluten free recipes.  There is a veritable treasure trove of recipes and ideas for gluten free thanksgiving at Gluten Free Girl’s Grain Free Thanksgiving. And Cooking Light offers a Gluten Free Holiday Menu.  I haven’t worked out yet which gluten free sides I’ll be making – but I better hop to it since it’s already Tuesday!

Share

Going Lo-Co Turkey Chili

A recipe for using up leftover turkey would have been better timed last week, so I will start this post with apologies.

That said, I almost never make this Turkey Chili with leftover turkey – I use ground turkey as I make it year round.

The reason I’m posting it now is that a friend emailed this morning, asking for a recipe recommendation.  Her neighbor is having some health issues and she wants to bring over a family dinner.

I can’t believe in the 2+ years I’ve been writing this blog that I’ve never before posted my go-to recipe for “bring to a friend family dish.” So here goes.

My Going Lo-Co Turkey Chili recipe, adapted from a 2003 Cooking Light recipe, is easy to make, healthy(ish,), kids love it because it’s not spicy AND I serve it with Tostitos Scoops. Plus it freezes well. All that, and you can make a double batch and have dinner for your family as well.  What more could you ask for?

The ingredient list is long but don’t be daunted – the hardest thing about this recipe is opening cans. Seriously. And usually, I don’t cook with canned veggies but for some reason it works well in this dish.

So next time you want to bring family dinner to a friend, try this Turkey Chili recipe. Bring it over along with a bag of (reduced fat) shredded cheddar, a carton of (reduced fat) sour cream, and a bag of tortilla chips.

Seriously, don’t forget the tortilla chips.

 

Share