Slow Cooker Beef Brisket: Simple and Straightforward

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket: Simple and Straightforward

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket

Everyone needs a special roast recipe. It could be your favorite pot roast, rib roast or tenderloin, but I think every home cook needs a recipe where a massive piece of meat is ceremoniously pulled out of the oven and placed onto a special platter, giving you a reason to carve and serve with flair!

This is why I am sharing my tried and true Slow Cooker Beef Brisket recipe. Just imagine a plate of tender, juicy, savory slices of beef, paired with sweet onions, carrots and a delicious gravy, and you’ll know why this is one of my best and easiest recipes.

Unlike other recipes that call for barbecue or tomato sauce, my recipe is simpler and straightforward, allowing the beef’s natural flavors to shine. I use a flat cut brisket, between three to four pounds, with a nice one-inch layer of fat. A brisket of this size will serve a party easily, and is budget friendly too! If you have leftovers, sliced brisket makes for delicious sandwiches and most people think it tastes better overnight.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can prepare this in a conventional oven, going low and slow (just under 300 F). I would encourage you, however, to consider purchasing a slow cooker. The convenience factor along with the ease of cooking is really irresistible (and yes, we are having a sale on a very special slow cooker at HSN!) And, yes, before I forget, I always use a slow cooker liner. It makes clean-up so easy.

Once the brisket finishes cooking, remove it from the slow cooker and allow it to rest for a few minutes on a cutting board. Giving the meat a rest will ensure easy carving, while allowing the brisket to retain moisture and flavor. Using a sharp knife, cut against the grain (the opposite direction of the meat fibers) creating long, thin slices of delicious, tender meat. Spoon the gravy on top and serve with onions and carrots. Enjoy!

With a slow cooker, this recipe is simple, easy and delicious!

With a slow cooker, this recipe is simple, easy and delicious!

Slow Cooker Beef Brisket
Serves 4

Ingredients:

3-4 lbs. beef brisket, flat cut
2 large yellow onions, julienned
1 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup chicken stock (or water)
Ground cumin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Rinse the brisket with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Season the meat generously on both sides, using the salt, pepper and cumin.
  2. Fill the bottom of the slow cooker with the onions, carrots and garlic. Pour the melted butter and chicken stock over the vegetables, and with tongs, mix well, coating the vegetables.
  3. Place the brisket on top of the vegetables, fat side facing up. Pour the balsamic vinegar evenly over the brisket, coating well.
  4. Cover the slow cooker with the lid and cook on HIGH for six hours.
  5. When the cooking has finished, remove the brisket and allow to rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board.
  6. Stir the chopped parsley into the cooked vegetables. Taste the gravy. If desired, add more chicken stock and adjust seasonings.
  7. Slice the brisket, cutting against the grain. Remove any fat. Ladle the gravy over the meat and serve with the cooked vegetables.
Bedtime Banana and Coconut Rice Pudding

Bedtime Banana and Coconut Rice Pudding

IMAG0644

Banana and Coconut Rice Pudding

Every now and then, I fall victim to insomnia.  My mind starts racing, I toss and turn in my bed, and often, my stomach starts growling.  When things like this happen, I know enough to give in, get up and go do something.  Some nights, I’ll put on an intriguing movie to get lost in, or I’ll pick up a fascinating novel and read it cover to cover. Other nights, I go into the kitchen and start creating.  This is one of those nights.

I love tropical fruits like mangos, bananas, coconuts and pineapple.  There’s something so refreshing about biting into a juicy, sweet, chunky piece of fruit, and rich flavorful coconut milk feels like silky cream on my tongue.  This is probably why fruit is always in my refrigerator, rice can always be found in my pantry, and lately, all types of coconut products can be found in my home.

Haupia, from my Instagram feed

Haupia, from my Instagram feed

When I was a kid, my favorite desserts weren’t cookies and cupcakes, but all the Asian ones: Thai mango and sticky rice, Vietnamese che chuoi (tapioca and banana pudding), Japanese mochi (sticky rice cakes) and Hawaiian haupia (coconut gelatin).  [If you follow me on Instagram or Pinterest, you’ll see all my favorite foods and more].   Even in a restless state of mind, I remembered all of my favorite childhood desserts, raided my cupboard and threw together this easy banana and coconut rice pudding.  The result is a thick, custard-like dessert, with flavors of coconut, banana and almond to enjoy.

I used Trader Joe’s coconut milk, the kind that comes in a carton and is kept in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.  It’s less fattening than the canned milk type and cooks the rice well.  Because I love the way almond and coconut mix, I used almond extract, but vanilla will do if that’s what you have on hand.  For the rice, I use Calrose premium rice.  I like it’s chewy, thick texture, and find it similar to tapioca pearls.  The rice cooks quickly, in about 20-25 minutes, and you’ll need to stir it frequently.  Towards the end of cooking time, the pudding will thicken quite a bit, so keep your eye on the pot!

This dessert is enjoyable warm or chilled.  The aroma of cinnamon and coconut is pretty irresistible, and will offer a nice, soothing fragrance to your home.  Sweet, sweet dreams, my friends.

IMAG0640Banana & Coconut Rice Pudding
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rice, uncooked
2 cups coconut milk (beverage type)
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 banana, peeled and split lengthwise, then quartered

  1. Add the rice, coconut milk, cinnamon and almond extract to a pot over medium high heat.  Taste the milk and adjust sweetness or cinnamon as desired.  Once the mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat and allow to gently simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.
  2. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the bananas.  Continue to stir to prevent from sticking.
  3. Allow to cool, then serve warm or chilled.
Easy, Delicious, Low-Fat Veggie Dip

Easy, Delicious, Low-Fat Veggie Dip

Football season kicks off tonight (Go Skins!) and I’m excited to share my favorite dip recipe.  I’ve been making this dip for years — for housewarmings, office parties and even late night munchies.  It’s so easy and so simple, it’s quite the kitchen staple for me.  I always seem to have a container of it handy, ready to accompany my favorite cold vegetables, salty crispy chips or a platter of cheese and crackers.  The ingredients are simple: sour cream, yogurt and two types of dried soup mix.  It comes together in less than a minute, making it the easiest compliment to any tailgate, barbecue or couch potato party.

My veggie dip in bread bowl

I’ll share two secrets about this dip.  The first, is that prior to opening the soup packets, you should use a rolling pin, meat mallet, hammer or other heavy item to pulverize the soup.  You want to crush the soup mix into a fine powder, so it mixes well with the rest of the ingredients.  The other secret?  If you pair this dip with some chips, it becomes absolutely irresistible.  As any of my friends or former roommates will tell you, I have a weakness for ruffle cut potato chips.  Especially when there’s dip around.  And even more so when there’s cold beer.

Since I love sports, and I’ve been known to throw a good tailgate, I have quite a supply of recipes for wings, grilled veggies and steaks.  If there’s something you’d like to read about, just let me know in the comments below.  Happy football season, my friends!  The flavors of Fall are finally here.

Easy Veggie Dip
Yields: 2 cups

16 ounces low-fat sour cream
5 ounces low-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 envelope vegetable soup mix (I like Knorr)
1 envelope onion soup mix

Veggies like broccoli heads, baby carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and radish
Potato chips (I like Kettle Krinkle Cuts)

  1. Using a rolling pin, flatten the soup mixes so that the contents are finely crushed.
  2. Mix together the yogurt and sour cream.
  3. Add one third of the vegetable soup mix and one third of the onion soup mix to the yogurt mixture.  Stir until well combined.
  4. Adjust seasonings/soup mixes by adding more as desired.  If you are sensitive to salt or onion flavor, I suggest going slowly at first, adding just a little bit at a time until your desired taste is reached.
  5. Serve in bread bowl or on vegetable platter.
Salmon Filet with Lentils and Vegetables

Salmon Filet with Lentils and Vegetables

A salmon filet with green lentils

I love fish.  Whether it’s cod, tuna, tilapia or halibut — you name the fish and I love it.  The fish I eat the most is salmon, simply because I can’t get enough of smoked salmon.  Whether it’s on a salad, in a sandwich or with a simple drop of lemon juice, there’s something so refreshing, light and delicious about a paper thin slice of the rich pink fish.  Especially when it’s seasoned with a hint of dill or just a light sprinkling of sea salt.  It’s so delightful!

I love to make smoked salmon deviled eggs

When I eat a salmon filet, however, I want more than just the fish.  I want flavorful, tangy, savory bites, enough to last me through the entire slab of fish.  Eating a salmon steak can be extremely monotonous, especially if the fish is overcooked or poorly prepared.  My favorite way to prepare salmon is with a grainy mustard and seasoned breadcrumbs, served over sauteed spinach or a bed of hearty lentils.

There’s no fancy trick to cooking fish — it’s probably one of the easiest and quickest proteins to make.  In fact, fish is very similar to eggs, as they can be fried, baked, poached, boiled and steamed, and they are often paired with a wide variety of sides.  For salmon, I prefer to do a pan fry, as it’s simple and easy, with minimal risk of overcooking the fish.  I take my salmon medium rare, with two shades of pink to please my eye.

Salmon filet with green lentils

Salmon Filets with Lentils and Vegetables
Serves 2

Ingredients

1 cup lentils (I prefer green)
3 slices of thick, slab bacon, finely diced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, stems removed
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
Salt to taste

For the Salmon:

2 salmon filets, skin on, bones removed
4 tablespoons stone ground mustard
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and White Pepper to taste

  1. Place the lentils in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil then lower the heat and allow to simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes.  Drain the lentils.
  2. Heat a deep skillet or heavy pot over medium high heat.  Add the bacon and render the fat.  When bacon has crisped, add the onions, carrots and celery.  Stir over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the drained lentils to the bacon mixture.  Stir in the garlic and thyme and saute for 1 minute.  Add one cup of water (or chicken stock or wine) and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until lentils are soft.  Adjust seasonings to taste.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a separate fry pan over medium heat.
  5. While the pan is heating, pat dry the salmon filets with a paper towel.  Sprinkle with salt and white pepper.  Spread the mustard over the flesh of the fish (not the skin side) into an even layer.  Then press the mustard side into the breadcrumbs to create a thin crust.
  6. Add oil to the hot pan.
  7. Place salmon into hot pan, mustard side down, skin side up.  Leave un-disturbed in pan for 3-4 minutes, then flip onto skin side.  If you want your fish medium rare, it will only need a few more minutes on the skin side.  To cook your fish longer, place the pan into a hot oven (450 degrees) and bake.
  8. Serve fish over lentils.
Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza: Fresh and Easy

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza: Fresh and Easy

Bad pizza annoys me.  Processed cheese, old tomato paste, bland ingredients — yuck!  Why waste your time and money? Good pizza, on the other hand,  thrills me.  Fresh dough, rich cheese and savory ingredients — it’s the stuff food dreams are made of.

Fresh arugula meets salty prosciutto and rich cheese.

I have a preference for thin crust pizzas, as thin as a cracker, with crispy edges and a delicate middle.  When I make pizza at home, I roll the dough super thin then place it on a sizzling hot pizza pan.  The resulting crispness is just fantastic!

I happen to love a combination of hot and cold ingredients on pizza.  When hot cheese meets crisp cold arugula, smoked salmon or freshly cut pineapple, my mouth sings with intense sensation.

Below is my Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza recipe, one of my favorite casual dining dishes.  It’s light, fresh and filled with flavor.  I recommend using a super hot oven (450 degrees) and allowing your pizza stone or pan to get just as hot.  Do this and you’ll get a wonderfully crisp bottom.  Also, if you use a prepared dough, that’s fine, but I find a good pizza dough comes together easily with the help of a food processor.

Use freshly cracked seasonings at the very end, just seconds before you take your first bite.  This recipe is all about bright, light, fresh flavors — I’m sure you’ll enjoy it down to the last crumb!

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza

Pizza Dough
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup gorganzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 lbs. prosciutto, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh arugula
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

The cheese and crust become browned and bubbly

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place one rack in the lowest position in the oven.  Oil pizza stone or pan and insert in oven.

Mix the garlic and olive oil.  Roll out pizza dough into a thin circle, using a well floured surface and rolling pin.  Spread the garlic mixture over the dough.  Top garlic with mozzarella cheese, then dot the pizza with the gorganzola.  Using a pizza peel, carefully place the pizza on hot stone or pan.  Bake until cheese is browned and bubbly, approximately 9-12 minutes.

Remove pizza from oven and top with slices of prosciutto.  Add the arugula and sprinkle generously with olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Slice and serve immediately.

Thin slices of prosciutto meets the cheese

Stainless Steel Cookware: Why Every Kitchen Needs a Set

Stainless Steel Cookware: Why Every Kitchen Needs a Set

Cuisinart Contoured Stainless Steel Cookware

I’m often asked about my favorite type of cookware.  The honest answer is simply: a wide range.  My kitchen is filled with a variety of cookware, from stainless steel to cast iron enamel, non-stick aluminum to antique copper.  As someone who loves to cook all kinds of foods, the diversity in my cookware certainly reflects that!

When asked which type of cookware I use the most, the answer is stainless steel.  Stainless steel pots and pans are the workhorse of the kitchen.  They can be used to make any dish, ranging from everyday quick meals to slow cooked dinners.  Restaurants and professional kitchens are stocked to the brim with stainless steel cookware as it’s affordable, durable and most of all, easy to clean and care for.  In a home kitchen, they are light-weight, easy to use, and in most cases, dishwasher safe. 

What really defines excellent stainless steel cookware from the ordinary are three distinct features: the make-up or composition of the steel, the base of the cookware and the design of each pot and pan. 

Composition is important because steel is an alloy and will need metals such as aluminum and copper to conduct heat properly.  In addition, to make the steel “stainless” the metals chromium and nickel are added, which ensure the cookware will not scratch or rust easily.  If you hear the term “18/10” used in stainless steel cookware, this is the percentage of chromium and nickel found.  18/10 is the highest quality. 

I always inspect the base of any piece of cookware.  What I look for is an encapsulated base, a thick core of metal that tells me heat will be distributed properly.  If this type of base is missing, put down the pan and walk away.  You might as well cook on a plate.

Finally, design is important because stainless steel cookware are my “go to” pans.  Since I like making sauces, I prefer cookware that has a contoured design, which allows whisks, spatulas and wooden spoons to glide around easily.  In professional kitchens, a contoured pan is commonly referred to as a “saucier” and is used repetitively for roux, gravy, and any mother sauce.  How nice that in home kitchens, we can grab sets of cookware modeled after this one amazing pan! 

My asparagus salad with scallops and chorizo

As mentioned, I love making pan sauces, gravy and quick dressings, all of which are easy to do in a stainless steel pan.  The art of deglazing, that is, to take the drippings or leftover caramelized remains of a protein then turn it into sauce is absolutely brilliant.  Pan sauces give dishes such body, enticing flavors to dance on your tastebuds and linger on the palate.

On Saturday, you can catch me on HSN showing all kinds of saucy recipes with the Cuisinart Contour 17 piece stainless steel cookware set.  I will be pan-frying lamb chops, then deglazing my pan with champagne vinegar and fresh mint leaves (recipe below!)  I will also be making a simple fresh raspberry sauce (drizzled over french toast), a tangy tomato and olive puttanesca sauce, an asparagus salad with chorizo and scallops, and a rich and creamy chocolate ganache.

The cookware segment has been labeled as a “showstopper” because there’s no other configuration like it and the price point is unbeatable.  Not to mention, the brand Cuisinart has been trusted and loved by people (including Julia Child and James Beard) for decades.  Oh!  I’m so excited to go on-air with this cookware!

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at one of my favorite lamb chop recipes.  This comes together so quickly, it’s one of my favorite weekday dinners.  I often pair it with sides like mashed potatoes and peas.  Enjoy!

Lamb Chops with Fresh Mint Drizzle

Lamb Chops with Fresh Mint Drizzle
 
6 lamb chops, frenched
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Season the lamb with salt and pepper on both sides.  Over medium high heat, heat oil in a skillet.

Add the chops.  Allow to cook on each side, flipping only once.  2-3 minutes for medium rare, 3-4 minutes for medium.  Remove chops from skillet.

Deglaze the pan by adding the champagne vinegar, sugar and mint, picking up any brown bits left from the chops.  Let the sauce simmer for one minute, then pour over chops.  Serve immediately.