Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In the Stocks

For me making your own stock is about one thing and one thing only: gravy.

There are a ton of recipes that call for huge amounts of ingredients so that you have enough turkey stock to spare for stuffing and the like. And that's great, it really is, but since we're trying to not kill ourselves (or our pocketbook) this year we're going to stick with making just one quart. Besides, once we collect the pan juices after the turkey is done that is going to give us a little bit more delicious liquid to work with.

Oh, make sure that when you buy a turkey it has the giblets in there so you can make this wonderful concoction.

Ok, so stock is so simple that I'm at a loss for more words. Let's just get started.

I love the way the turkey neck looks in this picture. It makes it look like I'm cooking a dinosaur. Last words. Promise.
Easy Turkey Stock
Makes about 1 quart

Turkey giblets
1 1/2 quarts of low-sodium chicken stock
1 small onion
1/2 parsnip
1 carrot
1 celery stalk, leaves and all
2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of your knife
2 bay leaves
a pinch of dried thyme
a pinch of pepper

1. Make sure your vegetables are all super clean. Don't bother peeling anything and if you want cut your veggies in a couple of big chunks but there's no need to get any fancier than that.
2. Put all ingredients in a 2.5 quart pot and cook over medium-high heat. Allow stock to boil and then turn down the heat to medium.
3. Let stock boil down to about 1 quart, this will take about 2 hours or so. The more you let it boil down the less you'll have but the more wonderful and intense the flavor.
4. Strain your stock into a container and save for later. You now have liquid gold.
I guess I do have a couple of last words. Don't salt this. It's easier to control the salt at the end of the dish for which you made the stock. For example, worry about salting the gravy, not the stock. Or worry about salting the stuffing, not the stock. The end.

Cranberries Simple-Sauce

It's ok for some things to be complicated such as our taxes and modeling real estate deals. Cranberry sauce is not one of these things. It should be easy and simple and compliment the turkey not fight it for attention.

I modified the following recipe from an Alton Brown recipe that I've always really liked. It's easy, simple and so quick to make. The only thing I didn't like about Alton's recipe is the proportions. It makes a TON and unless you're feeding a your entire extended family, you're never going to need that much. Even for leftover sandwiches. So here goes.

Simple Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

1/4 cup 100% cranberry juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
1 (12oz) bag of cranberries, get rid of the icky ones

1. Heat the cranberry juice, orange juice, and honey and bring to a boil. Once it's boiling bring the heat down to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Add cranberries and let them simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. ONLY15 minutes, otherwise the sauce will start to break down and it'll get watery and bleh.
3. Take sauce off heat and smoosh a few of the cranberries with the back of a spoon (only if you want to).
4. Once sauce has cooled a bit you can put it in a mold so that you can slide it out on Thanksgiving day and cut it into pieces or you can stick it in a dish and spoon it out.

Voila! Now just don't stick your finger in it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

So It Begins....

Thanksgiving is upon us!!!

I feel like there are two important food holidays in this country. Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday. I know I should say Christmas, but I'm sorry, it's Thanksgiving. There is so much food, so much fun to be had, family and friends are around, it's not that cold, the leaves are pretty. It's awesome.

During this month the magazines at the grocery store are plastered with phrases like, "Thanksgiving? Stress No More!!" Which I thought was weird. If ever there was a time to stress over a meal it's this time. Stop stressing about regular weekday meals and start stressing about Thanksgiving, say I. It's ONE day of the year, let's all save the instant potatoes for any other Thursday and bring out the real Yukons for Thanksgiving. I mean c'mon on people, is that all our assigned day of gratitude means to you? A glob of canned cranberries? No!

Ok, let me calm down. Truth be told, I don't think any meal should be that stressful (nor do I think you should ever use instant potatoes). And to be perfectly fair I think that what those magazines are trying to get at is that "If you plan your Thanksgiving carefully, it will be stressful no more." Which (finally!) brings me to my point.

Thanksgiving planning can be fun! Thanksgiving cooking can be great with family and friends around to help! Thanksgiving is not the time to show off!!!

If you're hosting, chances are that people are coming over to be fed cozy, familiar, real things. Food can be a powerful tool in helping you let people know how much you love them. Make the mashed potatoes from scratch your husband knows and loves. Make that sweet potato casserole that always makes your sister smile. Make the stuffing you know you'll be sneaking out to eat at midnight. If ever there was a time to label a meal as "comfort food," this meal is it.

Fight it, just fight the urge to make the pumpkin souffle. Too many things can go wrong...

Really the key to a stress-free Thanksgiving is to plan early, start early and use paper plates. I have already started and in the next few days I'll be posting the things I've made in hopes that they'll be useful, if not this year, then maybe next. For now, here is Thursday's menu:

Bacon-crusted Turkey
Apple Pomegranate Green Salad
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Yam Casserole
Sausage and Herb Stuffing (gluten-free, no less)
Sauteed Kale with Roasted Veggies
Marinated Tomato Salad
Simple Cranberry Sauce

What are your Thanksgiving faves?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tacos para el Desayuno

We eat a lot of tacos around here. It's just a fact of life. When in doubt, we put stuff in a corn tortilla. Let it be noted: A CORN tortilla. Flour tortillas are ok, I guess, if you're from Texas, but there isn't anything that compares to a (properly) warm, soft, earthy corn tortilla.

While we're on the topic let's talk about how to properly heat up a corn tortilla. Ideally we would all own a comal (pictured below). A comal is a flat cast-iron pan-thing I keep on my stove at all times. It really does the best job but as a substitute you may use a dry non-stick skillet or griddle. You can put oil in there but then you start getting into different territory and we're just talking about the pure taco tortilla.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT ever microwave a tortilla, corn or otherwise. You might as well eat it from the trash. Harsh but true. You will not find mincing (haha) of words around here.

Ok, now that that's out of the way we can talk about this breakfast recipe. I'm actually loathe to call it a recipe, it's more of a breakfast idea. Still, I will walk you through how I make my eggs just in case some of you have a hard time making scrambled eggs. Don't laugh, it can be hard to make good scrambled eggs.

I'll elaborate on the wonders of Sriracha some other day. For now, just go find it in the Asian aisle.

Scrambled Egg Tacos with Bacon and Sriracha
Makes 2 tacos

2 eggs
splash of milk
oil spray (such as Pam)
3 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

1. Heat a small non-stick pan on medium heat. Lightly cover pan with oil spray. Also, heat the skillet you will be using for your tortillas
2.. Thoroughly beat eggs in a small bowl with a fork. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add a small splash of milk (I like to use milk because it will lighten your eggs without making them mushy, like water would).
3. Add eggs to heated pan and swirl around with your fork. Let them sit and cook for about 30 seconds and swirl around again. Repeat a couple more times until eggs are just barely set and springy.
4. Depending on the size of your skillet, place one or two tortillas in skillet and heat until tortillas are soft and pliable.
5. Place about half of the egg in one tortilla, then the other half in the other, sprinkle Sriracha and bacon and enjoy. There might be some leftover eggs, but that's what dogs are for.

I know that breakfasts can be a little stressful and even worse, boring, when we take into account everything else we have to do during the day. I hope this simple idea can open up your mind to many more breakfast taco variations. Please share your awesome ideas!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Aaaannnndd we're back...

...with salmon, no less. I'm a mom, no other explanation needed for my
long absence.

We eat a lot of salmon around these parts. It has become our go-to meal. Because it's fish it defrosts super fast, it cooks super fast and it's super good for you. Oh, and it is super versatile.
I forget why we even eat other things....

Let's break it down. Salmon is high in protein, omega-3s, and Vitamin D (winter food anyone?). Also, because salmon is so popular, its harvesting is a bit of a sensitive subject for the planet. Farming salmon causes a great deal of underwater deforestation which endangers other species of fish. This is the very reason that buying wild-caught salmon is the best way to go. Believe it or not super Targets carry wild-caught salmon for a good price. Go get it now.

Ok, so you have your earth-friendly-good-for-you salmon, now what?

Wicked Easy Salmon
Serves 3

3 fillets of salmon
salt and pepper to taste
Pam Oil spray

1. Spray non-stick pan with Pam. Place salmon in pan then salt and pepper to taste. Place a lid on the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Turn salmon over and continue cooking salmon with cover on pan for another 5 minutes.

Ok you've found me out. This isn't a recipe so much as a technique but it's a good one to have in your back pocket when you're in a pinch. Add any sauce whatsoever to this fish and you've got a fancy meal.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Poor Man's Cakes

I think that the best part of writing a cookbook would be coming up with awesome dish names.

This dish is a mix of a lot of different recipes. It came about because I love crab cakes but can't really afford crab, nor is good fresh crab easy to find. So I developed tuna cakes or rather tuna cakes developed themselves.

I don't know if the same holds true for crab cakes, but I've found tuna cakes to be a great vehicle for leftover things. You just chop them your leftover vegetable in little pieces (or if it's corn, not so much) and stick it in your tuna cake. I realize not everyone loves tuna, but if you are a tuna fan, this is a great inexpensive dish. If I do say so myself.

Sorry about the not-so-awesome picture, but it was this or a half-eaten one.

Tuna Cakes
Makes about 8 patties (about 2.5 in. in diameter)

1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup red pepper, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tblsp parsley, minced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 pinches cayanne pepper
half a lemon or lime, juiced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cans tuna, drained
2 cups panko bread crumbs*
canola oil

1. Heat up a little of the canola oil, about 1 tblsp, over medium-high heat in a medium non-stick pan and add the onion and red-pepper. Cook until soft. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 1 minute until garlic is fragrant a little soft. Set aside and let cool.
2. In a large bowl gently mix the parsley, dijon, mayonnaise, cayanne, lime and tuna. Add the onion/pepper mixture to their bowl. Then add 1/3 a cup of the panko crumbs. Mix gently again.
3. Place a good amount of canola oil in a non-stick pan and heat over medium heat. There should be enough oil so that the pan is easily coated and your patties don't get all blackened, but make sure they also aren't swimming in oil.
4. Place the remaining 1 2/3 cups of panko crumbs on a plate. With your hands, shape your patties so that they're between 2-3 inches in diameter and about 1/2 an inch thick. Lightly coat the patties with the panko crumbs and place in the hot oil.
5. Cook the patties for about 5 minutes or until a deep golden brown on each side. Mine got a little darker than that but they tasted perfectly fine. Repeat with all the patties and place on a plate with a paper towel to drain excess oil. And... you're set!

We usually eat these with whatever sauce is hanging around the house, more than likely salsa. Go ahead and try your own garnishes.

*Panko crumbs are Japanese style crumbs (they are used on tempura) that are starting to get easy to find. Their texture is so much more crunchy and satisfying than the regular kind. Go get them and use them on everything.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reflections with a Side of Regret

Five things I've learned from writing a food blog - so far:

1. When developing/tweaking a recipe, it is handy to have a pen and paper at the ready so that you can take notes and not get the difference between tsp and tbsp all wrong.

2. Pen and papers will combust when placed too close to the stove.

3. Do not let a toddler add salt to anything.

4. When letting a toddler "help" you cook, they will inevitably attempt to brush their teeth with a steak knife.

5. The FedEx guy carrying your husband's birthday present DOES NOT take precedent over the meat you are browning.

Learn from my mistakes, friends, learn from my mistakes.

Monday, September 5, 2011


This is a dish I remembered from my youth and the memory of it made my mouth salivate. The name of it literally means, "tomatoed." A vegetarian dish is rare in Mexican cuisine but this is a delicious and filling veggie-friendly treat. If a bit involved. Don't worry, we'll hold hands through the whole thing.

One thing to add about Mexicans is that we like our garnishes. I know, it's not enough that you already made kind of an involved dish, now you have to make garnishes for it. But trust me, the garnishes really make a dish, and you'll be left with something a little hollow if you skip them. Something to think about.

Now, there are easier ways to make this sauce (don't worry this isn't so complicated), but I wanted to layer flavors and it worked out pretty well. The sauce is supposed to be simple and just add a refreshing tomatoey flavor to the tacos.

To the tomato sauce!

Maybe someday I'll remember to take a picture BEFORE I start eating.

Enjitomatadas (Filled with Beans)
Serves 2 -with leftovers

Canola Oil
Corn tortillas
2 cans of black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 cups of chicken broth (or veggie broth)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Tomato Sauce (recipe to follow)

Crumbled Queso Fresco
Thinly sliced onion
Sour Cream

1. Start my making the beans. Heat about a tablespoon of canola oil in a 3 quart pot over medium-high heat. Sautee onions until soft and translucent then add garlic, cumin, oregano and coriander and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Add beans and broth, stir to combine all ingredients. Lower heat to medium and simmer for about 20 mins, until beans start to soften and are easy to mash with the back of a spoon.
3. Mash beans vigorously with a potato masher until fairly smooth. Sometimes when I'm lazy they don't turn out so smooth...Keep beans on the heat if you want them a little thick if not take off the heat and set aside.
4. Heat about 5 tablespoons oil in a medium non-stick pan for the tortillas on medium high heat. You want your tortillas to be coated but not dripping in oil. Check to see if oil is ready by placing a small portion of a tortilla in the oil, if it sizzles it's good to go. If not, then keep waiting.
5. With tongs carefully place a tortilla in the oil and cook for about 30 seconds or until it starts to become just golden. Then flip and repeat with other side of tortilla. Tortilla needs to still be soft in the middle but a bit crispy on the edges. It's ok. It takes practice.
6. Once your tortilla is ready, shake off the excess oil then put on a plate. Scoop a spoonful of beans onto half of your tortilla then fold tortilla in half. Repeat with as many tortillas as your beans will let you, adding more oil when necessary. We eat about 4 or 5 per person.
7. When finished with the tortilla/bean tacos cover your tacos with the Tomato Sauce and garnishes and enjoy immediately.

Tomato Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
Canola Oil
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tblsp tomato paste
1 can of tomato sauce
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 cup chicken broth (or veggie broth)
1. Heat about 1 tblsp of canola oil on medium in a small saucepan and add onion. Cook until translucent.
2. Add garlic and cook for about 30 sec then add tomato paste, cook for another 30 seconds.
3. Add chopped tomato and tomato sauce and make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan to pick up all the nice brown bits. Bring to a boil and boil for about 1-2 minutes.
4. Remove sauce from heat and place in a blender and blend until smooth.
5. Return sauce to heat then add broth, cumin and oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes then take off heat and you're ready to ladle it on top of the tortillas.

You'll have leftover sauce but with if you can make a delicious alphabet soup. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eating With Your Eyes

You know how people on the Food Network are always telling you eat with your eyes first and your mouth second? Or did I make that up?

Anyway, it's true as evidenced by my making something I saw in a movie. Come to think of it, this is the second dish I've pulled from a movie. The first being a bagel Mel Gibson mentions on the smash hit, "What Women Want."

I think everyone that saw "Julie and Julia" will agree that the bruschetta Julie makes at the beginning of the movie made all of our stomachs start to grumble - then by the end of the movie we were ready to fly to France and move into a tiny bistro kitchen and live under the fridge in the hope of getting scraps.

No need. I kind of improvised this recipe and it turned out delicious so here it is. Please, please, please make sure you're using the best and freshest ingredients you can get your hands on. This recipe is so basic that without the best summer tomatoes and real basil it's going to be just meh. Don't settle for meh-ness!

Multi-Colored Tomato Bruschetta
Serves 2 (as a side)

3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 medium orange tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 medium red tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tblsp fresh basil, chopped
Kosher Salt (Texture and taste are better than table salt) and Pepper
1 small baguette, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces

1. In a small non-stick pan heat the olive oil on low heat. Add garlic and cook on low for about a minute, just to flavor the oil. Make sure the garlic does not burn in any way, shape or form.
2. In a medium bowl put in orange tomatoes, red tomatoes and basil. Add olive oil/garlic mixture. Toss gently to coat tomatoes then add basil and toss gently again. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Cover and put mixture aside to let flavors develop.
3. Meanwhile, in the same pan that you used for olive oil, melt about a teaspoon of butter or a small slice of butter on medium high heat. Then place a few slices of bread in the butter side by side and cook until one side has browned slightly. Remember not to crowd the bread.
4. Repeat on other side of bread slices and repeat until all the bread has been toasted with butter.
5. Put tomatoes on bread and feel happy.

I really do hope this recipe delights you the way it delighted me. It's so simple, yet so satisfying and a good reminder that the best way to make a great meal is to start with incredible ingredients.

Fresh ingredients are not only delicious but all the better for you. The longer a vegetable sits in the grocery store the more nutrients it loses, not to mention flavor. If you can, shop at farmer's markets, join a CSA or even just try to buy what's local at your grocery store. Your taste buds, stomach and health will thank you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Quinoa: Magic? Or Cousin of the Tumbleweed?

Both actually. Quinoa is a wonderful grain-like thing I discovered a few years ago and I have never looked back. I call it a grain-like thing because that's exactly what it is. It's not quite a grain or a seed. And it's related to the tumbleweed. Make of that what you will.

Anyway, it turns out our friend quinoa is a superfood. It is a good source of fiber and phosphorous and it is high in iron and magnesium. It is a complete protein and has a very unique set of amino acids. It has a ton of folate (holla at my preggos!) and is gluten-free. It's pretty tasteless so you can put it in anything. It makes a fantastic gluten-free substitute to couscous. I mean, what more could you want out of a grain-like thingie?

So a few words about this salad: Brandon and I are partial to rib-eye steak but it's pretty marbled, so if you don't want to fight with the fat as you're cutting it, just get a sirloin. Or make it vegetarian by omitting the steak entirely.

Also, I do all of the seasoning on this salad at the very end when everything is on my plate and I'm about to eat it. I add olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper much like I would to a green salad. I put those ingredients on this recipe but please feel free to add your own fixins'. Different types of vinegar, steak sauces, you name it. And let me know how it goes!

Cold Steak and Quinoa Salad

Serves 4

1 cups quinoa

1 ½ cups of water

Steak - about 10 oz.

Canola Oil

1 red pepper, sliced

2 red onions, sliced

2 cups halved Cherry tomatoes

2 tblsp parsley, finely chopped

Feta cheese to taste, I like alot

Olive oil for drizzling

Red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

  1. Cook quinoa by placing it in a 3 quart(ish) pot and adding the water. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer until water evaporates and quinoa is cooked through – about 10 minutes. Quinoa should be transparent when fully cooked, unless you bought red quinoa....then it'll be maroonish. When cooked, place quinoa in a large bowl.

  2. Meanwhile, cook steak on a non-stick pan over medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Do not tent in foil, this overcooks your steak, just put steak on a plate and walk away. Once steak has cooled and rested for about 20 minutes, slice thinly perpendicular to the grain of the steak and set aside or refrigerate if you so choose.
  3. In a medium pan heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot it should move around the pan easily, like water. Once the oil is hot, place the red pepper and cook, stirringly often, until soft, but not falling apart - about 4 minutes.

  4. Once the red pepper is done remove from heat and place in the bowl with the quinoa. Return pan to heat and repeat process with the onions, adding more oil if necessary. Then add the onions to bowl containing the quinoa and the peppers.

  5. Add cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and parsley to quinoa bowl and mix gently. Spoon quinoa salad onto a plate and top with a few pieces of steak, and then drizzle with olive oil and bit of red wine vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve this cold, or at least at room temperature. The steak and the salad keep really well so please eat the leftovers. Or I will.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Poor Father-in-Law is going to get a beating on this blog. It's his own fault for not knowing the difference between a CLOVE of garlic and a HEAD of garlic. You may imagine his surprise when tasting his first attempt at salsa tasted something like skunk (garlic and skunk spray share chemicals).

CLOVE= one little segment from the head

ANYWAY, one day I was at the grocery store looking for Mexican soda and I overheard a couple discussing what kind of salsa they wanted to purchase. I stood behind them long after I had found my soda baffled at their process. "It's just salsa," I kept thinking, "just go home and make some."

There are a ton of ways to make salsa and unfortunately I don't know all of them though they are all a variation of the same ingredients. Such as these:

Can you guess what's missing? That's right. The kick. Who knows why I didn't have any chiles on hand, but it's true. For your salsa, make sure you have some.

Ok now, let's get one this straight: roasting makes everything better. Especially salsa. So before you blend all your ingredients together throw the tomato, onion and chiles on a super hot pan and let them char a little. Their flavors will deepen and sweeten and you'll be glad you took the extra step.

So now, to the blender!
Easy Every Day Salsa
1 large tomato
1/4 onion
1 CLOVE of garlic
1 small-ish sprig of cilantro
1 tblsp of salt, more to taste
1 serrano pepper for a medium salsa, then go up from there with your comfort level

  1. After roasting ingredients throw them all in a blender with a pulse button. Pulse ingredients until salsa is desired consistency. I like a watery salsa that I can pour onto my tacos.
  2. Optional Extra Step: I like to fry my salsa sometimes, just to intensify it a little more. Just pour salsa onto hot pan with about a teaspoon of oil and cook until it has thickened a bit.
Salsa is great on anything, tacos, sandwiches, tortilla chips, nachos, chicken-fried steak, chicken, pork, fish, and roasted veggies. And so much more.

Please go out and experiment with your own salsa and let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More Mistakes, This Time with Salmon

If there is one thing I love in this world it is to multitask. I get irked if more than two things are NOT happening at once and often poor Husband is on the receiving end of some very obvious multitasking advice.
"What do you mean you can't bathe Toddler and take out the trash at the same time?"
That kind of thing.

Unfortunately this philosophy blows up in my face every so often. Like the other day when I was trying to cook salmon and do laundry. An easy task barely worthy of my bodacious multitasking skill, no? No. Our laundry facilities are in the basement of the house we live in and we live on the second floor and Toddler insists I carry her but the staircase isn't wide enough to carry her and the laundry basket and it's just takes forever, explaining why it was not a good idea to put the salmon on the heat before we embarked on the laundry expedition.

What to do, what to do with overcooked salmon.

To the salad bowl!

Salmon and Cannellini Salad

Serves 4

3 small salmon steaks

2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed

1 cup red onion, chopped

3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon vinaigrette (recipe below)

Leafy Greens

  1. Spray cooking oil on non-stick pan and place salmon steaks (skin side down, if applicable) on pan. Cook 5-6 minutes and turn over and cook until salmon falls apart easily when tested with a fork (you don’t have to overcook the salmon if you don’t want to). Place on plate to cool.
  2. In a medium bowl mix beans, red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, and about ¾ of vinaigrette. Flake salmon and add to bean mix. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Place a handful of leafy greens on a plate then place the salmon/bean mix on top. Add more vinaigrette if desired. Gobble up and lick your plate.
Serve with crusty french bread. You know it's well made if it tears up the roof of your mouth.

Lemon Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

¼ cup white wine vinegar

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic, minced

¾ cups canola oil

  1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Slowly whisk canola oil into the mixture.
  2. Save in airtight container in the fridge and it should last about 2 weeks.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Staleness with a Side of Fried Rice

My favorite adventures in cooking happen when something goes wrong and then goes very deliciously right. Such was the case last week.

I like brown rice for its heartiness. White rice can become kind of mushy, I like it, but it's just kind of there - without personality or anything to say. It's the bimbo in rice class. Brown rice is like that nerdy girl that maybe doesn't go with the crowd, but you know she's always right and when she cleans up she's actually really pretty.

Ok, that went a weird direction but you get my point.

Brown rice offers more than regular rice in taste and in nutrition. As a plus it usually keeps pretty well. Sadly, due to overcooking, mine did not. The day after I made it, I went to heat it up for my lunch but when I finally bit into it, it was awful. So stale and flavorless, I spit it out. Yet, as always my mother's daughter, I couldn't let it go to waste. Luckily, I remembered watching a cooking show that said that when you make fried rice it needs to be stale so it can absorb all the liquids and flavors. Then I remembered I don't have soy sauce. Oh, well.

To the frying pan!

Fried Brown Rice with Green Things
Serves 2

5 tblsp canola oil and extra for rice

2 eggs

1 tblsp minced ginger

1 tblsp minced garlic

2 cups (more or less) day-old brown rice

1 cup frozen peas

2 tblsp chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper

  1. Heat 5 tblsp of canola oil over medium-high heat then whisk the eggs really well and add to hot oil. Eggs should immediately start to puff up. Swish around for a little bit until eggs are completely cooked, but without too many brown spots. This happens FAST so no sleeping at the wheel.
  2. Remove egg from heat, reserving some of the cooking oil in the pan, and place egg on a plate with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  3. Add about a tablespoon of oil and lower heat to medium. Add garlic and ginger and cook for about a minute until soft and fragrant. Add brown rice and stir to coat with oil.
  4. Add frozen peas and cook just until rice and peas have heated through. Take off the heat and add cilantro and egg then salt and pepper to taste.
This makes a great side dish or midnight snack. So go forth and ruin some rice.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Camera Hog and Mango Chop 101

Did you know that mango is the most consumed fruit in the world? It's true.

Now that you're ready to jump on the mango band wagon, as promised, here is a guide for cutting a mango, salad style. Don't mind Toddler in the background. She's just washing dishes. No big.
I've got a ripe Champagne mango here. Make sure you wash your mango before you begin. Stand up mango and hold firmly. Start at the top and gently pierce through the skin of the mango and make an incision down one side and repeat until you have four incisions dividing your mango equally. I like to use a small knife for this part.
Now grab one of the sides and slowly and gently pull down to reveal the delicious juicy flesh. Repeat with all four sides.
Now stand your mango again and hold it firmly. Feel the mango bone with your fingers then run your knife as close to the bone as possible so you can get the most amount of flesh. Repeat with the other thick side. This is where it gets messy but it's ok because in the end you can just lick your fingers. Also, not real clear what Toddler is doing here.
Now turn mango sideways and do the same with the skinny sides. Cut off any remaining flesh.
For as long as I can remember, I've put produce stickers on my arm while cooking. Not sure why.
Cut the long way, then the short way into a rough chop...
Ta-dah! Salad ready mango. Now go put into something like this:
Also pictured: spinach, cucumber, tomato. Serve with left-over dressing from last mango recipe.

Go forth and experiment with this amazing fruit.

Oh, and a special shout-out to Toddler for doing the dishes. This blog would not be possible without all the love, support and free time you supply me with. Thank you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

On Being Mexican and Eating Mango

Being Mexican is the best for a lot of reasons but the main one, you guessed it, is the food. It is unfortunate that most people end their lives without tasting real Mexican food. Their only references are Taco Bell and Cafe Rio. Hey, I like $.89 tacos as much as the next girl, just don't try to call it Mexican food.

We have so many wondrous dishes. Pozole, caldo de pollo, mole, mole de hoya, coctel de camaron, tamales (pozole, chicken soup, mole, beef stew, shrimp cocktail, tamales - respectively). Some are rich and decadent, some are light and subtle. Some keep you warm in the winter, others refresh you in the summer. A few even cure hangovers.

We also eat lots of mangoes. In a lot of forms. Mango water (English speakers would say juice, except it's not strictly juice. It's complicated.), mango ice-cream, mango lollipops and my favorite mango with lime and salt and chili powder. The latter is a street food, gloriously found in LA. Or you can just make it yourself as the ingredients are mango, lime, salt and chili powder. In fact, we eat virtually every fruit and vegetable this way.

You can imagine my surprise when, after going online to find further mango inspiration, I find a recipe for a mango salad that calls for mango, jicama, lime, salt. I'm sorry, but where I come from that's called being Mexican. Let's start working on some real recipes, Food Network. Thankfully, I found another mango salad recipe that ended up being delicious and not quite so obvious.

Some mango knowledge: Mangoes are high in Vitamin C. They keep quite well in the fridge (unpeeled). And to know when a mango is ripe just squeeze it gently. It should have a tiny bit of give. Too much means too ripe (or bruised) too little means it still needs a bit to ripen. Just bring it home and put it on a counter and it'll ripen in a couple of days. Then you can stick it in the fridge. Your mango should be sweet and delicious when you cut into it. And a little messy. Come to think of it, I should have done a mango peeling and cutting tutorial. I'll just make that my next post.

Ok, I got the following dressing from Epicurious.com and made the salad from things that live in my fridge.

Shout out to Father-in-Law, who fixed this pic for me.
Mango Salad
Serves 4 with a bit of leftovers (trust me, you'll want leftovers)

2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 firm ripe mangoes, cut into cubes
1 large tomato, cut into cubes
4 green onions, chopped (green parts and all)
1/2 cup of sprouts (optional, duh, it's not like any of these ingredients are holding a gun to your head)
1/3 fresh cilantro leaves

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl then slowly pour the oil while beating well with a fork or whisk to emulsify the mixture. Combine salad ingredients, pour the dressing and enjoy enormously.

You can buy sprouts at most supermarkets or you can grow them yourself. Blog post about that to come.

Ok now, if this doesn't say summer, what does?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Choppin' Broccoli (or Onions)

A bit ago Father-in-Law wondered out loud to me how professional chefs chop an onion. This got me thinking, "How DO professional chefs chop an onion? And why is this secret knowledge?" I feel like not telling us how to really chop things is how professional chefs keep us ignorant and going to their restaurants. I know how to chop an onion and I still eat out. Why the insecurity, Chefs? We're all just eaters.

Anyhoo, let us break the bands of ignorance and arm ourselves with the knowledge of the onion chop.

First things first. Get yourself a proper knife and a proper cutting board. Make sure your knife is sharp. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but a sharp knife is safer than a dull knife, not to mention easier to work with. Also, make sure it has a smooth edge, not a serrated one. There is a time and place for a serrated edge but chopping vegetables is not it. Make sure your cutting board is either wood or plastic. Prolypropylene is the plastic you want. It's softer so it'll keep your knife sharp and your wrists in good repair. If when you chop, your cutting board makes a clackity-clack noise, get rid of it immediately. Not only does it kill your knife but it kills your wrists and hands. I think that's it...

1. Grab your onion and stand it up. Then cut through the root.

2. Cut end off, practically at the tip. Don't cut the root off because that's going to help you keep the onion together later.

This is a good time to peel your onion.

3. With a flat palm hold your onion down as you cut across it horizontally. Stop when you get close to the root. Starting towards the bottom of the onion, do this 2 or 3 times depending on how big you want your end product to be. And make sure you still have all your fingers.

4. Holding your onion firmly from the sides (so it doesn't fall apart on you) cut across vertically 5 or 6 times. Obviously cut all the way down, just make sure you're getting close to, but NOT cutting off, the root. And keep your fingers out of the way.

5. Wrap your hand firmly around your onion. I usually put the heel of my hand close to the root and curl my fingers. This protects my finger tips and also gives my knife a guide as to where it is supposed to go. Notice it is my first set of knuckles, not my fingertips, that are close to the knife. PLEASE watch your thumb. Make sure it is curled in as well, otherwise you will cut part of it off and then you'll have to start over because no one wants to eat a bloody onion.

We're chopping, we're chopping... True story: The guy who designed my knife is named Ken Onion, no joke.

6. When you get close to the root you can call it quits and move on or you can flip it 90 degrees so it's flat on it's side then repeat the vertical slicing 5-6 times.

7. And we finish by cutting across.

Yay! Knowledge is power. Once you get the hang of this, chopping onions will go by super fast making your favorite dishes, like guacamole, will be a quick reality. Practice makes perfect so go out and chop onions.

Let me know how it goes or if I can research some more chopping techniques for you guys (or guy? I don't know how many readers I have). Also, sorry if the pictures look backwards, I'm left-handed.

Chop safe!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Super Soup

An empty fridge is the mother of all invention. The other day I was circling my kitchen, as I tend to do when I don't have an immediate task, trying to figure out what to make for dinner. It was a Saturday and I was bitter that a. I had to cook and b. the fridge was pretty close to empty.

I eventually stopped pacing and decided to take another look to see what was laying around. Here is what I found: cabbage and barley and stock. To the soup pot!

Cabbage and barley have been hailed as superfoods. A term that I believe to be overused, but nonetheless flattering for my two main ingredients. Cabbage is pretty much a cancer reverser, filled with antioxidants and a good helping of Folate and Vitamins C. Barley, among its other accolades, is a fiber powerhouse. Not only is that good for our digestive health, but also for our heart health, or haven't you been watching the Quaker Oats ads?

I must confess that cabbage and barley are not the only two things that went into the soup so I feel this is a good opportunity to get preachy and say that one should always have onions, garlic, celery and carrots around. This is the basis for an innumerable amount of soups and other dishes. Plus, they are quite healthy in their own right.

One last thing, Toddler really liked this, I just put some in the Magic Bullet so cut up some of the bigger pieces.

Cabbage and Barley Soup with Fennel

Serves 4(ish) as a main dish

2 tblsp olive oil*
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup barley (most common is pearl, but any will do)
6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth**
1.5 tsp fennel seeds
2 cups (Half a head) cabbage, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp parsley chopped

In a medium to large pot heat olive oil. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until vegetables soften. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add barley and stir to coat with oil. Add broth and fennel seeds. Simmer uncovered for about 40 min or until barley is cooked through. Add cabbage and continue cooking for 4 minutes (if cooked much longer cabbage will start losing a lot of its nutrients). Salt, pepper and parsley to taste.

Sorry I don't have a picture, we ate it all.

*Carnivore note: instead of using olive oil chop up some bacon cook it and use the fat renderings to cook the veggies, then proceed with the recipe.
**Vegetarian note: Go for it. Substitute chicken for vegetable stock.

Enjoy! Let me know how it goes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Finger Foods with Pan-Roasted Carrots

Sometimes I forget that I'm the parent and thus responsible for teaching manners. Today was one of those days. It's just so hard to think when I'm hungry. Toddler and I ate our entire meal with our fingers. We had roast chicken (purchased, ask me if I feel guilty), steamed green beans and pan-roasted carrots. I really don't see where a fork even fits in.

Ok, now, let me honor the carrot for a few brief moments.
Fact: The Dutch developed the orange carrot. Helps to understand their national color.
Fact: Carrots are chock-full of Vitamin A (as are all red/orange veggies), made up mostly of beta-carotene. These are high in anti-oxidants and maintain skin cells.
Fact: Carrots will in fact help you maintain eye-health and restore it if it has gone downhill.
Fact: Eating raw carrots only gives you 3% of their nutrients. Eating cooked carrots gives you 33%.
Fact: Eating enough carrots will turn you orange, not necessarily useful unless you want to be nice and tan before your vacation. If you want to tan more easily drink carrot juice before heading out into the sun. True story.

I usually don't like cooked carrots because they are typically overcooked and all their sugars have turned bitter. Bleh. However, this Barefoot Contessa recipe is so simple yet so right. I have tweaked the cooking method, from oven to stove-top, to fit the time frame of a normal human too poor to live in the Hamptons.

The high heat in the recipe allows the sugars on the outside of the carrots to caramelize and keep the middle still in tact. I usually go a little heavy on the salt because I feel that brings out the sweetness in the carrots. Cooking them in batches makes it so the carrots have room to actually caramelize, if you put them all in together they would just crowd each other and steam - unless you have a really big pan. Also, don't stir too much, allow the carrots to get those delicious charred marks, if you stand in front of the stove poking at the carrots, that won't happen.

Pan Roasted Carrots
Serves 2.5 (depending how much you like carrots)

8 medium carrots, thinly sliced on a bias
1-2 tblsp vegetable or canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tblsp of oil in non-stick pan on high heat. Oil should be enough to easily cover the bottom of the pan, but not have your carrots swimming in it. Add half the carrots and stir to coat with oil. Add salt and pepper. Cook carrots on high for 4-5 min or until they begin char at the edges.
If needed add more oil to your pan and throw in the second batch of carrots.

Presto! Super quick, vegan, gluten-free, and good for you - what more could you want?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Bacon Sauce and a side of Thoughts

I was reading a cookbook by a famous-ish cookbook author today and at the introduction of the appetizer section she writes, "I try to approach every meal as if it were a celebration..."
"Really?" I thought, "This doesn't get exhausting for you?"
Ugh, that sounds like the worst. I love planning menus, but "approaching every meal like a celebration" just makes for an over-tired mom and a wife that won't put out. Not a win-win.

Instead, I approach cooking calmly and collectedly and like someone who doesn't have a housekeeper. On Sunday night I make a loose menu for the week, on Monday go shopping and make sure my fridge and pantry are stocked, and every day I assess: How much time do I have? What will trick my toddler into eating vegetables? What sounds delicious?

Sometimes I time-splurge and make gnocchi from scratch while leaving everything else, toddler excluded, unattended. But give me a break, that only works when the stars align. Most of time I rely on my bag of tricks and make something that is quick and covers most of the food groups.

Last Monday this more or less fit both:

Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Bacon Sauce*
(Disclaimer: I got the idea to put bacon in the sauce from a friend. Please no one sue me.)

Serves 2.5

1.5 lbs of any frozen cheese ravioli (I used Kirkland), cooked according to instructions on package

6 strips of low-sodium bacon, roughly chopped
1 tblsp (good, if you can) olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Two medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tblsp parsley
Pepper to taste

Add bacon to a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Cook for 4-8 min or until bacon is barely crispy and has rendered its fat. Add olive oil and garlic, cook for 30 seconds until fragrant then turn off burner and add tomatoes (make sure you get the juices from the tomatoes) along with parsley. Add pepper to taste.

Drain the ravioli, put in a medium bowl then pour tomato bacon sauce over it, toss and serve.

*Do not, I repeat, DO NOT salt this without tasting it first. Even if you use low-sodium bacon, this dish is plenty salty as is. You've been warned.

Serve this at room temperature with a green salad and it makes a very nice summer dinner. If you're vegetarian you might want to try tofu bacon or substituting bacon altogether for deeply caramelized onions (recipe below). If you choose the onion option, you are allowed to salt the sauce a bit.

Enjoy! Let me know how it goes.

Caramelized Onions
4 tblsp butter
1 tblsp olive oil
2 medium white or yellow onions, preferably Walla Walla or Vidalia, thinly sliced
2 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt

Note: Non-stick pans will work but cast iron or stainless steel are preferable for the delicious browning.

Melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, sugar and salt. Occasionally stir, scraping up brown bits. Cook until onions are a deep golden color. This may take a while, about 20-30 min. Just throw these on the stove first and then make the rest of the meal. Make sure you taste for salt at the end, adjusting little by little.