Sitzpinkler

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Sitzpinkler: noun; German

1. Literal translation: someone who sits to pee

2. Wimp

I recently finished rereading one of my favorite books: An Abundance of Katherines. It’s about a washed-up child prodigy (Colin) who has just gotten dumped by his 19th straight Katherine. To cope, he goes on a road-trip with his overweight slacker best friend; they spend the whole summer in Gutshot, Tennessee while Colin tries to get over his heartbreak and prove his mathematical formula of Underlying Katherine Predictability. The book is a fun and silly YA fiction and the author (John Green) is fantastic; the third-person perspective is very witty and readers learn fun facts that Colin knows (like the definition of sitzpinkler and what a pupillary sphincter is). I first read it several years ago; I loved it and loaned my copy out and never saw it again, until I ran across one for $1 at a book sale last week.

Ok, now for the food.

You have seen pictures of my “kitchen” at our hotel so you know what I am cooking and prepping on but I wanted you to know what I have to cook with: one pot, one pan, spatula, slotted spoon, ladle, and 2 each sharp knives, large plates, small plates, and bowls. Everything that I make in this hotel will be made within the confines of the kitchen space and equipment (or lack therof).

Alrighty. Since I am dealing with these restrictions, for our first meal in our new home at the hotel I decided make something that I am familiar with. Dorm-dwellers and those with small kitchens rejoice in the chicken souvlaki gyro.

Chicken souvlaki gyros and tzaziki

Adapted from a recipe at The Novice Chef Blog

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, in bite size pieces (or, to minimize work, 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken strips)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons Greek Seasoning (or garlic/herb seasoning)
  • Paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Whole-wheat pita bread
  • Optional: Lettuce, tomato, red onion, feta cheese

Directions:

1) Combine all ingredients except chicken, and mix well; place in a Ziploc bag, and add chicken. Shake to ensure the marinade is covering chicken and massage into chicken. Allow to marinate in refrigerator 1 hour to overnight.

2) Remove chicken from marinade and toss leftover marinade.

3) Add 2 tbsp olive oil to skillet over medium high heat; cook chicken 7-8 minutes or until cooked through.

4) To assemble the gyro: heat up one whole-wheat pita bread in either a skillet or the microwave. Add chicken, lettuce, tomato, sliced red onion and feta cheese and top with Tzatziki. To serve as a salad, omit pita bread and serve chicken over vegetables with feta and Tzatziki on top.

***To make this meal vegetarian friendly, use seitan, tofu, or other source of protein in place of chicken.***

Tzatziki

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz Greek yogurt
  • juice of  ½ of a lemon
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Garlic salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste

My cutting board: a small, plastic lid.

Directions:
1) Slice cucumber in half, length wise. Using a spoon, scrape out seeds.

Or ignore the directions and spend twice as long cutting the seeds out. Doh!

2) Finely chop cucumber and place in paper towels and squeeze out extra moisture.

3) Combine Greek yogurt, lemon juice, shredded cucumber, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper; refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

 This is meal is easy to make while still being fairly healthy; I didn’t have any real problems even working with limited tools and counter space. The chicken reheats well and the leftovers don’t take up much space in our little fridge. The whole-wheat pita bread has more fiber and less sugar than white pita bread so it keeps you full for longer. The chicken is lean and all of the vegetables add nutrients without adding many calories; and don’t feel bad about piling on the tzaziki: real Greek yogurt is naturally fat-free and chock full of heart-healthy garlic!


Speaking of healthy, have you ever seen the MTV show I Used to Be Fat? It’s a reality show with real high school graduates who are overweight and want to go into college being a different person. MTV sends them a personal trainer/nutritionist and a camera crew captures the entire summer while these teens learn how to be healthier individuals (think MADE without the lame drama). At the end of the show, there’s a “reveal” with before and after pictures and clips from the summer. I’ve seen a few episodes here and there and didn’t think much of it until a marathon came on this weekend. I watched one episode where a girl lost 45 pounds in 80 days which was pretty impressive; even more impressive was that MTV had a follow-up with her a year later and she was keeping up her healthy lifestyle. I think MTV might have actually done something kind of good with this show; college is a pretty pivotal time in your life especially because it is the first time that most people live on their own. You become an adult as you do your own laundry, clean your own house or dorm, and cook your own meals. I think it is really kind of cool that MTV is stepping in and teaching these soon-to-be adults about nutrition and fitness; yeah, it would be better if their parents were the ones teaching them but I do think it’s cool that MTV has made a show about transformation and health and it is relatable to teens. There was one particular episode that got me thinking about it, a boy who lost 117 pounds in 110 days; he went from 315 lbs down to 198. And he did it by working out and eating better, in a way that is sustainable for him (surfing as a form of exercise, swapping chicken sandwiches for chicken salad, etc). If you’re looking to make a transformation in your life (and you’re tired of seeing those “I lost 30 lbs without sweating!” ads) then check out I Used to Be Fat: their journey is tough and pretty inspiring.

And now that I’m talking about TV shows, it’s about that time for all those fall premiers! Are you excited for the premier of new TV shows and return of old ones? Or are you not really a TV person? I’m looking forward to the start of Grimms and Once Upon a Time next week; both of them look a little dark and fantastical. Some of my old favorites have just started up again too and having cable in the hotel means I can actually watch them when they come on rather than having to wait 24-hours and catch them on the internet. I just got my mom hooked on Pretty Little Liars—she watched all 22 episodes in the first season this weekend as she was recovering from her surgery. Oh, right! My mom got her port put in on Friday. The surgery went well and she’s fine, just sore. After we get the chemo-sensitivity test back sometime in the next few weeks, we should be ready to start IPT. The chemo-sensitivity test is a test that they can do in Europe; basically they see what type of chemo (because there are a lot of them) is most effective on my mom’s type of cancer. That way, when we start IPT we know that the chemo is going to be as effective as possible.

One more recipe and then we’re done for the day. There is a fantastic Thai restaurant across the street from my mom’s clinic; I’ve eaten lunch there a few times and I’m especially gaga for their coconut curry soup. Since I can’t justify paying $3.50 for a bowl every day, I decided to whip up a batch of my own.

Thai Coconut Curry Soup

Adapted from a recipe at Pink Bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 14 oz can coconut milk
  • 1 piece of ginger, peeled, about 2 inches
  • 8 oz boneless, skinless chicken
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • Juice of one lime
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 3-4 green onions
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper

 Directions:

1) Prep all of the ingredients: cut the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces; finely chop ginger, slice mushrooms and chop green onions.

2) Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; add curry paste and cook for about 30 seconds stirring constantly.

3) Add the stock, coconut milk (1 full can + the cream portion from the second can) and ginger and bring it to a boil.

4) Add the sugar, lime juice, lemon juice, and fish sauce; reduce by 1/4 to 1/3, about 30 minutes,

5) Add the chicken, cover and reduce heat to medium-low; cook until chicken is almost cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

6) Add vegetables; turn heat up to medium-high and cook until vegetables are just cooked, about 5 minutes.

7) Ladle into bowls over rice (optional); top each soup bowl with cilantro.

I wish my camera was cool enough to catch the steam rising from the surface. Mmm…

***For the non-meat eaters, this one is practically vegetarian as is! Swap vegetable stock for the chicken stock, omit the fish sauce and use salt or soy sauce (or vegetarian fish sauce, if you can find it), and add your choice of vegetables or tofu to the broth.***

Ok, that’s it for today. Tune in again in a few days for:

  • Pictures and stories from Alchemy, the GA burn
  • Cool things to do in Atlanta (Korean tacos, pretentious hot dogs, and Rocky Horror). Will you be shivering in  antici…pation tonight?
  • Bangin’ BBQ chicken wraps and crab-stuffed salmon!

Until next time…






Necesito mas cervezas

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My mom and I are learning Spanish courtesy of her boyfriend (although this phrase I learned from my good friend Cristina). But the title really has nothing to do with the post, beyond the fact that I like to cook and I like beer.

Once again it has been busy around here and, once again, I’ve been neglecting my blog. I am sorry readers and I wish that my blog didn’t suffer form my busy-ness. To make it up to you I am going to give you a nice long blog to catch you up on everything:

1) I think I mentioned a while back that my mom fell and broke her back the week after she helped me and The Boyfriend move into our apartment in New York. Well, her doctor did bone scans and they found lesions and the lesions are cancer. So we are in Atlanta where my mom’s doctors are and she is going to be starting IPT chemo later this week or early next week. She is going to be all right but we appreciate all healing thought and positivity sent towards her!

2) We were staying with a friend of my mom’s but things weren’t working out (apparently we are too loud and messy) so we moved into an extended-stay hotel. It’s a bit small but it’s closer to the clinic and less stressful than being at my mom’s friend’s place.

3) For the next few weeks my recipes might be fewer than usual and…simpler than usual since our kitchen looks like this:

 That’s our kitchen: just 2 burners, a microwave and a mini-fridge. There is no oven, very little counter space, and no kitchen appliances, fancy or otherwise.

Nope. It doesn’t look any bigger from a different angle.

For the next few weeks, everything I make will be made with 1 pot and/or 1 pan. And since our fridge is the size of a postage stamp:

I will be cooking less than usual. For instance, I am only cooking 1 or 2 dinners a week because we have to completely finish all leftovers before there is enough fridge space to house something else.  Did I mention that my mom has dietary restrictions? This means little to no sugar, wheat, gluten, dairy, pork, and red meat in my recipes for the next few weeks as I do my best to cook around her dietary restrictions.

Whew! Now that that’s covered I though that I’d catch you up on some old recipes (i.e. from 2-3 weeks ago) today and introduce more recent ones in the next post. These first three recipes are ones that I lost in the shuffle of everything that’s been going on lately, starting with

Tostadas. I love tostadas; honestly, I think it has more to do with the queso fresco and salsa than anything else. And maybe too it’s because of memories: the last 2 years in school a couple (Jessica and Carlos) came into one of the school’s lounge spaces on the weekends to make and sell food. Jessica is (I think) Columbian and Mexican and Carlos is Dominican and Mexican and they shared their life and their background through the food that they made: tacos, tostadas, rice and beans, empanadas, quesadillas, and arepas with guava and cheese. Jessica and Carlos have 3 kids and like a lot of people in this economy were looking for an extra source to supplement their income. I don’t know exactly how they happened upon the college kitchen but I am sure glad they did! Besides the fact that their food was always fresh, affordable, and available on the weekends, Jessica and Carlos are really nice, very intelligent people. They were always friendly and tolerant of the college environment and they took the time to get to know people. I have missed them since graduating, especially since I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye and get contact info from them. So I guess that’s what I think of when I eat tostadas: I think of college on the weekends (fun!) and the wonderful Jessica and Carlos. I do miss it all. Anyway, enough nostalgia—here’s the recipe:

Shrimp Tostadas

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • ½ tsp or so each paprika, cayenne, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, pinch brown sugar, salt and pepper
  • Corn tortillas and Pam or other baking spray OR bag of tostadas

To top tostadas:

  • Chopped avocado
  • Best salsa ever
  • Queso fresco
  • Lettuce
  • Chopped tomato
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Greek yogurt

 Directions:

1) Mix 2 tbsp olive oil, vinegar, and all spices; add to a Ziploc bag with shrimp, onion, and chopped garlic. Let marinate for 1-2 hours in fridge.

2) When you’re ready to cook the shrimp, heat 2 tsp oil in pan over medium high heat.

3) Dump contents of bag into pan; cook 5-6 minute or until shrimp is cooked through.

4) While the shrimp is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with tinfoil.

5) Spray corn tortillas with Pam; cook for 5-10 minutes or until corn tortillas are crispy (skip this step if you bought a bag of tostadas).

6) To serve, put all toppings on the table. Assemble tostadas: spread Greek yogurt or sour cream on the crispy corn tortilla. Top with lettuce, shrimp, chopped tomato, cilantro, and avocado. Finish with crumbled queso fresco and salsa.

Good cheese is pretty crucial here. I recommend hitting up your local Mexican super market to find the authentic stuff: it tastes better and is less expensive than you’ll find at the grocery store. If you can’t find good queso fresco, mozzarella will work. I also recommend the Best Salsa or another spicy, restaurant-style salsa; Pace or Tostitos won’t do this recipe any favors.

Because I am such a creature  of habit (and because I don’t know another healthy side dish that compliments Mexican/Tex-Mex food) I made the corn and bean salad again. I am starting to think that my lack of side dish creativity is the reason we don’t eat Mexican/Tex-Mex as often as we’d like. The only other side dish I have run across that would complement a Mexican/Tex-Mex meal is Spanish rice and I just hate making another starch when there is already a starch element to the meal (tortillas). Anyone have a suggestion for a healthy side with moar veggies?

And we usually just bring all of the toppings to the table and build our tostadas there; it winds up being less messy in the long run.

***To vegitize this meal, replace the shrimp with whatever protein you’d rather be eating: tofu, tempeh, chick’n, etc.***

Next!

40 Clove Chicken is one that I have been jonesing to make for a while now. The allure of 40 cloves of garlic in a single recipe is pretty hard to pass up, too hard apparently because I decided to use up all of my garlic in one evening to make it. Was it worth it? You betcha! Surprisingly it wasn’t as intensely garlicky as I thought (and would have liked) it to be. But it was creamy and mildly spicy and very tender and we wound up eating all of the leftovers, which usually indicates a well-liked recipe in my house.

40 clove chicken

Adapted from a recipe at For the Love of Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of any fat
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or duck and/or bacon fat)
  • Italian seasoning, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste
  • 40 cloves of garlic
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 2/3 cups of chicken broth
  • ¼ cup milk

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees; then start separating the cloves of garlic and peeling them.

2) Place trimmed and halved chicken breast in a large zip lock bag. If necessary, pound the chicken breasts flat with a mallet until ½ inch thick.

3) Season with salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste.

4) Heat the olive oil (or bacon/duck fat) in a large skillet over medium high heat. In batches, sauté the chicken smooth side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 minutes; flip the breasts and cook for 45 seconds then remove to a baking dish.

5) Once all the chicken has been removed, add the garlic and the onions to the pot. Lower the heat and sauté for 3-4 minutes, turning often; add the chicken stock, making sure to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

6) Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and Italian seasonings if needed. Pour sauce over the chicken in the baking dish; cover with a lid or tinfoil and bake for 20 minutes. Reserve pan—do not wash!

7) Once the chicken has baked, carefully remove the chicken, onion, and garlic cloves to a platter and cover with lid or aluminum foil to stay warm.

8) Place the sauce in the large skillet that you cooked the meat in. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and milk with a little bit of the sauce.

9) Once it’s thoroughly mixed, slowly whisk the flour mixture back into the rest of the sauce. Add the butter to the sauce, raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes or until it’s nice and thick. Taste and re-season if needed. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

The dish had a mellow, roasted garlic flavor rather than the aggressive, spicy flavor that I was expecting of so many cloves. I think mushrooms, a bit of bacon, and some white wine could have really elevated even beyond what it was but as it stood, it was damn good.

***If you wanted to make this minus the animal product, I bet it would taste just as good over chick’n; adjust cooking times accordingly.***

I’m a big fan of trying new veggies, especially ever since a friend of mine gave me a good piece of advice regarding food that you didn’t like as a kid. He told me to never say you don’t like a food until you have cooked it yourself. I’ve discovered that a lot of food that I ruled out as a kid (fish, Brussel sprouts, cooked carrots) I actually really like when I cook it. This week I decided to see if I could reclaim asparagus! I added the lemon juice, feta, and vinegar last-minute because it turns out that I don’t much like asparagus. But feta and lemon juice can save just about any vegetable side dish: I’ve used it on bland green beans, wilted spinach, and overcooked Brussel sprouts and I’ve got to say that it works every time. If you like asparagus, feel free to leave out the feta and lemon juice; if you wish you liked asparagus, maybe you should add it…

Roasted asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, quartered
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp feta cheese
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Toss asparagus with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.

3) Add asparagus to cookie sheet; bake 15-30 minutes or until roasted (asparagus should be soft but not mushy).

4) Toss asparagus with lemon juice and feta; drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve.

So that’s all the recipes from before upheaval, now for the ones since. Now, I only had time to make a couple of recipes while we had a full kitchen at our disposal. I made an old favorite, cod and mashed potatoes with Indian-spiced carrots; that one never gets old for me. I have been wanting to make this for my mom for a while now and this seemed like the perfect occasion: it fit all of her dietary needs and is such a warm, homey meal. This made a TON of food and since our temporary host can’t eat black pepper (oops!), my mom and I ate on this all week.

My mom and I are at her clinic here in Atlanta Monday thru Friday from about 9am until 5pm. For breakfasts I have been mostly eating yogurt or fruit and my mom gets fed lunch and snacks at the clinic. Since I’m not a patient, I don’t so I had to think of some easy portable lunches for me. As usual, my thoughts turned to lunch wraps…

Wraps are easy to make, ahead of time or on the spot; they taste pretty good and can be really nutritionally balanced. With this wrap, I really wanted something that could be a hot lunch if I chose (the clinic has a toaster oven) and would be filling but still healthy.

Warm turkey-avocado wrap

Ingredients (for 2):

  • 2 tortillas or wraps
  • 1 avocado
  • 4 pieces turkey breast
  • 2 pieces sharp cheddar
  • Handful lettuce
  • 6 tomato slices
  • 6 cucumber slices
  • Handful shredded carrots
  • Sliced sweet onion
  • Instant dressing
  • Black pepper

Directions:

1) Start by mashing the avocado; spread half of the mash on each tortilla and sprinkle with black pepper.

2) Put 2 pieces of turkey on each wrap, right in the center, with the edge of the turkey about ½ inch away from the edge of the wrap.

3) Lay tomato slices down the center of the wrap right on top of the turkey; add blacked pepper and then cheese.

4) Put wraps into a preheated oven or toasted oven on broil for 3-5 minutes or until cheese melts.

5) Remove wraps from toaster oven and top with tomato slices, lettuce, and shredded carrots.

6) Squeeze some instant dressing over the veggies and roll up wrap like a burrito; enjoy!

***This would be just as good (and probably as filling) without the turkey, so vegetarians/vegans, feel free to omit the meat.***

The wraps generally aren’t enough for me to stay full for 9 hours so I have been packing a small side salad that I can eat a couple of hours after my wrap. I found this super simple recipe on Foodgawker (of course) and made a couple of mods to it and it is delicious!

Very green salad

Adapted from a recipe at Salad Pride

Ingredients (for 3-4 salads):

  • Handful green-leaf lettuce
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • 2 oz blue brie cheese, sliced
  • 4 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • Instant Dressing

Directions:

1) Wash and dry lettuce before putting it in a bowl.

2) Add chopped avocado, pear, cheese, and pumpkin seeds to lettuce; top with 1-2 tbsp salad dressing.

***Veg-friendly as is!!***

I accidentally added the pear—I misread the recipe and thought it was listed as an ingredient so I bought two at the grocery store. I only learned that it’s not in the original recipe when I started typing up this post! It is a nice addition, if I do say so myself. I also like how the salad looks: very green. Sorry that there are no pictures of this! I’ll try to get a pic the next time I make it and add it to the blog.So I am going to wrap this up for today but I’ll leave you with a sneak peek at what is going to be in my next post: pictures and stories of the last burn I went to (including costume pieces!) and plans for the next one in 5 weeks; TV gossip (remember when I used to do that?); tales of food in Atlanta; updates on my mom and Greek food constructed in our tiny “kitchen.”

Until next time!

How not to make a bacon pinata

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This is another meat-centric blog post: sorry vegetarians! This was a few days ago; it is probably what made me so eager to eschew red meat this week. T-bones were on sale this week so we bought 2 for the 3 of us; they totaled a little over 3 pounds!  Steak is one of my favorite meals, especially with the sear-it-and-bake-it method. This is another one that sounds a little strange, I know. Why would you bake a steak when you could grill it, right? Trust me. This is a delicious way to make a steak and it is impossible to overcook it if you follow the directions. The bacon and duck fat adds the smokiness that you would get from a grill and the cast iron provides a beautiful sear on the outside while retaining the juices from the steak.

  Best Steak

Ingredients:

  • T-bone steak
  • 1 tbsp duck fat
  • 1 tbsp bacon fat
  • Celery salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper

Directions:

1) Take steak out of refrigerator; season with celery salt and pepper and garlic powder. Let steak sit on counter until it warms up to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

2) Preheat oven to 400 degrees; heat both fats up in cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.

3) Cook steak for 1-2 minutes per side; put the skillet in the oven and cook about 7 minutes for a rare or medium-rare steak.

4) Remove the steak from the pan immediately; let steak rest on plate for 10 minutes before cutting into it.

Delicious steak and because it was so thick, it was beautifully rare. I cooked up some Yukon gold potatoes (my fave potato!), hasselback style.  

  Rosemary Hasselback Potatoes

Adapted from a recipe at http://theculinarychronicles.com/2011/06/17/rosemary-garlic-hasselback-potatoes/

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes, washed and dried
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • About 10 large basil leaves, 4 whole and 6 torn in half
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

1) Place oil and the 6 torn basil leaves in a small saucepan and heat on medium-low for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

2) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place one potato on a wooden spoon on a cutting board. Starting from one end of the potato, make slits about 1/8 inch apart; cut all the way down to the sides of the wooden spoon but do not cut all the way through the bottom. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.

3) Carefully slip one slice of garlic in between every few segments of the potatoes until all the garlic has been evenly distributed.

4) Put one whole basil  leaf in the middle of each potato.

5) Place potatoes on a baking sheet and brush them all over with the basil infused oil; season with sea salt and pepper.

6) Bake the potatoes for 30-40 minutes, depending on size. Interior should be soft and exterior should be slightly crisp.

  I had never made hasselback potatoes before today but I have been eyeing them for some time. They always seemed too difficult though so I had avoided them; I was pleasantly surprised by how simple they were to make! Yeah, mine didn’t come out as pretty as they could have but they were still very tasty. We used the leftover potato and steak to make an epic steak sandwich (steak and potatoes and mushroom and onions and jalapenos and provolone on sourdough. Yum!). I am already dreaming about making these again and soon!

I made a twist on my favorite baked carrots for some color and nutrients.

Baked Carrots

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz whole carrots
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Mix all spices and chopped garlic into butter.

3) Put carrots on baking dish; spread mixture liberally all over carrots.

4) Cover baking sheet tightly with aluminum foil; bake for 40 minutes.

5) Remove foil; drizzle olive oil over carrots and bake for 10 more minutes.

6) Remove carrots from baking sheet; drizzle with lemon juice and top with feta cheese.


And what meal is complete without a drink? I drink a lot of water and I’m trying to not drink as much soda, so I’m always looking for healthier alternatives (remember my instant iced tea?).  So insert cranberry spritzer! Seltzer is calorie-free (I think) and cranberry juice is great for urinary health and is relatively low in sugar. Together with a bit of lime, it’s a drink that is refreshing and bubbly without being too sweet.

Cranberry Spritzer

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz seltzer water
  • 3-4 oz cranberry juice
  • lime slice

Directions:

1) Pour cranberry juice into tall glass; top with seltzer.

2) Squeeze lime slice into cup; drop lime into drink. Enjoy.

So, on a different note, remember those burns that I told you about in a previous post? Well, there is one in Delaware in October that I have been planning to go to for a few months now. I got my ticket, I have camping gear, and we have been planning some fun and kooky things to bring to the burn. Well, I just sold my ticket to a fellow burner who missed out because I am not going to be here to go to the burn in a few weeks. I am leaving sometime next week to go to Atlanta to stay with my mom; she broke her back 2 months ago after she got back home from taking a week off to move me in up here in NY. Sucky, right? So she is going to be receiving treatment at her clinic in Atlanta and I am going to be there helping her since her mobility is limited. So it’ll be goodbye to cold weather for now; I’m going to miss the changing of the leaves here and I might miss the first snow. My mom is awesome so I’m glad I’ll get to spend time with her; and I’ll be glad to be there just so she doesn’t have to do it alone. Anyway, I am going to get to go to a different burn in Atlanta the weekend after this one: Alchemy. Yay! So those burn projects we have been thinking about might not have to be put off after all. The Boyfriend and I decided to tackle one of those projects this week: a bacon piñata. We imagined covering a balloon in bacon-mache; when the mache dries, we can just pop the balloon and we’d have a hard outer bacon shell, just like when using paper mache. Sounds plausible, right? First problem: edible glue. I googled that and came up with Tylose powder. According to the internet, Tylose powder is a miracle elixir that you can make “glue” with. Glue problem solved. Now that we had glue and bacon, what other problems could arise, right? Ugh. Nothing went right, except that we wound up with 2 lbs of cooked bacon at the end of the project. The Tylose never set, the edible mache glue that I made was a thick goopy mess, and the simple syrup and the maple syrup just made everything sticky. And then The Boyfriend dropped the balloon on the table and everything fell off. Ugh. It was a mess. I decided to include the recipe in case you want to know how not to make a piñata.

 How not-to make a bacon piñata

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs bacon
  • 1 balloon
  • 1 tsp Tylose powder
  • ½ cup warm water
  • Optional: ¼ cup simple syrup AND/OR ¼ cup maple syrup AND/OR ¼ cup edible mache glue


 Directions:

1) The night before you start your doomed enterprise, mix up your glue: add warm water to Tylose powder and refrigerate overnight. Don’t be alarmed if the powder does not dissolve instantly in the water; it will combine fully while it is sitting overnight.

2) When you’re ready to make a piñata, start by cooking your bacon. I recommend cooking it in the oven: it’s easy (for you) and it ensures that the bacon cooks as flat as possible. To cook in the oven: preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay bacon strips on a roasting pan; cook bacon for 20 minutes.

You can make a “bacon weave”, if you think that will help the bacon stick to itself and the balloon; if you do that, flip the bacon weave halfway through cooking time.

3) While the bacon is cooking, blow up your balloon; it should be smaller than your head.

I recommend cleaning the balloon with some vinegar water prior to bacon application.

4) When the bacon is finished, remove from pan to a paper towel lined plate; blot bacon with another paper towel to remove grease.

5) To make piñata: apply Tylose glue to both sides of bacon strips or weave; sluice off excess.

6) Slap bacon onto balloon; use simple syrup/maple syrup/edible mache glue to help affix the bacon weave to the balloon. Hold bacon weave in place for about 30 minutes or until it seems reasonably dry. Remove your hands and watch in despair as the bacon weave slides off.

7) Put the bacon weave back on the roasting pan; add some seasonings to the top (cayenne pepper or chili powder or butt rub) and pop it back in the oven for 6-8 more minutes or until crispy.

8) Gorge on bacon until your belly bursts and celebrate your failed bacon piñata.

Because of the failure of the bacoñata, I have no pictures of the finsihed product😦

Anyone out there have an idea on how to make a completely edible piñata?

Something for the vegetarians

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Today I have something for the vegetarians: I tried my hand at tofu! And it wasn’t terrible! In my quest for a different lunch this week (i.e. not salad), I stumbled upon this tofu recipe. I have to admit, I was pretty intimated. I have only made tofu once or twice before and every time, it was pretty bad. But for some reason, this tofu recipe caught my eye and I couldn’t forget it: I started to crave this tofu, even though I hadn’t tried it.

I decided to wrap this tofu up rather than sandwich it between bread: less messy, less bread-y, and I can pack more veggies into it! It is kind of an involved process: making the tofu, making the chipotle mayo, and then making the wrap. My advice? Whip up a batch of tofu and mayo when you have free-time (like 30 minutes before you want lunch) and make enough for the week. And then revel in the fact that your lunch is tastier and undoubtedly healthier than everyone else’s at the office😉

Sweet-n-Spicy Seared Tofu

Adapted from a recipe at http://blogs.babble.com/family-kitchen/2011/09/16/easy-maple-tamari-seared-tofu/

Ingredients:

Seasoning rub:

  • Butt rub
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne
  • Chili powder
  • Salt and pepper

Marinade:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tsp paprika

Other:

  • 14 ounce block extra firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil

Directions:

1) Drain the water from your tofu. Squeeze dry with paper towels.

2) Slice tofu into 3/4 inch thick rectangles. Pat each individual rectangle dry with paper towel; set aside.

3) Mix together your spice rub; apply spice rub to both sides of tofu and let sit for a few minutes.

4) Mix together the marinade ingredients. Cover the tofu strips into the marinade; set aside for 10-15 minutes.

Ok, not so pretty. But tasty!

5) Add oil to a large nonstick skillet over high heat

6) When oil is hot, add the tofu to the pan (it will sizzle loudly but don’t move the tofu around: let it sit in pan uncovered). Cook 1-2 minutes per side.

7) Remove tofu from pan; let cool before serving.

Again, not as pretty as K Blog’s. Oh well.

Smoky Chipotle Mayo

Adapted from a recipe at http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/2011/09/spicy-chipotle-tofu-sandwich.html

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup mayo or Vegenaise
  • 1 chipotle pepper, finely chopped (from a can of chipotle in adobo sauce)
  • 1 tbsp adobo sauce from chipotle can
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp each garlic powder, paprika, chili powder
  • Salt and pepper, to tasteSpicy Chipotle Tofu Sandwich Wrap
    Ingredients:
  • 1 wrap
  • 2 slices sweet-n-spicy tofu
  • 1 wedge Laughing Cow cheese spread
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp Chipotle Mayo
  • 2 planks of sweet-n-spicy tofu
  • Red-leaf lettuce
  • Tomato slices, chopped
  • Small handful shredded carrots
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • Slices of cucumber, chopped
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar/1 tsp olive oil


Directions:
1) Combine ingredients for chipotle mayo and place in fridge for at least ten minutes to chill.
2) Prep all of the veggies; gently toss in vinegar and olive oil.

3) Start assembling your wrap: heat wrap for 10 seconds in microwave. Spread Laughing Cow cheese spread on wrap; top with chipotle mayo and Dijon mustard. Add lettuce, tofu, tomato, cucumber, carrots, green onion, and avocado.

Review: The texture of the tofu wasn’t bad, thanks to the chewy and slightly crunchy exterior. I found the texture of the middle of the tofu a little weird for me but it wasn’t bad in the wrap. Very good flavor: sweet and mildly spicy, with a bit of smokiness.

I loved the chipotle mayo—so good! Again, mildly spicy, very smoky; flavors similar to those in the tofu but creamy instead of sweet; it kind of reminded me of Subway’s chipotle sauce. I toned down the mayonnaise-y taste by adding more chipotle sauce and brightened the flavor with lime juice.

The wrap as a whole was excellent: a ton of flavors and textures so my palate wasn’t bored. All of the veggies “hid” the texture of the tofu (you will have to excuse me, I’m still new to the ‘fu).

One note about tofu:  it is very moist. Like ridiculously moist. I used nearly an entire roll of paper towel drying it off. If you know of a better way to dry tofu, holla at me!

Moving on…

On a different topic, today I went back to healthy. It’s not that I haven’t been eating fairly healthy lately (bacon-piñata and epic sandwiches aside) but I have been struggling with working out. And I have been struggling with eating healthy as a life change and not as a temporary thing (aka a diet). I also get frustrated because I feel like I should be making huge strides (working out every day, never eating junk food, etc) and it’s tough and I get discouraged. So I am trying to reclaim “healthiness for life” in baby steps; one of my first steps was implementing yogurt for breakfast. I’ve read a lot about how adding low-fat/fat-free milk, yogurt, or cheese to your diet can aid in weight-loss but since I don’t really drink milk, I hadn’t considered it. But then I discovered Greek yogurt: 160 calories, no fat, and lots of proteins. I also discovered that I hated it: it made me gag and want to pitch it in the garbage. But after suffering through a week’s worth of flavored yogurt (strawberry, blueberry, peach, vanilla, etc), I accidentally ate the plain yogurt. And that, that one I like. It tastes a bit like sour cream, which can be off-putting, so I combated that by turning it into a sort-of-parfait. And now I have a mega-healthy breakfast that I kind of like (and being that I only kind of like it, I have been eating it for 2 weeks straight now and I’m not sick of it yet!).

Greek Yogurt Parfait

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz Greek yogurt, plain
  • 1 ½ tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Handful blueberries

Directions:

1) Stir honey and cinnamon into yogurt until well-mixed; add blueberries and enjoy.

Another step I am making towards healthy is a big step: 2-a-days. Basically, I am working out with Jillian Michaels twice a day between now and the end of next week. The deadline is because I am going out of town for a while; I figured that this intense period of time will be manageable because it isn’t permanent. It’s just a way to jump-start some weight-loss before transitioning into a more sustainable one-a-day workout. So I am doing Jillian’s Ripped in 30 DVD when I wake up and her yoga DVD before I go to bed. The Ripped in 30 is for body health, the yoga is for mental health. I just wanted to let you all know where it stands on my exercise; and to tell you, once again, how wonderful (awful?) Jillian’s workouts are. They are really designed to tear you down and build you up again; Jillian drives a hard workout and you hate her and your hate yourself for not being able to do it perfectly. But just when you think you can’t do it anymore, that you are going to give it, Jillian gives you an easier move to do and delivers a great motivational speech. And you find enough in you to carry on. I personally wonder if Jillian is the devil or a deity…

In my quest for a whole healthy day, I decided to make one of my favorite recipes for dinner: cod and mashed potatoes. I ran across this recipe at some point last year and The Boyfriend and I quickly made it one of our favorites. It was a bit of a hassle the first time that I made it but not that I’m familiar with the recipe, it’s pretty simple.

When writing this blog up, I realized that this is from the same source as to my favorite salsa recipe (that I will also be making this week)! Yay for Kayotic!

Steamed Cod and Taters

Adapted from a recipe at http://www.kayotic.nl/blog/steamed-cod-champ-and-mustard-sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lb fresh cod
  • 1 ½ lb Yukon gold potatoes
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ – 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 spring onions or 5 green onions
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • pepper and salt

Directions:

1) Peel the potatoes and boil them in lightly salted water until tender, about 25 minutes.

2) Mince the spring (or green) onions. Transfer them to a sauce pan, pour in the milk and when the potato timer has 10 minutes left, put them on the stove and simmer them over low heat for 5 minutes to soften up and heat the milk.

3) Stir heavy cream together with flour until smooth.

4) Heat broth; as soon as the broth starts to boil, pour in the cream/flour mix and stir intensely. Add water until you have a sauce consistency you like. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and Dijon mustard to taste.

5) Season the fish with salt and pepper; steam fish for 8 to 10 minutes.

Bamboo steamers are amazing–get one now if you don’t already have one. And don’t be afraid to really pack that fish in there.

6) Drain the potatoes, add the butter and mash them. Pour in the hot milk with scallions and a good bit of pepper; stir until well mixed.

7) To serve: divide the taters over the plates, top it with the steamed cod, and spoon mustard sauce on top.

***Ok, so this one is a little hard to veg-ify but I suppose if you replaced the chicken broth with veg broth, and found a good substitute for the cod (maybe roasted veggies?) than it could be done). You could even make it vegan if you used milk and butter replacements.***

Ok, I know it might sound a little weird to put fish on top of mashed potatoes and to cover the whole thing with mustard sauce. I know: it sounds a little bizarre. But don’t think of it as bizarre: think of it as exotic! And after you try one bite, you won’t be thinking of anything except how delicious it is. Talk about a party in your mouth! It’s exciting and it still tastes and feels like comfort food. Mmm…

Just like the blogger at Kayotic suggests, I always serve this with baked carrots. Besides the fact that these are delicious, the carrots are really easy to make; add that to the exotic Indian flavor and the great color pop on the plate next to the white fish and mashed potatoes, and you;ve got a hit!

My Favorite Carrots

Adapted from a recipe at http://www.kayotic.nl/blog/easy-baked-carrots

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb carrots
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • Cinnamon, ground cumin, curry powder, ground ginger, and cayenne, to taste
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees; line a cookie sheet or roasting pan with tin foil.

2) Peel carrots and halve them lengthwise.

3) Combine butter with all of the seasonings and garlic. Add the butter mix to the carrots; use your hands to make sure every carrot is covered. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt and black pepper over the carrots.

4) Cover the baking tray tightly with aluminum foil. Place them in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

5) After 40 minutes, remove the top foil; drizzle with about 2 tsp of olive oil and cook for another 10-15 minutes without the aluminum foil, until they’re slightly browned and caramelized.

Before I wrap it up today, I just wanted to tell you about a few big things in my life: I have 2 job interviews this week (yay!) and I am going to a burn in Atlanta in 2 weeks (double yay!). In addition, I will be spending a few weeks after the burn in Atlanta with my mom. The last one is not really a yay but I am looking forward to spending time with my mom and my friends in ATL. Expect to see a lot more vegetarian recipes while I’m there because my mom is a recent convert to vegetarianism. So my blog question for the day is: what’s your favorite vegetarian recipe??

Until next time…

Chop suey and holy mole chili

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Chop suey and holy mole chili

Since we just finished the leftovers from last week, I’m (again) overdue for posting the recipes. So here they are! These aren’t veggie-friendly as they stand but look for the ***astericks*** under the recipe for swaps!

 First on the list, chop suey. Chop suey literally means “assorted pieces” and it’s a stir-fry dish often consisting of a few types of meat and/or seafood and veggies. Because of this, it is very easy to customize chop suey to your taste preference or dietary restrictions.

 Chop suey

Adapted from a recipe at Angsarap

Ingredients:

  • 3 baby bok choy, cleaned
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 12 pieces baby corn
  • ½ head of broccoli
  • 6 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 4 oz water chestnuts
  • 4 oz bamboo shoots
  • ¾ lb shelled shrimps
  • ½ lb pork belly, diced
  • 10 oz chicken breast
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red onion
  • ½ red pepper
  • 3 tsp cornstarch (dissolved in ¼ cup water)
  • ¾ cup chicken stock
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2-3 tbsp sriracha hot sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce

 Directions:

1) Start by chopping everything and grouping them accordingly:

  • Chop garlic and red onion; add to the same bowl and set aside (we’re going to call this Bowl #1, or B1for short).

  • Chop broccoli, baby corn (if desired), and mushroom; set aside in same bowl (B2).

  • Chop bok choy and red pepper and add to same bowl; add water chestnuts, carrots, and bamboo shoots to bowl as well (B3). Set aside.

  • Chop shrimp, pork belly, and chicken.

2) Heat up a wok to high heat; add oil and B1 and sauté for 5 minutes.

3) Add pork and chicken; stir fry for 2 minutes.

4) Add B2 and continue to stir fry for 2 minutes.

5) Add B3 and shrimp and keep stir-frying for 2 more minutes.

6) Add chicken stock, soy sauce, sriracha, fish sauce and dissolved cornstarch; bring to a rapid boil.

7) Turn stove to simmer; add sugar, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer 5 minutes or until you’re satisfied with the look/smell/taste of the chop suey. Serve over jasmine rice.

***To make this recipe vegetarian friendly, simply omit the meat and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. You could use extra firm tofu in this recipe or faux chicken breast or you could just add more veggies to make up for the lack of meat. Easy peasy.***

I enjoyed a nice, cold Saranac pumpkin ale while I was making dinner. That is a nice thing about NY state: lots of local breweries.

The other recipe I made this week was chili. This one was significant because I have never made chili by myself. I have only made my mom’s chili recipe which is awesome (and given to her by an old lady in the supermarket) and I wanted to try something different. So I stumbled across this chili mole recipe using ground turkey and it sounded like something fit for folks with adventurous appetites.

 Holy Mole Turkey Chili

Adapted from a recipe at Gonna want seconds

 Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Oregano, ground cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, cinnamon to taste
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 14 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups beef stock
  • 4 oz tomato sauce
  • 14 oz cans small white beans, rinsed, drained
  • 6 oz mushrooms
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • Oregano, ground cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, cinnamon to taste
  • Optional Toppings
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Chalula hot sauce

Directions:

1) Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes.

2) Add oregano and cumin; stir 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high. Add turkey, mushrooms, and red pepper; stir until the turkey is no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon.

3) Stir in chili powder, red pepper flakes, cocoa powder, salt, black pepper, brown sugar and cinnamon.

4) Add tomatoes with their juices, breaking up with back of spoon.

5) Mix in stock and tomato sauce; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6) Add beans to chili and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes longer. For best results: refrigerate overnight; remove fat before warming over medium-low heat.

7) Ladle chili into bowls; add cilantro, a few drops of Chalula hot sauce, and a tablespoon of Greek yogurt to bowls.

***This is a super easy recipe to vegify: use veg-friendly ground-beef replacement instead of ground turkey and swap veg stock for beef stock. Bam! Done.***

Review:

This chili was really easy to make and it was a big hit. I wish the chocolate flavor would have been stronger but it was still delicious. I have never added sour cream to chili before (I was raised on a “cheddar cheese in our chili” family) so I was pleasantly surprised by how yummy it was. And by using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, I saved myself the fat and the calories. Yay! I love cilantro so I was a big fan of adding it to the bowls (another first for me!).

And now I think I am finally caught up on all of the recipes! It might be a few days before I cook anything interesting: a friend of ours just moved in with us! We haven’t seen him in a while so we are doing a lot of catching up and hanging out and eating out. But I want to establish a more normal posting schedule so that readers can know for sure when I’ll have a new blog up. So that’s what I’m working on. Until next time!

Feasting

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Feasting

If you’re sensitive to pictures of dead animals, you might want to avoid this blog post.

Man, I am still behind on recipes! I’m sorry that I’ve been slacking on the blog-front; it’s been a little busy around here and I’ve not been in the blogging mood. But before I cook anything else, I want to catch you up on everything that I haven’t posted. So I’m going to start a while back with the feast that we had. A few days after The Boyfriend’s party, he and I started kicking around the idea of doing a feast.

We usually had a feast as a celebration for The Boyfriend’s birthday but we hadn’t this year. The feast would have a $10-$15 buy-in and there was usually six or eight of us who would buy in. We’d buy crab legs and shrimp and scallops and sometimes lobster tails. It’s always been a good excuse for a fun night with friends and a fancy dinner at low cost. We wound up deciding to do a small feast with just a few friends in Albany; with our $40 budget, we bought shrimp, lobster (tails and claws), sea scallops, and a duck. Roasted duck is one of my favorite things to make in part because it’s so easy. And, besides also being really delicious (it tastes like the dark meat of chicken), it also yields duck fat. Duck fat is a fat that can be cooked in; it’s a liquid at room temperature, it is less bad for you than butter, and it gives a light, smoky flavor to food that is cooked in it. In short, it is a miracle elixir of magical proportions in the kitchen.

Back to how easy duck is to prepare: the first time I made a roast duck, it was under the supervision of a close foodie-friend of mine, Wilco. Whenever I was got insecure that I was doing something that was going to ruin the duck, I’d ask Wilco. Wilco always responded the same way “The worst that can happen is you’re going to have a roast duck.” And that is pretty much true. If you cook the duck too long, yeah, the meat might be a little tougher but the skin will be all the crispier. If your rub isn’t flavorful enough, you can always add more salt once it’s cooked. Trust me, a duck is one of the easiest things you can make but it sounds so fancy that it will impress people. AND it tastes great. What more could you want from dinner?

My favorite rub is a barbecue-style rub; it is salty and smoky and sweet and spicy.

Crispy BBQ Duck

Ingredients  

  • 1 whole duck, 5.5 to 6 lbs
  • ½ white onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, whole and peeled
  • 1 cup boiling water

Spice rub

  • Butt rub
  • Brown sugar
  • Spanish paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Italian herb seasoning
  • Salt and pepper

 Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Remove duck from packaging; drain blood and check to make sure there is nothing inside the duck (like the duck’s organs in a bag).

3) Using a knife, score the duck skin or poke shallow holes into the skin; make sure you get all over the duck, both sides.

4) Pour 1 cup boiling water all duck.

5) Mix up seasoning in bowl; adjust quantities to taste.

Rub seasoning all over duck, making sure to get every part.

6) Shove onion and garlic cloves inside the duck; place duck on broiler pan in oven.

7) Cook for 2-3 hours, depending on the size of the duck (2 hours for a 4.5-5 lb duck; 3 hours for a 6.5-7 lb duck). Turn the duck in the oven every half hour. Duck is done when skin is brown and crispy and juices run clear.

 Pouring boiling water over the duck after it’s been scored loosens up the fat under the skin of the duck. When the duck roasts, the fat melts off making the skin crispy (and creating quantities of  wonderful duck fat).

Our duck really was whole this time: head and feet included! You can get frozen duck at the grocery store; these will likely have head/neck and feet removed. Or you can buy refrigerated ready-to-cook duck from an Asian supermarket; this duck will more likely have head/neck and/or feet still attached. It is just a matter of preference. For me, I prefer being able to eat the whole duck; the meat on duck feet is delicious and extra crispy.

We bought ¾ lb of scallops at our local Asian supermarket. They were very fresh: large, white, very round.

 Bacon scallops with butter sauce

Adapted from a recipe at http://www.spotsfordates.com/07/2008/recipes/bacon-scallops-with-butter-sauce-recipe

Ingredients:

  • 8 sea scallops
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp white wine (or sub for a mixture of light beer and white vinegar)
  • ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tooth Picks

Directions:

1) Start by making sure that your scallops are completely dry: set the on paper towels to drain and blot the tops with another paper towel.

2)  While the scallops are drying, cook up the bacon; cook the same number of slices as you have scallops. Blot grease off bacon and set aside.

3) When the scallops are dry, season both sides with a little bit of salt and pepper.

4) Put 2 tbsp butter in a different frying pan over medium high heat.

5) When the butter has started to bubble, add the white wine (or beer/vinegar) and lemon juice.

6) Add scallops to pan and cook 3-4 minutes per side; remove from pan to a plate.

7) Cut bacon strips in half; to plate, slide one slice bacon (2 halves) onto a toothpick. Stick a toothpick with bacon onto a scallop. Pour butter-wine sauce over all scallops onto the plate; serve immediately.

I made the bacon-scallops this way rather than the “traditional” method (wrapping uncooked bacon around raw scallops and cooking them in the oven) to ensure that the bacon was crispy and the scallops weren’t overcooked. And it worked great! The scallops were very juicy and the chewy, saltiness of the bacon complimented them nicely. Also, this whole recipe took about 15 minutes start to finish and again, looked fancier than it really was. Double bonus.

The other two things we made were boiled shrimp and lobster tails and claws. Unfortunately the quality of the seafood was bad in this case—the seafood was frozen when we bought it and it suffered from freezer burn. The recipe is still solid so I’m going to post it, but I recommend using fresh seafood.

Seafood boil with butter

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 3 lbs lobster claws and tails
  • 3 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • Large pot
  • Garlic butter (1 clove garlic, chopped mixed into 2 tbsp melted butter)
  • Lemon butter (2 tsp lemon juice mixed into 2 tbsp melted butter)

Directions:

1) Heat up a lot of water in a huge pot; add Old Bay and vinegar.

2) Once the water is boiling, add seafood; cover and cook 5-7 minutes or until shrimp is pink and lobster is bright red.

3) Serve with garlic butter and lemon butter.

And so we feasted! And it was glorious.

Playing catch-up!

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I have gotten quite behind on posting and a lot of my recipes fell to the wayside, so today is catch-up day. There are a lot of recipes, so bear with me. For my vegetarian readers, I am trying to make this blog more vegetarian friendly so look for the stars (***) under each recipe for my recommended alterations to make the recipe veg-friendly. I have to admit, I haven’t cooked a ton of vegetarian food so please comment and add your suggestions for veg-friendly swaps.

And now…away we go!

During the last week, The Boyfriend and I bought ingredients to make Thai basil chicken. This recipe was great for a couple of reasons: The Boyfriend and I are notorious for not eating leftovers so the fact that this recipe made just enough for 2 was great. The only problem with that was that it was so delicious! We enjoyed it so much that we wound up making it three times in a week! This recipe was easy and quick and I could eat it again this week in a heartbeat.

Thai Basil Chicken Recipe
Adapted from a recipe at Gimme Some Oven

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 10 oz boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 big bunch basil leaves, stems removed and leaves chopped
  • 1-2 tsp dried mint
  • 2 dashes ground white pepper

Directions:

1) Heat a wok or a heavy skillet over medium high heat until very hot.

2) Add the oil and garlic and stir fry until the garlic is very fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3) Add the onion and Sriracha and continue stir-frying until the onions have wilted, about 5 minutes.

4) Add the chopped chicken and fry until the chicken is cooked, about 5-7 minutes.

5) Stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and white pepper; continue cooking until most of the liquid is gone.

6) Add the basil and toss a couple of time until the leaves are wilted and bright green. Serve immediately.

We used regular basil and dried mint instead of Thai basil, partially because we found beautiful basil at the farmers’ market and partially because The Boyfriend and I both find Thai basil a bit too strong in flavor for our tastes.

Lovely green basil from the farmers’ market!

***I’m not sure what you could sub the chicken for here to make it tasty but still vegetarian friendly; maybe extra-firm tofu that’s been marinating in a teriyaki sauce? Or perhaps portobello cap that has been sliced?***

We served it with jasmine rice. We have been without a rice cooker for a few months now and because of that, we’ve been laying off of the rice.

Chicken over rice

But since I discovered a (nearly) foolproof way to make jasmine rice on the stove, we have been eating a ton of it.

Jasmine Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 1 ½ cup water

Directions:

1) Rinse rice in a colander until water runs clear; drain.

2) Add rice and water to a pot; cover.

3) Cook on high until water starts to boil; turn down to simmer and cook covered and undisturbed for 15 minutes.

4) Move pot off of hot burner; let rest for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with fork.

After repeated rice-making-fails, this one is a winner. I think we have made it successfully 5 times in the last 10 days. Yay!

Ok, another recipe from last week: chili rellenos. Since our deep-fryer is currently empty, we decided to take the opportunity to healthify the recipe by grilling the peppers. I sort of hodge-podged together two different recipes and the result was a success. Let’s start with ranchero sauce:

Ranchero Sauce

Adapted from a recipe at Closet Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • ½ small onion (diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • ½ jalapeno (seeded and diced)
  • 1small handful cilantro (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Puree the tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro in a food processor.
2. Heat the oil in a pan.
3. Add the tomato mixture, chicken broth and cumin and season with salt and pepper.
4. Bring to a boil and simmer until it thickens, about 10 minutes.

Healthier Grilled Chili Rellenos

Adapted from a recipe at Once Upon a Plate

Ingredients:

  • 4 good-sized poblano pepper
  • 4 oz good quality mozzarella cheese + a small handful shredded cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Toothpicks

Directions:

1) Wash poblanos.

2) Optional: roast poblano peppers in the oven at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until lightly blackened. Place peppers in Ziploc bag and let sweat for 5 minutes; after sweating, carefully peel peppers.

3) Slice stem/cap almost all of the way off of the pepper; flip back stem/cap to remove seeds and membrane.

4) Cut mozzarella into 1 oz chunks that are the size of pepper and stuff cheese into pepper.

5) Secure stem/cap with toothpicks, 2-3 toothpicks per pepper.

6) Brush poblano peppers lightly with olive oil and cook on hot grill; cook 2-3 minutes per side for roasted pepper or 5-8 minutes per side for raw peppers.

7) Optional: Put peppers in a casserole dish; cover with ranchero sauce and shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

This was really tasty. We cut a few corners on our recipe (we didn’t roast the peppers or bake them with the sauce and cheese) but we thought that the recipe would have been even tastier had we not cut any corners; I put both options in the recipe so you can choose your route.

Empty plate = happy tummy!

We served it with a redo of the corn and black bean salad from a few weeks ago and our beer margaritas.

For my lunch last week, I decided to make dumplings. Again, I cobbled together a few recipes and they came out pretty good.

Chicken Dumplings

Adapted from a recipe at Weekend Food Projects

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 package dumpling wrappers

Directions:

1) Mix all the ingredients in medium bowl and refrigerate for one hour.

2) Use a teaspoon to measure the amount of mixture. Place the filling into the center of the dumpling wrapper and wrap or just seal.

To cook:

1) Place a non-stick pan on medium-high heat with two tablespoons of vegetable oil.

2) Place the dumplings in the pan in a single layer; cook dumplings until the bottoms are brown. Flip dumplings so that all sides get brown.

3) Add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for three to four minutes. Once the water has evaporated, your dumplings are done.

OR:

1) Steam dumplings in well-greased steamer for 5-6 minutes.

I found a great technique for folding dumplings on Fuss Free Cooking: there are step-by-step instructions with pictures! I still had to have The Boyfriend demonstrate the folding technique; he was really good at it! Mine all came out a little lumpy but his were really nice looking.

I folded one just intuitively

and then one where I used a fork to seal the edges

before I succumbed to the “normal” technique.

That’s mine in the front and The Boyfriend’s in the background. His is much more symmetrical than mine. Luckily they all cook up the same:)

Eventually we figured out where I was going wrong so my last two dumplings came out okay, haha.

We made so many!

I made a batch of about 50 of them and froze them in bags of five. If you steam them from frozen, add an extra minute or two to make sure that they are done.

***If you wanted to make these vegetarian, I bet you could sub crumbled TVP or chopped tofu (or even sweet potatoes, if you wanted to get creative) for the chicken; and if you added extra veggies and herbs to the filling (chopped carrots, fresh ginger, etc) they would be quite tasty. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to try that now…***

I also made some summer rolls and while they were good, the recipe wasn’t good enough to brag out. I do think that I rolled them nicely so I am going to photo-brag about that! Haha.

Bam! Pretty summer rolls.

They had cucumber, avocado, and crab-stick in them, in case you were curious.

***Replacing the crab stick with marinated tofu, sweet potaotes, or any number of veggies makes it veg-friendly!***

More recipes! The Boyfriend’s birthday was a while back so we had a small get-together at our house. I made some great party dips for the revelers and even though I don’t have any pictures (it was so hectic, sorry!) I wanted to post the recipes because they were really delicious.

Best fresh salsa

Adapted from a recipe at Kayotic

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1 medium roma tomato
  • About 10 slices of pickled jalapenos
  • 2 garlic clove
  • Handful of cilantro
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Ground cumin
  • Salt
  • Pinch of sugar

Directions:

1) Coarsely chop shallot, garlic, and tomato; add to a food processor or mini chopper.
2) Add the salt, a pinch of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and the ground cumin.
3) Pour in the diced tomatoes; squeeze in the fresh lime juice and add the cilantro.
4) Blend until it reaches desired consistency.

The Boyfriend and I have made a lot of salsa but we have never found a recipe that stuck…until now! We are in LOVE with this recipe! The color was beautiful and the flavor was outstanding: spicy and fresh. The pinch of sugar did cut the acidity which was wonderful. I blended it until it had the consistency of restaurant salsa and it tasted as good as anything I’ve had in a restaurant (and better than some that I have had!).

When we were choosing dips to make, we wanted to keep costs low so we chose dips that could all be eaten with tortilla chips and that would complement each other. I wanted to make something with avocados that would keep longer than guacamole and when I stumbled upon this recipe, I decided to give it a try. It was pretty good: creamy and spiced and different. Mmm…

Hank’s Tomatillo-Avocado Dip

Adapted from a recipe by Hungry Texan

Ingredients:

  • 1 poblano pepper
  • ½ white onion
  • 1 large can tomatillos, drained
  • 1 Serrano pepper
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 4 Hess avocados
  • Juice from 2 limes

Directions:
1) Roast the poblano, onion, Serrano, and jalapeño in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

2) Peel the poblano, stem and de-seed the Serrano and jalapenos.

3) Add all of the ingredients to the food processor and run until smooth and creamy.

4) Season to taste with salt and a bit of garlic salt.

The last dip was the crowd-favorite for the day. Since this was the first year in a few that we didn’t do a seafood boil for The Boyfriend’s birthday, I decided to incorporate seafood in a dip. As is the theme for this post it seems, I combined a recipe for crab dip that I found online with an artichoke dip recipe that my college advisor used to bring into class. The result was a hit!

Creamy Stovetop Crab Dip

Adapted from a recipe at Annies Eats
Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ white onion, minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 12 oz. canned lump crab meat
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup light mayonnaise
  • 8 oz can water chestnuts, drained
  • 14 oz canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha
  • Paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the onion and sauté until tender, about 7 minutes.

2) Add the crab meat to the pan, including the juices in the can. Stir in the cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, green onions, mayonnaise, Sriracha, water chestnuts and artichoke hearts; cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until all the ingredients are warmed through Season with salt and pepper.

3) Spoon mixture into a casserole dish and sprinkle paprika on top. Top mixture with breadcrumbs and pop in the oven for 7 minutes or until breadcrumbs are browned. Serve with warm bread or tortilla chips.

***You could just omit the crab here to make a vegetarian-friendly artichoke dip, if you like. Adding mushrooms to it would give it another nice texture, to replace the texture lost when the crab is removed.***

Ok, I think that wraps up this recipe roundup. I have more recipes from this week that I am going to try to get out in a timely manner so keep an eye here for that. I’m also joining our local grocery co-op tomorrow so I’ll have an update on that and what it is like to shop there!