Thursday, February 25, 2010

Two Times Is Better Than One

Ah, the first day with enough time at dinner to bake a potato! It’s crazy what you come to value in college. Some steamed broccoli on the side. Mmm, it was going to be delicious. One little hot potato had begun to bake in the oven when I craved mashed potatoes; but I was already committed! What to do…
Well, it didn’t take long, and with the help of butter, cream and broccoli, I had an idea that would give me the best of both worlds. As soon as the potatoes had become soft, I took them out of the oven and scooped the insides into a bowl. Leaving the crisp outer skin on the baking sheet, I added butter and cream to the potato innards and made mashed potatoes! A little salt and pepper and some steamed broccoli blended into the mix made it even better. After I had whipped up peaks of thick, creamy goodness I stuffed the mix back into the skin, sprinkled a little cheddar cheese on the top and baked it again.
Sounds like a long process, right? Total time from putting the potato in the oven to eating it was about an hour and a half. But, my argument is that anything that’s good is worth the wait. This was one of those instances. It was just the right amount of crispy and creamy all in one. Enjoy this on a cold evening where you are in the middle of watching your favorite TV show. It spends a lot of time in the oven, yet that only means you aren’t required to be constantly working with it. Overall, it’s a great dinner.
Twice Baked Potatoes
1 medium baking potato
2 T butter
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
½ c steamed broccoli
¼ c cheddar cheese, shredded
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Slice potato lengthwise into two, baste the outside with butter. Poke holes throughout with a fork.
3. Bake in oven for about 1 hour.
4. Meanwhile, steam [or boil] broccoli until very tender – you need it to break down easily and mash into the potatoes later on.
5. Take out potatoes once fork tender. Spoon out the insides, place in medium size mixing bowl.
6. Add butter and cream. Blend with blender until fluffy and smooth.
7. Add in broccoli and blend until incorporated.
8. Spoon mashed potato mix back into the potato, top with cheese.
9. Bake for another 15 minutes.
10. Eat!
Makes one potato, but could be enough for 2. NOMS: 8.6

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don’t Make a Burger Blunder! Cook It All at Once

It’s midterm week and I signed up for four shifts of work this week…all in a row. Monday, I had 10 minutes between class and work. What resulted? Peanut butter and jelly toast and a glass of milk, an apple in tote as I hauled it to work; so my apologies for not keeping up with the blog. In all honesty, I haven’t been making anything of real merit anyway. Until today!
Tuesday, an unloved weekday for most, allows me the greater afternoon to prepare foodstuffs. I had about a half pound of ground beef in the fridge, and knowing that this week would be a scramble for finding time for food, I decided to cook all of it at once and then refrigerate it. When I need it I just throw it into a frying pan with a few teaspoons of water and vwahlah! Instant beef! Okay, so it’s not actually miracle grow ground beef, but as long as you use it within the week it should stay fresh enough to add to rice, pasta, couscous or potatoes.
So today, I wanted to see how it worked out with some couscous and boiled carrots. And it worked out quite well. With the added tart of lemon juice and saltiness of seasonings, it was one heap of tastytasty. It’s a pretty straight forward dish and you could easily add frozen peas, broccoli, chicken etc to this dish to switch it up. Play with the spices, make it your own. It’s a quick and easy meal though, and that’s why I liked it.
Couscous with Ground Beef and Carrots
A little more than ½ c homemade chicken broth
½ c couscous
1 T butter
Salt and pepper
1 t lemon juice
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 t lemon juice
Dash of salt
1 c ground beef
½ onion, finely chopped
½ clove garlic, minced
½ t garlic powder
1. In a large frying pan, cook ground beef over medium heat until no longer pink, drain off grease. Remove beef and place on paper towel to soak up any extra fat. Sprinkle with salt and garlic powder.
2. Add in onions and garlic to the frying pan, cook until onions are translucent. Add beef back in, heat until warm.
3. Boil chicken broth in small saucepan for about 5 min [re-measure at the end of boiling, if not enough for ½ c, add water]. Cook couscous according to package instructions.
4. In another saucepan, boil water over high heat. Put carrot slices in, boil for about 5 min until tender; remove from heat.
5. Add lemon juice and salt to carrots.
6. Add butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper to couscous.
7. Mix all ingredients together, serve.
Makes one large serving. NOMS: 8

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Broccoli Basil Bash

So it’s Saturday, 4:30pm and I’m on my break at work. As a college socialite, I usually entertain myself during these precious 15 minutes by chatting with coworkers and supervisors, checking emails, looking at last night’s pictures on Facebook, or walking across the street to get a coffee with my friends. But today, my stomach demanded an excursion to food and recipe websites. By the time my mouth was watering, break was over and the long wait until dinner began. Rushing home to cook up something delicious, I found my fridge meatless. Some fresh ginger on the verge of being forgotten caught my eye; parmesan cheese a few shelves up. A green head of broccoli sat off in the corner; pungent onions and garlic begged to be used. So it’s going to be like that, huh?
Yes, it was a meatless meal, but paired with some pasta, it’s not something that will sit on your plate for long. Ginger, basil and broccoli was Trifecta winner; the combination produced a taste that was sweet and bright. The hard block of parmesan was the perfect cheese to use as it is not a melty, stringy cheese, so it didn’t smother the broccoli or the pasta. However, it offered a nice little nutty and slightly acidic bite in the aftertaste.
Basil Ginger Broccoli and Pasta
1 c broccoli, cut into small florets
½ onion, chopped
½ clove garlic, minced
1 t fresh ginger, minced
½ t dried basil
**½ c water, may be needed
2 T olive oil
½ c rigatoni pasta, cooked
¼ c parmesan cheese, shredded
1. Prepare the vegetables and spices. Cook pasta.
2. In large skillet, add olive oil. Heat over medium high heat.
3. Add vegetables and spices, cook for about 5-7 min. [Add necessary water parts.]
4. Place cooked pasta on plate, add broccoli mix, and top with shredded parmesan.
5. Instant NOMS.
Makes 1 serving. NOMS: 8

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stop. Eat. Enjoy: Chicken Pot Pie

Not many other foods in this world demand you slow down and take a moment like Chicken Pot Pie. As one of the great quintessential comfort foods of our time, this savory pie is will have your mouth watering hours before dinner. It’s like a spa treatment for the stomach. The aromatic smells of sautéing onions, garlic, leeks, celery and carrots will get the juices flowing. After preparing your cream sauce from a hot chicken stock and cold cream, toss in some chunks of tender chicken. Soon enough everything will be soaking in a bubbling bath of cream sauce on your stove. Then tuck it gently into a casserole dish with a layer of soft dough, and set it in oven until the crust is golden and flakey.
It’s a heavy belly bomb of flavor and satisfaction; you will most likely want a nap afterwards to complete your relaxing feast. It’s so hot you can barely eat it, but burning a couple taste buds seems a worthy price to pay. Few things can be valued as greatly as a homemade chicken pot pie. To me, it’s home, it’s family, it’s love. Although this time I went it alone: made it myself, with a new recipe and no family to partake in the eating, it was the same delicious goodness that I remembered from childhood. 

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie
2 chicken thighs
2 chicken legs
2 T olive oil
2 leeks, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
½ onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T butter
2 T flour
2 c chicken stock [homemade is the best!]
½ c heavy cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ c frozen peas
Salt and pepper
2 pie dough shells [refrigerated]
  1. In large pot, boil chicken in about 4-5 c of water for about 15 min, until cooked.
  2. Remove from water, let cool. Then cut into chunks.
  3. Drain water from pot, add olive oil.
  4. Add vegetables and sauté for about 7 min over medium heat.
  5. Remove vegetables from pot.
  6. Add butter, melt. Add flour, make roux.
  7. Slowly pour in chicken broth, whisk until smooth over medium low heat.
  8. Once thickened, whisk in cream.
  9. Add can of cream of mushroom soup, continue to whisk until smooth and thick.
10. Add in chicken and vegetables, and frozen peas. Salt and pepper this dish lightly as it does
not need added salt.
11. Continue to cook over medium heat until heated through.
** ***This can be made ahead of time, just keep on stove on low heat until ready to bake.
12. 12. Preheat oven to 350.
13. 13. Put first pie shell in bottom of ceramic casserole dish, do not poke holes in crust.
14 14. Add in the cream, veggie, chicken mix.
15. 15. Put second pie shell over top, pinch sides.
16. 16. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 min.
Makes one large, 4 person pie. NOMS: 9.6

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Your Favorite Jerk: Chicken

Finally a weekend without a white out blizzard! But it’s still the dead of winter. And you know those days where you wake up, look outside and it’s bright sunshine everywhere? It really should have been a warm Friday…all the visible signs said it was about 60 degrees outside. So I pull a t-shirt over my head and put some shorts on, ready to greet the first day of spring weather. When I step outside I am met with a gust of 40 degree wind. Then about midday, clouds cover the sky dropping the temp back down into the 30s. Awesome. So I turn on my heel, put on a sweater and begin preparing a classic summertime dish indoors. The weather cannot dictate my appetite.
The tangy sweet smell of marinade over meat has all the allure of a warm summer night, eating charcoal grilled chicken or beef kabobs over hot rice and tender vegetables. Yes, perhaps I am being unreasonable, hoping that February will yield summer-like temperatures, but we can dream right? Caribbean flavors, that spicy sweetness, came to mind and produced such a strong sensation that I knew what I was having for dinner tonight. Calypso beans and rice is another one of those recipes stolen from my parents’ cookbooks and cooking class recipe series, but it has become a family favorite for a reason. This rice dish is a conglomerate of flavors all at once; not like those fun-boxes of long grain and wild rice you pick up at the store that separates each grain into an awkward individual. In its entirety, the dish is savory with the tomatoes and kidney beans, while the capers, olives, lime juice, cilantro and cayenne pepper give you a jolt of flavor-shock in each bite. The only things I did not add this time were: capers, didn't have any; and bacon, fried up some turkey pepperoni and olive oil instead. It does make a whole ton, so either invite over your favorite bottomless-pit guest or put the leftovers to use. Try it with in a soft tortilla with sour cream and cilantro, crumble tortilla chips and some chopped breaded chicken patty into a steamy bowl of it, or just eat it plain. It is one night of leftovers you won’t regret.
When paired with some Caribbean or Jerk chicken though, Calypso Beans and Rice is extraordinary; and when you can grill the chicken, it’s even better. But all I had thawed was some stew beef. I have made this jerk recipe with chicken and it is excellent, but beef was what’s for dinner. Well, why not give it a try.
Here is why NOT to use stew beef for a Jerk recipe:
1. I didn’t have a grill, so I had to pan fry it. And stew beef cannot just be cooked in 20 minutes. It needs a few hours to become tender. Needless to say, it came out pretty chewy, but thankfully my guest still scarfed it down, accompanied with compliments as he ate.
2. The acidity of the vinegar in the marinade started to cook the beef too early.
3. The flavor of the meat did not lend itself as well to the marinade flavor as chicken did.
Don’t get me wrong, we still ate it all and enjoyed what it offered. But next time we either need to cook the beef far longer or use chicken.
Jerk Marinade
¼ c onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ c olive oil
2 T vinegar
2 T brown sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground cayenne pepper
½ t ground nutmeg
½ t dried oregano
½ t ground thyme
½ t dried rosemary
¼ t ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1. Mix all together.
2. Pour over meat [i.e.: chicken] in large bowl or plastic bag.
3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Adjust for amount of meat. NOMS: 8
Calypso Beans and Rice
4 strips bacon
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 medium sized onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ c long grain rice
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 c beef broth
2 T lime juice
1 c Spanish olives
1 ½ c diced tomatoes, canned
1 T capers
1 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
1 t allspice
1 t ground cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
¼ c green onions
2 T chopped cilantro
1. Sauté bacon over medium heat in cast iron pot until fat rendered, about 8 min.
2. Add peppers, onions, garlic. Cook over medium low heat until vegetables are tender, about 6 min.
3. Add rice and cook. Stir for about 2 min.
4. Add all remaining ingredients, except green onions and cilantro.
5. Stir, cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 min.
6. Gently combine green onions and cilantro.
7. Serve hot, nom-city.
Makes A TON! About 6 servings NOMS: 9.5

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

65 oz of Canned Artichokes: What to Do?

The beauty of buying a 65 oz. can of artichoke from Costco is that you discover that, like garlic or onions, everything needs a little artichoke. A lesson for buying in bulk, expect to use your product a lot. It’s not a problem since I love to include artichokes, but I will say that lately I’ve been getting a bit more creative with them. This meal had an interesting Middle Eastern/Southern Asia flavor to it, with the coriander and ginger, and blended nicely with lime flavor and then balanced out with the help of my couscous.
A few things I would do next time however:
· Try adding in some raisins; soak them in lime juice perhaps?
· Add some turmeric, a good complimentary spice to the dish
· Cook the couscous in chicken broth not water to achieve a fuller flavor
Overall, this dish was a light, but sustaining meal. I did not find myself hungry later on, an added benefit, though I didn’t feel stuffed to the brim after I ate. The artichokes were great in it, and now I guess I have about 60 oz. left…hahaha, maybe it was more than I could actually eat. But we will see.
Chicken, Artichoke and Couscous
Meat from 1 chicken leg and 1 chicken thigh
¼ c onion, diced
¼ c green pepper, diced
2 T olive oil
2 T lime juice
½ t ground cinnamon
¼ t ground coriander
¼ t fresh ginger, grated
Salt and pepper
½ c cooked couscous
1. Cut up chicken into small, bite size pieces.
2. Combine all ingredients, except couscous, in small bowl. Add chicken. Let marinade for 30 min.
3. In large skillet, cook chicken mixture for about 6-8 min.
4. Meanwhile, prepare couscous.
5. Combine chicken mixture with couscous, eat!
Makes about 1-2 servings. NOMS: 7

Pansy Proof Pudding: Bread Pudding

Designed to please a variety of audiences, this simple, warm delight will make use of the odds and ends in your pantry contents. It’s a cuisine enjoyed all over the world from Britain to Puerto Rico, and many Creole and Southern adaptations exist. But do not be fooled, this dessert is not the gelatinous, wiggly pudding that the typical American cafeteria would have you think.
Bread pudding is a category all its own; the best description being: baked, sweet-soaked bread with an assortment of other dried fruits, nuts and liqueurs or extracts. With the bread pudding I’ve made, you can still pull apart some of the chunks of bread, though as it cooks it should mold together. It makes use of a lot of flavors, and will last you a while. Be sure to add the sugary bourbon sauce, as it kicks the flavor up at least a few notches. So share with your friends, and tell them this pudding the kind that you pack in your kid’s lunch boxes.
My recipe was adapted from the New Orleans School of Cooking; a quintessential recipe to my family, especially with Caribbean or Creole dishes. I used what was left over from a birthday present [the best kind, food!], the greater part of a dense loaf of Cranberry Orange Bread, but a loaf of French or Italian Bread would work just as well, just add more sugar in that case [about 1-2 c]. Add any kind of fruit you want, raisins are commonly added. I didn’t add them because there were cranberries in the bread already. Dried apricots or cherries could also be a delicious addition. Also, check with the liquids. If too much liquid is added, it won’t become a solid mold. But without enough, you will end up eating croutons. Some interesting liquids to substitute for milk: cream, Pina Colada mix [my favorite!], other flavored liqueurs or extracts.
Bread Pudding
6-8 c stale bread, about a loaf
¾ c sugar
¼ c milk ** may need to add more as it cooks
8 T butter, melted
3 eggs
2 T vanilla
¾ c coconut, sweetened and shredded
½ c almonds, chopped
½ can pineapple, chunks or rings in bite size pieces
1 T ground cinnamon
½ T ground nutmeg
1. In large bowl, mix all ingredients together. WATCH THE LIQUID. You may need more or less. It should be very moist, but not soupy.
2. Put mixture into a greased 9” x 12” baking dish.
4. Turn oven to 350 and bake for about 1 hour – make sure that the top is golden brown and all is molded.
5. Serve warm with sauce.
Makes enough for about 10 people. NOMS: 9

Bourbon Sauce
½ stick butter
¾ c powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
About ¼ c bourbon
1. Cream butter with sugar in small saucepan over medium heat.
2. Remove from heat. Mix in egg yolk.
3. Pour in bourbon while stirring continuously until reached desired taste.
4. Sauce will thicken as it cools. But serve it warm over the bread pudding.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Mondays and Wednesdays are killer class schedule days. When it’s all said and done, I am in class until 6pm, with only about a 2 hour break in between. Jealous yet? Didn’t think so. By the end of the day, I come home tired and hungry, hoping that the magic food fairy has left me something quick, easy and delicious on the stove. It’s Week 4 of cooking at college, and I am beginning to lose faith in her “supernatural abilities”.
Yesterday, I decided to take preparation matters into my own hands and have something pop right out of the oven on my return. It was a 5 hour stew! Well, it actually turned out to be more of a 4 hour stew because I made a little less. Regardless, it was one of those warm winter meals that invites you to the table, and then sticks with you all night. With adequate planning, this meal is simple and savory. The few adjustments I made to the stew were that I added a clove of garlic – my rational: when have I added garlic and not had it come out better? [haha] The original recipe called for an entire can of both soups, and I kept that, although I cut down on all other ingredients. I like my stew a little more soupy. [Also, what do you do with half a can of cream of celery soup?] Also, 225 degrees may seem very low, even lower than most recipes online would call for, but since I was leaving my soup completely unattended I wanted it at a very low temperature so that the liquid wouldn’t all burn off or burn the dormitory down. [I feel like paying for damages would offset my budget a bit.] Sounds like a lot of modifications, and yes, some of them were more or less victims of circumstance, but this stew came out absolutely delicious.
…Maybe the little kitchen fairy was watching over my food after all :)
5 Hour Stew
½ - 1 lb. stew beef, raw
2 med potatoes, peeled, in chunks
4 carrots, peeled and quartered
1 onions - thick chunks
1 clove garlic, diced
½ c frozen peas, cooked in ¼ c of water
1 can tomato soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1. Peel and cut up vegetables and meat.
2. Mix all in dutch oven.
3. Bake at 225 (yes, low temp) for 4-5 hours.
Makes about 5 cups of stew. NOMS: 8.5

Friday, February 5, 2010

Surrender to Your Spicy

We are in for another rainy, wintery mix this weekend, hooray. So while the cold outside made my skin goosebump, there was fire in my belly tonight; chicken fajitas are on the menu! On the kind of days, when you don’t want to run out to the store, you can usually find the ingredients for this classic in your pantry.
The culmination of spices in this dish is simple: chili powder and cumin, the basis of many Mexican and Spanish meals, puts your flavor plane on the runway and then our powdered pal, cayenne pepper, gives you that heat necessary for take-off. Even for ye who would put a few tablespoons of sugar into her morning coffee and tea can handle, and perhaps even enjoy, a dash of cayenne; especially because it adds to the taste while warming you up. You could definitely add a bit more cayenne, depending on your tolerance; I added a bit more at the table.
The cool, creamy sour cream contrasted with the tenderness and spiciness of the chicken and veggies completed the fajita for me. Then, with my plain rice, I added a splash of lemon juice and a dash of cumin, giving me a tangy little side dish. Overall, it was a quick, easy and delicious Mexican dinner.
Chicken Fajitas
1 boneless chicken breast
4 T olive oil, separated
1 T lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T chili powder
½ t ground cumin
¼ t ground cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
½ green pepper, julienned
½ onion, sliced [julienned]
1 T sour cream
2 Tortillas
Cooked rice
1. Slice chicken into thin strips. Place in bowl.
2. Add 2 T olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt and pepper to bowl.
3. Heat 1 T olive oil in skillet over medium high heat. Cook chicken under tender done. About 5-7 min.
4. Remove chicken. Add 1 T of olive oil, then green pepper and onion until crispy tender.
5. Add chicken back in, stir until hot.
6. Spread 1 T sour cream on tortilla, then add the chicken and veggies mixture.
7. Wrap up tortilla and eat.
Makes about 2 fajitas. NOMS: 8.5

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Careful With Your Coriander

Coriander. Yeah, it is probably one of those random spices your family has in the back of the spice rack. But I think now is the time for it to share a little front shelf space.
Now for a little biography of Mr. Coriander:
A) Great references! He was a featured spice in Sanskrit writings and the Bible, first appearance being circa 5000 B.C. Its big debut in America was 1670.
B) Is amiable: Its unique taste is a cross between lemon and sage, but it’s light and mild in nature. Favorite playmates: ginger, cumin, curry, turmeric.
C) Family Lineage: technically, coriander is made from the seeds of a cilantro plant. However, do not mistake one for the other! They are more like siblings, not twins, thus cannot be used interchangeably.
D) Ethnicity: Anywhere from southern Europe to northern Africa to southwestern Asia.
It’s Tuesday, and it’s been a slow day. So I thought I might spice it up by challenging myself to create something with this oddball, coriander. Many internet and cookbook suggestions were for flavoring soups, stews, and sausages, making meat rubs and marinades, and even…desserts? Strange. Anyway, working with what was in the pantry and fridge, I was relatively limited: hamburger, rice, carrots, and zucchini – yes, it has been a while since the last grocery store trip. In the end, I decided to employ some soy sauce, lemon juice, cumin and cayenne pepper to the above in the creation of a Cumin-Coriander Burger with Coriander, Zucchini and Carrot Rice Dish. The lemon juice helped to bring out the coriander flavor in the rice dish and the cumin was a nice compliment to the coriander in the burgers. Not sure what “type” of food you would consider this, but I think of it as maybe more Middle Eastern, southern Asia.
Cumin-Coriander Burgers
1/3 lb ground beef
¼ t ground coriander
1/8 t ground cumin
1/8 t ground cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, pinch
1. Put beef in bowl. Add spices.
2. Mix with hands. Form patties
3. Cook in skillet for about 5 min per side.

Coriander, Zucchini and Carrot Rice Dish
¼ c rice
½ c chicken broth
1 T olive oil
½ c zucchini, shredded [about ½ of one zucchini]
½ c carrot, shredded [about 1 large carrot]
¼ c onion, diced
1 clove garlic
2 t lemon juice
2 t soy sauce
¼ t ground coriander
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1. Put rice and broth in small saucepan, bring to boil. Cover. Let cook for 12-15 min, until fluffy.
2. In skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.
3. Add in zucchini, carrot, onion and garlic. Sautee vegetables until cooked.
4. Add in lemon juice, soy sauce, coriander, and cayenne. Keep hot.
5. Mix vegetable mix with rice, serve. **Be careful with over-salting at the table, as the soy sauce is quite salty.