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Recipe: Monday Night Fast Whole Grain & Protein Bowls

I don’t remember where I originally got this idea, but I think it was the lucky cross-pollination of one too many Bon Appetit magazines and the discovery of quick-cooking faro at the grocery store, combined with a goal to eat better whole grains and lean proteins in 2019. 

We make these grain bowls on busy weeknights because they come together fast – in less than 30 minutes. If you’re using a leftover protein (literally anything could work here), then you could be done in less than 15.

The secret: this dressing! It packs a lot of flavor and punch. Print off the recipe and take it to the store with you this weekend. You’ll have to invest in some ingredients initially, but they’ll last you for several weeks, bringing the total cost of this recipe into what i consider “great quality food for way less than I’d pay at a restaurant” – and that’s good eats!

Also, you can swap freely — use an oil you have on hand, use a different vinegar, try a new flavor. If it tastes good after you shake it, you’re good to go!

Monday Night Grain Bowl | RameyLady cooks
This grain bowl was made with leftover pork, but we usually go with salmon or another “healthy” fish when we can catch some on sale. This bowl includes quick-cooking faro, fresh spinach and tomatoes, roasted red peppers (from a jar), edamame and cashews, orange slices, and avocado with leftover roast pork loin from the previous day.

Lori’s Monday Night Grain Bowl

Here’s the basic outline:

  1. Start cooking the protein or pull out leftovers
  2. Start cooking the grain (farro, brown rice, etc)
  3. Make the dressing – maybe double it for use again next week
  4. Prep the fresh vegetables, fruit, garnishes
  5. Assemble! Pour a little dressing over every layer, especially the grains so they soak up that flavor!

The Dressing

Make extra and leave it in the frig for next week’s bowl. 

These are proportions, not measurements. Taste and see if it’s good; adjust as needed. If you aren’t sure where to start, try going with 1-2 Tablespoons as your “1” in the 2:1:1 ratio and multiply accordingly.  You’re going to need enough to dress the vegetables, the grain, and the meat, so make enough!

  • SECRET WEAPON OF GOODNESS:  2 parts toasted sesame oil
  • 1 part  flavored olive oil – we use chile oil
  • 1 part sherry vinegar or rice wine vinegar or …use what you’ve got; taste and adjust until it’s tangy and flavorful without being obnoxious
  • 1 part orange or lemon juice – fresh squeezed is nice
  • ½ part srirachaoptional  (lighten up on this if you don’t like hot) – can use any hot sauce that carries flavor as well as heat
  • a few dashes soy sauce or fish sauce or other salty but flavorful dark liquid
  • dash of minced or ground or grated garlic and/or ginger or use a paste that combines both!
  • pinch of salt (if you didn’t use soy sauce)
  • pinch of pepper (fresh ground of course, if you can)
  • pinch of dry aromatic herb- optional — I like oregano or thyme

Tool: Salad dressing shaker — OXO makes an inexpensive one; I use a Tupperware shaker that’s been in my kitchen forever.  Perk: Double the recipe and store the rest for next week. If sealed, it’ll keep for a couple weeks easily.

Cook a Grain

Here’s how we do it: Put ½ cup dried quick-cooking farro* per person (maybe ⅓ cup if you need to stretch it) into a saucepan with 2 cups of water and 1 Tablespoon of Mexican adobo seasoning* or chicken bullion granules.  Cook for 10-12 minutes (per package directions) once it comes to boil. Drain and divide among bowls – we usually pile it in the center, near the spinach.

*We use quick-cooking 10 Minute Farro from Trader Joe’s. It cooks in 10-12 minutes and it’s done! Costs about $2 a bag at TJ.  Link goes to Amazon; you can buy quick-cooking faro in most grocery stores for WAY cheaper than what you’ll pay on Amazon, but at least you’ll see the packaging.

*My store carries Adobo seasoning in the Mexican shelf, but the standard Goya brand is reaaaally salty (which is partly why I use it when cooking the farro).  You can buy organic adobo blends that are less salty, but don’t forget to salt the farro or rice while it cooks.

Assemble your Bowl!

Again, use what you’ve got!  Swap in other fresh salad ingredients or proteins.  We build up from greens to grains to protein, adding a little dressing on every layer, parking produce, citrus, and avocado around the sides of the bowl, then garnishing.

  • 3-5 oz per person of cooked protein – *see below for ideas
  • handful of kale, spinach, arugula or other sturdy fresh green – no iceberg lettuce!
  • ½ cup per person cooked “quick” farro or brown rice (or any cooked, hearty grain)  *see above for notes
  • fresh produce:  we use cherry tomatoes (sliced in half), thin-sliced red or green onion, sliced bell peppers or jarred roasted peppers — pretend you’re making the best salad of snacking vegetables and go at it
  • orange segments or other citrus, optional
  • edamame and/or roasted nuts (almonds or cashews) really add a crunchy punch
  • sliced avocado – also helps cool off the heat from the chile oil and sriracha

*Proteins – We sometimes roast a piece of salmon and split it into 3-4 oz portions for the top of the bowl.  Or pan-sear shrimp.  Or used cooked chicken, pork, or steak that’s been reheated.  You can pan-fry or bake tilapia.  Consider cooking a little extra next time you’re making supper, and plan to use the left-overs in the grain bowl the next day.  If you’re vegetarian, maybe fry an egg on top – that would be delicious!

The key is to think ahead just enough that you have a leftover ready to go or a fast-cooking protein, or maybe a rotisserie chicken from the store on your way home.  And you could make things even faster by cooking rice or wheat berries or farro ahead of time and having them in the frig, ready to reheat, dress, and eat!

Monday Night Grain Bowl | RameyLady cooks

 

Slow-Fried French Fries Recipe | Bon Appetit

I know this is going to sound crazy, but I ran across this slow-fry recipe for making French fries at home a couple years ago, and it’s honestly THE BEST for that one time a year you think, “Hey, I’m going to throw caution and wisdom to the side and actually fry these frozen potato sticks.”

In essence, you dump cold, frozen french fries into a deep pot (I use a thin T-Fal 4-quart pot that I also use for making pasta, because it’s sturdy enough to work well but thin enough to transfer the heat quickly).  Cover the fries with oil,  preferably with an extra inch of oil above the fries.  (I’ve done it with less in a pinch.)  Turn the heat to medium and walk away for about 15 minutes.

From there, you’ll stir the fries occasionally for the next 20-30 minutes as they cook through. Once they’re cooked, crank the heat up to medium high and leave them alone for 10-15 minutes to brown thoroughly and get crispy.

Pull them out (I use tongs) onto paper-toweled racks or baking sheets and salt them.  They end up crunchy and delicious, without spattering grease all over the kitchen (the normal outcome of throwing cold food into a hot fryer). De-lish!

via Slow-Fried French Fries Recipe | Bon Appetit

PS. You can usually get more than one fry-session out of the oil, unless you’ve got weird potatoes coated in seasoning or whatever.  Let the oil cool off on the back of the stove, and later that night (or the next morning), use a funnel to pour the clean oil back into your oil bottle. Leave the bottom layer, because the fry bits will have settled.

As long as you didn’t scorch the fries, you can get another round of frying out of that oil. It’ll be a darker color, but it’s perfectly fine for a second batch.

PPS. This is a great recipe to pair with my favorite Belgian beef stew, using this recipe …   which ranked as one of my favorite discoveries of 2014.  Our local Belgian pub, The Trappe Door (oh how I love them!), serves their flemandes stew with crunchy fries and fry sauces, and it’s lovely.

An Iskander Experiment

A couple weeks ago, we met a friend for Turkish food and I experienced the most amazing and delicious “Iskander”: flavorful, tender lamb and steak overtop crunchy croutons, topped with a savory red sauce, spiked with garlic, and served alongside aromatic rice and a cooling yogurt sauce.

A week later, I found myself in possession of some leftover steak and sausages from a weekend cookout. And so the experiment began. All I have are my Snapchat photos to immortalize this delicious meal! Will 100% make again. In fact, we had it again 2 days later!

Fun fact: Iskander is Turkish for Alexander, as in “the Great.”

My Turkish Iskander Experiment

Ingredients Used

  • Leftover grilled steak and Italian sausage sliced into thin pieces
  • Olive oil and a bit of butter
  • Italian bread- a few slices cut into cubes about the size of large croutons
  • Sundries tomatoes in their oil, from a jar- 2-3 T chopped fine plus a T of their oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced into very thin slices, plus another clove minced
  • Dash of sriracha
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt, pepper, etc
  • Optional: cooked rice
  • Optional: yogurt or sour cream

MAKE TOASTY GARLIC GARNISH

Heat a bit of butter and some olive oil together in a sturdy skillet. (Cast iron for the win!) Add the slices of garlic and toast in the oil until they are at least golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to cool. When you have some downtime, toss the chopped toasted garlic with the sun dried tomatoes and some of the tomatoes’ oil. Season with salt if needed -taste it first. Set aside as garnish.

MAKE GARLICKY CROUTONS

Add the cubed bread to the flavored oil/butter and sauté until they’re crunchy and golden brown all over. You might need to add more butter and oil to the pan, and season with a little sea salt if you’d like. Remove to plates – we’ll be topping them with the meat in a second.

FLASH SAUTÉ THE MEAT

Throw the minced garlic into the pan with a little olive oil, and sauté it for a minute to release some flavor. Add the thinly sliced meat to the pan to crisp it up and heat it. I added a dollop of sriracha and some Italian seasoning at this point because why not? Once the meat is crisped, divide it among the plates, setting it atop the piles of croutons.

MOAR TOMATO!!

Dice a couple tomatoes and add to the hot pan. Cook for just a minute to release the juices and pick up some of the garlic from the pan. When you’re happy with it, split it among your plates. (You could also use some red spaghetti sauce, but it was nice fresh.)

Finally, top each serving with the sundried tomato and toasted garlic mixture.

At the restaurant, this was served alongside rice and a typical Middle Eastern yogurt/cucumber sauce. I didn’t do that, but it’s a great complement.

DONE!

I hope you run your own Iskander Experiment next time you’ve got leftover grilled meat. IT’S SO GOOD!

Recipe: Sriracha Maple Pork Chops & Sides

One pan! SRIRACHA MAPLE PORK CHOPS, CRISPY SWEET POTATO ROUNDS, and BRUSSELS SPROUTS 
– Lori’s Dinner Experiment #3627

I’m sorry it took me so long to get on the sriracha train. I was dumb. I will happily admit this as I shove another spicy-sweet bite into my mouth. This quick one-pan dinner experiment came together in about 30 minutes, and I couldn’t be happier! 

Serves 2, as written here

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.

Slice a sweet potato into rounds about half inch thick or so. Arrange on one half of sheet. Sprinkle with brown sugar, salt, pepper, fajita or chipotle seasoning, and a drop or two of sriracha sauce (each). Roast 15 min then flip before adding the pork:

Drizzle pork chops with olive oil, salt, pepper, sriracha (just a little), and maple syrup. (Chops should be lightly covered but not dripping.) Add to the sheet pan and return to oven to roast for about 25min.

Look at the beautiful brown crispiness of the potatoes (upper right) and the glazed pork (bottom left)

Meanwhile, trim ends from Brussels sprouts and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add to baking sheet – if you’re out of room, roast in separate pan or skillet for 20 minutes. During final minutes of cooking, splash with plum vinegar or lemon juice before returning to oven to finish. If you happen to have chopped, cooked bacon on hand, you could sprinkle the bacon and grated parmesan over the sprouts to take them to the next level. 

Remove pork from oven after 25 min and let rest on plate, covered. Remove sprouts before they overbake. Leave sweet potatoes until they’re darkly browned on both sides.


Lessons I learned from this experiment:

  • A little sriracha goes a long way, but if you’re careful, it’s not going to light you on fire. This is good for my heat-averse husband.
  • Don’t over-roast the Brussels sprouts. They really don’t need more than 20 minutes.
  • It’s hard to over-roast a sweet potato. They need a lot of heat over a pretty long time to be done.  I could have given them 30 minutes in the oven alone, plus 20 with the pork and brussels sprouts, and probably been happy.

Perfect Skillet Nachos

I love making a particular type of pork roast that leaves me with a couple pounds of succulent pork for sandwiches, quesadillas, and eating straight. (Plus I make a batch of beef stew* in the pot once I remove the pork- it’s mind-blowingly good!)

Making skillet nachos takes this way beyond “next level” to “the best couch movie night supper you’ve ever put in your mouth.”

Please try the pork recipe too – you could use any non-smokey shredded meat here (including chicken) but I can’t tell you enough how much we love this pork roast.

Balsamic Beer Braised Pork Roast from She Wears Many Hats (a local gal!)

Two adjustments to the pork recipe: I sear the roast in a bit of bacon drippings instead of oil, and I deglaze the pot with some cream sherry or bourbon before pouring in the braising mixture. I also think this recipe works best with a non-bitter, non-hoppy medium brown beer. A Belgian double or triple would be quite nice.

Ok, now for the nachos!

Perfect Skillet Nachos

Serves 4

  • 12″ Cast iron skillet— if you don’t have one, use anything heavy that will really hold heat and is both oven and stovetop safe
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 T butter
  • 1-2 cups pulled pork or other shredded meat
  • Tortilla chips – maybe half a bag?
  • 2-3 cups shredded cheese (we used a blend of yellow cheddar and a block of cheddar/gruyere from Trader Joe’s)
  • Jar of corn salsa, preferably Trader Joe’s (it has a nice sweetness)
  • 1 can of Rotel tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper, and fajita seasoning (to taste)
  • 1 avocado sliced OR guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Optional: salsa, hot sauce, etc

Heat butter in cast iron skillet on stovetop over medium and sauté onion (with a little salt and pepper) till lightly browned. Set onion aside and remove skillet from heat.

Preheat oven to 425

Create two layers in the skillet, each in this order: 1/3 of the chips, 1 Cup cheese, 1 Cup pork (break it up and scatter), ½ cup or so corn salsa, and half of the onions. Sprinkle with a little fajita seasoning or a bit of pepper, if desired.

Make 2 layers like that, then pour the can of Rotel over the top of the second layer.

Top with remaining chips and cheese and sprinkle with fajita seasoning. Make sure there’s a layer of cheese on top to get melty.

Place skillet in oven for 15-20 min. You want it to heat and melt all the way through without burning.

Broil on high for 1-2 min at end to brown the cheese, if needed.

Top each quadrant with avocado (or guacamole) and a dollop of sour cream. Dig in!!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Making the pork recipe? Prep ahead to make beef stew in the same pot as soon as you remove the pork. You can set it aside when done to eat the next day. The pork drippings add a depth and richness to the stew that’s unbeatable.

I do mine this way:

Remove the pork, leave all pan drippings. Return pot to stovetop over medium heat and leave oven on 350.

Toss beef cubes with 1-2T flour, salt, pepper, and favorite steak seasoning (or thyme). When pot is hot, brown beef cubes but don’t cook through. Deglaze pan with a liquid you like- I usually use either wine or sherry, about a quarter cup.

Chop onion, celery, carrots (and optional potato) and add to pot. Stir well to pull up bits on bottom of pan.

Add 4 cups beef stock and stir.

Stir in 1+ cup of pearl barley (optional) or add egg noodles about halfway through cooking (see below).

Season well with thyme, salt, pepper, etc.

Bring pot to simmer on stovetop then cover and return to oven to finish cooking. I usually check after 45 minutes to see if the beef is tender and the vegetables are cooked. If you’re doing egg noodles, wait about 20 minutes before adding them.

Cooking the stew in the oven keeps the beef really tender, and makes use of the oven heat you just spent making the pork. 😉