Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Shabbat Spice Packet Blog - Spice Packet Shnitzel, Roasted Potatoes & Grilled Zucchini

The other day I was cleaning out a kitchen cabinet that was long overdue to be cleaned and there it was.  Staring at me.  The package of pectin that I had bought last summer to make strawberry preserves from the 10,000 gallons of strawberries we had picked.  Some of you may remember from the last “Spice Packet Blog” my whole discussion about making the equivalent spice mix from scratch.  I specifically mentioned the fact that I would have to go out and buy PECTIN.  There it was.  In the cabinet.  Right in front of me.  Mocking me.  The truth is that a little voice in my head has been nagging me about the whole original spice packet blog saying “Is it that you don’t choose to make the spice mix from scratch or that you can’t”?  Well, I certainly wasn’t going to let that little voice in my head get the better of me!  To refresh your memory, this is a recipe that I got from that was supposed to be essentially an equivalent to the dried dressing mixes that you get in the salad dressing aisle.  Unless the result turned out horribly, I was determined to use the result of my efforts for my “Spice Packet Shabbat”!  (For further description of my adventures in Spice Packet Mix making see the bottom of this blog).

Golden Brown Snitchel 
For the “Spice Packet Shabbat” I was going to make a few of my family’s favorite, incredibly fast and easy recipes that use the Spice Packet mix.  Usually I purchase it from the store – I love how great it tastes and how easy it is to use.  This time I was going to try out my own personal mix – but the recipes are basically the same.  One of my all time favorite recipe is Spice Packet Shnitzel (or Snitchel as my kids call it).  It requires mixing a few cups of dried bread crumbs with a spice packet in a large “Ziplock” bag.  I then take boneless chicken breasts, and with a really sharp knife slice them in half lengthwise so you have very thin chicken cutlets.  I find this much easier than the whole “pounding the chicken until it’s really dead” concept.  It’s faster and you end up with twice the number of cutlets you started with.  A strong word of caution:  make sure you are using a pareve spice packet mix!!  You then place the thin cutlets a few at a time in the bag, seal it, and shake it until they are completely coated with the crumbs.  At this point you can either lay them out on a cookie sheet or you can pan fry them in a large skillet using non-stick vegetable spray.  Both work really well.  So simple!  So healthy! By using non-sick vegetable spray or baking the cutlets you take away all the fat and calories used when frying – and they do come out crispy when you spray the cutlets with the non-stick vegetable spray before flipping them.  Also, because they are really thin they cook pretty quickly…also a plus!

Don't Shnooker the Potatoes!
The next item to prepare for the “Spice Packet Shabbat” was Spice Packet Roasted Potatoes.  I have to make a double recipe every time I make them because by the time its time to eat the Shabbat meal most of the potatoes have mysteriously disappeared (my family doesn’t know that I’m on to them – stop shnookering the potatoes!!).  I usually use around three pounds of potatoes to one spice packet, but it’s really a personal preference.  I also don’t peel the potatoes but scrub them with a cute potato brush (Mr. Potato Brush) I bought at an outlet store (it’s the gadget thing again).   My kids can even scrub the potatoes for me with their friend Mr. Potato Brush (hooray – one less job for me!).  The skins contain a lot of nutrients, and it’s way easier to leave the skins on than to peel them!  I also usually use a bag of smaller sized potatoes, but as long as the pieces are uniform when being baked it really doesn’t matter.  My personal favorites are buttery tasting Yukon Gold, or Red potatoes.  You can also use a good Idaho, or whatever you happen to have handy.  The smaller potatoes can be cut into halves or quarters, or if you have one of those handy, made for TV, chopper/dicers (shout out to Hindy) you can even make this recipe with larger diced potatoes.  A little olive oil, spice packet, potatoes – done!  They come out of the oven golden brown, a little crispy, and soft and mushy on the inside! YUM!

Check out the grill marks!  YUM!
In the summer we grill nearly every Shabbat.  In the winter it’s a lot harder, although I have been spotted with a long down coat, hat, scarf, earmuffs, and gloves in 0° weather grilling in my backyard.  We love to grill!  When I don’t feel like braving the arctic atmosphere I pull out the new George Foreman grill.  For the “Spice Packet Shabbat” I made Spice Packet Grilled Vegetables.  One of our Shabbat staples is grilled zucchini made with olive oil and spices from the spice packet mix.  We often will add additional vegetables such as mushrooms, peppers and onions and serve them with rice.  Fast, healthy, easy, and delicious!!!

In the end, making the Spice Packet mix from scratch did take a lot of time and it tasted pretty close to the original.  The vegetable pieces were slightly more pronounced – which I considered a good thing.  My husband also thought it was a little less salty – also a good thing.  If you have a lot of time for the dehydrating process then making the mix from scratch would allow you to have a little more control over the ingredients in the mix.  After having met the challenge though I can still recommend going to the store and purchasing the ready made packets with a clear conscience. Whew!

For all the recipes below you can use 1 ounce of home made Spice Packet Mix instead of a store bought packet of Spice Packet Mix.
3-4       pounds             boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets
2          cups                 unflavored bread crumbs
1          envelope           Spice Packet Mix
                                    Nonstick vegetable spray

1          large                 “Ziplock” gallon bag
1          very sharp        knife
1          large                 skillet

Mix bread crumbs and Spice Packet mix in a large gallon size “Ziplock” bag.  Rinse cutlets under cool water.  Slice the cutlets in half lengthwise with a sharp knife.  Place five or six cutlets in the bag.  Seal and shake until all the cutlets are completely coated with bread crumbs.  Spray a large skillet with nonstick vegetable spray, turn heat to medium/high.  Place the cutlets in a single layer in the skillet and cook until the edges of the cutlets start to turn white, around 5 minutes.  Spray the cutlets with vegetable spray then flip.  Cook another 4-5 minutes until golden brown.  If the cutlets seem to be browning too quickly, turn the heat down to medium.  Cook cutlets in batches then serve warm. 

You can also bake the cutlets in a 350° F oven.  Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick vegetable spray.  Spread cutlets in a single layer on the pan. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

3          pounds             potatoes (Yukon Gold, Red, or Idaho), scrubbed and cut into 1” pieces
2          tablespoons      extra virgin olive oil
1          packet              Spice Mix
                                    Nonstick vegetable spray

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cover a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick vegetable spray.  Place potatoes in a large bowl.  Sprinkle oil over potatoes.  Mix to coat.  Sprinkle Spice Packet Mix over the potatoes, mix to evenly coat.  Spread evenly on the prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.

4          large                 zucchini, sliced diagonally into ¼ inch thick slices**
2          tablespoons      extra virgin olive oil
1          packet              Spice Mix

Preheat grill.  Place zucchini in a large bowl.  Sprinkle oil over zucchini.  Mix to coat.  Sprinkle Spice Packet Mix over the zucchini, mix to evenly coat.  Place on grill and cook on each side approximately 5 minutes.  Serve hot straight from the grill. 

** You can also use assorted vegetables cut into large chunks for this recipe such as vibrant red, green and yellow peppers, sweet onions, and mushrooms.

Getting the ingredients ready...
Now fry 'em up (don't forget to spray 'em before you flip 'em)! 
Golden brown & Yummy!!

Our friend "Mr. Potato Brush"...doesn't he have a great profile?
Getting the ingredients ready...
Adding all the ingredients...get ready to roast! 

Getting the ingredients easy even a child can do it!

It's NEVER too cold to grill!!!

I decided that if I was going to go through the effort of actually making the mix from scratch I was going to make a double recipe (which in the end didn’t take any more time than a single one).  I pulled out my two baby carrots and red bell pepper (the recipe didn’t require a whole lot of carrots or pepper), my grater, sharp knife, and I was ready to go.
The scientific side of me wanted to see exactly how long the recipe would take – so I set a timer and started the recipe.  I first grated the carrot and then chopped it.  I thought about running the carrot through the food processor, but that would have given me chunks and I needed thin, diced shavings.
It worked pretty well.  Then I used the skills that I learned from the knife skills class that I took (I really did take the class and highly recommend it) and after cutting the red pepper into a few small sections, cut away the interior whiteish part so that I had a beautiful thin red pepper.  I finely diced that also.  
I put them in the oven at a fairly low temperature (250° F) to dehydrate, and then walked away to play WII Frisbee with my daughter until the timer rang.  
The peppers were beautiful.  Little bits of red flakes – they were perfect!  The carrots were another story…I had chopped them a little too finely and they were no longer orange and didn’t resemble carrots in any way at all – dried or otherwise.   
I wasn’t going to be beaten by a carrot (although someone might try to actually beat me with a carrot at some point to get me to stop talking about dried carrots).  I started again, grated the carrots, and chopped them into slightly larger pieces.  I also set the timer for a shorter amount of time and checked them more frequently.  The result was excellent.  Good looking dried orange carrots.
Aside from the annoying part of having to do the carrots twice, the experience didn’t take too long.  Around 7 minutes for the whole chopping experience.  I then set the timer again, and added all the rest of the spices, which I happened to have in stock (you might have to actually purchase one or two of them), and the PECTIN.
Another 5 minutes later the spice mix was done!  Amazing!  The prep time for the recipe ended up being around 15 minutes, but a lot more time for the dehydrating of the vegetables.  It took even more time because I had to monitor the carrots.  I put the mix in a plastic container with a lid with the plan to try it out on my “Spice Packet Shabbat” a few days later.

Look for additional information about  Edible Experience Kosher Everyday at or on Facebook at Edible Experience by Sharon Matten.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Your Own "Food Network" Show - The Coca Cola Roast Blog

We don’t have Cable Television, i.e. we don’t have Food Network or Cooking Network.  So sad.  However, somehow I have managed to make it until this point without those particular networks as part of my everyday life.  Now, when we are away and DO have Cable access you know that it’s all Food Network all the time!  (Mom! Can we please watch something else?!) Now recently when we were away we spent a lot of time watching all our favorites. “Chopped” – where the contestants get a secret basket filled with weird combinations of ingredients and have to make a magical meal in only a few minutes.  “Cupcake Wars” – where the participants have to make all different types of exotic cupcakes with normal and unique ingredients…like fish eggs or beets (try putting those two together!).  We love watching the competition on “Iron Chef” (are they really making ice cream out of trout?), or placing bets on exactly how much butter Paula Deen will put in any given recipe.  I always manage to come away with new and fun ideas that I can apply to my own cooking and baking after a Food Network marathon.

My husband and I were having an interesting discussion this past Friday night.  We were talking about all the different cooking shows that we watched together (he humors me a lot).  He had made a fascinating observation: You never see kids on any of those cooking shows.  Ever.  Even the ones where you have husband and wife cooking teams you never see kids around.  He contrasted it to our lives.  We feel pretty blessed with our five kids (kenayna harah), but it’s always pretty crazy around here.  Our lives constantly feel like a network show - but with a few catches!  Thirty minutes before our kids come home from school we open up our “baskets” (i.e. the refrigerator and pantry) filled with weird combinations of ingredients and have to come up with a healthy and enticing dinner for our family with only 30 minutes on the clock.  It’s our own version of “Chopped”, except that usually there are additional kids around wanting our attention, the phone is ringing, and a meshulach is ringing the doorbell!  Now that is a show I’d like to see! 

In real life we can’t get chopped from the show, and can’t get sent home – we already are home and no matter what happens we are responsible for taking care of our families (regardless of whatever “creative” meals we serve them)!  And we wouldn’t have it any other way!

One of the advantages that we have is that, most of the time, we do have some ability to plan what we are going to make (the rest…Cheerios!).   When life is especially busy the key is to make things that don’t take a lot of time to make but look and taste like they do! 

When we are privileged to have a majority of our large boys home there are a few things that they all agree are a must have at the Shabbos table…one of them is beef.  When I asked one of my sons last week what I should blog about this week, I got a one word answer – beef!  Keeping with the fast to make but looks and tastes good theme, I’m making one of my all time favorite and interesting recipes – Coca Cola Roast.  Yes, it’s really make with Coke.  Truly.  What’s cool about the cola is that the carbonation actually tenderizes the meat while it’s cooking, and the sugar caramelizes which is particularly excellent.  It’s super fast to make with only a few ingredients that are easily accessible,  it’s made with vegetables (healthy!), and you can have a cold drink of cola while preparing this yummy roast!  You can even have one of your kids film you while you’re putting it together and pretend that you are on your own version of a Food Network hit show!  So fun!

4-4.5    lb.        beef roast1
3          cups     Coca Cola2
1          cup       orange juice3
1          pound   baby carrots
5          stalks    celery, sliced lengthwise and cut into 3” pieces (or more if you like)
1          cup       ketchup           
¼         cup       onion soup mix4
                        non-stick vegetable spray

1 roasting pan slightly larger and taller than the roast.
Measuring cups.

Preheat oven to 375° F (see ROASTING NOTES).  Spray the roasting pan with non-stick vegetable spray, then place roast in pan.  Pour cola over the roast.   It should reach about a third of the way up the roast.  Pour orange juice over the roast.  Arrange vegetables in the pan around the roast.  Spread ketchup evenly over the roast and then sprinkle the onion soup mix over the roast.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 375° F.  Then reduce the temperature of the oven to 350° F and bake for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes longer until the internal temperature of the roast is 170° F (see NON CONVECTION OVEN ROASTING NOTES).   Remove from oven and cool for an hour.  Refrigerate roast for 3 hours or more.  Remove from refrigerator and slice into thin slices using a long, sharp knife.  Return sliced roast back to roasting pan.  Spoon pan gravy over the slices and cover tightly.  Warm in oven5.  Serve garnished with the roasted carrots and celery.  Enjoy!!

1.      You can use your favorite type of beef roast for this recipe.  I used a chuck roast in the photos, but I have also used a top rib roast, or a Scottish Tender (my mom calls it a Scotty) with good results.  If you get a roast that is tied up, leave it tied during the roasting process.  When you are about to slice the roast gently remove the coating and set it aside.  Once the string is removed, reapply the coating with a knife or spatula before slicing.  You can also use a larger or smaller roast.  The key is to have the cola reach around 1/3 of the way up the roast, with a proportional amount of orange juice.  You want to use enough ketchup and onion soup mix to coat the top of the roast however large it is.
2.      I use the actual Coca Cola brand for this recipe.  I like the flavor and it has always worked well…if it aint broke, don’t fix it!  I also use the full sugar, caffeine free version – we don’t want anyone not being able to sleep because they had our roast!
3.      I use the extra pulp style orange juice because it give it the full orange flavor with the pulp.
4.      Around Passover time you can get onion soup mix that has more large pieces of onion and different ingredients than the version that is made during the rest of the year.  I stock up at Passover.
5.      If there is two hours before the roast has to be served I like to re-heat it on a low temperature, 200° F.  It heats the roast through, but the keeps it tender without overcooking it.  If there isn’t a lot of time, then reheat at 350° F until heated through, approximately 30 minutes.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, rule of thumb is about 15 minutes per pound. If you do have a meat thermometer, place it into the center of the roast to accurately determine the internal temperature.  A meat thermometer, digital or otherwise, is a good investment.  It will help you accurately determine the doneness of chicken, turkey and meat to avoid having it undercooked.  I have even seen cool laser thermometers (like in Star Wars) that you can actually point at the roast and “poof” you have the temperature in a nanosecond.  I love technology!

A few years ago I got a new oven.   We used to have an old GE double oven – it was probably purchased in the early 1960’s.  I’m not kidding.  I loved that oven and was really sad to see it go.  We replaced it with a higher end double wall oven that had a lot of different features.  I had no idea what to do with it.  Wanting to be able to use the oven to its full capacity, I actually took an excellent course at the manufacturer’s distributor.  It has really impacted my use of the oven.  So, if you have a conventional oven with only the bake setting use the roasting directions described above.  If you have a more advanced oven with more features here are the roasting instructions.

Set the oven to the “convection roast” setting.  Convection roast (for most ovens) will have 60% of the heat coming from the bottom of the oven and 40% of the heat coming from the top, with the convection feature circulating air throughout.  The air seals the outside of the roast early on in the roasting process, keeping moisture in the roast and helps to cook the roast evenly and keep it from shrinking.  The roast feature also helps to uniformly cook the roast because the heat is coming from the top and the bottom of the oven.  When using the “convection roast” setting reduce the oven temperature 25° F from the temperatures in the recipe above.

If your oven has a temperature probe, use it.  You stick the probe into the center of the roast with the probe going about half way into the inside of the roast.  This will allow you to have an accurate reading of the internal temperature of the roast.  This is important because temperature is what really determines whether the roast is done cooking.  When I use the probe, I generally don’t even set a timer because the time to cook will depend upon when it reaches the correct temperature rather than how long it roasts.  Set the temperature probe to 170° F.  You want to serve the roast when its internal temperature reaches 180° F.  The roast actually continues to cook once you take it out of the oven.  By taking it out at 170° F, it will reach 180° F shortly after removing it if left to sit at room temperature.  This will keep your roast from overcooking.


All the ingredients ready to go!

Roast in a slightly larger pan.

Pour over the cola.

All juiced up!