This is a blog for people to discuss what they are eating. There is a theory that by journaling eating habits, people will eat healthier. I am trying to cook more at home and feed my family a wider variety of foods. People can just read or join as co-authors. Topics don't have to be recipes with nice photos. You can write about eating habits, special diets, culinary cultural differences, etc.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

SKW's Mac-n-Cheese

This was the main dish for our supper on Monday night:

Very Good Mac n Cheese
1 pound whole grain elbow macaroni
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup 1% milk
1 cup Fat-free half & half
2 eggs
2 T olive oil or butter
1 T Hot sauce
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook elbows to al dente, drain and pour into baking dish (13x9in.)
In 2 qt. saucepan, beat eggs, mix in remaining ingredients, except cheese.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken. Stir in the grated cheese, a little bit at a time, until it is all melted (reserve a handful for topping).
Pour this sauce over the noodles in the baking dish and shake gently to settle.
Sprinkle reserved cheese over the top.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Serve with a side salad or fresh fruit like apples or melon, something that goes good with cheese. Okay... if you insist, you can serve a bit of meat with this... pork chops go nicely.

Before going in the oven.

I know that mac n cheese is not considered a "healthy" meal, but I think I have made this just about as healthy as it can be made (and still have a good texture and flavor). Mac n cheese is a "comfort food", and it should be comforting. This one has the classic flavor of the dish many of us remember from childhood with a lot of the fat cut out of it. I still would not recommend eating this all the time, but once in a while... oh yeah. :-)

Out of the oven and into my tummy...

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lunch Box Adventures

As I recall, a little while back Carol asked what kind of things I packed for Pete's lunches.

This is it (for tomorrow, anyway):

This box contains:
Green onions
Cucumber slices
Broccoli florets
Tomato wedges
Celery sticks
Parmesan cheese
Cheddar cheese
Monterrey Jack cheese
Swiss cheese

He has whole wheat crackers and some sauces to dip the veggies in at work. He also gets a bowl of fresh blackberries with sugar and fat-free half and half. (now that's an oxymoron for ya)

And me? I had this for supper tonight:

This would be a chicken breast baked in olive oil with herbs (lemon zest, basil, oregano, tarragon, garlic) then sprinkled with crumbled feta cheese and fresh lemon juice. And oh yeah, I had a couple of store bought whole grain pita breads too. Yes... it sure looks like I didn't have any veggies, but that would be incorrect. I had a salad before hand as well as a bowl of blackberries afterwards (no sugar or cream required for mine). All was quite yummy.

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Bacon Cheddar Spread

Time to clog your arteries and enjoy it at the same time. Great for people on a low carb diet but moderation is the key. This is good by itself, spread on a baked chicken breast (right before it's done and stick back in the oven) or baked potato. Don't freak about the strawberry preserves - looks like a dark glob in the picture but believe, um, good. People at my work, especially the men, go nuts for this.

You can cook a package of bacon but it's so much easier to use precooked. Doesn't make your house smell like bacon either.

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 jar real bacon bits (Hormel works great)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Mayonnaise to bind everything together
Strawberry preserves
Wheat Thins

Combine first four ingredients in large bowl. Refrigerate for a while to let the flavors blend together. Serve on Wheat Thins with a dab of strawberry preserves on top.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Everything I cook looks Asian...

Pam commented a while back that everything Asian she cooked turns out tasty but not quite Asian enough. I have the reverse problem. Everything I cook LOOKS Asian.

Exhibit #1: Swedish meatballs, chicken and mushroom in a sour cream sauce over butter noodles. Steamed veggies and a mug of milk. Separating the veggies on another plate helped a little. Still, it looks like Singaporean fried noodles to me. (Yes, my new dinnerware. Cheap but cute!)

Exhibition #2: Now this definitely does not look Mexican! Having the chopsticks doesn't help matters. But this is in fact, a quesedilla party. We had plain and spicy versions of beef and chicken, sauteed onions and green peppers, bottled salsa and chunky guacamole. (Avocado wasn't ripe!) We had the hot plate right at the table.

We also had veggie sticks with two kinds of dip and potato galettes (potato pancakes.) Later, I made chicken wings with Lousiana hot sauce and barbeque sauce. And an apple/peach cobbler. No one really liked the cobbler! Hiro's best friend said the cake mix made it taste artificial, too American. LOL At our last party, we served it hot with ice cream and brandy and it was a big hit....
For dinner, I made rice balls, broccoli with beef and chicken in oyster sauce and sauteed komatsuna (Japanese spinach). Too dang tired by then to take pix.
Still, everything except the cobbler was a huge hit!!! Lots of fun but that was a lot of cooking in one day!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Am I The Only One Who Thinks This Is Good?

Top chefs push Obama to improve food policy

Regardless of your politics, promoting healthier, more natural foods has got to be a good thing. I hope it turns out that his popularity will promote better food. I hope his policies will promote more small "family" farms so more people have access to good, fresh foods.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

another version

Last week, Tricia and I were talking about fake crabcakes. We decided we'd each try our version over the weekend and report back. Tricia's turned out a lot better. My recipe is as follows, modified to fix the stuff I screwed up. It was almost like making pancakes: you inevitably screw up the first few and the rest turn out okay.

2 medium yellow squash, grated, drained and squeezed of as much liquid as possible
1 beaten egg
1 big squirt of mayonnaise
1 small squirt of yellow mustard
2-3 slices soft white bread, torn into small pieces (this is flexible, but be sure not to use too much)
Old Bay seasoning to taste

Combine ingredients and put in freezer for 15 minutes or so to let the mixture tighten up. Hope there isn't too much liquid, and add another 1/2 slice of torn bread if there is. Form into small cakes and fry slowly in a small amount of hot oil until deep brown. Don't hurry this part or the cakes WILL fall apart and/or absorb a lot of oil.

You'll never mistake it for a real crabcake, but its very good on its own. I think almost any of the summer squashes would work. I'd like to try this recipe with spaghetti squash someday, provided somebody else roasts the thing and gets the flesh out:-)

Poor Man's Crab Cakes

This came from Paula Deen's January/February 2009 magazine so it's not original to me. You can't beat real crab cakes but this comes close. Take a bite, close your eyes and let the faint taste of Old Bay seasoning fool your taste buds. Probably will add more Old Bay next time for for right now, I'm going to enjoy these for dinner.

Sorry the top picture is a little fuzzy, it's not your eyes and don't adjust your glasses.

1 1/2 sups shredded zucchini squeezed dry (about 1 large)

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

2 T grated onion

2 T all-purpose flour

1 T mayonnaise

1 t Old Bay seasoning

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Vegetable oil for frying

Garnish: sour cream, sliced cherry tomatoes

In a large bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients. Add eggs, stirring to combine. Shape mixture into small patties (about 10 per batch).

In a large skillet, pour enough oil to make a thin layer in bottom of skillet. Heat over medium-high heat. Cook patties in hot oil (has to be hot or crab cakes will soak up the oil), in batches if necessary, for about 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Garnish with sour cream and tomatoes, if desired. Serve immediately.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cooking with love heals

Just want to share this story. Since I am not a morning person and my husband is, he has made breakfast for the kids for many years. As anyone who's ever cooked for my children know, it's a thankless task.

Anyways, he was furious at them for not eating -- two days in a row -- the meals he woke up at the break of dawn to make. He boycotted breakfast today. They had bananas and cereal by themselves. He slept in.

So I knew we needed a seriously healing meal. I made Holly's breakfast burritos with Reina. It was a filling and delicious meal for all. Everyone laughed and joked after eating it.

Hiroshi wanted to go out to eat but ordering different choices would not just emphasize our differences. I felt if we cooked and ate the same things together, we would unify as a family. Corny I know, but a true story.

So thanks Holly and everyone who has contributed here. Hope some of you have reaped benefits as well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another Cream Soup

If you put these things together...

1 pound beef smoked sausage, cubed
3 medium potatoes, cubed
1/2 a large yellow onion, diced small
1/2 a large (or one small) jalapeno pepper, deseeded, minced
2 stalks celery, diced small
1 carrot, grated or diced small
1/2 sweet/tart red apple, such as Gala or Braeburn, grated
1 quart water or chicken stock
1/4 cup blond roux
1 1/2 cup milk (I use 1% but you use whatever you have)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

... like this...

Brown the sausage in a tad of oil in a deep pot or dutch oven. When it just begins to brown, put in the onions, jalapeno, celery, carrot, and apple. When the onion and celery begin to get translucent add the water or stock and the potatoes. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat and let simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.
While the potatoes cook make the roux in a small sauce pan. Let it cool in the pan until the potatoes are done.
When the potatoes are done, add the milk to the roux, a little bit at a time until it makes a thin slurry. Stirring constantly pour this slurry into the pot with the sausage and potatoes. Cook over med-lo heat until the broth is thickened to your liking. Finish with the black pepper. get this...

Serve with a nice green salad and some crusty bread.


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A Treasure Beyond Rubies... part 2

My bulk flour and spice cupboard

I keep the extra, or (backup) stuff in here. Along with my wok and my handy dandy little stick mixer and candy molds. I usually order my Chinese and Indian items from a place on-line called I Shop Indian which offers free shipping if you purchase over a certain dollar amount of stuff. Therefore, I usually end up purchasing a great deal at a time from them. Besides they often times have great deals on Basmati rice, like purchase one get two free, or buy one get one.

This cupboard is a little free standing cabinet at the backside of my U shaped counter, behind the sink. I keep my onions, apples, potatoes, garlic, etc., in baskets atop it. Inside you will find assorted packages of dal, or beans, peas, and lentils. Whole Wheat Roti Flour, Turmeric, Paprika, lemon powder, Garum Masala, extra hot chili powder, coconut powder (which needs to be kept out of the light... All sorts of wonderful things that my dear hubby would just as soon I not spend money on, but poo on him. I do it anyway. Me and Thomas LOVE Indian, Middle Eastern, West Indian, cuisines.

So... what do you do when you run out of cupboard space?

You put up some shelves in the dining room, of course. You never use it to eat in anyway. Why not extend the kitchen stuff into this room? tehehe....

These shelves contain such wonderful things as bulk dried fruits and nuts. Chocolate chips, and cooking chocolate. Light and Dark brown sugar, powdered sugar, powdered flavorings for candy making. Rice, Flours, seeds, candies, cookies, chips, noodles, dried mushrooms of all sorts, spring roll wrappers, sea weed sheets... Cereal grains, such as barley, oats, wheat berries, amaranth... As well as my bulk teas. Red Rose, Peach, and Jasmine green, in the big boxes there. Citrus and some more expensive (make you think you died and went to heaven) Jasmine green tea that I only have on special occasions and that I'm almost out of so I'm nursing it along until I need to purchase more of everything. I get it on-line from Stash Tea cause I buy in bulk, but if I don't hurry up and run out of Peach, I may have to break down and purchase a small box at the Earth Fare. They carry it, but they charge about twice the price of buying it direct! *ahem... sorry about that... :-)

So... I hope you enjoyed this little sojourn inside my soul. You must understand that this short journey does not include my pantry. That's a whole other continent, that I may take you exploring in at some other time.

My joy, my comfort, my "safe place" is cooking. When I am in my kitchen preparing food I am beautiful. I am whatever I want to be at that moment. I can go places, I can meet people, I can live any fantasy I please when I am cooking. I love to feed people. If I could, I would feed the whole entire world. Food is love, is happy memories, is sexy, is sensual, is security, is comfort... Food encompasses, engages, all the senses. Yes... all of them. You can smell the aroma, you can see the golden crust, you can feel the crunch of the breading, you can taste the flavor of the spices and the chicken, but before any of that... you hear the sound of it frying in the pan. So... that about covers it, no?

A Treasure Beyond Rubies... part 1

... which is saying something, since rubies are my most favorite of jewels. As well as being my birthstone. (hint, hint hubby dear)

But more than rubies, a thing I love best, and am most proud of, is my stock of spices, herbs, seasonings, and ingredients for cooking, baking, candy making, etc., and my ability to use them. I cannot claim to have the largest store, or the most diverse, but I have more than many households find necessary.

I suppose that most folks would find it funny, but more than clothes, more than jewelry, more than a fancy house or car, having a well stocked larder gives me an intense feeling of well being, satisfaction, security. It comforts me to look around my kitchen, peruse my "stuff". I am proud of my ability to feed those I love a tasty meal. To know that for today and the foreseeable future we are not likely to go hungry. Funny that, the fear of going hungry. I never went hungry in my life, that I can remember. Even when I was a child and my mom cooked something I didn't like there was the peanut butter and jelly option. But the fear of being hungry has been with me all my life.

You know, when we were growing up, sometimes we would play that game that all poor, barefoot kids playing in the Florida sand play: "what would you do if you had all the money in the world?" Some would say they would buy this or that car, this or that kind of giant house or mansion. Some would say they would travel, or buy any amount of whatever they thought would make them happy. And yes, I think having some of that would be neat. But my idea of being rich has always been to have enough money to purchase the food I want to eat, not just the food I can afford to eat. So... I guess, thanks to my husband who provides for us, I am, by my standards, wealthy.

On that note... let's begin a scenic journey through the land of my treasures:

Main spice cupboard,
containing my most used, or everyday, spices and herbs.

Top shelf, left: Indian spices (mostly)

Top Shelf, right: Indian and bulk spices and herbs. Some OTC indigestion remedies.

Bottom Shelf, left: Everyday items like Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Fennel, Tarragon, etc. Mostly the "European" type items or perhaps I should say Western European and Mediterranean items.

Bottom Shelf, right: Baking or "Sweet" spices like cardamom, mace, cream of tartar. Flavorings such as vanilla, lemon, orange, etc. This is also where I keep the Rolaids, the headache tablets, etc. Don't ask me why, I've always just kept that stuff in the spice cupboard. I know... normal people keep that stuff in the medicine cabinet... in the bathroom. I've just never cared for the idea of keeping something I'm going to put in my mouth in the room where that kind of business is taken care of. If I'm going to ingest it, keep it where the other ingestibles are kept, right?

Bottom Shelf, middle: items that can be used for either savory or sweet dishes. Items such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg...

This cupboard is located to the right of my stove on the same wall.

Secondary everyday use cupboard

This cupboard contains items that I might or might not use every day but do use frequently. Items such as flavored vinegars of different types, brown sugar, honey, sun dried tomatoes, baking powder, yeast, bouillon, corn starch... cocoa powder, some teas and small amounts of dried fruits that I might use for flavoring a dish.
It is located to the right of my stove at a 90 degree angle from the main spice cupboard.

These cupboards are where I keep my most used items or items that my man uses when he cooks. I want to say here and now that I AM NOT responsible for that nasty Emeril crap that is in the top most picture. Was way overpriced, tastes like... ugh... nasty, and I never use it. The man doesn't either but if I throw it away he will bitch, so I don't.

I love these cupboards. They give me comfort, in a way, because I know that I can always put together something that tastes nice as long as they are kept well stocked. I rarely let myself run out of anything kept in these cupboards. I know them intimately. Know where every single item is without having to look (unless hubby dear has been messing in my business). I know what everything is by where it is, the shape of the bottle, the color of the cap... The man always gets mad if I don't label something before I put it up. My feeling is this... he ought to keep his mitts off my stuff! Seriously. I hate it when he cooks. Not because he's a bad cook, usually. He just doesn't have a "feel" for it. He has to follow a recipe, he has to look at labels, he has NO natural intuition about what flavors go with what, or what flavors go together to make a pleasing whole. And he absolutely refuses to put the things back exactly where he got them from! That ticks me off the worse, I think. He doesn't seem to have any concept of: "if you put the basil back where you got it from... ta da! That bottle will have basil in it the next time you pick it up from that spot!". And then it won't matter if the bottle is labeled or not. Amazing how that works, isn't it? And besides... if you can't tell basil from oregano by the look, or at least the smell... you really shouldn't be using either of them, no?

I realize that my stuff isn't alphabetized, it isn't in any particular order. It IS where it is, and I know where that is. For instance... the Tarragon goes to the left of the Oregano. The Juniper Berries are in the left most corner and the whole nutmeg goes just to the right of that. (don't ask, the whole nutmeg is on the left with the savory spices, the already ground nutmeg is in the middle with the rest of the dual purpose items). I TOLD you it didn't make sense. But it works for me and that's all that matters. If you don't like my filing system, stay out of my kitchen! :)

It seems to me, after reading back over the above statements that yes, I do resent my husband getting into my cupboards, using my stove, disarranging my stuff. Its MY stuff. My little treasures. My precious jewels. Its not just a silly little bottle of Rosemary leaves. No indeed. That's a little piece of me, of my soul! When you disarrange my bottles you are disarranging bits of me. When my stuff isn't where I left it, where I expect it to be, it tilts me totally off kilter. I feel off balance. Like finding out someone has been pawing through your handbag without your permission. Worse... like someone disarranged your underwear drawer while you were away at work. How would that make you feel? Disturbed, I've no doubt.

Therefore, having him in my kitchen disturbs me. I don't feel like he shows my belongings the proper respect. He hasn't bothered to get to know them, learn about them, get a feeling for them, fall in love with them, as they deserve. He also makes me feel like he wants to compete with me in cooking. And that makes me feel like he thinks I'm an inadequate cook. I know I'm more than adequate, but he makes me feel like he thinks he could do a better job than me. Silly, I guess. But he's so damned picky, I know that a lot of times he doesn't really enjoy what I cook. When I know its a perfectly executed meal. Sometimes I think he does that just to make me feel bad. Cooking is the one thing I know I am good at. So... when he wants to be the "Lord and Master" he knows he can hurt me by belittling my skills. I don't even know if he understands how much damage his stupid casual macho cruelty does to my psyche. Making me feel like I can't provide a decent meal, a better than decent meal, for my loved ones... it would hurt me a lot less if he criticised my looks, my weight, my face, whatever. But he doesn't. The one thing he's chosen to hurt me over is my kitchen skills. When I was growing up, we were poor folks,but we ate well. Well, that's a whole other blog post, that I will perhaps let out at some later time...

Anyway... That's my bit about other folks being in my kitchen. Even my son, who is only now becoming more interested in cooking something other than a pop tart :) shows more respect to my stuff. If he doesn't know, he asks. He takes the time to sniff the jars, bottles and bags of stuff. He watches what I do, what spices I use together with what foods and with each other. He shows care. And when he takes something out of my spice cupboard... He puts it back in the same exact place he got it from! I think he has potential. That makes me extremely, inordinately happy. How blessed to be a parent who's child understands what it is that makes you happy. And shares your joy in it. Funny thing for mother and son to have in common, I suppose, but ... I know he probably won't ever want a job in the culinary arts but... if he can just find the joy and satisfaction of cooking within himself, at least he won't ever go hungry for lack of knowing how to make a really terrific omelet, or a good comfort casserole like mac & cheese.

To be continued...

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Obento: The Japanese art of leftover lunches

Looks mighty good considering it's mostly leftovers. I love Japanese food containers because they can make everything look so appeal, even last night's dinner. The picture on the left is rice sprinkled with shiso which is like a tangy plum leaf, dried and salted. On the right is some komatsuna, like a spinach, sauteed with tiny fish and fish flakes. The middle is pork sausages. The very end is cucumber and cheese wedges. I lost points for not including one cherry tomato in it to balance out the color scheme.

My mom and sister see me making them and they thought I must love doing it. I don't.Some mom take obento making very seriously. I don't. But my son went to a Japanese preschool and the school takes lunches very seriously so balanced, brightly presented meals was ingrained in me.
Still when an American mom whose son was in Reina's class said to me "Every time he says a cute bento he says 'It's like something Reina would have'. " Wow. Did that ever make my day.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of obento because I like my meals warm, even sandwiches I liked heated. But my kids do. And even though it's leftovers, my kids seem to like Mommy lunches.

This is Reina's lunch bag. Has an extra pocket for snacks too.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Easy Taco Soup

This soup is what I make when the weather is cold, things are hectic and comfort food is needed. Also, it's just plain good and very quick to make. The sodium content looks high but remember this is for the full recipe. If it's a concern, use reduced sodium broth, tomatoes and corn. You can also drain and rinse the beans. For this particular one, I used pinto beans.
It's also a good vegetarian soup. Omit the meat and it's still very tasty. Need a little heat? Add a small can of chilies. The combinations are endless.

Easy Taco Soup

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can corn

1 can beans (pinto, kidney, black)

2 cans chicken broth

1 package taco seasoning

1 pound ground beef (used bison for this one)

Brown ground beef in a large pan. Drain. Add remaining ingredients (don't drain cans). Heat thoroughly.

Nutritional information (for the entire pot of soup)

Calories 1843

Fat 16.5

Carbohydrates 103

Protein 130.5

Sodium 9090

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Banana Walnut Muffins

I was staring at these 3 tired old bananas, and thought I'd use 'em up tout de suite.  I found an old banana bread recipe, but didn't really want to do a big old loaf so I made it for muffins instead, with a few modifications...

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (though you could use all-purpose)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (the original recipe calls for 1 cup but I just didn't want to use that much)
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (I think I could have added more)
  • pinch of salt

If you're doing the loaf, it calls for baking it at 325 degrees for 1 hour, but I baked it at 25 minutes in a muffin tin and they turned out well!  It was a fairly thick batter, but I think it's because I was just doing it in one bowl and was adding the ingredients as I went along.    When I make this again, I think that I'll change the sequence to : bananas, sugar, butter, eggs, cinnamon, soda, vanilla, salt then the flour!  Then I won't work so hard to incorporate everything!  
Just had a  muffin with some yummy red roiboos tea with milk.  They go really well together!

Getting rid of leftovers...

I never said I made a healthy dinner ... LOL
With the holidays over I did notice one thing.. there was a LOT of food in our apartment... people would bring things over.. or we'd order pizza or something. So that big Wegman's trip almost went to waste. Granted some things are freezer friendly (chicken, steak, fish, seafood (what I call it when it's not fish.. so things like scallops and shrimp), frozen veggies.. duh.., shredded cheese, etc.) so.. I figured.. okay.. I don't have anything planned for tonight.. so dangit I'm going to get rid of it all.. So I go in there and start looking.. I must have looked like a mad woman because hubby hit the deck.. (quietly asked if I needed help but just ran to the living room to hide in a game so he wouldn't get yelled at if he got in my way.. I guess I was pretty determined)..

This is what a plantain looks like when it's out of it's husk thingie.. (so the before and after.. )

Anywho.. I noticed a couple things I HAD to make or it would grow sentient and start to crawl out.. okay.. checking.. Broccoli.. Everyone.. please.. if I can have a moment of silence for the broccoli? ............. R.I.P. Broccoli.. that's why it was on sale.. /sigh.. went bad too fast.. I HATE wasting food.. I'm so sorry.. off it goes into the trash.. okay brussels sprouts.. (sorry Chaki...) still hanging in.. resilient mofo's.. okay that's going today.. got my veggie.. Oooooh plantains are maturing quickly.. one is almost turning black.. ooooh that's going to taste good.. better stuffed with something but I have no patience today.. I'm doing tostones dangit.. er.. hmm.. I managed to clear everything else beforehand so it's all like breads and stuff and the lettuce is hanging in just nicely :D Good girl! Go me!

This is what the plantain looks like when you chop off the sides.

I figured I can make chicken.. I have boned chicken and boneless chicken.. both frozen.. oh I'm too lazy.. ooooh I have some panko breadcrumbs. Alright.. fry fest it is.. Anyway.. doing 3 different dishes all with different cooking times is going to be a pain in the arse.. soooo happy hubby is here for backup.. and away from me so I don't burn myself.. .. .. as much... (only 4 burns.. small ones.. from jumping oil... must get better fry shield.. Anyway.. plantains are going to be worst so I'm doing that first while I boil water to boil the solidly frozen 4 pieces of chicken (these are thighs.. so the drum stick and the thigh portion that I separated, bagged in 2 portions and froze when I bought it in the family pack).

Food of the gods I tell you.. Plantains cut in thick pieces to be fried for the first time.

If you notice the color on the outside of the plantain these are maturing so the inside of the plantain is actually much sweeter and softer (not like bananas though.. those are uber sweet and squishy at this stage..).. if they go black they are difficult to fry crispy.. but still uber delicious :) By the time I take them out of the outer husk thing.. not sure what that outside thing is called.. checking. hang on.. they are calling it layers while the inside is the shoot? Bah.. outside hard thing.. soft inside thingie.. that works for me.. anyway.. by the time I took out the outside thing.. I cut it along one side with a butter knife (this should be sharp enough) and split open with your fingers. The more mature they are the harder it is to get them off in one clean shot.. I guess since it's softer it tends to stick more to the inside lining. With unripe plantains I can actually peel it off in one shot like a pro.. today.. I used force.. LOL It broke in a lot of stages and I just had to scrape off what was still hanging on to dear life. And for the love of God don't eat the outside stuff.. that's there to protect the inside.. oy.. I don't even want to think about how bitter it would be to eat it..

Second stage already done - they are drying.. can you tell hubby's been watching a lot of Alton?

I'm not sure if I bored you with the details on how you make these .. you know.. if you want to know I'll tell ya.. I think I already did.. twice fried.. squish between.. yeah something about how I'm writing this is totally giving me deja vu.. Anyway.. at this point I'm already frying BOTH the plantains AND the chicken.. and of course I think I sense disaster.. oh.. I started steaming the brussels sprouts.. That's easy.. turn on steamer.. walk away..

Fried chicken - Panko bread crumbs. A little oiler than usual though..

Again at this point I realize I'm waaaaaaaaay over my head.. I mean I did the Holly and committed to it but I did the mistake of doing too much fried.. I should have gone with instinct and stewed the chicken or something.. the oil temperatures were totally different. Different pans for each.. both on electric stoves.. I HATE ELECTRIC STOVES.. and both going on at different times and had to be babysat.. Hubby came in and helped after a couple expletives in Spanish were strewn about the kitchen (Yes dear.. cursing in Spanish is still cursing.. LOL)..

These came out well except first batch that was a little greasy but overall I enjoyed this.. which is good.. because we have a lot of leftovers LOL

The problem was because I was overwhelmed .. I mean nothing burned.. far from it.. I lowered the temperature which is a Huuuuuuuuuge no no in frying.. that makes the food totally soak up the oil.. The biggest problem was the chicken. Right now as I'm typing this I feel the oil sitting on my stomach.. (sorry.. ). If I kept it at the temperature I would have been fine.. but I panicked and lowered it so I can concentrate on the plantains.. by the time hubby took over the damage was done and it soaked up a lot of oil. Didn't realize it until we ate it all.

These Brussels sprouts (didn't know brussels in this word had a s in it.. stupid wiki.. now I have to type it correctly..) came out perfect :D

Meanwhile the only semi nutritious thing was the sprouts.. and even then I slathered it in butter and mozzarella cheese :) mwahahhahahahahha .. ehem.. that was awesome! Oh! Forgot to add that the tostones I cook always has a dipping sauce (wait for it I can almost hear Holly heaving.. wait.. and Tricia too..) I make a dip that's made with mayonnaise (I only use Miracle whip.. sorry Tricia..) and ketchup with a clove or 2 of garlic. Even people squeamish about it taste it together and wonder wtf.. I can eat it with or without but hubby really likes it too (and he's not a mayo person) so I make it all the time. It's friggin' easy too.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Fun With Leftovers

I had a wonderful New Year's Day meal. Now I have all these fabulous leftovers to do something with... Day after New Year's Day I made the stir fried rice and ham thing.

On Jan. 3rd, I made this potato leek soup with bits of the leftover ham in it. It is delicious. I did this one a tad different than I usually make it. Potato Leek soup being a family favorite, I make it fairly often. As often as I find good looking leeks to make it with. :)

See all those yummy bits of leeks in that thick, rich broth? Made with no milk. This time I made a roux from the leftover oil that I sauteed the leeks in. Then I cooked the potatoes in water and mixed the two together with some chunks of ham. I actually ended up using too much roux, because now the leftover soup is too thick. Have to thin it with milk when I reheat it. No matter, its good anyway.

See? There is ham in there. I told you so.

The finished product, garnished with french fried leeks. Just cause they are wonderful, it is not necessary. The ham isn't actually necessary, either. But it was there, and I have to use it all up. No room in the freezer for leftovers... gotta get eaten now.

For those of you who would like an actual recipe... I'll do my best:

1 large, fresh leek, cleaned and chopped for sauteing
4-6 white potatoes, roughly chopped
water or vegetable broth

White roux
1/4 cup oil or fat, I used about half and half olive oil and bacon fat
1/2 or a taddy more all purpose flour

Roux is very simple to make. It's the using of it that sometimes gets folks in
trouble. You can't go wrong if you put your roux in a separate pan or bowl and
slowly stir in enough hot liquid (from your cooked potatoes, in this case)
to form a very loose paste, you can then return that paste to the pan of soup
and stir gently over med/low heat until it bubbles.

Okay, saute your leeks (reserve some rings for french frying, if so desired), use the left over oil from that to make your roux. While this is happening, cook your potatoes in enough water/broth to cover until they are fork tender. Add the leeks to the pot, add any other items; ham, bacon, other cooked veggies, etc. Using the technique described above, incorporate the roux. Once the soup bubbles, it's ready to eat. Here at the very end, stir in freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. (all cream or cream-like soups can be improved with the addition of a tad of freshly grated nutmeg - it makes it taste ever so much richer). Garnish as you like; the french fried leeks, sour cream, salsa, grated cheese of your preference, whatever tickles your fancy at the moment... :)

I hope you'll enjoy.

Slicing tool

This is something I found in France which I really like using for slicing and grating onions. Also works well with cheese and I'm sure other things. Thought I'd post it in case you might see one in your local store and want it.

Also, for slicing onions, if you refrigerate them first, you either don't cry or cry a lot less :-)

Salads on parade

Tasted much better than it looks!

You will find me posting mostly pictures of vegetables and salads this month. In fact, I do salads around the world -- Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Korea, or like today, whatever in the kitchen. I will be eating "normal" meals for lunch, but I am pouring my heart into cooking my salads and sometimes soups. I am doing my fail-proof lose 5 lbs in 1 month program. Of course, I don't expect people to follow these recipes (heck, not even really recipes). But I hope by seeing the photos, they will inspire people to eat healthier in this very new year!
This is my dinner today:tuna and onion salad with balsamico and mustard dressing. Second dish is carrots and cabbage sauteed with Parmesan cheese and my quickly disappearing bottle of chiptole Tabasco. The second dish is sort of inspired by Tricia's dilemma about too much Brussel sprouts. (Sorry Elsie) the melted Parmesan makes it soo good. Was going to make a German colesaw with remaining carrot and cabbage for tomorrow, but mmm, will do the saute again. Had a glass of plain soy milk and okay (one butter cookie too!)
BTW, feel free to post fattening foods too! People still need comfort foods, party foods, fantasy foods!! The point of this blog is to post any foods that made you proud and happy!!!! and makes you feel good about making it!!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pecan Balls

Hi, everyone! My name is Desiree & I live in Richmond, BC.  I've been enjoying reading your posts and hope that I can contribute from time to time.  

The other day, I made pecan balls, to bring to my friend Anna's open house.  They're super easy and versatile.  They're from the Company's Coming cookbook series, published here in Canada.

Pecan Balls

1 cup butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup ground pecans
2 tsp. vanilla

and another 1/2 cup icing sugar to coat the balls.

You just combine the first 5 ingredients with a spoon, then by hand to work the dough until it holds.  You shpe in about 1 inch balls, then arrange on an ungreased baking sheet.  I use parchment paper though.  Bake in 325 deg F (or 160 deg C oven for about 20 minutes.  My oven tends to be a bit hot so I like to bake it just until golden brown.  This should make about 6 dozen.
As soon as the balls have cooled enough to handle, roll them in icing sugar.

They present beautifully too, if you have little round pastry cups to put them in.  I'd unfortunately ran out as I was bringing them as a gift so I couldn't show them here, I just put the left overs on a napkin to show you.

Variations: Almond - do 1 cup ground almonds instead of pecans.  Almond crescents - use 2 cups ground almonds instead of the pecans, and roll into finger-size thickness.  Cut into 2 inch lengths, then pinch ends, shaping into crescents. Hidden cherry - Cover well-drained maraschino cherries with dough.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

The First Meal of the New Year

And boy! did I enjoy it! Very traditional, at least for my family. Except for two big meal days (Christmas and New Year's) I forgot the rutabagas... so now they are trying to sprout in the basket. Anyway... Here's the dish:

Clockwise from the 12 position:
Black-eyed peas over Basmati Rice
Collard Greens
Smithfield Ham
Cheesy Potato Casserole (inspired by Pitts' Potatoes Sewickley)

I confess that the black-eyed peas were canned. But I browned some bacon pieces and sauteed some fresh garlic and some bits of lovely Hatch Valley chili peppers then added the peas to the pot. It was good. True, buying dried peas and soaking them overnight and then cooking them all day long... that would have tasted better, but... I'm the only one in my family who truly appreciates the beauty of the black-eyed pea, and I'm not prone to spend that much time purely for myself, so... maybe later when I make another Indian Feast. They are terrific with roti or dosa.

The collard greens I did cook from a fresh bunch. I got them a few days before Christmas while they were still looking good and not all picked over. I cooked them that night and put them up in the freezer until New Year's Day. I simply washed and tore them into not quite bite-sized pieces and cooked them down with a country ham bone I had in the freezer and a little chili pepper flakes and about a tsp. of sugar per bunch of greens. Makes them not so gassy. After they cooled I put them in a freezer bag and stored them away. Laid them out New Year's Eve night and re-heated the next day in a pot. They were very tasty. I love greens. All kinds really, and mixtures of greens. Should have put some cabbage in these, but Pete doesn't like them that way, the weirdo. :) And Thomas purely hates the smell of cabbage cooking. I didn't want to torture the poor guys on the very first day of the year. See how sweet I am?

The HAM! ta-da! Actually, I am aware that it doesn't look so great in the roaster. It was a shank portion, therefore, not really suited to cross-hatching and dressing up with pineapple rings and cherries. I put this cut side down in my enamel roasting pan, sprinkled garlic powder, onion powder, ground cinnamon and cloves over all, slapped on some crushed pineapple and drizzled with honey. Baked until 135 degrees inside and then took it out. I usually try to be a little more "decorative" with the ham, when I bake one, but Pete was supposed to get this one started for me and he didn't. I woke up late after enjoying ringing in the New Year with my friends on Pam's lovely Sasuke All-Star Fans site. So I woke straight up and went to the kitchen and started it going before I even had a cup of coffee. Who knew I was so talented? Never mind, looked horrible, tasted delicious. And that's all that really matters, right?

Before Baking

After Baking

click on the pics for larger views

My Cheesy Potato Casserole. As I said, it was inspired by Pittsburger's post about her Potatoes Sewickley. Only this is how I did it: I peeled 5 potatoes, sliced them thin, arranged them in my baking dish alternating the layers with cheddar cheese, black pepper, chives, and on the final layer I put some chopped up bacon on the very top. Then I poured a little milk in and put the cover on the dish. Baked at 375 for about 30-35 minutes, took the lid off, sprinkled more cheese on and put back in the oven. As you can see, I nearly forgot about it at that stage and it would have burned, but I remembered it just before it was truly ruined. That's okay, I like those crunchy, chewy bits of overdone cheese and potato anyway. :) It was delicious. The best part of the meal, I think. But then... I'm a cheese head. We all three are. There aren't any leftovers of that at all.

I still haven't made my punkin pie! I wanted one soooo bad, too. I just don't have the umph to make it yet. I'll get around to it. The pumpkin is canned anyway, so nothing has to be done immediately. I just wish I could make myself go do it. I like a nice hot slice of punkin pie and I haven't had ANY this whole Holiday season.

So... that was yesterday.

This was supper today:

Fried Rice from leftovers!

Great stuff. I chopped up some onions, garlic, carrots and sauteed them in oil, then tossed chopped up ham and some leftover pork loin I had in the fridge and browned them a little, then I scrambled two eggs and added all to the leftover rice which I had fluffed and sprinkled with soy sauce, lemon juice, chili pepper flakes and sesame oil. Then topped with chopped chives and sesame seeds. Then tossed all in a very hot pan until sizzling. Very tasty indeed. Wish I could share with you all.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Dinner

If I don't have an incredibly lucky year it is not because I didn't follow all the New Year's traditions. First Andy was the first person across my threshold....well actually it was his dog. Next I ate everyone's traditional New Year's good luck food. I started the boys with this beautiful plate of shrimp. They promptly destroyed my hard work by scooping half the shrimp onto another plate. They needed plates in their laps not on the table. Something about the dogs trying to steal shrimp.

I was cooking something new this year. This is a traditional Japanese dish courtesy of my Bunny Buddy. She is trying very hard to help me become a cooking whiz like she is. Below is my care package. I am so lucky to have such a friend.

My care package.

The finished product. Soba noodles with dipping sauce.
It was very good and a big hit with everyone. Yummy and
I will be doing this dish again.

My plate. Steak which everyone had, sauerkraut for the Yankee side of me,
black eyed peas with a little onion for the southern side of me and the soba noodles.

Andy wouldn't eat the peas or sauerkraut so I am a little worried about his luck in the coming year. Neil didn't eat the sauerkraut which he should have because there is some Yankee in him so he could be in trouble too. But I should have a fantastic year.


Fantasy Fudge

Shock!!! I'm finally posting something. First time so please be gentle with me.

Where do I start....fudge has been a part of my life for a long time. I only use one recipe and change the flavor of the chips, extracts and additional ingredients to make the various types. This is the old recipe for Fantasy Fudge, the new one on the back of some of the marshmallow cream jars is NOT what you use. No thermometer needed, easy and if you want to give a whole pan away as gifts, use the aluminum pans (shallow) with lids. Think they're labeled for cakes. Fits perfectly. It's the perfect Christmas gift - most people don't make candy and they think you're a cooking genius.
From left: butterscotch, coconut and chocolate.

Fantasy Fudge

3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine (stick and a half)
2/3 cup evaporated milk (5 oz can)
12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
7 oz. jar marshmallow cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts OR pecans - optional

In a 2-quart saucepan (non stick is great) on medium high heat, bring sugar, butter, and milk to a rolling boil. Stir occasionally to keep it from scorching. Reduce heat to medium low for 5 minutes, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in chips and vanilla until blended. If all the chips don't melt, it's OK. Add marshmallow cream, stir until blended. Add nuts. Pour into a greased 13" X 9" X 2" pan (non stick spray works great). Cool to room temperature before slicing.

I change the flavor of the chips, extracts and the optional things to make things different.

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