Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Veggie Chili

I feel like I am cheating when I make chili.. I open a few cans, add some vegetables, and chili spice.. thats about it. I will have to challenge myself more sometime, but probably not next time, because this finished product is so dang satisfying.
3 bell peppers
1 onion
2 can diced tomatoes
1 smallish can tomato sauce
1 large can vegetarian baked beans
3/4c TVP (texturized vegetable protien)
chili seasoning to taste
frozen corn

Monday, November 29, 2010

Grilled Cheese with Pear

I recently tried a cheese at Central Market called, comte. It is a hard cheese, with robust, buttery and nutty notes. Immediately upon tasting, I thought it would pair perfectly with apples and pears.
It isn't cheap, so I kept it in mind, and waited a while before buying some.
I ended up making a grilled cheese on sweet multigrain bread with the pear and comte. I added a spread of tarragon dijon mustard and a drizzle of honey. Magnifico!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Green Curry & Coconut Soup

My soup of the week!!

I am obsessed with green curry. And coconut milk for that matter.
Everytime I go to a Thai restaurant I order the saaammme thing, Green Curry. Each time, its a little different, but always so spicy, deep, and comforting. Oh, I love it.
However, the ingredients to make a green curry paste are hard to come by. Some pastes are pre-made and can be bought at the grocery store, but I never had any luck until I found Mae Ploy brand curry pastes. The others DO NOT compare. http://www.talinmarket.com/mae-ploy-green-curry-paste-14-oz.html

My simple soup recipe.

I can coconut milk
1T green curry paste (or more to taste)
1t brown sugar (to taste)
half head of broccoli
8 crimini mushrooms quartered
1/4 red onion diced
cilantro to garnish

So simple. Start with a little oil in the pot, and saute the paste lightly, just for a minute. Add the veggies and the coconut milk, cook until tender. You could also add a little water to dilute, and make your soup go a little further.

You could do this with your favorite color/flavor curry paste and veggies too!

Oatmeal Fit For a Queen

Okay, for all you oatmeal-phobics and drab plain-oatmeal-eaters.. this ones for you.
I make this every morning. It is easy to go to your grocer's bulk section to keep the main ingredients on hand for a small price. Also, you can change this up to suit whatever you have on hand in your pantry.

Oatmeal for 1
1/4c dry oats
1/2 c milk (I prefer unsweetend almond milk)
1 banana sliced into 1/2in chunks
drop of almond extract (or vanilla if you prefer)
raisins, cranberries, and dry goji berries
lots of cinnamon
(more moisture if needed)

The day I took this picture I happened to have some coconut yoghurt and blackberries on hand, but those aren't regulars in my lineup.
If you've got a sweet tooth drizzle some maple syrup or brown sugar.
Want some crunch? Add nuts.

Broccoli Slaw Salad with Five-Spice Tofu

Here is another recipe that I adapted from Vegetarian Times. I love it for being so filling, flavorful and healthy, plus it brought new flavors and ingredients into my kitchen!
2T sesame oil
2T Black Vingear* (Chinese vinegar made from grain not grapes!)
1t sriracha (immensely popular chile-garlic sauce)
1t brown sugar (Veg Times suggested white sugar (whatever.))
1lb broccoli sliced thin
1 red bell pepper sliced thin
1-2 shredded carrots
green onion
sesame seeds
5-Spice Tofu* but into matchsticks
Veg Times suggested using a 1lb bag of broccoli slaw, but at the store this products looked very dryed out, so I opted for very fresh broccoli!
--Also, the shredded carrot, walnuts and sesame seeds were my addition, they called for roasted peanuts.
*I have never seen Five Spice tofu before. Even at Chinese markets. So I bought firm tofu, sliced it thin, and rolled it in Chinese Five Spice.
Five Spice- encompasses all five flavors of sweet sour bitter pungent and salty. Most commonly includes: star anise, cinnamon, cloves, Sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds.
I found a bottle for about 2$ at a Chinese market, it is sweet, malty and wonderful.

Cabbage Avacado Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing

This is my rendition of a recipe I adapted from Vegetarian Times.
I ate it every day for a week and have thought about it every day since. Thats no lie.
It is very filling, healthy, incredibly delicious, and gorgeous!!
1c carrot juice
3T ginger juice
(veg. times used shredded carrots and minced ginger in a blender, I prefer the juicer)
4T rice wine vingear
3 T white miso paste
2T sesame oil
1 T canola/grapeseed oil
2t maple syrup
1 med. head radicchio thinly sliced
2 avacado
3/4 c sweet onion thinly sliced
(Veg. Times suggested 4c savoy cabbage as the base)
instead I used:
1 small head red cabbage thinly sliced
also my addition of
sesame seeds, sunflower kernels, and raisins
This is A LOT of salad of just one person. To keep things fresh, I prepped the dressing and chopped the cabbage, radicchio and onion in advance, then packed it into tupperware. When I was packing my lunch for the day I would cut the avacado, and wait to drizzle the dressing until it was time to eat!
If you do fish, this would go very nicely with a flaky, mild white fish (like Flounder) or salmon.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Caviar: My Personal Opinion

Its a Racket. It tastes like cold fish juice. For centuries the wealthiest minority has been spending thousands of dollars on... fish eggs.

Today I had the opportunity to sit down for an hour at work and learn about caviar. We tasted 5 different types and learned a bit about its history and lure.

First of all, its only considered "caviar" if it is from a sturgeon. Everything else is just "roe."
The only ingredients are the actual eggs and salt. The eggs are filled with fish oil.
The well known Beluga caviar has been illegal in the US since 2005. And it takes the Sturgeon which produces Beluga caviar 20years to produce this much desired product.
The Caspian Sea has for centuries been the ideal source to procure caviar. But in 2008 US placed an embargo on Iranian imports. Russia still exports some caviar from the Caspian Sea, but due to pollution and serious overfishing the products are rare and extremely expensive.

Which to me, IS CRAZY.

So, this lady who represents the US's most prestigious distributor of caviar, Petrossian, visited Central Market today. Apparently Central Mkt is the only place in Austin that stocks these products.
Her company now sources roe and caviar from farmed fish, which is more sustainable, and has lowered prices. Demand for caviar, as you would imagine, has dropped in the past few years due to the economic downturn. So, it is important that my co-workers and I know how to sell this stuff to the wealthy people shopping in our store this holiday season.

I really truly don't understand. Out of the 5 that I tasted, I must say the $200 caviar tasted much better that the $30 roe. The price is only that high because for centuries rich people have held this product in high regard. Still, it is what it is. Which is, oily, salty fish eggs. Chicken eggs taste much better and are far more versatile.

However, it pairs very nicely with champagne. And metallic spoons offend its flavor. So, it must be eaten off of a pearl or golden spoon. Can't say thats true for chicken eggs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Black Bean Sweet Potato Puree

This Soup is sooo gooood. The flavor is very smooth, with layers of bell pepper, onion, bean, sweet potato & spices, I couldn't have been happier with the final product.

I decided to start uploading photos of some of the products I am excited about in my pantry. Here, you can see the Stonehouse #7 Cashews and Cream sauce, an Indian cooking sauce. Wow. I had my eye on this $8.99 jar for months now and finally made it mine. I've enjoyed it over steamed & sauteed veggies, rice and (fake) chickn'. It is especially good smeared onto Tandoori Naan. Naan is an Indian Flatbread, and Tandoori is the style/oven the bread is cooked in.
Today it complimented my soup. Tomorrow it will be all gone.. and I'll be moving onto another exciting sauce.

My Soup:

2T oil
1/2 med onion diced
1 carrot shredded
2 "cloves" shallot diced
1 small-med sweet potato peeled & shredded
1/2 red bell pepper diced
3small cloves garlic
1/4t chili
1/2t cumin
1/2t coriander
2c vegetable broth
2T tomato paste
3/4c frozen sweet corn
1c soaked/cooked black beans

cook all ingredients together, up to the vegetable broth. Once tender, add the broth and tomato paste. Bring to a low boil, then puree in the food processor with black beans. Once you remove all large chunks, add the corn. voila. This would also be nice garnished with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, scallions... I am so going to make this again.

One Soup A Week

I am trying something new. Its getting colder (well not really in Texas,) I am trying to save money, and eat less calories. Sooo, I am making one soup per week. Why not? Heck, this is a great idea any time of year.

So here is my
Shiitake Noodle Soup

2T sesame oil
1/2 bunch scallions diced
2 cloves garlic
1/4lb shiitakes
1/2T minced fresh ginger
2 1/2c vegetable stock
1/2c water
2med bunches bok choy chopped
lo mein noodles
2 T soy sauce
1T ume plum vinegar
sesame seeds garnish

Finished Products

And for dessert! These. Were. So. Good. The Chef/teacher was unhappy with the way they turned out. Apparently if we'd had time to freeze them overnight, they would had held up better in the boiling water. Some of the filling leaked out. I don't think anyone else noticed. If you ever have a chance to eat fresh chocolate ravioli, TAKE IT.
The seafood ravioli with vodka sauce. This is the first vodka sauce I've ever liked. Making it from scratch makes a huge difference. The ones from the jar usually taste too much like.. vodka.
2T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2c onion minced
1/2t red pepper flakes
3T tomato paste
1/2c vodka
1/2c tomato sauce
1 15oz can tomatoes
1/2c heavy cream
1/4c basil chopped
salt pepper sugar to taste

The pumpkin ravioli was very sweet. No wonder.. it had Amaretti cookies in it (my mom's
Pumpkin Filling:
1 can packed pumpkin (not pie filling)
2T maple syrup
1/4c crushed amaretti cookies
1/2t nutmeg
1/2c Gruyere
1/4c cream cheese
1 egg
salt & pepper
1c butter (ohmygod)
3T fresh sage chopped
2T dry white wine
salt & pepper
toasted pine nuts to garnish
Now here is the one I made. As you can see, the raviolis take up most of the plate, they were very large, and RICH, meant for an appetizer. The sauce was so easy and so good. There was only 3 ingredients! Butter, Cream, and Gorgonzola!!! ahhh!!!!!!
The Hazelnut Filling:
2c Hazelnuts, roasted and peeled
4oz gorgonzola
3lg cloves garlic minced
8oz mascarpone or cream cheese
1/4c parmesan
2T Romano
3T heavy cream
salt & pepper

**All of these Ravioli Filling & Sauce Recipes are by Sahar Arafat-Ray**
whom instructed my class Oct 23, 2010

Making Ravioli

My new job as Foodie/Demo Cook at Austin's Central Market requires that I take several cooking courses a year. Lucky me. I really can take as many as I want, through Central Market's Cooking School, (in the grocery store) but am required to take 7/year. Tomorrow I am enrolled in the Caviar tasting class!

So, this past weekend I took my first class, a Ravioli Workshop. I had made raviolis before, at Broadway Brewery (Columbia, MO.) but this class was a refresher, and really boosted my pasta-making confidence!

Assembling ravioli is quite easy, once you understand the instructions. I really don't think anyone could figure it out by reading a book (or a blog for that matter).. maybe by watching a video, but really it is best to see how its done first hand.

Making the fresh pasta dough doesn't take much at all. All that goes into 1lb of dough is:
2 1/4 c flour
1 t salt
3 eggs
2T olive oil
water, if needed.
Of course if you wanted to give it color or an added ingredient for flavor, this is the time to add it.
Basically, you build a mound with your dry ingredients, then make a hole in the top, or a "well." (picture a volcano) You place the unbeaten eggs and oil into the well, and gently start incorporating, little by little.

Once your dough is set (must be refrigerated 1 hour) you are ready to "roll it out." Which requires a pasta roller. Pasta Rollers generally have 7-9 settings to flatten the dough. You must start at the thickest one, and move down, notch by notch until your dough is flat, even, and thin.

In the class we broke up into groups and made 4 types of raviolis. Everyone used "ravioli molds" except for my group. We hand-cut them. Using a ravioli mold means you finish 12 raviolis at once and they all look the same, cute, little and nearly perfect.

My group layed a large flat piece of dough down, dropped the filling onto the dough, in Tablespoon size, about 3in apart, layed another piece of dough on top.. and used water as "glue" to hold it all together. Then cut out the raviolis. I loved every second of it.

**All of these Ravioli Filling & Sauce Recipes are by Sahar Arafat-Ray**
whom instructed my class Oct 23, 2010

Ravioli Class

Seafood Ravioli Filling:
1T butter
1 T olive oil
2cloves garlic minced
1 shallot minced
1/2 lb shrimp minced
1/2 lb scallops minced
1/2 lb firm-fleshed white fish (halibut, bass) chopped
3T flour
2T dry vermouth or white wine
juice 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper to taste

Chocolate Ravioli Filling:
1 10oz package frozen raspberries
1/4c sugar
1T liqueur, Frambois or Grande Marnier
1/2t lemon juice
1 1/2c heavy cream
8 oz white chocolate chopped

**All of these Ravioli Filling & Sauce Recipes are by Sahar Arafat-Ray**
whom instructed my class Oct 23, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Light and Spicy

I recently embarked on an adventure in Austin to find this business that makes and sells their own flavored pasta. They're called Texas Gourmet Pasta and I read about them in Edible Austin Magazine. Their store front was a "25 minute drive" from where I'm staying, but it took me over an hour to find the place. I need a GPS.

Anyway, their pasta is great! I am not sure HOW they pack so much flavor into the noodles, but am willing to learn. They offer free classes! The idea, is not to pack on the sauce, keep it light so you can taste the noodles.
This dish is made with spicy and smoky chipotle linguine.

olive oil
zucchini (cut into thin strips)
yellow bell pepper (thin strips)
salt & pepper

So simple.. start by sauteeing the onion in the olive oil, once its tender add the zucchini and yellow bell. If these are thin enough, they should cook pretty quickly. Add the garlic, and after about 2min, toss in your herbs and season with salt and pepper. before turning off the heat, add about a 1/4c pasta water and simmer for a minute or two. This would also be nice with some lemon juice and parmesan cheese.

Late Summer Salad

Have you tried arugala? Its a spicy green gaining popularity. I love it! My farmer friend, Walker, grows lots of arugala in Columbia, MO.
I think mixed green salads are so much better when you add herbs. If you like flavorful greens, try adding a variety of your favorite herbs next time, it will be way more exciting.

toasted walnuts

I made a simple dressing with a few ingredients I had on hand. Just olive oil and balsamic vinegar would have been great though. I whisked balsamic, with a little strawberry rhubarb jam and stone ground mustard, then added the olive oil to the mix. plus salt and pepper.
If you do cheese, some fresh creamy goat cheese would go nicely with this as well.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Vegan Kickstart

Alright.. so I read this article in the Dallas newspaper talking about a local program that people were signing up for. A 21 day vegan diet starting september 6th. The idea was to introduce folks to a healthy and different way to eat.
Everyday they send emails with recipes and encouragement. I think its a great idea. People will learn to introduce way more fresh produce into their diets, protein alternatives, and cheese-free meals. Cheese-free?? Crazy, I know.

So I signed up. And failed on Day 3. Farm fresh eggs were what got me. 4 different colors, laid that morning.. I just couldn't say NO.

Why did I sign up? A lot of the meals I prepare are vegan. I love vegan food. I thought I could do it. In fact, several years ago I really cut back on my cheese consumption. I felt better and dropped a few pounds. Then.. THEN.. I met local cheese. Wonderful, fresh, creamy local cheese. And I met the farmers who produced it! Bam, back on the cheese train. At one point 2 years ago, I had 8 different local cheeses in my fridge. And I was happy. But over time, I realized I was depending on it too heavily for meal preparation. I know, you may be asking... what's wrong with that?!
Bottom line, cheese is great. I love it. In fact, I'm planning on making it myself by early 2011 (one of many food goals I've set for myself). Few things in life are greater than sustainably made cheese from happy animals. In comparison few things are more frightening than highly processed factory farmed cheese (yes, you can taste the difference.) However, culturally we've become far too dependent on it.

So the new challenge to myself if to go cheese-less for a month. I also wont be indulging in any dairy based desserts. So far, so good. Its been 4 days.
Think that sounds difficult? Two friends of mine just committed to only eating Local foods for a year. The majority of their diet with consist of foods grown/raised around Austin, but anything from Texas is allowed. Their only exceptions are vacations, coffee, and alcohol (they're only drinking booze from Mexico and Texas.)

Egg in the Grass

So good, so healthy, I'm going to make this dish again and again.

I actually made twice this much.. and ate all of it.

1/4c brown rice
1/2c water
-bring to boil, then lower to simmer until the rice is fluffy and the water is all soaked in. Keep a tight fitting lid on your pot the whole time.

Now for the fun part
1/2 small yellow onion
1 very small yellow bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
4 sun dried tomatoes
1/2 bunch of spinach (use a lot, because it will cook down)
4 crimini mushrooms
2 eggs

The sun dried tomatoes I used were heavily salted, so I didn't have to add any salt to this recipe. Actually.. I am really excited about these sun dried toms! Central Market, the amazing store that Anna and I work/shop at has them in bulk! A jar of them usually costs at least 7$! I paid 38cents for 4 of them. YES!

Start with a little oil in your pan, and saute the onion and yellow bell until soft. Turn down the heat and add the garlic, so it doesnt burn. After about a minute, add the sun dried toms (dice em up) and 1/2 c water to hydrate them. Once the water heats up, toss in all your spinach, and cover the pan. After a minute, stir as needed until all the spinach wilts. Add your chopped mushrooms (they'll cook quickly) and use a spoon to make 2 "wells" into the greens. This is where you'll drop the eggs. Make sure the walls around your "well" are high enough so that the egg doesnt spill over. Re-cover the pan. This should baste your egg. If it isnt cooking in a few minutes, start basting the egg with the hot liquid in the pan. This should speed up the process.

That's it!! I loooveed it mmmm!! Enjoy

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Salad with Tuna Patty & Ginger Dressing

-fresh-cut Romaine Lettuce
-shredded carrot
-shredded cucumber
-handful lo-mein noodles

Tuna Patty
2 cans of Tuna (for 3 small patties)
2t oyster sauce or fish sauce (Asian aisle of the grocery store)
1t soy sauce
1T brown sugar
1T ginger minced
3T diced red onion
1/4 c scallions
1/2t pepper

1/2c water
2T sugar
2T rice vinegar or cider
juice of one lime
1T ginger minced
1 clove garlic

Blend dressing ingredients well.
Combine the ingredients for the Tuna Patty, then form into 3 patties with your hands. Pack them tightly. Heat 1t oil in a pan. Once its hot, sear each side of the tuna patty in the pan, then place on top of the salad. Use the dressing liberally, its light and delicious.

Chesapeake Bay Tofu Salad

-1 package extra firm tofu drained & crumbled
-1/2 red bell pepper diced
-1/4c scallion
-1/4 large cucumber de-seeded &peeled
-1T chopped fresh cilantro
-1 carrot shredded
-1/4c sunflower seeds
-1T Old Bay seasoning or to taste
-1 lemon's zest plus 1t juice
-1/4c mayo

It is wonderful on crackers or as a sandwich! I love it!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pasta Primavera & Breaded Squash

Primavera means "season of spring." Pasta primavera usually consists of vegetables and herbs in a light sauce.


5T olive oil (or butter/margarine)
1c chopped fresh herbs
sauteed onion, bell pepper, squash, cherry toms
1/4c grated Parmesan
sprinkle cayenne pepper
juice 2 lemons
1/2c chopped walnuts

The herbs I used were from the back yard: basil, chives, oregano, parsley, tarragon and rosemary.
This dish comes together pretty quickly.

The sauteed veggies I used were leftover from the quiche a few days ago. I heated up the olive oil, added the herbs and veggies, and another handful or 2 or fresh cherry tomatoes. Once the veggies were heated through I added the other ingredients. This quantity would be good for 5 servings of noodles.

Breaded Zucchini and Summer Squash.
Real easy. Its just like breading the eggplant for eggplant parmesan. Heat oven to 380.
Scramble 2 raw eggs in one bowl. Fill another bowl with Italian breadcrumbs. (There is a recipe for Italian breadcrumbs on the blog.) Slice the veggies in long thin strips. Not too thin. A medium sized zucchini should make 4 or 5 strips. Spray or oil a sheet tray. Dip the squash in egg, then cover in breadcrumbs, then lay on the sheet. Cook each side for 12-15minutes.

Zucchini Baarrsss!!

This is a recipe from Anna's Family Cookbook, called Tempting Thelen Tasties. WOW, they're good!!!

3c flour
1 1/2t baking soda
1t baking powder
1t salt
1/8t cloves
1/8t nutmeg
3/4c margarine
1c brown sugar
1t vanilla
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1c grated zucchini
1/2c chopped walnuts
1/2c raisins
1. Sift together the first 6 ingredients; cream together the next 5. Combine both mixtures, then gradually add the rest of the ingredients.
Pour into greased 10x15in pan. Bake at 350 for 20-25min.

I made a cream cheese icing for this.. which was 1/4 stick margarine, 5oz cream cheese, and about a cup and a half of powdered sugar beat together.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Baba Ganoush

This is a spread. Its good on toast, sandwich, vegetables, pita.. its easy to make and only requires a few ingredients. I've made A LOT of baba ganoush in my day, it was on the menu at the brewery. If you want, you can add your favorite spices, or some parsley, or diced tomatoes.. or eat it in its simplest form. It tastes best after sitting in the fridge for a couple hours after preparation.

2 medium eggplants
1/4c tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/8c lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
salt pepper
olive oil

Set oven to 450. To roast the eggplants. Slice in half, lay flat side down, and score the skin with an X. Chop the garlic cloves into several thin pieces and stuff them inside the slits. Rub both sides of the eggplants with oil, and place flat side down on an oven tray. Pour water on the tray, just enough to cover the surface of the pan. In about 25 minutes the eggplants should look wrinkled and slightly deflated.
Allow to cool. Discard the skin, and scoop the flesh into the food processor with the remaining ingredients. Make sure the garlic gets in there too! mm mm mm

Monday, August 16, 2010

Roasted Pepper Sauce

Roasting peppers is easy! I've been staying in Virginia for the past week with Anna at her parent's house. They have a large garden, which is where we've picked the eggplants, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, herbs, and peppers for all the meals I've been making. They have a dozen different kinds of peppers growing in their back yard! They needed to be used, so I made this versatile sauce that we'll eat with a couple of our meals.

dozen assorted peppers
large spoonful prepared tomato sauce
dash balsamic vinegar 1/2 T
sauteed onion & garlic
fresh herb mix
salt & pepper

One way to roast peppers: Wash the pepper, cut in half, remove the stem, seeds, and the pith (membrane.)Lay all the peppers flat, smash them down if you have to, skin side facing up on an sheet tray lined with foil. Either rub the skins with oil lightly, or spray them. Turn the broiler on high. Cook the peppers until the skins burn brown. This is important, don't be afraid. The pepper will be fine, but we need to burn the skin to be able to remove it.
After roasting, toss the peppers into a bowl, cover, and stick in the fridge. This will create steam, and help in the skin removing process. After 30 min, remove the peppers from the fridge and begin peeling off the skin. If a little skin stays on, that's okay. Pour some water in the bowl, if it will help.
Put all the peppers into the food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

Garden Vegetable Quiche

Something I've never done before! This is a crust-less version of a quiche, and was a big hit at dinner last night with Anna's family.

-roasted potatoes
-1/2 onion
-1bell pepper
-1yellow squash
-handful cherry toms
-5 eggs
-cheddar & parmesan
-fresh herbs

start by dicing all the vegetables into small pieces. I cooked the potatoes separately from the rest of the vegetables, they take the longest to cook.
In one pan, with a couple T oil, add the potatoes and cook on high heat, once they start to brown, you can lower the temp.
In another pan saute the onion for several min, until transparent, then add the squash and bell pepper. Cook until tender, then add the whole cherry toms, and the finely chopped greens.
Season everything with salt and pepper, and add some paprika and chopped scallions to the potatoes.
Grease a pie pan, and place the potatoes in the dish. Top off with the sauteed vegetables, and leave room for egg. I had quite a bit of the vegs left over, to save for another meal.
Blend the eggs well, in a blender or food processor. Once the Pie pan is full bake at 350 for about 45 min, until firm. At this point, I spread the shredded cheese on top and sprinkled with bread crumbs & fresh herbs, then let it melt for a minute at a low broil.

I served this with the roasted pepper sauce recipe that follows.

Cucumber Gazpacho

Gazpacho is an soup, served cold. It can be made with fruit or vegetables. There are Strawberry Basil, Canteloupe Mint, Heirloom Tomato.. lots of variations.
There were 4 cucumbers in the fridge this morning and a request for a chilled soup, and after 30min in the kitchen I came up with this tasty concoction.

Chilled Cucumber Zinger with garlic croutons
4 cucumbers
5T yogurt
1 1/2 t red wine vin
1/2 t mustard
spoonful salsa
1 diced tomato (skin& seeds removed)
1/4 t cumin
1 clove garlic
1/4c diced onion
1/4 lemon squeezed
fresh dill to taste
salt & pepper

Peel and remove seeds from cucumber. Chop and toss into food processor with the remaining ingredients. Chill and serve with croutons! This would also taste nice with chopped hard boiled eggs.. trust me.

3 slices bread
2T oil/butter/margarine
1 clove garlic
touch balsamic vin
salt& pepper

You can make croutons any way you like em. Lately, I've been on this kick of adding paprika and a touch of balsamic vinegar.

Turn the oven on low broil. Cut the bread into crouton size pieces. Chop garlic and add it into melted butter or oil. Add the rest of the ingredients to taste. Roll the bread pieces into the mix, spread them on a tray, and crisp in the oven until you have croutons!!

Eggplant Parmesan

This is a dish I've made several times and have been fine tuning. Its soooo satisfying and comforting! The rich marinara sauce, the melty mozzarella, the herbs, and the wonderful eggplant disguised beneath it all!!
The eggplant "cutlets" in this dish can either be baked or fried. Baking is obviously healthier and generally easier & cleaner to do at home.
I used 3 medium sized eggplants, and sliced them top to bottom, making larger pieces, rather than side to side. There was a little less work to do that way, considering there were fewer slices of eggplant.
Sometimes I buy breadcrumbs, this time I made them. There was 4 pieces of stale bread in the cupboard, which wasn't enough for the dish, so I used some crackers as well.

stale bread or crackers, fresh or dry herbs (at least twice as much if its fresh) garlic powder, salt & pepper
If the bread is good & hard just throw it into the food processor (FP). If it is still soft, toast it in the toaster or the oven. Grind it up in the FP, and set aside.
Chop up fresh herbs, or dry, whatever you have. We had fresh parsley, basil, chives, tarragon, oregano, and rosemary. (lucky me!) Grab a handful of the breadcrumbs and a handful of chopped herbs, and toss it into the FB with some salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Process until incorporated, then toss this mixture with the rest of the breadcrumbs

3/4 jar prepared marinara sauce, 1/2 package cream cheese, 1c milk, 1T oil, 1 1/2T flour, fresh or dry herbs
There are lots of ways to make a sauce.. heres how I made this one. Its was inspired by a "pink" sauce I had at a restaurant the night before.
1. Start by making a roux. You can find instructions for this online. A roux is a thickening agent used for soups, sauces, gravies, stew.. Slowly whisk in the milk, until it becomes thick. Add the fresh herbs. Add the marinara sauce and continue to whisk. Once it becomes heated through, chop the cream cheese into chunks and stir it into the sauce. I left the sauce on low for a couple hours, to let it reduce & thicken, which intensifies the flavor.

3 medium eggplants, 2 eggs, 2c breadcrumbs, oil
Set the oven at 375. Most Eggplant recipes you read will recommend that after you slice it, to salt each side, and let it sit for 30 min. This will pull the bitter juices out of the eggplant and improve the flavor. I do this about 80% of the time. The bitterness varies, so taste it raw, and see how it is.
After 30min, rinse off each piece and pat it dry.
Start an assemble line. One bowl with the eggs whisked. One bowl with breadcrumbs. And a greased sheet tray. Dip the eggplant into the egg, cover it well with breadcrumb and set it on the tray.
Depending on how thick you cut the eggplant, cook 15-20 min on each side in the oven. Until soft.

Eggplant Cutlets Sauce Shredded Mozzarella Grated Parmesan Fresh Herbs
Finally, in a metal or glass baking dish, start with a layer of sauce in the bottom. Set eggplant on top, then sprinkle cheese, then more sauce, more eggplant, cheese, sauce, and sprinkle with fresh herb on top. Should be 2 layers of eggplant with the sauce and cheese.. all over the place! Bake for about 20min, until the sauce begins to bubble, and ENJOY!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Missin My MO

Dallas is huge. Like really.. really.. HUGE. Way bigger than StL, with more highways, more strip malls, restaurants, and business parks. I'm living in a suburb, and the city of Dallas probably has a lot of cool shit goin on.. but this suburb sucks. I feel the teensiest bit bad saying that because Anna grew up here, but she'd probably agree. And.. well, I haven't been exploring too much, but there really isn't much to explore.
I left the house today to run a couple errands around town. Driving around, I felt mixed feelings of independence, anxiety, and spontaneity. Trying to brush off the anxiety, I looked around for quirky shops, international markets, anything interesting or different. Driving here is hectic, these people drive like they're in LA, and I've never seen so many BMWs Mercedes and Lexus. Needless to say, I didnt find what I was looking for. So, I carried on to my destination... the mall. The dreaded shopping mall. No offense. But I don't like em. They're way too clean, they don't smell like anything, they all look the same, and they bring down "self esteem." Its like being surrounded by commercials. You're fat broke and ugly. That's what those stores were saying. "don't look at that dress because its too expensive, and it wouldn't fit you anyway." And there were mirrors everywhere!! Whats the psychology behind that?
I was headed to a Proactiv Kiosk. Because that shit is like crack. Or heroine. Your face becomes dependent on it, and when you dont have it you'll spend $20 on a bottle of face wash. Well, not today. The kiosk wouldn't accept my debit card.. as a credit card.. and I don't know my pin. Adventure over. Plano, TX, you suck. Thank goodness, I'm flying to beautiful Richmond Virginia tomorrow. And moving to Austin next month. Really really looking forward to Austin. Its gonna be great.
I need to just accept this state I'm in right now. No job, limited funds, too hot to go outside. I have a very nice place to stay, and I'm blessed to be here with her. Its all about the Netflix, the couch, and the food... for now.


I was cleaning out the fridge tonight, because we'll be in Virginia for the next week. I knew I had to use the last of a few things, and came up with nachos for dinner. Comforting, way healthier than taco bell, and delicious.

1/2 red onion
1/2 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
handful dry beans
few T oil
2t cumin
1t paprika
1/4t cayenne

After soaking and cooking the black beans I sauteed the onions in oil. Once they were tender I added the diced bell pepper, cooked it for a few more minutes, then 2 cloves minced garlic. I gave the garlic a minute to cook, then added the beans and seasonings. Then I mashed it with a potato masher.
Turn the oven broiler on low. Spread some healthy chips (Anna and I go through at least 2 bags of Food Should Taste Good chips a week) onto the foil, shred cheese on top, and spread the bean mix on top the cheese. Stick it in the oven until the cheese melts. Top with sprouts, (or any shredded greens) salsa, and sour cream.

I love you, veggie burger

Most of the meals I eat at home are so simple. But when friends come over, they're usually impressed. Maybe its because we live in college towns, in shitty housing, and everybody eats meals consisting of ramen, velveeta, & white bread. One of the purposes of this blog is to show you how simple it really is to keep just enough frozen, refrigerated, produce, and dry goods to always have a healthy delicious meal.

I think this is one of the best veggie burgers I've ever ate. I had it 2 days in a row for lunch. I debated taking a picture and posting it.. because its a burger. But it was so damn good. The secret.. a delicious Italian ciabatta bun from Whole Foods that I kept in my freezer. Supporting roles played by mustard greens and the last of an heirloom tomato that I brought from Missouri. A little mayo, BBQ sauce, pickles, cheddar and swiss. The burger was the cheapest (besides Boca eew) at the store, and the brand was Dr. Prengers. It is green a burger and you can actually see the veggies, always a good trait. It falls apart quite readily, but still delicious.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Beat the Heat

Part of my new resolution, using all the food that I buy & making sure none goes to waste, has involved a lot of juicing.

Yesterday we juiced watermelon. Then I poured the juice into my ice cream maker, made a slushy and added Malibu Rum. That way, it will stay slushy consistency in the freezer.

Tonight, the Bartender..Anna.. made us some delicious mixed drinks with the slush.. and I'm a little buzzed.

4parts Watermelon Malibu Slush
1 part gin
1 part tonic
1 part sprite

I like mine with a pinch of sugar and salt. Bottoms up!

Next is Cantelope.. then pineapple... then peaches.

Throwing it all together

Things to always keep on hand:
good cheese*

*I've had a block of Romano cheese in the fridge for months!

Cooking for two can be a challenge at first. Grocery Shopping for two can prove to be even more difficult.
For me, over the past several years "on my own" I have done a lot of over-buying on groceries. So much food has gone to waste, and some food I have moved from apartment to apartment. At times, I was almost obsessed with grocery shopping. I was visiting 6 different stores, sometimes 3 a day. Enough is enough. Time to be smart about this.
I've stocked up on dry goods like rice, pasta, flours, cornmeal, oats. I'm keeping a few things in the freezer like veggie burgers and soy/gluten "chikn" patties and good bread. I've been shopping at Whole Foods for produce and cheese and a few other things to make quick easy comforting meals (like macn' cheese & quesadillas.) The other day Anna and I vistited the Dallas Farmers Market. The prices were unbeatable! And so was the quality. awesome!

So, now I am trying to conserve as much money as possible and still make quality and nutritious meals.

I try to always keep potatoes and onions on hand. They are so versatile, inexpensive, and last longer than most produce. This recipe could have been executed with a variety of produce, but I used what I had on hand.

Quesadillas with Roasted Potatoes
1 red onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1/3 bunch asparagus
4 small red potatoes
cheddar, swiss & romano
salsa/pico de gallo
2 tortillas

heat oven to 350
1. Know that the onions and potatoes will take the longest to cook. cut potatoes into bite size pieces and dice the onion. In a medium pan pour a couple TBL high heat oil & set at med-high heat. Once hot, throw in the potatoes and stir over the next 20min or so until crisp, tender & browned.
2. In a smaller pan at the same time heat some olive oil and saute the diced onion until translucent and tender. Add chopped red bell, cook until tender, then chop the asparagus into small pieces and add to onion/pepper mix. (it will cook quickly.)
3. At this point I put the potatoes on a pan in the oven to let them finish cooking/stay hot, while I quickly created the quesadillas. Using the potato pan (its hot & coated in oil) quickly heat each side of the tortillas then fill with cheddar & swiss cheese, some of the onion/pepper/asparagus mix and some salsa, then toast each side.
I mixed most of the remaining onion mix with the potatoes (and am saving some for omelettes tomorrow!) Then grated some Romano cheese on top. Sprinkled on some scallions and seasoning salt and called it dinner.

Of course, this is the USA, I served this dinner with an option of condiments.. BBQ sauce, ketchup, ranch, sour cream, hot sauce.. mmmm so simple

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My First Casserole

Several months ago, I came across a big sale on bulk foods and bought 2 cases of canned salmon. Thats 24 7.5oz cans. My thinking was, its healthy, its Alaskan (which makes it sustainable) and I'll explore new recipes. So, last night I made my first casserole. Anna didn't like it. She thought it was too weird. I like it a lot. And.. since its a casserole there's a lot of it. I guess its gonna be my breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next day or so!

This recipe is healthier than most traditional casseroles our moms have made. It doesn't contain a pound of cheese, or cream, or sour cream.. in fact, the heaviest ingredient is the jasmine rice. Its guilt free and I'm going back for seconds.

Salmon Casserole with Mango in an Orange Sauce
2c orange juice (i used fresh squeezed!)
2T cornstarch *
2T soy sauce
1/4t ground ginger
2T lemon juice plus rind
2T lime juice plus rind
1t hot sauce
1/3c brown sugar

*cornstarch is used here as a thickening agent for the sauce. If you add it directly to the orange juice it will clump. Instead, whisk the cornstarch with 2T orange juice until it is incorporated (called a slurry) then whisk it into the orange juice in the pan.

2c jasmine rice
1 1/2 mangoes diced
1c whole grain cereal flakes
2 cans of salmon

in an 8x8 sprayed glass dish layer:
rice, salmon, mango, orange sauce, cereal, then pan-spray the cereal (helps it brown and crisp)

bake at 475 until cereal starts to brown (about 8min) then reduce heat to 350 and cook another 10min.
I liked it as it is. But Anna thought there was too much mango, and needed something extra. So, I added a dollop of fresh goat cheese and pico de gallo on top. So GOOD!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Peach Dressing Story

I bought some local peaches at Whole Foods today. Their fruit is usually awesome, but Anna took a bite out of this peach and didn't like it. So I took a bite, and agreed that this peach was "mealy." Think- the texture of an old apple. But the peach flavor was there. So I skinned it, sliced it, and threw it in the food processor with the following ingredients.
Later, I made a salad of shredded mustard greens and kale, the peach dressing, and some fresh pico de gallo. Spicy.. but fresh, healthy, and wonderful!

peach dressing
one peach skinned
1 banana
1/4 of a mango
1/4c white wine vinegar
juice and zest half lime
juice and zest half lemon
Himalayan pink salt
ground pink pepper
1/4c olive oil
2T brown sugar

combine in a food processor and puree until creamy and smooth

Enough about life, lets eat

This was lunch today.
Many of the recipes I will post on here are my own interpretations or renditions of recipes that I read. Something you should also know, is that I rarely measure ingredients, and the ones I list here are estimates. If you are going to try something I've posted, make it your own! For example, I know that most people don't have pink peppercorns on their spice rack, so use what you have.
The recipe that inspired me to make this was found on Epicurious.com. Once I made it it seemed that it needed more texture, like a crunch, so I added the red bell and the celery. There are so many possibilities.
It was good. I would definitely make it again.

Salmon Salad Sandwich
2 7.5 oz canned salmon
2 chopped scallion
1t chili powder
juice & zest 1 lemon
and 1 lime
finely dice 1 1/2T onion
ground green peppercorns
splash red wine vinegar
1/4 of a red bell pepper diced
1 stalk celery diced

on a bed of spicy sprouts
sandwiched on a sea salt ciabatta

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Texas so far..

Moving is tough. I had an idea that this statement was true before.. before when I was moving from shitty college apartment to shitty college apartment every year for the last six years. But none of that compares to this move across the country, from (beautiful home)Missouri to (unknown)Texas. One thing is for sure.. I couldn't have done it without Anna, help from my parents, and a few loyal friends. Thanks guys.

When friends would come into our apartment in Columbia they'd usually say things like, "wow, nice place" "its so homey" "you guys have a lot of stuff." I usually just smiled, thanked them, and shrugged off the "lot of stuff" part. Afterall, it was a small apartment, it couldn't be THAT much stuff... right? wrong. so wrong. I had a lot of stuff. And 4 days (including my birthday!) to pack it all. I spent a lot of time in those 4 days just looking around the apartment, not knowing how to organize things. Slowly putting things in boxes, and taking long breaks to get drunk with friends. My mom came down twice to light a fire under my ass, and there is no way I could have got to Texas on schedule without her.

Anyway, we ended up giving a packed carload of items to Goodwill and pitching everything else we didn't need anymore. We finally finished loading the truck by 12:30pm saturday afternoon, Billie bought chinese food and let us use her shower, and we got on the road by 1:45.

After 2 hours of driving we stopped in Osage Beach at a Target to buy Walky-Talkys. Without those and the 1pm shower, we never would have made the 600mile 11 hour car ride to Dallas. She drove in front of me the whole time and we chatted mostly about billboards, bathroom breaks, and weirdos driving next to us. We were both pumped to get there and wide awake at hour 6, but by hour 9 delirium had set in. The last 2 hours seemed to last as long as the first 8. The next day we had planned to move the majority of our belongings into storage, but were exhausted from the move. So we slept til 5pm, got groceries, and talked house rules over drinks and shots of Jameson with Anna's brother John.

We are living in his house in Plano, a wealthy mostly white suburb of Dallas, for the next few months. The plan is to get jobs, save money, visit Austin a few times, find a rental property there, and move in by November. John is cool, and he works in Florida so we rarely see him, except on weekends. He wont be home for the next 3 weeks.

When we finally got around to unloading the truck Monday morning at 7am, it was 90 degrees. And by the afternoon the heat index was 110. Luckily we were finished by 10:45. Then we slept all day, again.

Since then, we've realized that the mold problem in the last apartment was way worse than we thought. All the clothes that we packed were damp and steamy when we got here and smelled like mildew, so we have been doing laundry all day. We threw out our mattress because the smell was so strong, but are holding onto our couches for now. We'll see how they survive the storage, but we'll probably end up having to steam clean them in Austin.

Today we drove to Ft. Worth and had lunch with Kerstin, the Army Chaplain of the 90th Sustainment Brigade, Anna's unit in Iraq. I felt like I knew her already from all the stories Anna has told. She is friggin awesome, and I wish that all of the chaplains in the army were as cool as her. Ok, she is the only one I've ever met.. but she ordered beer (a beer called Priests Collar) and pizza at lunch and we laughed the whole afternoon. I'm so glad Anna has friends like her in the Army.

We have NetFlix through John's PS3.. so, most of our time the past couple days has been spent watching episodes of Lost, (we're starting from the beginning) doing the laundry, (washing ALL our clothes) and formulating resumes (something I've always dreaded and put off.)

Quotes of the Day:

"There is a hole in my stomach the size of a frozen yogurt" -Anna
"If we were at war, I was your prisoner, and your commanding officer told you to kill me... would you do it?" -Shelly