Thursday, June 28, 2012

Holy Balls It's Hot!

Mississippi. Summer. Instant Sweat. Our forecast here for the past few days has been 100+ degrees every day! Needless to say, like the last thing you want to do is turn the oven on. I mean, the electric bills are bad enough. So I decided to make a quick healthy dinner from local and home grown ingredients. My garden this year is looking spectacular. Three types of tomatoes (including some amazing san marzanos!), squash, zucchini, jalapeno, onion, raddish, fresh basil, oregano, and a whole bunch more. I love the garden. So here we go.

Caprese Salad
  This is the best salad for summer. At least in my opinion. It's savory, sweet, and includes all the junk your parents tried to make you eat as a kid but never made taste right. It's super simple.

   one tomato per person, sliced thick
   one half a fresh motzarella ball, sliced thick
   a handfull of basil leaves
   1/4 c a good fresh olive oil (don't buy junk!)
   cracked pepper
   a good quality salt
   zaatar spice (so optional but after visiting Israel, a necessity on most things for me)
   red chili flakes (optional too but good for your mental health)

Alternate a good pattern of cheese, tomato, and basil on the plate. (see picture below)
Drizzle olive oil on.  You don't have to use the whole 1/4c. Jeff likes less, I like more. Depends on who you are I guess. As my Dad would say, if you're asking with or without... it's always WITH! More sauce!
Sprinkle with pepper, salt, chili, and zaatar.

You're so done! How cool is that? Looks beautiful and takes like 3 minutes to make. It's insane. Try with fresh garden tomato and basil too. Makes such a difference.

Summer Sandwhiches
Use whatever you like here. I made two variations because I like a different sandwhich than Jeff. This seems like a pattern! Hahaha.

A good, fresh, artisan bread
lunchmeat, chipped (I love smoked turkey fresh from the deli. And I use Boars Head when I can. Love that)
provalone cheese
avacado for me
pepparoni slices
lettuce - generally the baby greens are my favorite
olive oil mayo

If I have to explain how to make a sandwhich, my guess is you haven't been reading our blog long.

What I put on mine - bread, sliced avacado, provalone, smoked turkey, lettuce
What I put on his - bread, mayo, pepparoni, provalone, smoked turkey, lettuce

I hate mayo, although the Hellmans stuff isn't bad, not quite so... snotty. Couldn't really think of a better word. Sorry to be gross. At least it has some flavor.

I make guac 3-4 times a week. It's a favorite amongst family and friends and never gets old. Delicious and healthy, just keep some avacados in the house.

1 whole avacado, pitted, removed from shell (do this with a spoon, it's awesomeness), and mushed with a fork
1 whole jalapeno, diced fine, seeds about half removed depending on how much heat you like
like a pinky sized piece of a sweet onion, diced
Adobo, go for the red topped one. It's the best
a heaping tablespoon of Sour Cream, I'm a total Daisy snob. It tastes better, I swear.
a few dices of the tomato you were using earlier. Or you can add a whole one if you want. This is your par-tay...

Mash it all together into a loose paste. Tada! You made guac. That wasn't so hard huh?

I put it all on a plate all pretty like. To mine I was craving some marinated artichokes so I threw a few of those on and some beets for good measure. Can't go wrong with beets.

All in all it took less than 15 minutes. You have amino acids, healthy fats, dairy, 3 servings of fruit/veggies, antioxidants, peppers with capsaisin that not only raises your basal temp buring more calories but also releases endorphins to make you happy. So hell, if you don't like the dinner, your brain will at least tell you you're happy anyway! Top off with a glass of good merlot and some dark chocolate for the ultimate meal.

It's just damn satisfying on a hot as balls day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Are you craving coconut curry?

For months, Aaron has been craving coconut curry... and the two Thai restaurants in town (that we know of) are difficult to order from. One is only open during lunch, the other is only open for dinner. Both are extremely busy and you spend more time waiting for your food than you do eating it. But it is sooooo gooooood.... Unfortunately, luck hasn't granted us the opportunity to eat at either restaurant for a while... and the craving was there...

I scoured the internet for a good coconut curry recipe that was easy. I found one by Rachel Ray (or at least I think it was Rachel's recipe, as it was in her magazine, but it could have easily been created by one of her minions, I mean, staff). It's funny that I never noticed this recipe before, as I LOVE her magazine and I have several back issues on my Kindle Fire... But, nevertheless, I found the recipe online and promised Aaron I would try it.

I first made it about a week ago, following the recipe to the T... The only difference was that I cut the chicken into large pieces instead of smaller strips... I also cooked some Uncle Ben's Boil in the Bag rice as I had it on my shelf and it is super easy to make. Some notes after my first meal: Definitely cut the chicken into strips or smaller chicken pieces - it makes a difference on the sauce-chicken ratio... Large chicken pieces will give you a lot more sauce than you may want. The curry is on the mild side - at least when I used the powdered curry that I have in my spice cabinet. Using curry paste may produce other results. Also, the Uncle Ben's rice is good in a pinch, but is missing something... It may have been that I had WAY too much sauce on my hands and my rice was swimming in it, I don't know... It was good, but it didn't bowl me over.

I wanted to try the curry again tonight, mainly because I had ingredients to make it in my pantry, and mainly because it is really easy. I did make some alterations to the recipe. Here is my version:

Make JASMINE RICE in a rice cooker... flavor-wise, it goes phenomenally well with the curry. The rice cooker makes it easy so you can focus on other tasks. If you must, you can make it on the stove, but you'll probably have to baby-sit it a bit more than you would otherwise. I started the rice first and it was done by the time I was done with the chicken.

Make the curry sauce -
Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a sauce pan and add 2 tsp. of curry powder. Stir with a whisk to combine well and let it cook for about a minute. Add 1 can of coconut milk (I used Thai Kitchen brand) and stir to combine well. Let the sauce cook down to about half. After you add the coconut milk, add another 1/2 tsp of curry powder. I originally wanted to add extra curry to this but I forgot about it when I started cooking it... I didn't remember to add it until after I added the coconut... It gave it a slightly different texture that was really good and added a bit more spice to the dish. You can add it in the beginning with the rest of the curry powder to let the oil develop the flavor a bit better, but that is up to you... This is just how I did it.

While the curry sauce it cooking down, cut up 4 chicken breasts into strips - I cut the breast at an angle and kept about 1/2 in thickness. Then I cut each larger piece in half lengthwise to make strips. Add the chicken to a bowl and season with salt, pepper, and 2 tsp Chinese Five-Spice. Mix by hand to distribute the seasonings evenly. Heat up 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a wok and stir-fry the chicken until just cooked through. You may have to do this in batches depending on how much chicken you have and how large your wok is.

If you do cook the chicken in batches, return all batches back to the wok for the final stir-fry. Add the coconut sauce and let it cook down a little more. Stir to completely cover the chicken.

Chicken Curry Goodness
Yummy close-up of the chicken-y goodness! The stuff that looks like awesome char is really the 5-spice on the chicken.
One thing that I was missing from my first attempt at this dish was a green vegetable. Now, it is not really required that a green vegetable be served with this dish, but I like to have something green with my meals whenever possible. So, this time, I grabbed a bag of broccoli that you can microwave and it steams in the bag. Serve the curry over the jasmine rice and add a nice healthy dose of broccoli and you have a tasty and healthy dinner!

Monday, June 25, 2012

What the heck is quinoa?

Quinoa...what a weird grain. First - how do you say it? Quinn-o-uh? Keen-wa? Depends on who you ask.. My husband likes to be contrary and pronounces it Quinn-o-uh.... But the correct pronunciation is Keen-wa. Second - what the heck is it? It cooks like rice, looks like cous cous, and smells like neither of those items. It is a grain from South America that was vitally important to the Inca Civilization (according to the information on my box of quinoa). My first experience with quinoa was in pasta when I was trying out various gluten-free options.The company that makes my pasta also sells quinoa alone, so I decided to buy a box to try...

And there it sat on my shelf in my pantry... for several months...

Last week (or was it the week before? my days are running together), I originally planned to make mahi-mahi with quinoa on the side. I looked up recipes to make it tasty and set out to buy the ingredients. But, I had to take Aaron with me to the store that day (what was I thinking?) and he decided that he wanted the frozen potatoes and beans instead of quinoa and I caved... What can I say, it was easier to just toss a bag of frozen veggies in the microwave (but not by much).

Today, I decided that we would have fish again and that I would try it with quinoa. It is pretty easy to make, it cooks pretty much just like rice. Use a 2-to-1 ratio (2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa) and you are pretty much set. I cooked my quinoa in 2 cups of chicken stock. I added the same seasoning blend that I used on the fish to add more flavor to the quinoa. I will be honest, it didn't smell too good while it was cooking... It kind of smells stale and dusty, but I think that is just how it smells. It tastes really good, especially with the fish. I did have to add a little extra salt and pepper to the finished quinoa, but I have to do that to rice or potatoes as well.

I didn't have the foresight to take a picture of my plate before I started eating, so here is a picture of everything almost gone... it is just that good.

So, don't let the hippy-dippy-trippy vibe associated with this grain keep you from trying it. My store only carries it in the health food section, but I think it is good enough to be on the shelf with the rest of the grains like rice and cous cous... It is definitely worth trying :)


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bluberry Oops Bread Pudding

I made an attempt to make some blueberry muffins. For whatever reason, they didn't turn out like they normally do. I blame brain farts. I didn't think they were bad but Jeff said they tasted like corn bread blueberry muffins. Ehh, either way, had to fix them or throw them away. I'm cheap so pitching wasn't in the cards. Soooo....

Blueberry Muffin Bread Pudding

4 Eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 dozen poorly made blueberry muffins, cut into pieces
1 tbsp vanilla

Wisk together the eggs, milk, sugars, and vanilla. Pour over the muffin cubes in a bread pan (preferably glass).

Bake at 370 for about 40 minutes or until it's firm and no longer jelly like.

You can drizzle with glaze if you want but it's completely un-necessary.

Bon Apetite

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Another Fishy Dishy

Jessie and I must have been on the same wave-length today... We both made fish for dinner... Although, mine was a result of being ultra-frugal and not the result of finding awesome fresh fish at the store.

A few months back, when I was stocking up on Gluten-Free stuff for my pantry, I purchased a large bag of mahi-mahi fillets. I know I need to introduce more fish in to my diet, but my experience with mahi-mahi while I lived in Hawaii was, let's say, not great (although, that could have been because I ate Zippy's Mahi-Mahi - not saying that Zippy's is a bad restaurant because they are not, I just did not care for their Mahi-Mahi). But, being that it was the only fish I was seeing that was already "taken care of" - read - I didn't have to scale, skin, or de-bone it - I bought it.

And there it sat in my freezer, for two months, unopened, until my husband (bless his heart) had a melt-down last night about how much money we are spending (primarily on eating out)...

So I gave him the choice last night - fish or chicken... I guess you can imagine what his choice was.

So, I took the fish out of the freezer last night and put it in my fridge to thaw. And then I started looking at mahi-mahi recipes. I decided on an easy recipe, as I had a homework assignment due this evening that would take most of my time. I decided to broil it.

So, first, I turned my oven to broil and positioned the top rack directly beneath the heating element. Then I covered my broiler pan in aluminum foil. I spread some olive oil on the foil with a pastry brush. Then, I let the fish soak in some water for about 10 minutes (I neglected to put it at the bottom of my fridge to defrost - I put it on the top shelf directly below the freezer - I know, not one of my brightest moves). Once the fish was fully thawed, I cut open the vacuum packed fillets and patted them down with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Then they also got brushed down with olive oil. Thanks to Jessie, I had some pretty awesome Penzeys Spices in my cupboard and I decided to use the "Mural of Flavor" to rub onto the fish.

I broiled each side for about 5 minutes each. While the fish was under the broiler, I popped a package of Bird's Eye Potatoes and Green Beans in the microwave. It was done a little before the fish. But, dinner was easy enough for Aaron to cook when I don't have the time to devote to cooking to dinner (but let's face it, it took all of 15 minutes to prepare - minus the time I left the fillets soaking in water - so I really have no excuse not to take the time to make it myself).

Dinner was delicious, as was the chilled pinot grigio that we had with it... I'm going to have to stock up on the "easy" vegetables so we can make this more often! And more pinot grigio... just sayin' (this sentiment brought to you by 1/2 a bottle of pinot grigio)

For Cod's Sake!

Tonights dinner was unexpected but a result of a few sales at my local Kroger and a free Rachel Ray Cooks magazine. Possibly that Metamucil I had this morning too causing a prolonged visit to my office (aka, the spare bath). 

Anyway... Eggplant was on sale for $0.88 each. Great deal! Beautiful locally grown eggplant with a nice bouncy firm skin. Mmmm, bouncy and firm, generally reserved for boobs but on eggplant, delightful. Besides, I'm almost 30, nothing on me is firm anymore! 

Some fresh wild caught cod filets were in the seafood counter. Seeing as cod is a sustainable fish and so creamy and fatty and delicious, who could say no!? Besides, I have had a fish craving for awhile. Mississippi produces catfish... a lot of FARMED catfish. I'm not saying it's terrible, I'm saying I'm generally not a huge fan. I prefer my fatty saltwater fishes. 

On to my next ingredient, basil. It's gardening season and my lovely backyard garden is going nuts. My basil is like 4 ft high and bushy. Mmmm, bushy basil. While we're out there, the spring onions are going nuts too and so delicious this year. Flavorful but not that kind of onion that leaves a nasty taste on the back of your tongue, the good kind that's like fresh and pops.

The one thing I had to go searching for was cherry tomato. Blah, mine aren't ripe yet! Soon enough, for now we got some locally grown from the supermarket. 

Putting it together... 

Set the oven on a normal broil. Let it get HOT. 

Saute some chopped garlic and choppped basil in grape seed oil just until it turns light blonde. Half the tomatoes and throw them in (DO NOT STIR). I used about a cup and a half of tomatoes. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Let them sit until they look happy and shake the pan a bit. They'll do their own thing. When they saute a little, turn it all off and set aside. 

Slice the egg plant into like 1/2 inch slices and lay them on a baking sheet with some grape seed oil on. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put under the broiler for like 5 minutes. Don't let them burn. 

Take the eggplant out and flip it over. Pile the tomato mixture evenly divided onto the eggplant. Nom... try to contain eating all the tomatoes right here. 

Lay pieces of cod over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. See a theme? Just a touch at each step gives it a great flavor! I sliced paper thin slices of lemon and laid them on top of the fish here. It made it good. Nice touch of sour fresh. 

Pop back under the broiler until the fish turns kind of white and starts to seperate. That's when it's delicious. Again, do not overcook.

This tastes great served with couscous. It cooks in like 5 minutes. Boil water, add some lemon juice, chop the spring onion and basil. Let the couscous sit in the hot water until it absorbs. Stir in the onion and basil and add a dash of salt. Fluff a little (hehehe) and you're ready to go! [That's what she said]

Here's a picture! 

Happy eating!