Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quick Post: An Admission of Love

Many of you know of my obsession with grilled cheese. I even spoke of at one point opening a grilled cheese sandwich shop.

But this is not about my love for grilled cheese. It is an admission of love...for Mark Bittman.

I pretty much adore everything he does. As I've mentioned before, even if it's something I will never try, his attitude is so attractive that I will scan the recipe, read the article, or watch the video.

Here my obsession meets my love: One of Bittman's Videos entitled, Actually Grilled Cheese.

This is 2:24 minutes (with an additional 15-20 seconds for the lead in ad) of Bittman's dry wit (he suggests adding mustard, pesto, ben gay or sunscreen to the sandwich) and his simplistic yet brilliant food ideas.

I am in love once again.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Garlic Anyone?

In keeping with the attempt to eat healthy, I decided to try a recipe that I've been wanting to try for a while. Baked chicken with a coating of All-Bran (Garlic and Herb) Crackers. I was excited about it. This is a considerably higher fiber option than regular breadcrumbs. And lower calorie to boot (18 crackers to a serving). Plus those crackers are wicked tasty.

Off to the store I go. Well, lo and behold, no All-Bran Crackers. Now, this is the grocery store where I shop almost exclusively, so I know that I've purchased them there before. But now the shelves are filled with the store brand gourmet crackers, none of which are even near my beloved All-Brans. So what to do? Well, I go back to the original recipe. Instead of All-Bran crackers (which was my touch) I picked up some Fiber One Cereal. A co-worker of mine has done this baked chicken thing with Fiber One before, so I knew it could work. My only concern was that the cereal has a sweetness to it that I wasn't sure I wanted in the coating of the chicken. The plot thickens.

When I got home, I had 3 plump chicken breasts, which were clearly larger than the 4 ounces each that I needed. I had looked at a baked chicken recipe and they gave a cooking time for a pounded out chicken breast. Perfect. I weighed them out and they were about 8oz each. Perfect. I pounded them out and cut them in half. But before I had even gotten to the chicken, I put 1.5 cups of Fiber One Cereal, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil, some salt and some pepper in my Cuisinart. (If I couldn't have gotten my hands on some Garlic & Herb crackers, gosh darnit, I was adding garlic and herbs!) Pulse pulse pulse until those little branches of Fiber One are made into powder.

I whipped up three egg whites (not until frothy, but until all the aspects of the egg whites were more homogenous than right out of the shell). With one hand (always keeping one clean), I put the now six pieces of chicken breast in the egg whites, turned them about and then into the powder. It worked swimmingly. From there, on to a baking sheet. (Did I mention I pre-heated the oven to 350? Quite a household commitment in 100 degree Texan weather, I might add.)

Once all six pieces were done, I put the baking sheet into the oven (middle lower rack) and baked them for 20 minutes. A quick flip and back in for 3 minutes. They were golden brown and cooked perfectly. Success!

While the chicken was cooking, I put together a bean puree that was the suggestion of the BF. I put two drained cans of Great Northern Beans and put them in the Cuisinart. I peeled three garlic cloves and threw them in. Let me stop here. That was too much garlic. I should have listened to BF. He told me that it was going to be too much. Let me repeat. I should have listened. In addition to the way too much garlic, I added some extra virgin olive oil. I probably should have used the really good stuff for this as the taste would have been a nice addition. Pulse pulse pulse. After tasting it (and, yes, I could tell it was too much garlic at that point), it needed something. I added some red pepper flakes and cayenne (not much of either, for the record). All in all, it's definitely something to do again, just not with as much garlic. This recipe made 4 servings.

So, if you put a serving of the puree and a serving of the chicken together, it's only about 200 calories. Tomorrow night, I'm going to add a spinach salad with some balsamic drizzle. I think it will work really nicely. Maybe the salad will break through the garlic of the puree. Fingers crossed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Quick Post: My Favorite Spices and Another New Recipe

Cumin is almost always the front runner. Something about that smokey and versatile just seems to go with everything I make. Well, almost everything.

But, last week when I did my salmon en papillote recipe, I decided to turn to the old standards of the spice cabinet, dried oregano and dried basil. In that recipe I considered using herbes de provence as I often have on my sauteed zucchini, but a while back I guess I put too much on and did not enjoy it. So I figured, why not try the oregano/basil combo. It worked perfectly.

So today when I was making a healthy meal (trying to modify my calorie intake...wheee) that also tasted good, I thought about those two spices again. I browned about a pound of ground turkey and stirred in vegetable primavera pasta sauce. I then put those two items into a dish, rinsed out my large skillet, and put a touch more olive oil in. I sweated half an onion (in retrospect, a full one would have been more than okay in this recipe) and threw in two diced golden zucchini (the most amazing marigold color you've ever seen) and one diced green zucchini. And what did I season them with? Why dried oregano and basil, of course.

Since I had put salt and pepper on the ground turkey and the pasta sauce already had plenty of salt, I didn't put any more in with the zukes. Once they were cooked through (with a bit of bite left), I mixed them with the turkey and pasta sauce. It was great. I had had a hankering for a pasta dish, but this satisfied that craving without the actual pasta. This recipe ended up making 4 servings of 330 calories each, which fits perfectly into the meal size I'm going for.

Quick Post: Just Desserts

My culinary experimentation and exploration is primarily of the savory variety. I do make profiteroles with chocolate sauce. I do make a citrus pound cake with lemon sauce. And I do make banana bread. But overall, I'm not really much of a baker, which for some reason says to me that I'm not much of a dessert maker. But recently when I just got my KitchenAid stand mixer, I made a chocolate chip cookie batter (much of which was eaten raw), so perhaps that will change.

Probably due to that mini-success, a lot of dessert recipes have been catching my eye. Some require baking, others require freezing, and even some require grilling. Some are better in the winter, while other should probably only be made in the summer. Either way, they all sound tasty.

Jamie Oliver's Lemon, Lime, and Peppermint Sorbet:

Lemonade Cookies:

Grilled Fruit with Lemon Zabaglione:

Hmm....seeing a common theme? I'm a sucker for citrus.

And since it's Peach time in Texas, I've been thinking of making a peach and cherry rustic tart. Sadly (my former baking instructor's heart is breaking as I type this), the likelihood of my making my own dough is...well...none. I still have a pie shell in the freezer (how long do those things last in there? hmm). I'm thinking about just rolling that out and using it. I'll be sure to keep you informed if I attempt ths recipe.

Lastly, I would like to publicly commend my BF on his outstanding custard. The other day I went over to his apartment, and couldn't identify what he was cooking on the stove. He wouldn't tell me. (He joked it was just something he found on his stove and thought he'd see what it tastes like.) When he was done stirring, he poured into three mugs, scraped some nutmeg on top, and put the three mugs in the fridge. After dinner, he handed me one with a spoon - it was fabulous custard. It was absolutely delicious. He is now planning on getting a creme brulee torch. I support that decision.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

another quick thought

One blog I neglected to add in my previous post is one partially authored by a high school friend, Harriet. She's had some pretty cool jobs, but working for a radio station and blogging about food is up top (I realize I'm biased). Good Food is blog and radio show that features food stories from all over Los Angeles. They cover recipes, local food heroes, restaurants, and items known as the "Bacon Explosion." You just can't go wrong with something like that.

If you're in the LA area and don't know about this already, get to tuning your radios to 89.9 KCRW and listen from 11am-12pm (Pacific Time, of course) to catch Good Food. What to do if you miss it or aren't in LA? Well, you can download the podcast on iTunes, of course. Details are on the website.

more blogs

My life at work has been pretty hectic for, well, over a year now. In order to reduce some of the craziness, we hired some folks recently. As such, I have a new teammate, and as luck would have it, she's a foodie too!! In fact, she's even more of a foodie than I am, as her time during her "sabbatical from corporate life" was spent creating and running a food company where she taught cooking classes, developed recipes, etc. She even has a blog.

So we decided. Since neither of us have been very good about actually keeping up with our food blogs, we would make a monthly meeting of the newly formed "SSFBS" (Super Secret Food Blogging Society) during lunch and hole up in a conference room and spent the hour writing on our blogs.

Our first meeting was not "successful" in terms of actual publishing, but I started a couple drafts and she did some research on eel, the topic for her next post. All in all, for our inaugural visit, it was a good start. While weren't writing, though, we were chatting about food. And she shared with me some of her favorite food blogs. So I'm now sharing them with you.

101 Cookbooks
This pick might seem an odd one for me, as 101 Cookbooks is primarily a vegetarian blog. Let's be honest. I'm a meat eater and proud of it. But her wide variety of influences makes her recipes interesting, exciting, and, no doubt, tasty. Her focus on more natural ingredients is something I'm trying to get better at. In an ideal world, I would only shop through a CSA and the farmers' market, but I'm not there yet. This blog might inspire me to get there.

Chocolate and Zucchini
Clotilde has been blogging about food since 2003, so I'm pretty sure that makes her an "old-timer" (despite being younger than I am). She started out as a Computer Science major in college who grew to love food during her time living in the Bay Area (she's Parisian and is back living there). Since 2003 she has written books, garnered pretty major media attention, and scores of followers who are rather active on her virtual community. I now count myself as one of the pack.

Simply Recipes
This is just what it sounds like. It is a well-written and simple repository of some great recipes. The pictures are compelling and drool-worthy. The prose is short and sweet, and the recipes are wonderfully descriptive. At the bottom of the page, you'll find other recipe suggestions based on the one you're reading. This is a new favorite to be sure.

And, last but certainly not least, At Table
This is Laura's blog. Her website has an amazing list of recipes, upcoming classes (for those of you living in Austin) and links to some very interesting stories, books, and blogs. Personally, I'm hoping to attend her "Feeding Your Inner Athlete" cooking class.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Quick and healthy summer dinner

Lately, the concept of slimming down has been at top of mind. I've gained some weight since I started dating my boyfriend. My friends say it's "happy weight" as it comes from indulging in dinners out at restaurants, Saturday morning doughnuts, or Sunday afternoon Coke floats. And, yes, more alcohol has been consumed on those lazy weekends while watching sports.

In our defense, we have also done a lot of active things like going to the golf driving range, having batting practice (with a wooden bat and a tennis ball...sort of a bit odd), pitch and putt, long walks, etc. I have also joined the gym where he goes and have committed to going 3-4 times/week at minimum (having someone to meet there sure does help).

But let's be honest. It's all about the food.

So, in an effort to prepare a pretty healthy dinner the other day, I improvised a salmon en pappilote. (Thankfully, this is not rocket science.)

I didn't have any parchment (though I've lately decided I should at least have some in my pantry, so that needs to be remedied), so foil it was. I wasn't actually sure how that was going to affect cooking time, so I looked up some recipes on (the best recipe site out there bar none...of course I'm biased since my bro-in-law is the technology team lead of the website) just to get a sense of how long it should cook. The resulting information? 25 minutes at 350. (well, sort of...keep reading)

I take out two large pieces of foil and doubled them over. I put about a teaspoon of olive oil on each. Over at my cutting board, I sliced about half of a zucchini in 1/8th inch slices. I then placed half of the sliced zuke on each piece of foil; salt; pepper.

Side note: when I say salt and pepper, I mean fresh ground. I have a sea salt grinder and a black pepper grinder. They are my go to spices. And now, back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

I then put the salmon on top of the zuke slices. When I went to my grocery store's fishmonger, I asked for 3-4oz fillets. Frankly, I wanted more, but I know you're really only supposed to have that sized fillets. As luck would have it, he cut them a bit too large and they were 6oz each. (Sweet!) I really can't imagine only eating half of that portion, so I think 6oz fillets are the way to go in the future. But I digress....I put the salmon fillets on the zukes. I then dusted them lightly with dried oregano, dried basil, and a touch more sea salt. Then I sliced a lemon (because I'm not actually sure if I can eat oven roasted salmon without lemon) and put a couple slices on top of the lemon.

I sealed up the packets by lining up the long sides and folding them over a couple times. Then I folded over each of the shorter sides a couple times. The little presents were ready. I put them on a baking sheet and put them on the lower of my two oven racks (sort of low middle). I set my kitchen timer for 20 minutes, as in my experience, salmon always takes longer to cook than the recipes say. I don't know how it could be such a universal problem, but it is. So my theory was that I would check on it after 20 minutes and, depending on the progress, would mentally prepare myself to not eat for a while.

As suspected at the 20 minute mark, the little packets weren't quite done. The good thing with salmon is that I don't need it to be cooked to a fair-thee-well, but it looked close enough that "properly cooked" seemed within grasp, so I decided to try for a bit more. I turned the oven up to 400, put the packets (re-closed) back in, and reset the clock for 10 minutes. Truth by told, I knew the oven wasn't going to get up to the full 400 by the time the buzzer went off, but I figured it would work all the same.

When the ringing began, I took out the packets. I couldn't hold back and risked a bit of fingertip burning to open it up and check if we were done. We were. They were absolutely perfect. In the next 90 seconds while we waiting for the foil to become a little more manageable, I microwaved some Uncle Ben's Brown & Wild 90 Second rice. Once that was done, I put half of the rice on one plate and the contents of one packet on top of that. I did the same for the other plate. The fish, zucchini, lemon slices and olive oil had made a great sauce that permeated the wild rice.

I thought it was delicious, but perhaps more importantly, the boyfriend thought it was fantastic and requested that I make it again...soon. (He also had the suggestion of adding more zukes some with a thicker cut to add some more veggies and more texture. I think he's got something there.)