Lamb Curry with Potatoes

As cold as it is in Chicago in winter, there are some advantages to living in a place colder than a meat locker. One of my favorite sights is a winter sunrise on a shatteringly cold, clear morning. Sunday was just such a morning, and I raced out of bed and into my coat just in time to catch the last of the perfect golden sunrise. The sun shimmering on the wall of ice in front of our building was just stunning.

I think that our cold, gray winters are a gift to introverts like me. I don’t mind winter all that much, even on the extremely cold days – I know how to stay warm (thanks to LL Bean), and there’s a beauty to the snowy winter landscape – especially living on the Lake. The many moods of the Lake are beautiful to watch, and none more beautiful to me than when the ice rolls in from far out in the lake, and the water comes crashing up against the ice berm that forms on the beach. As the waves slap the ice, the water sprays high into the air and the sound of the crashing ice against waves is the best bedtime lullabye.

Without good weather and sunshine every day, I don’t feel guilty for wanting to curl up with a good book and cup of tea to spend an afternoon on the couch. The social calendar slows down as the weather grows cold and allows me to recharge my social batteries…and sometimes that means spending a quiet morning making the perfect lamb curry.

This curry requires quite a few steps, but the final product is so worth it – this curry has the depth of flavor I’ve only tasted in Indian Restaurants. I learned from Sabera that the secret to a truly authentic curry is to make your own curry paste…and she’s right. The time it takes to stir the spices, onions and tomatoes to develop the curry paste is what makes a flavorful gravy for the final dish. I tried to keep the calorie count under control by minimizing the amount of oil used, and eliminating the dairy in the recipe – it doesn’t need it anyway. Give this curry a try next time you want to spend a morning meditating at the stove.

Lamb Curry with Potatoes
Serves 5

2 1/2 cups yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1″ pieces
1 lb lamb stew, trimmed of most fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 onions – one grated (or blitzed in the food processor), one sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 T fresh grated ginger
2.5 T safflower oil, divided
1 14oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
2 T tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
4 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 jalepeno, seeded and sliced
kosher salt to taste
cilantro for garnish
serve over brown rice

  1. In a mortar and pestle, combine the mustard seeds, cardamom and cumin. Bash the spices around a bit to create a coarse grind. Pick out the husks of the cardamom pods and set the spice mixture aside.
  2. Preheat the broiler and set a sheet pan in the oven while it preheats. Peel and cube the potatoes into bite sized pieces. Place the potatoes in a small mixing bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon of safflower oil and a sprinkle of salt. When the broiler is preheated, remove the sheet pan from the oven and spray lightly with oil. Spread the potatoes onto the pan in one layer and broil for 6-7 minutes to par-cook the potatoes – they should not be cooked all the way through, just get a head start on cooking, and the quick roast will help them keep their shape instead of getting water-logged. After 6-7 minutes under the broiler, remove the potatoes and set aside. While the potatoes cook, sear the meat.
  3. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. While it’s heating, sprinkle the cubed lamb with a bit of salt. Add 1 T of the safflower oil to the pot, and when it’s shimmering, add about half of the meat to the pot in one layer – don’t crowd the meat. Sear for 2 minutes without stirring, then turn the meat pieces and sear for 1 more minute on the other side. Remove the lamb from the pot and set aside in a bowl. Add the last half of the meat and sear on both sides, then set the meat aside.
  4. Keep the pot on medium heat, and remaining tablespoon of oil and grated onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, and allowing the onions to turn golden and begin to caramelize. Next, add the tomato paste, jalepenos, garam masala, mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, black pepper and garlic. Stir for a minute until fragrant. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and stir. Allow the mixture to cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally – the mixture will cook down into a thick, flavorful paste.
  5. After cooking the curry paste, add the chicken stock, sliced onion, lamb and potatoes. Stir to combine. Cover the pot and simmer on low for 30-45 minutes, until lamb and potatoes are tender. Season with salt as needed. Serve over brown rice and garnish with cilantro.

383 cal per 1 1/4 cup, 130 cal from fat, 14.8g fat, 90mg cholesterol, 400mg sodium, 780mg potassium, 31g carb, 3g fiber, 8g sugars, 31.3g protein

Italian Wedding Soup

I had never made meatballs until today. Crazy, right?! Meatballs have never been very enticing to me – an odd fact, since I love sausage. The idea of the grocery store meatball with loads of crappy filler and little flavor is not my idea of cuisine. But, I’m learning to love the humble meatball. Mark’s family made a special batch of their family’s famed Swedish Meatballs for me at Christmas. I’d never even tried these particular meatballs because of the gluten in them, and never really felt like I was missing out. I was wrong. The meatballs were heaven, swimming in a savory gravy.

This week, while I was perusing my favorite food inspiration site, Tastespotting, I saw a couple of recipes for Italian Wedding Soup. I’d never heard of it before, but the recipes featured homemade meatballs swimming in broth. I was intrigued, so I gave it a shot this morning.

The meatballs on their own are well worth making and not that much trouble. I baked them, not having the patience to saute them in several batches, as I had other things to prep in the kitchen. I would definitely make the meatballs for pasta sauce another time. I didn’t have gluten-free bread crumbs on hand (I rarely have GF bread around at all), so I threw a few Ener-G gluten free onion crackers in the mini-prep and whizzed them into submission – it worked perfectly for the meatballs. If you want to cut the calorie load a bit, you could certainly use all turkey sausage for the meatballs – I just happen to love pork. I also cut the finished meatballs into quarters, so that you’d get more bites of beautiful sausage in every bowl.

Once you’ve got the meatballs made, the rest of the soup is a snap, and follows the standard soup operating procedure – saute mire poix, add broth and spices, then simmer. The finished soup is amazing – hearty and spicy and a little like a hot and sour soup. The addition of the dill to the broth adds an almost sour note, but it really works in combination with the red pepper flakes.

Italian Wedding Soup
Serves 6

2 links Hot Italian sausage, pork (about 8oz)
2 links Hot Italian sausage, turkey(about 8oz)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T parsley, minced
1/4 cup gluten-free bread crumbs (I used pulverized GF cracker crumbs)
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 with the convection setting on. If you don’t have convection, set it to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Remove the casings from the sausages and place the meat in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with your hands until combined. Now, shape the meatballs. Use a scant tablespoon of meat for each meatball, and shape them into balls with your hands. Place the formed meatballs on the prepped sheet tray, about 2 inches apart from each other. When you’ve finished making the meatballs, bake them for 25 minutes, then remove them from the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes, then store in the fridge while you make the soup.

1 onion, diced
1 cup carrot, diced
2 cups diced red potatoes, skin on
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups homemade chicken stock
1 T dried dill
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 T parsley, minced
1 bunch rainbow chard, washed, ribs removed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
Meatballs, sliced into quarters

  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add 1 T olive oil, then saute the onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, 1/4 tsp salt and red pepper flakes for about 5-6 minutes, until the onion is translucent and softened. Add the dill, garlic and black pepper and stir for another minute, until you smell the garlic.
  2. Add the chicken stock and potatoes and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, until the carrots and potatoes are tender. Taste the soup, and adjust the seasonings – adding more salt, pepper or red pepper flakes if it needs it.
  3. Just before you’re ready to serve, add the rainbow chard and parsley to the pot, stirring the greens in gently. Allow them to cook for 2 minutes, then add in the quartered meatballs. Cook for 2 more minutes, then dish up the soup.

341 cal/bowl, 160cal from fat, 17g fat, 85mg cholesterol, 1080mg sodium, 470mg potassium, 39g carbs, 3g fiber, 9g sugars, 20g protein

Bill’s Potato Salad

Mark and I have returned from a wonderful week of camping with all of our friends in Tofte, Minnesota. This was our second year camping at Bill & Colleen’s place, and it has become our favorite week of the year. The beauty of the mountainous Northwoods, overlooking sparkling Lake Superior make the busyness of city life melt away, and Bill & Colleen’s incredible hospitality make for a very relaxing vacation.

A week offline in the woods with friends felt both like a much longer break than a week, and as if it went by in a heartbeat. For me, visiting with Bill & Colleen is an amazing respite, as they really understand how to cook safely for me, and go out of their way to ensure that all of the meals they cook are gluten-free, which is an incredible gift. Bill also has some severe food allergies, so they really “get” how to prepare meals without contaminating them for either of us.

One of our group’s favorite dishes by Bill is his potato salad. I was lucky enough to be hanging around the screen house when Bill was making his signature potato salad this year, so I watched his technique closely so that I could replicate the salad when I got home. One of Bill’s secrets is the simple cooking of the potatoes – he uses red, waxy potatoes, and boils them whole for 10 minutes, then lets them rest in the hot water for 30 minutes to finish cooking. This technique produced perfectly cooked, firm potatoes, with no water-logging. The dressing is pretty traditional and studded with liberal amounts of celery seed to really bring out the celery flavor. Bill & Colleen also serve the salad with a jar of celery seed at the table to sprinkle on more seeds if desired. I deviated from Bill’s recipe just a bit by omitting the pickle relish (didn’t have any), and spiking the dressing with some finely minced garlic and lemon juice.

Potato Salad
serves 6-8 as a side dish

2lbs red potatoes
1 1/2 cups diced celery
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 T celery seed
1/2 cup mayo
juice of half a lemon
2 T brown mustard (I like Gulden’s)
1 1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
salt & lots of pepper to taste

  1. Scrub the potatoes, leaving the skins on. Place the potatoes in a big pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the potatoes sit in the hot water, covered for 30 minutes. Then, pour the potatoes into a colander to cool. Once cool, rub the skins off with a towel and dice the potatoes into bite-size chunks.
  2. Making the dressing:
    Combine the mayo, celery seed, lemon juice, worchestershire, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust flavorings as needed.
  3. Place the cubed taters and diced celery in a large mixing bowl. Pour the dressing overtop, and gently mix to coat the veg in the dressing. Stash the finished salad in the fridge for few hours before serving so the flavors can meld. Add more celery seed before serving.

Hedgehog Potatoes

Okay, I’m finally back with the recipe for the gorgeous potatoes that were peeking out behind the lamburgers last week. Hedgehog potatoes have been popping up on food blogs all over, so it was really only a matter of time before I hopped on the bandwagon, too. They are so elegant looking, with the thin slices of potato fanning out just a tad, allowing the taters to crisp just a little while roasting. I packed a little extra flavor into my hedgehogs, by tossing the sliced garlic with chipotle puree, and then sliding in the slivers of spicy garlic between each leaf of the potato. These are pretty simple to make, and we loved the extra kick of the chipotle on the roasted potatoes. Mark declared that I could make these potatoes anytime, so I think they were a success!

Hedgehog Potatoes

a few smallish roasting potatoes (I like Nichol’s Farm’s German Butterball potatoes)
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 1/2 T chipotle puree
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the sliced garlic, oil, salt and chipotle puree in a small bowl and stir to coat the garlic. Scrub the potatoes and then dry them with a towel. With a paring knife, slice the potatoes all the way across and about 3/4 of the way through the potato, every 1/4 inch – you want the potatoes to hold together. When the potatoes are all sliced, slip a chipotle covered sliver of garlic between each leaf of the potatoes, so that the flavor can infuse the potatoes as they roast. If you have any leftover garlic or puree, rub it on the outside of the potatoes. Sprinkle the tops of the potatoes with a bit more kosher salt before you pop them in the oven.
  2. Place the sliced and stuffed potatoes in a baking dish and cover with foil. Roast covered for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil, and roast for another 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through, and beginning to brown just a bit. Serve, and watch them disappear!

Basil Vinaigrette Potato Salad

Glutenfree Girl posted a recipe for potato salad in May that I have been craving ever since. To say that I’ve been craving potato salad is a big deal. I have never been an eater of potato salad – even passing up my mom’s, which seems to disappear at any summer gathering. But when my favorite German Butterball potatoes showed up at the farmer’s market this week along with the first giant bouquets of basil…I just had to take the plunge and give this salad a try. I’m not going to post the recipe for this one, as you really should just go read Shauna’s post, as I cannot match her beautiful words or photos.

I didn’t have morels or asparagus to add to the salad, as both of those have now passed out of season here. I switched out her Walla Walla onions (local to Seattle), for our own local spring onions and green garlic. I served the finished salad to friends on our balcony on a perfect summer evening, and there were second helpings all-around. I had a tiny bit leftover, which I tossed with some leftover roasted chicken to take for dinner at Relay For Life on Friday night. I also had about 3/4 cup of the vinaigrette leftover as well, which we’ll enjoy on salads this week.

Chipotle Grilled Chops & Roasted Potatoes

Talking to my mom last night, she requested that I stop talking about ice cream all the time. I explained to her that after blogging 10-15 recipes for 7 months straight, I’m feeling a little tapped out on inspiration, and ice cream is easy. I’m always inspired to make ice cream. Who doesn’t like ice cream (besides my mom)?!

Thinking up new things to make for dinner during my busiest season at work has been a challenge. I’ve been sticking to easy stuff, and things I’ve already posted about…we all get in kitchen ruts – even food bloggers. Ask Alicia – she posted so brilliantly the other day about creative burnout in the kitchen, with a hilarious post about “hippie chow.” I love hippie chow, and am a big fan of “stuff over brown rice.” Alicia’s blog, Bread and Honey, is also one of my very favorite reads, and her photos are gorgeous.

I got home from work today and I had some pork chops from our farm share thawing in the fridge for dinner. I was going to make a nice salad to go with it, but since summer still seems not to have arrived in Chicago and it’s been cold and raining for days, I decided that roasted potatoes were on the menu in lieu of salad. I was also feeling too lazy to chop up a bunch of herbs to roast with the potatoes, so I went for my go-to flavoring when life seems dull – the tub of chipotle puree.

I really love chipotles, maybe not as much as my chef-crush Bobby Flay, but I do enjoy their smoky flavor and gentle heat. I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to really spicy food, but chipotles are just right, and have a great flavor. Do yourself a favor and pick up a can of Chipotles in Adobo at the grocery store, puree it, and store it in the fridge – it’ll keep for a couple months, and you can use a spoonful whenever the mood strikes. A couple spoons of chipotle puree slathered on some brined chops, and another healthy dollop tossed with the potatoes made for a mighty tasty dinner.

Chipotle Grilled Chops & Roasted Potatoes
Serves 2

2 pork chops, about an inch thick
2 quarts water
1/3 cup kosher salt

Chipotle Puree to taste

  1. Fill a large bowl with the water, add the salt and stir to dissolve. Place the chops in the water and let them brine for 30-60 minutes on the counter. When you’re ready to grill, take the chops out of the water, rinse them off quickly and pat dry with paper towel. Slather the chops on both sides with some chipotle puree.
  2. Grill the chops for 4 minutes on each side on a pre-heated grill, and serve with the roasted potatoes.
  3. Taking the time to brine the chops will help keep them moist when you grill them, as well as seasoning them all the way through.

Chipotle Roasted Potatoes
Serves 2

2 medium potatoes (I used my favorite German Butterball taters from Nichols’ Farm)
1 carrot
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 T chipotle puree

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Scrub the potatoes and carrot. Cut the taters and carrot into bite-sized cubes, and toss into a bowl. Sprinkle the potatoes with some salt, add the minced garlic, plop in some chipotle puree and toss to coat. Spray a sheet tray with oil, add the potatoes and roast for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through. Serve with grilled chops.

Warming up: Lamb & Root Veggie Stew

Trudging home from the train in the cold rain and fierce Chicago wind, I decided that this evening was calling for a Serious dinner plan. Soup just wouldn’t cut it tonight. By the time I got home, the cold and wet had seeped into my bones in a way that only a hearty stew could cure.

Inspired by the beautiful lamb post on Gluten-free Girl yesterday, I pulled a packet of lamb stew meat out of the freezer and decided to improvise a lamb stew. I had plenty of root veggies in the crisper to choose from, a bottle of red wine, and some fresh rosemary…all the makings of a simple stew. A few minutes of chopping and searing, and then I was free to let the stew bubble away while I took the dog out for a soggy walk. An hour and a half later, we sat down to a delicious bowl of stew and glasses of red wine.

Lamb & Root Vegetable Stew
Serves 3

9 Weight Watchers Points per serving

12 oz lamb stew meat, cubed, trimmed of fat
1 Tb olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, cubed
2 sprigs rosemary
3/4 cup red wine
2 cups cubed potatoes
1 cup cubed carrots
1 cup chicken stock
1 14oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Heat a 3qt dutch oven on the stove over medium heat for a few minutes. Season the cubed lamb with salt and pepper. Add half of the lamb in one layer and sear for 2 minutes on each side. Remove lamb and set aside, then add remaining lamb to the pot and sear.
  2. Remove remaining lamb from the pot and set aside. Add 1 T olive oil to the pot, then add the garlic and onion, and saute, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. After 2 minutes, add the red wine and rosemary, and cook for another minute or two.
  3. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, lamb, tomatoes, potatoes and carrots. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for an hour, stirring occasionally. After an hour, remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium, and reduce the liquid in the stew until it becomes a delicious red gravy, about 20 minutes. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Chop up a handful of parsley, and stir in at the last moment, then dish it up.

Herb-Roasted Roots & Chicken

I know I just posted a root veggie recipe yesterday, but what can I say?! Not only do I love the delicious tubers, but we are really trying to clean out the crisper, as we get our first BIG monthly winter farm share tomorrow, so we need all the fridge space we can get. And that means eating more roots. Its a tough life, I know.

So tonight we enjoyed one of my very favorite meals – herb roasted root veggies and a half-roast chicken with perfectly crisp skin…this is perfect late fall fare, if you ask me.

Roasted Roots & Chicken
Serves 3

1 serving chicken = 4 Weight Watchers Points
1 cup roasted roots = 3 Weight Watchers Points

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots, peeled and cubed
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 T fresh rosemary, minced
2 T fresh thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 half chicken, about 1 1/2lb

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mince garlic, rosemary, thyme. Combine herbs, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add 1 T of the olive oil, and mix to make an herby paste.
  3. Peel the sweet potatoes and carrots, chop into 1″ cubes. Chop potatoes into 1″ cubes (I leave the skin on), and combine the veg in a large bowl. Mix. Add remaining 1 Tb of olive oil to veggies, along with half of the herb mixture. Stir well, making sure all the veg get some oil and herb paste on them. Spread veg on an oiled, rimmed cookie sheet, making sure that all the veggies lay in one later.
  4. Put veg in the preheated oven, and set a timer for 30 minutes. Stir after 30 minutes.
  5. While the veg cook, dress the chicken. Cut a 1″ slit in the skin between thigh and leg, pushing your fingers under the skin, and sweep around leg/thigh area to separate the skin from the meat. Insert half of the remaining herb mixture under the skin, and run your fingers along the outside of the skin to spread the herbs out on the meat evenly. Repeat the same procedure for the breast, with the remaining spoonful of herb mixture. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with a bit of salt & pepper for extra seasoning.
  6. When the veg timer goes off, remove sheet pan from oven, stir veg, and replace in oven on lower middle shelf.
  7. Place chicken on a small cookie sheet or pie platter, and pop it in the oven, placing the chicken on the middle shelf. Set timer for 35 minutes.
  8. When the timer goes off, remove chicken from oven, and check for doneness. Set the chicken aside on the counter to rest for a few minutes. Give the veg one last stir.
  9. Slice the chicken for serving, remove veg from oven, and enjoy the chicken and veg.

Root Vegetable Hash

I came home this evening, thinking that dinner was to be a simple omelet, but in the middle of my workout on the elliptical, I had a better idea – root vegetable hash. I had some leftover boiled new potatoes from the channa masala I made on Saturday night, and plenty of carrots and parsnips lingering in the crisper. Add to that a little garlic, onion and bacon, and you have a very simple, delicious hash. Top it with two perfectly over-easy eggs – heaven.

Root Vegetable Hash

Serves 2
(11.5 Weight Watchers Points)

2 cups leftover boiled new potatoes, cubed
1 cup grated raw parsnips (2 medium parsnips)
1 cup grated raw carrot (1 large carrot)
1 cup sliced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme & rosemary, minced
3 slices bacon chopped
1 Tb butter
salt & pepper to taste
4 eggs

  1. Saute bacon in large non-stick pan over medium heat. When semi-crisp, drain bacon on paper towel and set aside. Leave 1Tb bacon grease in pan and add 1Tb butter and melt butter.
  2. With the pan still on medium heat, add potatoes, onion, grated carrot and parsnips to pan. Stir to coat with butter/grease mixture. Let cook for 5 minutes, stir. Add reserved bacon, garlic and minced herbs, stir, cook for another 5 minutes and stir again. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Let cook until vegetables begin to caramelize, then turn off burner, leaving the pan on the burner to keep warm while you cook the eggs.
  3. Heat 2 small non-stick pans, and spray with cooking oil. Crack 2 eggs in each pan, cook them however you like, and serve over the finished hash.