Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm a sucker for anything free

When I'm being a good girl and watching what I consume on a daily basis, SparkPeople is my best friend. They've retained that status because they published a free cookbook today featuring 10 recipes that will feed families of 4 for under $10. I'm a sucker for anything that's free and they want SparkPeople members to spread the word, so here's the link:

http://www.sparkpeople.com/10recipes.pdf

Healthy eating!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A little bit more than haiku


OK ... so my post about the Daily Soup cookbook? Yeah - it was supposed to be a little bit more than the notes that I jotted to myself when I was considering said post. Imagine my surprise when the bastard published. Sigh.

Anyway - I found "The Daily Soup" by Leslie Kaul, Bob Spiegel, Peter Siegel, Carla Ruben and Robin Vitetta-Miller in the bargain books section of Barnes & Noble one night when Ryan and I were out. Because I was on a soup kick at the time and a quick glance at the recipes showed me that I was getting a lot of bang for eight bucks, I went ahead and bought it. And man do I love it. The book is divided into sections - i.e. - bean soups, cream-based soups, stocks, tomato, potato, etc. If a recipe has meat in it, the side notes indicate what steps a person can take to make it vegetarian.

This book was awesome - I'll be sharing a recipe for their Roasted Garlic Soup in the near future. There's something to be said about a soup recipe that calls for a head of roasted garlic. And that is ... HEAVENLY!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Curry-laden goodness


My first attempts at making curry were pretty damn pathetic. I credit part of my problems to my Scandinavian upbringing and the other part? I'm not sure - all I know is that I wanted to find a simple curry recipe that tasted really good and didn't require a lot of work. With help from our friend James, I finally found one that's pretty tasty.


Simple Curry

1 lb. of beef, pork, venison or curry, cubed into bite-sized pieces (**note, I've used this recipe with pork and venison chops - I'm on a kick to clean stuff out of my freezer.)
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. curry powder (I'm currently using a blend from World Market. I hear that Penzey's has a very good curry mix.)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained (I use the juice in cooking rice)
1 can, chickpeas, drained
1 container, Greek yogurt (I've been using full-fat Fage yogurt ... heaven)

Sweat the onions and garlic in a little bit of olive oil or butter. Add your cubed meat and brown. When meat is brown or darn near that point, add tomatoes and chickpeas. Sprinkle with curry powder and stir in yogurt. Cook until heated through. Serve over rice.

I'll be the first to admit that this is a super-easy bastardized version of curry, but it's cheap, it's easy and I think it's relatively healthy. Kind of. Tasty - definitely.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Proper Dinner


I had to apologize to my beloved Ryan the other day because I've noticed that I've become somewhat obsessed with one-dish meals. And there's nothing wrong with one-dish meals, but he's a man and there are only so many times that he probably gets excited about a new soup recipe.

So I decided to make Ryan a proper dinner the other night and tried one new recipe and a standby that I knew that he would particularly love: Walnut Crusted Chicken Cutlets and Roasted Baby Red Potatoes.

The Walnut Crusted Chicken dish came from Delish.com. That's MSN's new "foodie" haven that draws from various magazines affiliated with MSN, as well as occasional features on celebrity chefs. I don't specifically go to Delish, but every once in awhile when I connect to the internet and look at MSN's homepage, they'll feature a food category and being the recipe addict that I am - I have to take a peek.

Although this was a very simple dish, it took me a bit out of my comfort zone because I have never cooked with panko breadcrumbs and any time I do a chicken dish, it's a pretty basic set up: Chicken meets pan, chicken gets cooked thorougly and is then enjoyed. Ryan and I both loved this recipe and I could see where this breading would also be awesome with fish.

Walnut Crusted Chicken Cutlets

  • 1/2 cup(s) panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1/8 teaspoon(s) ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup(s) walnuts, toasted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup(s) fresh parsley leaves, loosely packed **I omitted
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon(s) Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 pound(s) chicken-breast cutlets, thinly sliced **this ended up being two large chicken breasts


Directions
1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. On large dinner plate, combine panko, ground red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. In food processor with knife blade attached, blend walnuts and parsley until nuts are finely chopped; toss with panko mixture until well blended. Set aside.

3.In pie plate, whisk egg white and Dijon until well mixed.  One at a time, dip 1 side of each cutlet in egg-white mixture, then into walnut mixture to coat side evenly; press firmly so mixture adheres. Arrange chicken on baking sheet.  Bake chicken 10 to 12 minutes or until topping is golden-brown and chicken is no longer pink throughout. (**I cooked it for a little longer just to be on the safe side ... about 15-18 minutes.)


Baby Red Potatoes

This recipe is loosely inspired from a Paula Deen dish.

15 baby red potatoes, quartered
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1 T. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. salt
olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and quarter the baby reds, placing them in a baking dish (I used my 9x13 cake pan.) Mince garlic cloves. Add garlic and other seasonings on top of potatoes, drizzle with olive oil, stir to combine. (Weird Shelley Note: When adding the rosemary or other dry herbs (oregano, sage, thyme - whatever), I read somewhere once that you're supposed to rub them between your hands to release the flavor. You probably don't have to, but I love the smell of rosemary so I do anyway.)

I am terrible at cooking baby reds and hate it when they are underdone, so I err on the side of extreme caution and bake 'em for about 30-45 minutes, until they are fork tender. I also shake the pan occassionally to ensure they are cooking evenly.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fear Conquered! Panko breadcrumbs


When all of the World Markets in Minnesota closed, everything in the stores went on sale. Although I was very sad (no more dark chocolate with sea salt in driving distance for me), I took advantage of some of the sales that they had in their grocery aisle. I found this bag of panko breadcrumbs for a little bit over a dollar. What's the big deal? Well - I had heard about panko but never really got how it was different from the other breadcrumbs that you buy at the grocery store. The difference? Panko breadcrumbs are made out of bread without crusts, making the crumbs lighter and airier. (Got that from Wikipedia. Rock.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Itty Bitty Chocolate Chip Cookies - 101 Cookbooks


When I was painstakingly chopping/shaving the bar of expensive, artisan, bittersweet chocolate needed for these cookies, the thought struck me ... it is so obvious that I do not have children and have actual time to dawdle and make this recipe. So simple and easy? Oh hell no. Delicious? If these cookies were a sin, I'm paving the highway to hell with Scharffen Berger chocolate.

Like the "who knew tequila could go with popcorn" recipe, this comes from 101 Cookbooks, run by Heidi Swanson - something of a guru in the American natural food movement.

Ryan loves chocolate chip cookies. I liked this recipe because it included walnuts and oatmeal. It also included molasses, which is an underutilized staple from my pantry. I was also intrigued to see what 12 dozen cookies would look like resting on my counter, but like all recipes - I have no clue what I screw up to end up with less than they claim I should be making.

On the "pain in the ass" scale, this one breaks the range at an 11 (it took me 20 damn minutes to chop up all the chocolate - sure I was making dinner at the same time, but c'mon ... 20 minutes?), but the minute that I bit into one of these and tasted the hint of molasses, along with the subtle crunch of the natural sugar I used. Holy crow ... I could have cried these tasted so good.

Itsy Bitsy Chocolate Chip Cookies

by 101 Cookbooks - Heidi Swanson

5 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate bar (Scharffen Berger 62%)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour **HS used whole wheat pastry flour ... I used all purpose flour and it turned out fine.
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup walnuts, very, very finely chopped (by hand)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
scant 1 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
scant 1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses **HS uses organic, I used the bottle of Brer Rabbit that's been taking up shelf space since the 1990s. OK - only since the beginning of the century, but you get the point.
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup large-grain sugar (for ex: turbinado)
Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Finely chop the chocolate bar into 1/8-inch pieces, more like shavings really. (Pain in the ass factor - 11.)


In a mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients except for sugars. Set aside.

Using a mixer (or by hand) beat the butter until fluffy. (I did it by hand - must be something of a martyr in me this evening.) Beat in the sugar and mix until it is also light and fluffy. Add the molasses, then the egg, mixing until both are well incorporated. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mix and stir by hand until the ingredients barely come together into a uniform dough. (This is pretty darn important - I kind of half-arsed this step and my first batch of cookies didn't get enough flour in them, so they spread out all over and stuck to the pan. Still tasty ... but once I really got the flour mixed into the cookies, they baked so much better.)


You're going to take impossibly tiny chunks of dough (HS takes 1 tsp of dough and divides it in half ... I did this for a little bit but then figure out the approximate size for tiny cookie goodness) Place two inches apart on baking sheets. Gently flatten each dough ball and then sprinkle the top of each cookie with a pinch of large-grain sugar. Bake for 7 minutes. Remove from oven, cool for a bit on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack.

Makes about 12 dozen tiny, bite-sized cookies.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chili Lime Tequila Popcorn



God forgive me for this admission but ... I really love tequila. I love it straight, I love it in margaritas and now, apparently, it's really good on popcorn. I found this on Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks site and she reprinted this (with permission) from Popcorn by Patrick Evans-Hylton. (Sasquatch Books 2008). **And now I'm confused ... what's the protocol here? I've cited Heidi's site and the book itself. Am I still being a blog bastard? If I offend anyone by reprinting this recipe, my sincere apologies - I'm just still drunk on tequila. Or ignorance.

Will anyone believe me when I say I did not intend for these pictures to be blurry? No, I wasn't sampling the tequila! Just cooked with it!**

Word to the wise: Don't overbake this which is easy to do if you're trying to make two different recipes at the same time.

Chili Lime Tequila Popcorn

4 quarts freshly popped popcorn
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon tequila
1/2 small jalapeno, seeds and membrane removed, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Preheat the oven to 300F degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat (hs note: or unbleached parchment paper). Set aside.

Put the popcorn in a large, clean paper bag or a washable muslin bag. In a medium-size bowl whisk together the butter, lime juice and zest, and tequila. Add the jalapeno. In a small bowl combine the black pepper, salt, red pepper, and cumin.

Drizzle half of the butter mixture over the popcorn, fold over the top of the bag, and shake until the popcorn is coated and moist. Taste. Add more of the butter mixture if you like, and give a second shake. Sprinkle (most of) the pepper mixture over the popcorn, fold over the top of the bag, and shake a few times to coat. Taste, and if you'd like more pepper flavor add the rest of it.
Spread the popcorn evenly over the baking sheet and bake until the popcorn is dry, five to seven minutes.

Make 4 quarts of popcorn.

**Another note - I'd cut back on the butter and add more tequila - but that's just me. I'd also add more lime zest. I love lime zest.

**Yet another comment on the photos above - A) I suck at taking pictures, truly and B) that bottle of tequila? Yeah - I have no clue what the vintage of this was, but my beloved late Grandma Boots loved margaritas and when she moved out of her home, Ryan and I inherited her liquor cabinet. This was one of our "treasures." Smells like tequila, but I'll be honest - it will be a cold day in hell before I take a shot out of that. I'm scared it's gonna kill me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Denoting a crappy recipe

http://www.slashfood.com/2009/03/09/margin-writing-how-do-you-denote-a-crappy-recipe/

Slashfood.com had the most hilarious article today on how to denote a truly crappy recipe. It made me laugh out loud because it reminded me of my grandmas - both of them were margin writers and their comments have guided me to many culinary treasures (while the ones denoted "bad" kept me from food-related pitfalls.)

Ingredient ... Embraced!

Until I tried the World Market Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt bar, I had never truly grasped how good chocolate could be. I mean - I love chocolate bars in general, but I grew up in a household where "good chocolate" was defined as a Hershey's Bar. Now there's nothing wrong with that, but I must admit that I've been baffled of late when I read about Scharffen Berger chocolate on my food porn - er, food websites.

Mentions Scharffen Berger and other artisan chocolate seem to dot the landscape of the food world and up until bars of SB went on sale at the local Hyvee, I wasn't about to spend $6 on six ounces of chocolate. Generic milk chocolate chips are plenty fine for me and my cookie making skills.

But now I've ate Scharffen Berger and now I've baked with it ... I don't know when I'll ever go back.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Muddy Buddies


My co-workers and I at the cab company have a weird relationship with each others' food ... namely that if someone brings something to the company, chances are everyone will eat it at some point of another. Case in point - Cheryl's taco salad. That was a Tuesday or a Thursday night and it was basically untouched, sitting on the corner of her desk. So she offered it to Jessica, who took a couple bites and then handed it to me. Another Tuesday, it was gummi bears. It's a very weird phenomenon.

Anyway - I feel like I take more than I actually give, so when Jessica said she wanted Muddy Buddies the other day, I figured that I'd look that up and whip up a batch for her. Of course, Muddy Buddies are what I grew up eating when it was called Puppy Chow. I have no clue where they get these names, but with semisweet chocolate, peanut butter and powdered sugar, they should just be called crack-filled heaven.

PS - I suck at making muddy buddies - they still taste OK though ...

Here's the recipe I got from AllRecipes.com

I
NGREDIENTS
  • 9 cups crispy rice cereal squares
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
DIRECTIONS
  1. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate; add peanut butter and mix until smooth.
  2. Remove from heat, add cereal and stir until coated.
  3. Pour powdered sugar into large plastic bag, add coated cereal and shake until well coated. Store in airtight container.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Watched ...

Caught an episode of "Gordon Ramsay's F Word" tonight on Tivo suggestions (between the sci fi, the crime shows and the food porn, I think Tivo might be a wee bit confused about the dynamics of the residents in the Kubitz/Mahannah household). I have to say - for every bastardly thing I've ever heard about Gordon Ramsay, I really thought the show was funny. I also learned how to make a souffle. That's something Giada has yet to teach me.

But what the hell is it with the Brits and the sex/food connection? Between Nigella very sexily making chili con carne and GR's "assistant" making souffle and telling viewers that they had six minutes "so go have sex, read a book, whatever you do in six minutes," I was ... I don't know. My stoic Norweigan upbringing that is dotted with memories of grandmothers gone by, lutefisk, carbohydrates and food = comfort, was turned on its head for awhile.

Don't get it.

I NEED SOME!!!!!!!!

My friend Alberty found bacon-flavored vodka. See here: http://bakonvodka.com/

And darn it! It's only available in the Pacific Northwest right now! C'mon - we're the pig producing leaders of the world here in the Midwest - bring me some meat-flavored vodka!

Olav's Cauliflower Soup


Although Olav had to ask me who I was when I originally "friended" him on Facebook (short answer: We were in a communications class together - public speaking, I believe. Olav recited Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." It was inspiring.) this cauliflower soup recipe reminds me why I always like to keep in touch with acquaintances. Olav emailed this to me after coming across my request for soup recipes. And what I loved about it was Olav sent me my kind of recipe - the kind with suggestions rather than hard and fast instructions (i.e. - fair amount of olive oil, cover with chicken stock, etc.). That's how I like to cook, although I usually type out directions for the blog. So know that the emailed version of this recipe is probably way cooler than what it here. Regardless, if you like cauliflower, this soup is a must.

Cauliflower Soup

[olive oil]
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
[chicken stock]
1 potato, chopped coarsely
1 tsp. tarragon
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (adjust for heat as needed)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
[tumeric]

Using a sturdy pot, soften the garlic, onions and celery in olive oil until tender. Add cauliflower and potato, cover with chicken stock (you can also use vegetable stock for a vegetarian version of this soup). Simmer the vegetables until they are tender. Season with tarragon, cayenne pepper, black pepper and tumeric. Run a mixer through the soup at the end to create a "soupy" consistency. (I used the food processor ... and got soup all over the counter. Ryan loves me.)

Serve with some fresh shaved Parmesan on top and serve with crusty bread.

Verdict: I gotta be honest, when this first hit my bowl I thought I was stuck with one fugly prom date. You know the kind - she's the girl from church that your mom insisted you take because she's a really nice girl, but she's just not as hot as the cheerleader who would never give you the time of day anyway. As I started reading this description to Ryan, he chimed in ... "but at the end of the date, this soup really puts out."

You get the picture. It don't look like much, but damn this is a good, humble soup. Kind of sexy for a cruciferous vegetable.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Something to look forward to ...

... One of my buddies is coming to visit me this month and she told me about a martini that you make with vanilla vodka, frozen fat-free key lime yogurt and a little bit of graham cracker crumbs! It's a key lime pie martini! YEE HAW!

This sounds almost better than the oatmeal cookie shot that I drank one time. I love it when mixmasters combine my favorite things - dessert and liquor!