9/30/08

An almost white dinner

I feel like I barely ate any food today: the cut in (on?) my tongue makes it really hard. To get a few extra calories, I forced (lol) myself to get a Sundae at McDonald's.

For dinner I needed to make/buy something that would be rather blah, but still appetizing. I went to the store, bought a few red potatoes, prepared rotisserie turkey breast and a giant avocado. All I had to do was boil the potatoes and mash them with some milk and butter: dinner served.

I'm afraid I ate a bit too much. After a "normal" meal, I also had one (or two...) mashed potato sandwiches. Okay, this is a total white trash indulgence, but I love it: white bread, mayo and mashed potatoes. Yes, Stacey, I wasn't kidding :) And while I ate all this white food, I watched the Biggest Loser...right.
Let's hope I can soon eat more exciting food.

And the winner is............

And the winner of the Cookbook giveaway is Lisa of Lime in Coconut!!!

Congratulations!

And thank you to everyone who left comments. I will most likely host another contest with another cookbook. Check in back soon :)

9/29/08

Rosh Hashanah....Sort of

Last night I had a dentist appointment, and did not get home till almost 6 pm. However, I still felt like I should eat something with apples and honey to signify a sweet New Year (Rosh Hashanah). Sadly, I did not have too much time to cook, and also my tongue was cut, and I could not eat anything too elaborate. I decided to make Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup.

This is not really a recipe, but will give you an idea how to replicate this soup. In a blender combine roasted butternut squash, apple juice, vegetable stock, roasted garlic, salt & pepper, and a bit of honey.


Heat the soup in a pot and feel free to add cream or milk. I had some coconut milk left from last week and used that: added a nice creaminess.

Serve the soup in a bowl garnished with a slice of Granny Smith apple.

Unfortunately, I had to let the soup cool and drink it through a straw, because it was really bothering the cut on my tongue.

And if that wasn't bad enough, I then saw a mouse!

9/28/08

Exercise your brain to make a salad

Remember a while ago I wrote about a mandoline that Cindy gave me? I finally decided to figure out how to use it, and at the same time use the ingredients I had in my refrigerator to make a salad.

Red cabbage salad with red pepper, carrots, onions and arugula

Ingredients
1/2 red cabbage thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, minced
1 small bunch arugula, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 tablespoon vinegar


Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and serve.

P.S. "exercise our brain" refers to using my brain cells to learn something new: how to use a mandoline.

Daring Bakers: Crackers (1 day late)

I finished baking the crackers last night, but did not have time to take pictures and post them. The crackers, which I made from whole wheat flour, actually turned out pretty good. I topped them with sesame seeds, black pepper and salt before baking.

For the dip, I made Butternut Squash Hummus: equal amount of roasted butternut squash and chickpeas, a tablespoon of tahini, juice of 1/2 lemon, 4 cloves of roasted garlic, salt and pepper. Give it a try.


9/27/08

Daring Bakers: Crackers

This is going to be a half-a** post because I realized too late that the due date for this month's challenge is today, 27th, and not the end of the month, as I have thought.

The crackers, that's what we are making, are right now in the oven. I used whole wheat flour and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and sesame seeds. Not sure if I'll have time to take pictures until tomorrow though.

The dip, that I have invented (with Cindy's help) to go with the crackers will be made tomorrow: no time, sorry. But it is going to combine chickpeas, butternut squash and roasted garlic: sounds good, right?

I hope I don't get kicked out from the club and will definitely pay more attention next time.

Home Fries with SPAM

This recipe is inspired by Home Fries recipe posted by Rachel Rappaport on Coconut & Lime.
Instead of using bacon, however, I used SPAM. I can't remember the last time I've eaten spam, but it just called my name a few months ago at the grocery store, and I finally put it to use.

Ingredients
1/4 can of spam, cubed
1 tablespoon oil
1 large red potato, quartered and sliced thinly
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly

Directions
1. Heat a pan and saute spam cubes until they are browned. Remove and set aside.
2. Add oil to the pan, let heat for a bit and then add potatoes and onions. Cook until potatoes are pretty tender.
3. Add spam back to the pan and cook together with potatoes and onions until potatoes are completely cooked through. I had to cover the pan a few times to help potatoes to get tender (the magic of steam).
4. Serve immediately.

Note: be careful not to over-salt: spam is pretty incredibly salty.

9/23/08

Book Giveaway: Your least favorite food words

I was having a snack of milk and Milano Doulbe Chocolate cookies and thought what a great treat it was. That reminded me that "treat" is one of Anna's least favorite food words. That made me think of the food words that I do not like:

foodie
kielbasa
moist
yummo

What are some of the food words you don't like? Leave a comment and your email, and you might win a copy of Creative Cooking The Costco Way (exciting, right?). Important: I forgot to mention this before, but you must live within United States.

Note: the contest ends September 30th.

Not your everyday Mashed Potatoes & Meatloaf

Tonight for dinner I wanted something easy, delicious, and comforting. I had red potatoes and ground beef, and decided to make mashed potatoes and meatloaf. But not your everyday mashed potatoes and meatloaf: something a bit more adventurous!

Mashed potatoes: boiled red potatoes, warm milk, salt & pepper, and blue cheese.

Meatloaf: ground beef, egg, ground cumin, finely chopped onion, salt & pepper, garlic powder, a bit of coconut milk. Glaze: hoisin sauce, hot sauce, liquid smoke.

The look of the food is so deceiving: it looks like old-fashioned mashed potatoes and meatloaf, but once you bite into the food, you'll be very pleasantly (I hope) surprised.

Mussels with an Indian Twist

I had some mussels left-over from Sunday dinner, and decided to make them with an Indian twist. Alas, I had no fresh ginger or cilantro, and did not feel like going to the grocery store (not enough time between getting a haircut and going dancing), so I improvised.

Mussels with an Indian Twist

Ingredients

1 tablespoon neutral oil (such as canola or vegetable)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 small red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala
mussels
1/2 can coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry paste
1 tomato, chopped
a few arugula leaves, cut into a chiffonade

good bread for dipping into the "broth"

Directions

1. Heat the oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds and let them cook for about a minute until they turn brown and the aroma comes out; be careful not to burn them.

2. Add onion and garlic, cook for a few minutes. Add garam masala and continue cooking for a few minutes.

3. Combine coconut milk with curry paste and add to the pan. Add mussels. Lower the heat slightly, cover the pan, and cook the mussels until they open up.


4. Pour some of the broth into a bowl, top with mussels, fresh tomatoes and arugula, and serve with bread.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this meal. The dish can be made in its entirity, minus the mussels for a great quick and flavorful soup. If you have the time, however, definitely get some fresh ginger and add it to the garlic/onion step.

9/22/08

Fig Salad with Raspberries, Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts

Figs were on sale 3/$1...how could I pass that by? I decided to make an elaborate fig salad.

Fig Salad with Raspberries, Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts
Ingredients (without amounts)
arugula, very well washed
figs, stems removed, sliced
raspberries
red onion, thinly sliced
blue cheese, crumbled
olive oil
raspberry blush vinegar
grainy mustard
pine nuts, toasted

Directions
1. Put arugula leaves on a plate. Top with figs, raspberries, red onions, and blue cheese.
2. In a separate little bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar and mustard.
3. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, and top with toasted pine nuts.
Thoughts: the variety of flavors and textures was awesome!

Ridiculously Delicious & Easy to Make Mussels

Sunday night I made yet another dinner based on what was on sale at the grocery store. The meal had two separate parts: fig salad and mussels.

Blue Maine mussels were on sale for $3.99 and looked surprisingly clean and de-beared. Unfortunately, the store did not have shallots (!!!), but that did not stop me with following through with a "recipe" I had in mind.

Ridiculously Delicious & Easy to Make Mussels

Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter (I used salted, thus no need for extra salt)
2 tablespoons sliced or chopped red onion (use shallots, if you have them)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/3 cup of white wine (approximately) [you can also use water or chicken stock, or vegetable stock]
lemon slices and minced parsley for garnish
good bread

Directions
1. In a deep pan (I used one that Stacey gave me years ago) heat butter, add onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes.
2. Add white wine, bring to a boil, add mussels, cover and cook at reduced heat until the mussels open.
3. Discard any unopened mussels (I did not have any), put some of the mussels into a deep bowl, top with some of the broth, sprinkle with minced parsley.
4. Add a few slices of lemon and bread to the bowl and dig in.

[Note: I also added a bit of olive oil/blush raspberry vinegar/grainy mustard dressing I had left-over from the fig salad to step #2.]

Thoughts: this was such a great dish. You would pay a lot of money for this at a restaurant, but could make it for reasonable amount of money at home and be in control of what you put into your dish. I will make another mussel dish tonight.

9/20/08

Sweet Potatoes with Blue Cheese, Pecans and Parsley

I was inspired to make this recipe by a post I saw on Tea and Wheaten Bread for Butternut Squash with Pecans and Blue Cheese. But of course I had to make a few changes.

Sweet Potatoes with Blue Cheese, Pecans and Parsley

Ingredients
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil, more to flavor
seasonings to taste: dry thyme, cayenne, garlic powder, salt & pepper
toppings to taste: blue cheese, toasted pecans, finely minced fresh parsley


Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425 with an empty baking sheet inside.
2. Combine sweet potatoes, oil and spices.
3. Roast potatoes for about 25 minutes, or until done.
4. Combine sweet potatoes with blue cheese and toasted pecans. Drizzle with olive oil and top with parsley.

Thoughts: I really like how this dish turned out. I think sweet potatoes are a great substitute for butternut squash, but you can also use carrots! Blue cheese melts into the roasted potatoes, while the pecans add the needed crunch, and parsley provides some freshness.

9/18/08

Testing, and then testing again

What happens behind the scenes before you can try out a recipe at home that you find in a magazine? Most often, someone else tests it. Sometimes, that tester is me.

I've been testing recipes for Robyn Webb for over 2 years now. What usually happens is she sends me a list of recipes, I go grocery shopping, buy the ingredients, and then play a mad scientist in my kitchen.

Why a mad scientist? Because I have to be extremely precise about measuring out every single ingredient, follow directions to a "t," and take notes about how long it takes to prepare and then cook every single recipe.

Most of the times, the results are good. However, sometimes, there are flops.

For example, the pecan cookie recipe I tested over the weekend was too sweet and did not have enough nuts. I suggested a few adjustments, but in the end Robyn decided to go ahead and use a gingerbread recipe instead. That recipe had a few flows with it too. I made a few substitutions and changed some of the amounts, and last night it turned out much better: what a sense of accomplishment.

Rub dub dub those thighs

Last night I was testing another recipe for Robyn and was almost 100% sure that I would not like it. Why? Because I don't like dark meat: especially thighs. And because the rub included some of the spices I like the least: nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, etc.

But surprise, surprise, after making the recipe, I thought the end result was fantastic! Guess the garlic and onion powders together with cayenne offset the other things I did not like. Just proves the point: you never know till you try.

No Cooking Post

No cooking required for this post. What is this you might ask? These are mini business cards Foodbuzz sent to me as a thank you for being one of their Featured Editors. LOVE!

One side has one out of ten designs of food, the other one has my name, blog address and Foodbuzz information. Now I just need to find people who would like them :)

9/16/08

Dinner from a Can: Mexican

A few weeks ago, I was making fun of one of my coworkers for wanting to make dinner for his SO using canned, boxed and pre-marinated items. Well, tonight, I did just that for my own dinner...because I don't really need to impress myself, right?

Mexican Yellow Rice with Black Beans and Tomatoes

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 large can of chopped tomatoes, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed, drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 dash red pepper flakes
cooked yellow rice
feta cheese
parsley, minced, to taste

Directions
1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes.
2. Add canned tomatoes, black beans and spices. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, till the flavor develop and everything is heated through.
3. Heat the rice.
4. Spoon the rice on the bottom of a bowl, top with black bean/tomato mixture, top with feta cheese and parsley.
5. Dinner is served.

9/14/08

Crab Dip

I'm testing recipes for Robyn again. This means I can't give you exact measurements/ingredients/directions, but I'm still allowed to post pictures and tell you a bit about the food I'm making. The complete recipes will appear in Diabetes Forecast.

This is a Crab Dip with red peppers, celery, mayo, cream cheese and (my addition) parsley. Delicious!

9/13/08

Polenta and Shrimp

This dish was inspired by Emeril Lagasse. Say What??? I was watching HSN this morning because for some reason there are no interesting shows on basic cable on Saturdays. Emeril was selling his cookware and showing different recipes: one of them was shrimp with grits.

This meal comes completely from what I already had in my pantry, fridge and freezer.

Cheesy Polenta with Shrimp and Hash Peppers

Ingredients
1/2 cup polenta
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
2 cups of water to start, more if needed
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 hash pepper, sliced (you can also use a regular green pepper, or any other pepper)
3 green onions, sliced
shrimp
mozzarella cheese
ground pepper to taste

Directions
1. Bring water to boil. Add salt. Add polenta and cook whisking from time to time. Add more water if needed (I added at least another cup). When polenta is close to being done, add butter, black pepper and cheese.

2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan. Add hash peppers and saute until softened. Add green onions. After a few minutes, add shrimp to the pan and cook just until shrimp turns pink.

3. Pour polenta into a bowl and top with hash peppers/green onions/shrimp mixture.

Thoughts: this was incredibly homey, warm, and filling. I ate the entire thing! This is also good with added sweet pepper sauce. Enjoy!

Pecan Cookies


I'm testing recipes for Robyn again. This means I can't give you exact measurements/ingredients/directions, but I'm still allowed to post pictures and tell you a bit about the food I'm making. The complete recipes will appear in Diabetes Forecast.

Below are Pecan Cookies Rolled in Confectionery Sugar.

9/12/08

Red Cabbage with Apples

I'm testing recipes for Robyn again. This means I can't give you exact measurements/ingredients/directions, but I'm still allowed to post pictures and tell you a bit about the food I'm making. The complete recipes will appear in Diabetes Forecast.

The second recipe tonight was Red Cabbage Slaw with Granny Smith Apples: a nice twist on your typical cabbage/carrot/mayo coleslaw. Bright colors and flavors.

Not your typical chicken salad

I'm testing recipes for Robyn again. This means I can't give you exact measurements/ingredients/directions, but I'm still allowed to post pictures and tell you a bit about the food I'm making. The complete recipes will appear in Diabetes Forecast.

Tonight I made a Mediterranean Chicken Salad with olives, artichoke hearts, red peppers, parsley and a few spices. This was quite delicious! Definitely a departure from chicken salad with walnuts, grapes and mayo. Although I would have added mayo here too.

9/9/08

Rosemary Infused Dinner

Cookthink's Root Source Challenge for this week is rosemary. Technically it was rosemary, as the due date was today at noon. Alas, as an intern I can't enter the competition :) But I can still cook!

Not being a huge fan of rosemary, I decided to make something infused with rosemary's woody flavor instead of using a lot of it. And so came about Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes & Pork Rosemary Kabobs.



Ingredients
3 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thick slices (about quarter of an inch)
olive oil
2 sprins or rosemary, needles removed
16 ounces ground pork
1 egg
1/8 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon finely minced rosemary
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoon sweet pepper sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 450 F with a cookie sheet inside.
2. In a bowl combine potatoes, rosemary needles, oil, salt & pepper.



3. Once the oven is at 450 F, roast the potatoes in a single layer for 20 minutes, flipping them after 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, combine ground pork, egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, minced rosemary, sweet pepper sauce, salt & pepper in a separate bowl.
5. Use "empty" rosemary sprigs (the ones without needles) as skewers: form kabobs from the pork mixture, put the "skewers" through them and cook in an oiled pan until brown and cooked through.



Thoughts: having the rosemary in needles instead of chopped for the potato recipe makes it super simple to remove them before eating: all you get is the flavor and not really the strong taste. The pork kabobs came out flavorful and moist...I might have undercooked them a bit, so hope I'm not going to be sick :)

Definitely give this a try.