Saturday, August 30, 2008

Roman Spinach Soup

Okay, so I know summer (yes it's still summer here) is not exactly the time for soups. I'm an absolute soup fanatic. I love soup... I used to have a friend who worked at a sandwich shop, and even in the middle of our unbearable Arizona summers, I'd go in to get a cup of soup ('course that was before I was enlightened about food and canned soups that had been reheated hundreds of times were actually okay with me :) (ew!)
I can't drink hot drinks, like coffee, in the summer, but soup I can suck down almost as if it were a cool frosty milk shake. I've had some spinach to use up, and I needed to find creative ways of using it up... sauteing and stuffing can only be used so many times! What better way than soup?
I came across a Cooking Light recipe long ago that I always wanted to try and never did. I used to make this Greek Tortellini Soup with spinach that I absolutely loved eating for lunch and light dinners. This soup was a little more difficult by way of cracking an egg, whipping it up, and pouring it into the simmering soup slowly so you had yummy little egg chunks, and added protein to a good veggie soup. But one day I tried it, and was hooked.


I also had some red pepper to use up so I roasted one and added that in. Try it on a cold day, now that Autumn is imminent, or, if you are in the mood for a light, healthy lunch.

Spinach, Red Pepper, and Pasta Soup with Egg
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  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 4 oz small shaped pasta (fusilli, orecchiette, or farfalle)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded/de-ribbed
  • 1 tomato, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
  • pinch salt
In 2-3 qt stockpot, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add pasta, bell pepper, spinach, and garlic. Cook until pasta is tender (7-9 minutes). Reduce to slow simmer, add tomato.
In separate bowl, whisk together egg, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, black pepper and salt. Once soup is barely simmering, slowly drizzle egg mixture into liquid, stirring constantly. Cook for 2 minutes and serve. Garnish with remaining cheese and fresh cracked pepper.



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Friday, August 29, 2008

Rib Week!

Well, we didn't plan it this way, but it so happens this weekend will be Labor day (in the U.S.) And, there are a ton of sales going on, not to mention Daniel (and I) have Monday off. Well... we are ready to sit back, relax, and barbecue, for the last hurrah of the summer (as school has started for me and autumn is on its way and I could already use a breather).
One of the cheapest cuts you can get for the money is country style ribs. They come in pork or beef... I prefer pork, Daniel prefers beef. We find 1-2 lb packages for about $1.99/lb, and sometimes they are on sale for even less. I've learned to make many things out of these ribs and expanded my repertoire of budget friendly foods.
From The Daily Pork :

Country-style ribs are cut from the sirloin or rib end of the pork loin. The meatiest variety of ribs, country-style ribs are sold either as 'slabs' or in individual servings. These pork ribs are perfect for those who want to use a knife and fork.
Well said... they do contain a good bit of fat, which can be rendered off (a little) by boiling in water before grilling, and/or cooked slowly for nice, tender, juicy bites. I have experimented with them in many ways, from marinating them to brining them to slicing them up and using them in stir fry.

Keep a look out starting Monday the 1st of September for our ideas on Country Style Ribs...
They are great for family dinners and usually budget friendly.
We'll be doing some:
on the grill
a braise
a slow-cooker meal
skewers
and a stir-fry

Keep your eyes open for them and we'll see you next week!Stumble Upon Toolbar
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Swiss & Spinach Stuffed Pork Chops

While shopping one day, Corinne and I found some very thick pork chops on sale. They were a good inch and a half thick. We immediately realized they would be perfect to stuff, so of course they went into our cart. Days passed and we were lost at what to stuff them with, we had the cooking equivalent of writers block. Finally one day our muse came back and we both were tossing ideas back and forth. Corinne placed the chops in a brine over night as we debated between cheeses, mushrooms, spinach, bread crumbs, other meats and sauces. We finally decided to stuff the pork with Swiss cheese, spinach and bread crumbs. We coated them in egg and rolled them in lightly seasoned bread crumbs. They went into the oven at about 350 F for 25 minutes (to be safe make sure to cook it to the the recommended internal temperature of 160 F.) While it was baking I made a Swiss mornay to pour over the top of it (everything is better with sauce!) Once it came out it was cooked perfectly to our taste, the inside was still a little pink and it was incredibly tender and juicy. The Swiss and spinach stuffing mixed with the mornay were perfect accents to the pork!



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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From Fondue to Spinach

Nutmeg. The little egg-shaped seed of the genus Myristica. Sprinkle it on eggnog. Spice warm cider or wine with it. Grate it on your dark greens. Add it to cheese fondues.
I had, can you guess, leftovers-done-over the other day for lunch. As I mentioned earlier, we went camping last weekend. We made Turkey & Swiss sandwiches to cover a meal or two. At the end of the supply, we didn't really have enough turkey to make a sandwich with. Plus, the spinach we had bought before the weekend was looking pretty sad and needed to be made into something, and quick!
I decided to make a sort of Mornay sauce (we are good at faking these mother sauces, aren't we?) with olive oil, white flour, milk, and strips of the yummy swiss cheese we had leftover. Then, with a dab of my finger, I realized it tasted quite like one of Daniel's and my favorite past times... fondue! So, I sprinkled a bit of nutmeg in it. It was delicious! The nutty flavor of the swiss really comes through with the addition of nutmeg. I had thought spinach and turkey and swiss would all have tasted good together, so I began sauteeing some in some olive-oil Smart Balance. Hey! Nutmeg tastes good on greens too! Especially spinach (or Swiss chard)... so, I added a sprinkle to the spinach as it wilted in another pan. All the while I had been planning on adding the wonderful combination to some pasta, all in the name of lunch. Nutmeg was an after-thought... but oh what a wonderful after-thought it was!
The pasta was done and I tossed the spinach into the Mornay-esque sauce. I topped it with the pasta and then thin slices of our remaining turkey went in. I mixed it all around and the smell was to die for, so I couldn't wait to taste it! I actually burned my tongue bringing a forkful to my mouth. I restrained myself (in the name of unburned tastebuds and blogging) and set my bowl down to arrange some for pictures. Snapping away as quick as I could, I wondered what it would have been like without a few simple gratings of nutmeg.
Warm, nutty swiss cheese came through with a bit of bitterness from the spinach, then the warm salty turkey and the soft pliable noodles. And it wouldn't be, without nutmeg... which is why I decided to submit it to Sunita's Think Spice Event (This months even will be its one-year annivesary, stop by and congratulate her).


Leftovers. Again. Sorry, but you'd never know. ;)Stumble Upon Toolbar

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Tips - Making Stock

One thing Daniel and I do while keeping an eye on meat sales is buy whole chickens. Even when they are not on sale, they are usually cheaper per pound than the already-cut chicken pieces. Not only this, but if you are trying to watch your portions, the breasts they sell in multi-packs are usually HUGE! The pieces on the whole-fryers are much smaller and portion/diet-friendly. We try to stick to brands that don't pump their chickens full of salt water and antibiotics. Hopefully as the demand for unmessed-with food becomes greater, it will become cheaper.
Back to the cheaper part... buying whole fryers and butchering them at home has proved better for our diets and our budget. Daniel takes great pride in being able to butcher those hens up as well as a butcher in a shop. After some practice we are both very good at getting all the cuts off, and even making them skinless and boneless. It is one thing to quarter a chicken with bones, but Daniel can work off boneless thighs, boneless breasts, wings, drumettes, and drumsticks in record time. We freeze the pieces in twos, or threes, as meal servings. The drumettes and wings we put in their own bag until we have enough to make hot wings for parties, etc... but that usually takes a while and sometimes we end up eating grilled/barbequed wings for dinner :)


If we aren't making stock the next day we'll take the bones (plus the giblets/neck from the inside) and place them in a bag in the freezer. I usually wait until I have two whole chicken carcasses to make stock.
Another thing we do throughout the week is take leftover vegetable parts, such as onion roots and skins, celery leaves, carrot tops, squash-ends, etc. into plastic bags that we keep in the freezer. That way we are using up part of veggies we wouldn't normally use up.
Once you have enough bones and plenty of veggies, place them all in a pot that is large enough to hold it all plus the water to cover it. One thing I try to do (though not always available) is tie the "veggie scraps" inside some cheesecloth, which makes for easier stock-tending later on.
Cover the bones/veggies with cold water. If you aren't using veggie scraps, place in a couple carrots, a few ribs of celery, and a quartered onion for added flavor. Add 5-10 peppercorns, a few cloves of [crushed] garlic, and a bay leaf. If you don't have celery on hand, I've heard (but never tried myself) that a pinch of celery seeds adds the same flavor.
Now, bring to a boil, but watch it, once it boils immediately reduce the heat so that it is only a simmer. If you let it boil too long you'll get cloudy, murky stock that has all the fat mixed into it.
Now, you don't have to sit over this all day, but you will have to check back (about every 15 minutes or so) to skim off the foam/muck. If you don't put in the chicken skin (which I don't) you won't have as much to skim off... honestly I have read and I find myself that it doesn't add any flavor and its just more fat to skim off the next day.
Simmer your stock for 4-8 hours... Add hot/boiling water as needed (per Alton Brown's method) to keep the veggies and bones submerged, but I tend to shy away from this in the last few hours or so of stock-making, as I think its waters it down. At some point in the process you may not have any more muck/scum to skim off the top... from here it is smooth sailing and tending to it becomes a lot easier. This is the point when I stop adding hot water, and the stock usually boils down to about 1/4 - 1/2 way down... Once your timing is correct, and it tastes to your liking, (or you don't have time to tend to it anymore...) strain your stock through a fine mesh strainer... (tip from our Jager Lamb Chops - If you don't have a mesh-strainer, use a cheese cloth [or even a dishcloth in a pinch] in the bottom of your sieve, in a bowl.) and into another pot (one that will fit in your fridge) it goes... Let it cool in the sink, in a cool-water bath (just fill up the sink around the pot of stock, being carefull not to get extra water into the actual stock.) Once it's cool enough, place in the fridge over night.
Meanwhile, you have bones and necks to pick meat off of. Since this meat has been boiled, it is good for chicken-pot pie or chicken enchiladas or the like. More on that later.
The bones and mashy veggies can go in the trash, or if you have a compost pile, compost what you can).
The next day, your stock should be nice and gelatinous. There will be a layer of fat that you can skim off. Elise, of Simply Recipes, likes to leave the fat on to preserve her stock for longer. I prefer to freeze mine anyways, so I take all of it off.
At this point, once the fat is off, and the stock is taking on room temp (and becoming liquid again - you may have to help it out by putting it on low on the stove top), I transfer the stock to containers for freezing. I freeze some of it in one or two cup portions, and the rest goes into ice cube trays.
The ice cubes are great for recipes that call for just a little stock (when store-bought cans have 16 oz of salty chicken-flavored water, bleck) And, you can warm them up in the microwave or on the stove top to get the amount you need... I think my particular ice cube trays hold about 2-3 tablespoons of stock per cube, but I don't measure it out everytime, as I don't have time for that, and I'm an eyeballer for most recipes.
The frozen stock will keep in your freezer for up to three months, Alton Brown suggests bringing it to a boil before using it again.
Even you can enjoy making your own soups and gravies from scratch... and using up veggies and bones that most people would simply throw out.Stumble Upon Toolbar

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Southwest Taco Pasta

Just a short post to show you how versatile leftovers can be. Our four-year old didn't even notice it was leftovers!
We had barely enough of Daniel's cheese sauce (From our SW Turkey Nachos) to do anything with the next day, other than make a mini batch of nachos. Blah.
We did have plenty of black bean and corn salsa though... and I wondered what we could do with it. I decided to make a side out of it, that I had tried before. What I did the first time was just made a simple sour cream and milk mixture, maybe I added cheese - I'm not sure... then I threw in the rest of the corn/bean salsa, and loaded it with Emeril's Southwest Essence (basically a bunch of chili peppers, and salt) I try to stay away from mixed seasonings, because of the salt, so I decided to try my own kind of taco seasoning this time... If you don't have that kind of time, and don't have to watch your salt, (and have extra taco seasoning on hand),just use the store-bought packets. I also don't like using the whole pack, because we usually only make enough for two or three servings, so making my own just makes more sense.

Basically, I boiled two/three portions of fettucini. Meanwhile, I took the rest of the cheese sauce and added sour cream, milk, and about 1/2 cup more of shredded cheese, I dumped in the taco seasoning and mixed it around. After the pasta was done I drained it and added a small pat of olive oil Smart Balance (we are trying it instead of butter ALL the time, comment if you must :) and the cheese sauce/milk mixture (the milk thins it enough to coat the pasta). Now, toss in the salsa. The heat of the pasta should melt the cheese mixture and stay quite warm. You could also add leftover taco meat for some protein or to make it a main course. Maybe melt some cheddar on top or sprinkle with crushed tortilla chips and bake it in the oven like a sort of SouthwestMac & Cheese? Hmm... there is an idea to try :)


Doesn't that look tasty? Especially for leftovers?

If you want to make either the salsa or the taco seasoning from scratch, I have listed below the stand alone recipes:

Southwest Black Bean and Corn Salsa

1-2 ears of corn (1/2-1 cup frozen corn, thawed)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeded/deribbed, minced
1/2 onion, chopped

Combine all ingredients in bowl, fold to mix.


Homemade Taco Seasoning

1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon paprika
pinch cayenne or chili flakes (we like it spicy)

Combine all ingredients and mix well.Stumble Upon Toolbar

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tropical...

Just a quick post today. I believe we've made references to Daniel's favorite, Garlicky Brown Rice, before... Well, we almost always have leftovers, and, while croquettes aren't exactly the best thing to make from leftover brown rice, there are plenty of other possibilities we've explored.
One thing Daniel began experimenting with was a sort of sweet and spicy combo that went well with rice. On one of our fish-nights we had fresh Mahi Mahi that I had found on sale at Sprouts. I bought a mango, a jalapeno, and some other things for a sort of fresh salsa we could eat over the fish. It didn't turn out that great, (which has subsequently led to us not doing fish night as often as we should - shhh! don't tell!) but the salsa was fantastic. We had a usual side of rice and ended up mixing it all together because it was so tasty.
Before long, Daniel was using up the rest of the mango and jalapeno, and throwing in some tomato for color. Onion and bell pepper was also added in later versions.
This week, we had two mangoes we had bought just for the rice (though, one ended up in our Jungle Juice) and some fresh Roma tomatoes, as well as some pepper. We didn't have jalapeno, so I used some chili flakes instead. We also didn't have the preferred red onion, but our yellow one worked fine as it was wokked slightly before the other stuff was thrown in to take the edge off.

Island Rice
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  • 1 to 2 cups leftover rice
  • 1 mango, skinned/seeded cut into small cubes
  • 1 tomato, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 green/yellow bell pepper, seeded/deribbed, and diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded/deribbed, and minced (chili flakes work if you don't have one)
  • oil for frying

Preheat a wok with a little oil over medium-high heat. Toss in jalapeno and bell pepper, saute for one minute. Toss in red onion, saute for one more minute. Throw in rice and stir to heat thoroughly. When rice becomes aromatic, add mango and tomato, stir to combine. We like a bit of chili flakes sprinkled on top for serving.


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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jungle Juice Redefined

Corinne and I were in the kitchen making dinner, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to drink. It had been a long day, a beer sounded good but I was out. In fact we were out of just about out of all of our liquor too. We did have some vodka though so I started to look around for something to mix it with. My eyes landed on a tray of fruit, bananas, an orange and best of all…a mango! When I was younger we used to take all the fruit we could find, put it in a big ice chest and poor vodka or Everclear over it and make Jungle Juice. I thought we could do a little better than that (for flavor at least). I looked around and found some Grenadine and a bottle of sparkling water as well, picked up the tray of fruit and assembled it all on the dining room table. I sliced the fruit and placed it in a glass pitcher (much smaller then the ice chests we used to use!) and poured 1 cup of vodka in it (I wanted to save a little bit of the vodka for later) and the bottle of sparkling water. Then I used a jigger to measure out 1.5 oz of grenadine and poured that in the pitcher. It looked great, the fruit floating in the pitcher, the red color the grenadine gave to it. I couldn’t wait to try it!

I let it sit for about half an hour and poured a small glass. It was horrible! Half an hour is definitely not enough time for the vodka to be infused with the fruit flavor. I put the pitcher back in the fridge and drank a glass of water with dinner. The next day I took it out again and poured a glass with dinner. Much better, the fruit flavor was very pronounced. The bananas flavor was the most prominent with the mango coming in right behind it. I would recommend squeezing the orange juice into it if you want to taste the orange flavor, I did not do that and I wish I had. It was like drinking fruit juice, I could not taste the vodka at all.

Next time I try this I think I am going to use different fruits, some strawberries or watermelon would be good. Another option would be to add some lemon-lime soda, it would add some sweetness and fruitiness if used in place of the sparkling water. Though not nearly as strong as we used to make it, this is a bit more refined version of the Jungle Juice we drank in college.


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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Making Kids' Food Fun At Home

Speaking of kid friendly foods and tricking your picky eaters into eating stuff that was good for them, I began thinking about what exactly it is I do to get our little one to eat.
Being on a budget and a diet means not buying a lot of junk food... My reference to Michael Pollan in a past entry really cemented my belief in not buying junk food just because it seems to be cheaper than healthy wholesome foods like fresh produce. "Shopping on the perimeter of the store" means choosing fresher foods, foods that aren't generally loaded with sugar (aka high fructose corn syrup) and fat. Now, when you think about a child, you think they need the calories anyways... and while that is partially true, you still need to give them calories from wholesome, healthy, and nutritious foods. But how many five year-olds will choose a whole wheat turkey sandwich over a pepperoni pizza pocket? Or a fresh apple over those cool little gel-filled fruit snacks? Not many... I have some views on these products regarding the diabetes epidemic in our country and other issues that I won't get into... but, my question is: How do you make healthy foods for kids as fun as those chalked-full-of-sugar ones?
I'll tell you how. You don't have to be that creative, and you don't have to be an artist. It certainly helps, but it isn't necessary. Its easy! Lots of my ideas came from my grandmother, who used to surprise me with a fun snack when I'd come home from school. She always had lots of fun ideas to dress up the sandwichs and fruits and veggies she gave me to eat, and in turn, I learned to love all that stuff... hey, I was a weird kid to begin with, but food appeal is as important to kids as it is to adult, if not more. Other ideas I got from various bento sites.

  • Fruit and veggies are an easy thing to make fun!
- Canned pears can be turned into dogs heads. (Place a cherry on the pointy part for a noise, and a raisin [or two] for the eyes, cut out a tear drop shape[s] for the ear[s])
- Of course you've heard of ants on a log? (Raisins dotted along a peanut butter fi
lled celery rib).
- Apple Rabbits, also from Biggie's blog, they are pretty easy once you've done them a few times, and are very cute!
- Treasure pots: small tomatoes or apples that have been cored and filled with some
thing. (I'll try to add a picture of these later) Fill with tuna salad, egg salad, raisins, yogurt, pudding, etc.
- Carrot coins/slices and baby carrots are a very commonly loved veggie amongst the toddlers/children I've ever worked with in daycares and schools. Ranch dressing, of course, is fun to dip it in, but other alternatives include sour cream with ranch flavoring mixed in, tzaziki, or hummus. Get creative and experiment to see what your little one likes.

  • Sandwiches of any kind can be cut into a variety of shapes.
- When I'm short on time, I just cut the sandwich diagonally and make two triangles... then they can be used as sails for a boat (see below), or other various designs.
- Cookie cutters can be used to cut shapes either inside of the bread or our of the whole piece. Stars are particularly loved. Hearts are fairly easy too and add a cute touch.
- Be sure to cut the shapes out before you put the fillings on, unless you are O.K. eating the little bits that are left! :)

  • Other kids items that are fairly guilt free:
- Goldfish crackers that are made with whole grains are available in most stores, try the organic section.
- Rice cakes can be used to make fun shapes - use serrated knives to cut in halves or quarters. (Our little one loves the chocolate ones, they are made with brown rice and are only 60 cal
ories and 4g sugar)
- I stay away from fruit snacks as even though some boast they are made with real fruit juice, they are still loaded with corn syrup. Try fruit leather... Elise at Simply Recipes has a great recipe for homemade fruit leather!


Once you have a repertoire of food items that are fun by themselves, you can create pictures and sculptures out of your food.
Faces are easy to make out of sandwiches. For eyes use raisins, cherries/berries, carrot coins, [a couple] M&Ms... For the nose the same can be used. Mouths can be made out of bananas, or snowman-style (dots in a row) with the same things as mentioned for eyes/noses. Hair can be made from carrot sticks, spaghetti (great use for leftovers), or rows of ranch dressing/ketchup (depending on what else is on the plate :)
Pictures can be made using a variety of things. Try a dog with a rectangle body made from half of a sandwich. A pear head with previously mentioned berry
nose and raisin eye(s). Legs can be made out of baby carrots or the other half of the sandwich cut into tiny rectangles. A tail can be made from a long cut of banana.
Try making a sea scene. Long lengths of banana form the top of the ocean (squiggly lines of ranch or ketchup work well here too). Goldfish crackers swim freely. Green peas form the bubbles. Skinny lengths of sandwiches or toast make up the sandy sea floor (graham crackers work too) Octopus hotdogs float along the bottom near various plants (lettuce? carrot matchsticks arranged in a fan? potato stick coral?)
Or try making a simpler ocean. Cut a rice cake in half to form a semi circle, this becomes a boat. Slice a sandwich diagonally to make sails. Make waves out of banana semi-circles (cut the slices in half) Place a few octodogs at the bottom among a ketchup ocean floor.
Robots are well loved by our boy, and very easy to make since they are very angular, lots of squares and rectangles, which can be made with bread, crackers, carrot sticks, etc.
Try making a city. Sandwiches cut lengthwise to form long triangles can be adorned with lots of windows by cutting carrot sticks into small rectangles to form great skyscrapers. Banana coins placed irregularly together form fluffy clouds in the sky. Apple bunnies can sit on a leaf of lettuce that forms the grass in a park below the big city.


Let us know what you do to feed your kids healthy wholesome foods while making it fun in the process.Stumble Upon Toolbar
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Southwest Turkey Nachos

We went camping this weekend. I did not feel like cooking after unpacking and cleaning everything (ourselves included). I surveyed the sparse prospects for dinner (we hadn't made it to the market in a while). We had tortilla chips, but no salsa. We had some canned beans... black, green, various kinds. We had plenty of cheese as we had stumbled on a good deal on a big block of Daniel's favorite - extra sharp. Stumbling from the fridge into the freezer I found a few bags of flash frozen veggies such as corn and broccoli for occasions such as this. We also had various usual items like milk, sour cream, canned tomatoes, garlic, onions, potatoes... what could we make?
I wanted to make something we hadn't had in a long time... We had most of the ingredients and good substitutes for the rest... Our Southwestern Turkey Nachos. Usually we use all fresh items for this. Fresh grilled corn. Fresh tomatoes. Fresh turkey. We also usually use blue corn chips, I don't know if they are a healthier when it comes to calories and fat, but they are less salty than typical brands and cheaper when we get them from Sprouts... so we began getting them instead of Doritos or Fritos. Since my step-son has been here for the summer, we've gotten lazy and don't make it to Sprouts and the other various Farmers' Markets as much as I'd like to. So today we used various substitutions, but it was still satisfying and wonderful knowing we were tricking our picky four year-old (and Daniel!) into eating fresh veggies.
I don't know how we cam e up with the idea... but it was probably a combination of Daniels love of chips/dips and my childhood experiences with Haystacks - think Fritos piled with taco meat, lettuce, tomatoes, beans, sour cream and cheese, and melted in the microwave - a 90's innovation my single-mother probably found in Good Housekeeping that was great for nights she didn't want to cook a big meal) I wanted a healthier version of nachos for Daniel... and I used this "salsa" to make the blue corn chips a little more hearty. We also found ground turkey tasted just as good as beef when seasoned with chili powder and pepper (no salt!) In our experiments, Daniel came up with a easy (or lazy, depending on how you look at it ;) way to make a cheese sauce for the nachos. Originally I was just sprinkling cheese over the nachos, another attribute that can be traced back to my mother's Haystacks. But Daniel took the sour cream and the cheese and melted them together to form a superb creamy, cheesy sauce, that was just tangy enough, which added a great background for the rest of the flavors piled on the chips.

Without further ado:

Southwestern Turkey Nachos
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  • 1/4-1/2 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 2 ears grilled corn, cut from cob (or about 1 cup frozen corn, thawed)
  • 1/2 can black beans, rinsed/drained
  • 1 tomato, seeded/chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded/deribbed, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

  • blue corn chips (yellow/white works too)

  • 1/2 lb reduced-fat cheese
  • 1 cup fat-free sour cream
  • Red chili flakes (optional)
Begin cooking turkey by heating over stove top and combining with chili powder and pepper (or however you like to season typical taco-meat). Ground beef can also be used, but be sure to drain the fat off.
Meanwhile, in medium bowl, combine cobbed-corn, black beans, jalapeno, onion, and garlic. Mix well to combine. Fold in tomato (since it is a bit more fragile).
In another bowl, shred the cheese and combine with sour cream. Place cheese/cream mixture in microwave on high for 45 seconds. Stir. Place back n microwave for another 45 seconds or until cheese is thoroughly melted. Fold in a pinch of chili flakes. Stir to ensure consistency. (This could probably be done on the stove-top, but as I've stated it's basically a lazy mornay and who wants to dirty another pan?)
Take handful of blue corn chips and spread onto a dinner plate (repeat for additional servings- should make four) Assemble plates by topping with cheese sauce, then turkey, then the corn/bean salsa. We also like to top with a dollop of sour cream and a few chili flakes.


Working on our food styling/photography... You can also do it party-style... great for serving a group of people... or, one hungry man ;)

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Corinne's Reviews - Recipe Sites

If you are a food blogger, I'm sure you are aware that there are a ton of sites geared just towards you as part of the foodie demographic...
When we first started blogging about food, I got lost in the tons of sites there are for foodies... In trying to get our name out there and trying to connect with other foodies, I'd tell Daniel, "I've signed up for so many sites I can't keep track anymore!" And he'd laugh at my ambitiousness.
There are sites I've mentioned already - Great Cooks Community, The Foodie Blogroll/Forums, plus a ton others... some geared towards specific foodie audiences, such as Indian foodies or bakers, and some geared towards the general plethora of the foodie community. There are social networking sites, and food-porn sites (think Tastespotting), foodie-encyclopedias (on everything from food styling to writing restaurant reviews), and of course, good old digital recipe-keeping sites. I tried tons of sites from Allrecipes to Recipezaar. While I like (and occasionally use) these sites... you need no telling from me about them... they are some of the most popular and more used... What I want is to tell you about the lesser-known ones... in hopes that maybe you'll find one that fits your needs better.

These are some of my favorite sites that I've stumbled on in my quest for food blogging satisfaction :)


Key Ingredient - A recipe-box site that has some great tools for food bloggers.

Features:

  • Recipe "locking"which allows the user to choose whether their recipes can be built upon... always getting credit when your recipes are built upon, or not built upon, but still linked to, or the option to keep them totally locked in which people can't link to or build upon your recipes.
  • Recipe privacy sharing only with other network members, only "friends" of your choosing, or completely private (like your own little recipe box)
  • Html coding of recipes: This feature is what drew me to go to the site. Bloggers can take the HTML code that K.I. provides and paste it into their blog, the "digital recipe card" allows bloggers to show the recipe, along with a picture, and and "about" tab... all contained in a single form that shows up as a tabbed box your readers can click on to see the different features of the recipe. (see example at Dork Chow)

Group Recipes - A very interactive recipe site with a social twist. It calls itself a social network because the recipe rating, favorites, and grouping allows a lot of room for social contact.

Features:
  • Personal digital recipe box - G.R.s Recipe Manager lets you save other's and your own recipes into your own recipe box which allows you to organize into main folders, then further by category/sub category. My box contains the folders: My Own Recipes, Want to Try, Favorites, and General... but they are customizable. The subcategories are divided into things such as appetizers, drinks, lunch dishes, etc.
  • Another cool feature about the Recipe Manager? You can import recipes from external sites such as Recipzaar, etc... so you aren't limited to saving only tour own/G.R. users' recipes, and no re-typing in recipes that you don't already have in digital format
  • The "Recipe Robot" - When you sign up to use G.R. you take a little quiz that determines your "taste profile." When you view a recipe, the Recipe Robot tells you what its predictions are for the recipe whether you will really love it, just like it, not enjoy it very much, etc... You can browse recipes as well as users by taste profile, so you can find stuff that fits you.
  • Way cool search functions - You can also browse recipes by ingredients, or by flavor. Does a spicy chicken dish sound good to you right now? Great- type that in and all the recipes tagged spicy, hot, chicken, poultry, etc. will show up for you to drool over and use.
Other Features to look for:
  • Html of own recipes - when you submit a recipe, it automatically converts it into html code so you can insert the code on your blog... this is my personal choice for putting recipes here at A.G.L.A.
  • Groups - find recipes and meet foodies through similar food interests
  • Comparison Queue - compare two or more recipes face to face.
  • Ranking - doesn't affect the way you can use the site, but it sure is fun to submit as many recipes/comments as possible and watch your number go up!


Recipe Matcher - While this interactive site doesn't have a recipe box per say, it has some other awesome features that are sure to tickle your fancy.

Features:
  • Search by ingredient - You can browse many recipes (submitted by admin and users) by the ingredients of your choosing. For example: You have cream that is going to expire if you don't use it today! Plus you have some other ingredients that you want to use up... type them in and Recipe Matcher will find recipes for you that contain said ingredients.
  • You own personal "ePantry" - (for signed-up users) Browse a list of common kitchen/pantry items and check the boxes if you have it. Then, use the browse function to find recipes containing what you have. The list will be organized by percentage of ingrdients you already have... no more rushing out to the store to try a recipe you just found... work it the opposite way... find recipes that use what you already have!
  • eBar - Yes, it works with drinks too... Daniel and I have a pretty nice selection of spirits and liqueres, but we don't have everything... On lazy evenings it is nice to find drinks we have all the stuff for already.
Other cool features:
  • eGrocery List - Formats your grocery list into a printable version
  • Recipe Viewing - You can save favorites and view your own submitted recipes (though, recipes you submit are not guaranteed to show up :P )

Check them out, if you haven't already... and of course... let me know your favorites... I love exploring new sites and finding even more ways to meet new foodies. Enjoy!
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Simple Spicy Broccoli & Beef Noodles

Leftovers. We had a BBQ a few weekends back, and Daniel made his famous Spicy Beef Skewers (more about those in another entry), adapted from an original recipe used by Disneyland's Bengal Barbecue (in Adventureland). Well, we had a lot of leftover sauce, and some leftover sirloin steak that hadn't made it to the grill. We also had some veggies that were intended for grilling (broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots) but only half of those made it to the grill (along with olive oil and garlic in cute little foil packages)... so I decided to use the broccoli to make some long-craved [takeout]Chinese-style noodle stir-fry...
His skewers are a tad too spicy for my liking, so, I softened the sauce with some more soy sauce and water, as well as about a tablespoon of peanut butter. Something about peanut butter in Asian stir-fry drives my tastebuds wild... I just love it - a trick I learned from Cooking Light.
I started with the thawed sirloin and stuck it in the freezer (makes for easier slicing) while I gathered/prepared the rest of the ingredients. I blanched the broccoli, melted some peanut butter and started boiling the water for the noodles. Once the water was boiling, I took out the steak and sliced it thin, across the grain. It looked quite like fajita meat, but I was headed to the Far East. I'll be submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights... take a look and find something good to eat!


I tossed the meat-strips into a preheated wok with a few tablespoons of oil, cooked them until they were medium-rare, then topped them with the sauce from Daniel's skewers. Then, I strained the noodles and dumped those on top... mixing them around and adding the melted peanut butter.
Once that was all mixed well (the peanut butter tends to be sticky if you don't work it through), I tossed in the broccoli and mixed just enough to coat the florets with some sauce... I grabbed my tongs and loaded some onto my plate and crushed some peanuts over the top for a good crunch, then happily ate with chopsticks.Stumble Upon Toolbar

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Croquay? Croaket? Croquettes...

So... browsing around my usual reads I came across an entry on My Italian Grandmother on Rice Croquettes ... I wasn't familiar with the idea of croquettes (in fact Daniel and I joked about the pronunciation of it for a good while) and I began some research. Good old Wikipedia defined croquettes as "little parcels of food encased in bread crumbs or sometimes mashed potatoes" ... hmm... interesting, yes?

Back to Michele and her grandmother's version... I had to keep it in mind for later... We almost always have leftover rice when I make it... but it didn't seem like something I wanted to make with the usual Garlicky Brown Rice we eat with our meals. "Little parcels of food" sound yummy (don't they), and her pictures certainly made my mouth water for the little crispy rice balls.
It so happened the other night, when I made pork as our main course, that I decided on an herbed white rice as a side. It was very good rice, seasoned with rosemary, thyme, and a pinch of basil, but it was a tad too sweet for Daniel's liking. We had a lot leftover. But wait... I could make those crokays... or those croaketts? Or those, whatever they were... little fried rice balls!
And so I did.

I had to make up for measurements and obviously I used the herbed rice instead... I also used olive olive for frying... it made me feel a tad bit better about the actual "frying" part... but otherwise followed Michele's recipe as it was.


Don't they look tasty? They were... and I was so excited to make something out of my usual repertoire that I actually made them for breakfast! Hey, they have eggs in 'em! It was kinda breakfast-y :) And Daniel liked them too because they weren't so sweet when fried and a little salt was added.

Definitely keeping the recipe for later use... maybe I will try them with the brown rice we usually eat... I'll let you know!Stumble Upon Toolbar

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Too Much Wine

Following up on yesterday's dandy little post... I wanted to share my breakfast with you... There is nothing like a greasy, spicy, full-of-protein-and-carbs breakfast after a night that makes you feel like hell the next morning.
Now don't get me wrong... I'm not one for all-nighters and getting plastered 'till your brain leaks out your ears from excess of alcohol. That's not, classy. Nor is drinking so much wine at a dinner party that things come toppling out of your mouth that would make either your husband or your mother blush bright red.
But there is something about even just a few glasses of wine that make me feel like hell the next day! I don't feel like I've had too much wine after a few glasses... and I've tried to prevent the hellish mornings with plenty of water before bed, or a nice hot shower, or, a nice cold shower, or aspirin. But nothing seems to work. I can shrug off nights of mixed drinks or a few straight shots... usually with plenty of water and a couple of aspirin, but when it comes to wine, it's a lost cause. When I finish off even one single bottle with Daniel drinking at least a glass... I'll still feel awful the next day.
It affects me in ways hard liquor could never dream of phasing me... and when I feel the way I do after a bottle of wine, I also feel it's high time for a splurge to make me feel better.
This type of breakfast is completely on the no-no list. But, when I eat it less than once a month, I can convince myself that it is OK and that it is going to make me feel better.


I also feel better about the fact that the eggs are fresh, the bread is whole-wheat, the sausage is made from free-range pork, and, I'm using up precious leftovers. Daniel is German and the fact is, no matter what is "on our diet," we will always have some sausage in the house, whether it's fresh from Sprouts or frozen in the freezer for a spur-of-the-moment Family Barbeque. We find this free-range pork sausage on sale at our local grocery store... every time we are there we check for packs that are about to expire and get the "Manager Special" sticker... They are fully-cooked and vaccuum packed, so, I think they are probably just fine. This one Daniel managed to snag for $0.99 (they normally go for over $6 for a pack of 4) This time, it was Andouille, but other varietys include Portobello Mushroom, Chicken & Apple, and Mango. Yum!
I plodded down the stairs and into the kitchen... pulled out some cold, leftover new potatos and shredded some cheese. Cracked a few eggs open and set them to fry. Popped some toast into the toaster slots and waited. Then, I remembered the sausage, so I sliced one in half and put it down next to my eggs... it crisped up wonderfully. I sprinkled the cheese over the potatoes and I had my Too Much Wine Breakfast.
It's one of the most satisfying meals I've ever had.Stumble Upon Toolbar

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Monday, August 11, 2008

A Birthday Weekend

My birthday was WONDERFUL! Despite Daniel's original plans being foiled... he was still able to pull off a pretty awesome weekend for me. My birthday was the tenth, but it started on Saturday night.
We went to White Chocolate Grill... my favorite restaurant... and it was wonderful, as always. He made reservations for 7 and once there we were seated right away. I just love the atmosphere in there... I can dress casual and feel fine, but of course, it was my birthday so I dressed pretty nice, and I still didn't feel out of place... It is a little noisier at night than it is during lunch hours (when I often meet my mother for lunch there) but the seating still allows for quiet conversations if that is your desire. We were seated near the open-style kitchen, but didn't mind as we enjoy being able to smell the smells and hear the sounds of chefs at work. I started my meal off with a White Chocolate Martini, made with Godiva Chocolate Liqueur and Vanilla Chocolate vodka. It was so good, I could hardly taste the alcohol in it! (That could be pretty dangerous if you think about it...)
For a starter, I chose my favorite, Tomato Gin Soup. It is a creamy tomato-based soup filled with plenty of fresh herbs, meaty mushrooms, chunky tomatoes, and, here's the best part: they pour gin in at the end and you have to be 21 to order it because it doesn't cook off. Upon its arrival I thanks the server and slowly brought a spoonful to my mouth... It was so herby - I could immediately taste oregano, rosemary, the earthyness of the mushrooms, and the gin played through quite nicely with the rest of the flavors, the juniper and rosemary especially pair well. Daniel sipped his beer and happily waited while I finished the soup (tomatoes and mushrooms aren't his thing :)
For our entrees Daniel ordered the Maytag Blue Cheese Burger (a deviation from his normal Prime-Rib French Dip), and I ordered my old standby the Filet Mignon Cobb Salad. They always have wonderful specials and I was tempted by one this time, but for my birthday I wanted to make sure I had something I know I'd love.
The salad is filled with colorful rows of halved cherry tomatoes, chunks of medium-rare filet, eggs, maytag blue cheese, marinated mushrooms, and applewood smoked bacon, all atop fresh baby-greens that are lightly coated in a red-zinfandel vinegarette.
The Maytag Burger came out open-faced with mayonaisse, red onion, a beefy slice of tomato, and of course, the blue cheese crumbles that were completely melted onto the meat... it was cooked to Daniels specification perfectly (medium). The only problem was that there was supposed to be bacon on it, and the bacon was not visable or easy to find amongst the other tastes... Daniel thought that it might have been there, but since it wasn't a slab of bacon placed over the top, it wasn't noticed. He was fine with the burger otherwise, and, to him, it wasn't worth mentioning to the waiter.
Our waiter brought us water and asked if we'd like more at the end of our drinks, but we knew we'd be having more at home, so we waited... At the end of our dinner, we of course had to order dessert, I hadn't had a cake for my birthday in years, but the desserts sounded too good, so I had to have one. I selected the White Chocolate Brownie. It came out warm with white chocolate chips oozing out the sides, vanilla ice cream melting over the top, warm fudge drizzled over that, and finally a nice dollop of fresh whipped cream. It was white chocolate heaven in a bowl, and we could both barely finish it.
At home the next day, Daniel treated me like a princess: made breakfast for me, did the dishes (so I wouldn't be stuck with a weekend-full the next day) and for lunch, we ate Thai food from Erawan, a place just up the road (more about that later when I've sampled more of their delicious dishes). In the evening we made swiss fondue and drank my favorite Reisling, from Chateau Ste Michelle. It was a wonderful weekend, one I'll never forget. Thank you Daniel, I love you!Stumble Upon Toolbar

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Sorry, No Food.

I have good news and bad news... The good news is... its my birthday! The bad news is... no post. I know Daniel has something planned, but I'm not sure what yet. We are going to my favorite restaurant, that's all I know... Be back Monday to tell you how everything went!


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