Sunday, August 10, 2014

Kalbi Ribs

I've always been a little intimidated by the grill.  I'm comfortable with all manner of kitchen tools, and I make pasta from scratch, in fact, I'd like a blowtorch just for the kitchen, but that little outdoor kettle fills me with dread.  I have a cheap grill that I used about five times  five years ago, and it has been sitting, neglected in my shed ever since.

For some reason that grill has been nagging me this summer, begging to be let out and used.  I have access to basically any cut of beef or pork I could want thanks to an Amish butcher, and I'd been reading about Kalbi ribs.  They seemed easy enough, and a good way to get over my grilling fear.

Kalbi ribs are beef short ribs cut flanken style (long and thin lengthwise, resulting in multiple bones per piece).  I get mine cut 1/2 an inch thick.  While not really a recipe, but more of a process, it goes like this:

You want about 1 lb. of ribs per person.  Place the ribs into a large plastic container with a head of minced garlic and about 1/2 cup or so of soy sauce.  Marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes on one side, then flip and marinate for 15 minutes on the other side.

In the meantime, you need your grill preheated to high.  Put the ribs on the grill grates for about three minutes per side for medium-rare and around 6 minutes per side for well-done.  Let the ribs rest for 10 minutes before cutting between the bones for bite-sized pieces.

These are a finger food, and you will get messy.  The meat is salty and fatty in a really pleasant way.  My husband looked on in terror as I devoured these ribs, throwing the bones haphazardly on the empty bowl in front of me.  I eat leftovers straight out of the fridge.

On a completely unrelated note, I usually don't buy flowers for myself, but I need to start.  I saw these sunflowers at a market at they made me happy for days.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Strawberry Lemonade Cake: On coming to terms with ugly cakes

Have you ever watched any of those cake decorating shows, the ones where a team of people have 12 hours to make a life sized version of the Taj Mahal or 1,972,231 perfect grains of rice in a wicker basket all out of cake?  What about all the pictures of beautiful cakes out of home kitchens?  My cakes don't look like that at all.  I even took a cake decorating class, but my cakes lean, the frosting is bumpy, and I make a mess on the cake boards.  I have a cake esteem problem, or at least I used to.
Like women who grow up feeling self-conscious about their bodies because of the air-brushed, photo shopped pictures of models, I never felt good about my cakes.  (I've never been self-conscious about my body though, go figure.)  You see, my cakes look, well, homemade.  I make a cake for my husband's co-worker's birthday every year, and I always send it with apologies for its appearance.  In fact, last year I learned the cake was going to a family dinner party, and I had a minor panic attack because I knew the cake was not a party-worthy centerpiece.

Finally, something clicked.  I thought back to how many weddings I had been to where the cake was beautiful, but dry and overly sweet or had too much almond extract.  Fondant, while smooth and gorgeous is not something I want to eat.  I have had a few cakes that were both beautiful and delicious, but these have been few and far between.  The man who gets a cake for his birthday every year is thrilled to have something homemade.  He's not looking at the flaws.

So, my cakes, while homely, bumpy, lopsided, and always leaning are delicious, and I'm fine with that.  I will no longer apologize for my ugly cakes.  I feel like there's a life lesson here, but I don't want to get all after school special on you, so I'll close with this: love your ugly cakes.

For those of you who want to know more about this cake, it's a strawberry lemonade cake.  So, the cake is lemon, and the frosting is vanilla butter cream with strawberries whipped in.  I got the recipe here.  I think this would be excellent with any berry.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Grilled Onions: French onion soup without the soup.

Onions have always been a staple in my house and at my parents' house.  There is a joke that anything my dad eats could use some or more onions, and that if we just served onions, he would still think more onions were needed.

Honestly, I don't understand people who have an aversion to them.  I have a cousin who will pick out minced onions from the dressing at Thanksgiving and who I've seen eat onion rings by pulling the onion out and just eating the batter.  Yes, raw onions can be harsh, but cooked onions are sweet and mellow.  Onions are also good for you and inexpensive, so I think it makes sense to have more onion side dishes.

I think my husband has onion amnesia, especially when it comes to these grilled onions.   He always claims he's not interested in them, but after taking a few bites, he keeps going back for more.  I think these could win over most of the onion haters among us, and I think it tastes kind of like french onion soup without the soup.

Some notes:

  • I'm including step-by-step directions below for a grill, but you can also bake these for an hour between 350 and 400 F.  Put on a cookie sheet or oven safe dish while baking, so juice doesn't run all over your oven.
  • I can eat one of these by myself, and I really like it over a baked potato.
  • I usually use a sweet onion like a Candy or Vidalia, but I've used yellow or white onions too.

Grilled Onions

After getting your grill ready, peel and wash your onions.  Place each onion on a sheet of foil big enough to wrap the onion in.  Cut off the root at the end, and then use a paring knife to hollow out about an inch and a half hole in the top of your onions.  I just leave the onion insides that I've taken out in the foil.

Fill the hole with a bouillon cube or paste (about 1 teaspoon).  I use either beef or vegetable, but chicken would work too.

Top with a pat of butter (about 1/2 tablespoon).  Wrap the onion in foil and place on the grill for an hour.  (potatoes take about this long too)  My grill was at medium heat, but these will work at low or high heat, you'll just need to adjust the time.  I've never had a problem with overcooking these.

When the onion is soft, it's done.  Put it in a container before unwrapping, so you don't get juice everywhere.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Peaches, Pesto, Mozzarella: What I've learned

I learned a few things while making the salad you see above.  First, pesto makes an excellent salad dressing.  Two, I'm getting so skilled at using my $30 thrift store Le Crueset grill pan.  I mean really, look at those grill marks!  And finally, peaches, pesto, and mozzarella cheese go perfectly together on a salad.

The pesto recipe I used called for pine nuts, but I didn't want to take out a loan just to buy nuts, so I subbed in pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds) instead.  I've been using them in place of pine nuts a lot lately, and they haven't let me down yet, so give them a try.  I also can't get arugula where I live or that would have went on this salad instead of spinach.  

This salad was served with barramundi, which is a fish that I had not tried until last December.  It's a flaky white fish, but does not have the typical white fish flavor. From what I've read, it can be farmed in a sustainable manner, so it's not a bad choice of fish, and it's my new favorite.  We stock up on it the few times a year when we can get to a Trader Joes.   If you can get the skin crispy, do it.  I think I could eat a bag of crispy barramundi skins.  I previously mentioned arugula, which I also had not tried until this year.

The only thing that makes me upset about any of this is that I've lived 32 years of my life when I could have been eating barramundi, arugula, and grilled peaches and pesto.  I need to make up for lost time.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Chorizo Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

In my opinion, there aren't too many things better than a twice baked potato.  They are cheesy, salty, and if cooked just right, the potato skins get crispy.  I don't think they should always be relegated to a side dish, especially when you can just stuff your entire meal in one.

The key to making twice baked potatoes is to bake your potatoes ahead of time and let them cool before trying to scoop them out.  Not only do you risk burning yourself with scorching hot potato flesh (trust me, I've done this), but the potatoes will also break apart easily leaving you without the shell you need if you don't let them cool properly.  If you're using the oven anyway, go ahead and put a few potatoes in, and then you can have twice baked potatoes the next night for supper.  You can also bake potatoes in a crock-pot.  Just put them in the crock pot at night, and when you get up in the morning, you can put them in the refrigerator, so they will be cool and ready to scoop out for supper.

The other trick I've learned to making twice baked potatoes is instead of scooping out the flesh with a spoon, use a knife and cut around the inside.  Then you can go in and dig out the potatoes with a spoon.  This leads to a lot less breakage of your potato skin.

I didn't measure this exactly, and you can pick and choose your ingredients.  You can use sausage, ground beef, or chicken instead of chorizo, or leave out the meat entirely.  Change up the cheese to whatever you have on hand.  I serve these with sour cream.  They freeze and reheat well, so I always make extra.

Chorizo Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

4 russet potatoes
6 to 8 oz chorizo, cooked
1 cup co-jack cheese, shredded
3 scallions, chopped

1. Bake potatoes until tender.  Set aside and cool to at least room temperature, but cooking them the day before and refrigerating them works great too.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Cut each potato in half and carve out the inside.  You will now have 8 potato shells and the potato insides. Put reserved potato insides into a medium bowl.

3. Mix chorizo, cheese, and scallions with potato insides.  Taste for seasoning.  Because chorizo is salty and spicy, I don't add any extra seasoning, but if you're using a different protein, you may want salt, pepper, or other spices.

4. Spoon the potato mixture into the potato shells, and place on a baking sheet.

5. Bake potatoes for 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the skins are crisp.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why I Love Breakfast and a Burrito

I love breakfast more than any other meal, and it's purely for emotional reasons.  I grew-up in a home where my mother ate and still eats something chocolate every morning.  I really didn't know that Hostess chocolate cupcakes were not a breakfast food until I was in my mid-twenties.  Chocolate cake and Swiss Rolls were the norm, but I always liked a savory breakfast.  I would go to my grandparent's house before school where my grandpa would make me cheese omelets or heat up leftover mashed potatoes and fried chicken.  The only time my mom cooked a breakfast is when my family would go camping.  I remember the little Coleman camp stove with eggs just taken out of the red plastic carrying case and sausage links.  These breakfasts were special.  Now, my dad often takes me out for our morning meal when I'm home visiting, and it's these kinds of emotional memories that make me love this meal so much.

I have a breakfast burrito almost every morning.  I previously posted about making them ahead for the freezer, which works great, but most of the time I just make my burrito as I get ready for work.  Those of you who know me know that I will sleep every last second before I have to get out of bed, and I've been known to hit the snooze button for at least an hour.  In fact, my husband knows that he's not allowed to talk to me in the morning because all questions are considered stupid until I'm properly awake.  Yet, I do love breakfast, and I've got a routine down that lets me throw together a burrito every morning.  It goes like this: stumble to the kitchen, heat the pan with oil, go brush teeth, chop mushrooms and throw in the pan, do hair, throw eggs in the pan, get dressed, and so on.

The filling for my burritos constantly change.  I'm on a mushroom, kale, egg, cheese, and jalapeno kick right now, but sometimes I'll have potatoes, sausage, peppers, egg, and onion.  Really, whatever produce I can pull together quickly and wrap in a tortilla is good for me.  I always have a gallon jar of pickled jalapenos in the fridge.

When breakfast burritos were requested for supper a few nights ago, I knew I wanted to do something a little different than my everyday fare.  These were filled with egg, pepper, onion, chorizo, and cheese and then topped with some leftover Rotel dip and cilantro.  The filling and cheese sauce from yesterday's nacho post would also make an excellent addition.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Vegan Breakfast Nachos and Chorizo

I took this recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen, which if you don't follow, you should.  I don't care if you're a vegan or a meat and potatoes person, Isa's recipes have never let me down.  First, who doesn't like breakfast or nachos?  It makes so much sense to combine the two together that I'm jealous I didn't think of it first.

You can find the recipe here.  Basically, it's roasted potatoes, scrambled tofu, black beans, avocado salsa, and a "cheese" sauce that I think would fool you if you didn't know it wasn't really cheese.  I mean I bet it's closer to cheese than a certain bright yellow cheese food that is a staple of Midwestern casseroles, and that I love but am convinced it's only one step away from plastic.

Really, look at that cheesy sauce!

I will be making this again, but if Jason is around, I'll skip the scrambled tofu because I found out he hates turmeric, which is what makes this look like scrambled eggs.  I think I'll substitute vegan chorizo instead, which is another Isa recipe that I forgot to mention yesterday when I did my Meatless May wrap-up.

The chorizo has an almost eerily realistic sausage feel when you eat it.  It's easy to make, and I put it over Huevos Rancheros, but I'd like to try it in other dishes.   I mean look, it even looks like sausage!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Meatless May Wrap-Up: Almost a Month Later

I kind of dropped the ball on posting the end of meatless May. It wasn't because we didn't stay meatless, but because we did it the lazy way: a lot of veggie burgers, eggs, and pizza.  I blame end of the semester grading craziness.

The things I did cook I can't share a recipe to because a lot of them weren't my recipes, or I don't think they warrant posting, but I did want to post a photo recap.

We didn't eat a ton of meat before this experiment, but we've dropped down to even less now, really just a couple of times a week.  Also, the tofu I made was so successful that I'm incorporating it into a lot more dishes.  I think we'll have Meatless May every year.

So below are the end pictures of Meatless May

Baked Ziti (I will post a recipe for this the next time I make it)

BBQ Tofu, Coleslaw, and Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Gratin.

Veggie Nachos

Pasta with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, black olives, and parsley. 

Beer Battered Tofu with Mac and Cheese

Sauteed Bull's Blood Beet Greens with Garlic and Red Wine Vinegar

Caprese Flatbread with Balsamic Reduction

Monday, May 12, 2014

Meatless May Day 11: Hummus Sandwiches and a Hummus Recipe

While not the most original supper idea in the world, I knew I would want something fairly light because I went to a huge mother's day brunch buffet.  I didn't feel like I missed out on anything at the buffet by not eating meat, and Jason said he just missed the bacon.

I decided I would make hummus because I was soaking chickpeas for the chickpea cutlets anyway.  I still have leftover chickpeas that I'll freeze and make into something delicious later on when I don't feel like cooking beans.  You see, just like I won't buy ricotta, I also won't buy canned beans or pre-made hummus.  Both are ridiculously easy to make and much cheaper when you do it yourself.  Beans don't require work, just planning, and you must be in the house for a few hours unless you have a crock-pot, and in that case, most of the work is done for you.  Really, I think if you make a lot of beans, the crock-pot would eventually pay for itself.  Also, don't buy your hummus, make it.  Yes, I do have a food processor which makes smooth hummus, but I used to make it with a potato masher and a fork, not as smooth, but still amazing.

My hummus sandwiches included lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and black olives.  As I type this I'm realizing a missed opportunity of an avocado sitting sadly in the refrigerator.  Roasted red peppers would have been great too.

Hummus (an approximate recipe)

2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained (probably about 1 1/2 cans if you must use canned beans)
Juice from 1 1/2 to 2 lemons
3 cloves garlic, pressed
about 5 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt, add more to taste, less if you use canned beans

I don't measure too much when I do this, so you may need a little more or a little less of something depending on your desired tastes.  Also, I've made this before and forgotten the tahini, it's okay, well edible, but it's flat.  I have heard you can substitute natural peanut butter, but I've not tried this.  Let me know if you do and how it turned out.

If you have a food processor, pulse chickpeas a few times until the beans are broken up.  If you're not using a food processor, mash the chickpeas with a fork until no whole beans remain.  Add lemon juice, garlic, and tahini.  Pulse, or mash until well combined and smooth.  Add in olive oil and pulse again until creamy.  You may need to add more oil or water at this point if it's too thick.  Finally, add seasonings, stir, and try not to eat it all with a spoon before you can get it onto a sandwich.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Meatless May Day 10: Chickpea Cutlets and Mashed Potatoes = One Happy Mastiff

I haven't posted over the last few days because we've had a frozen stir-fry kit one night, leftovers twice, and we went out for Mexican last night where we had veggie nachos and Chiles Poblanos.  Today I planned the meals for the rest of the week (there will be homemade vegan chorizo), bought a ton of herbs and vegetables for my container garden, and made chickpea cutlets from The Veganomicon.

Because these are from a cookbook, I can't give out the recipe, but they were delicious.  My dog, who has been disappointed with the meal offerings lately, was so excited to see these, and I know he thought they were meat.  He ran around like crazy when he saw the mashed potatoes because that is one of his favorite foods, and he really enjoyed the mushroom gravy.

While the cutlets don't taste like meat, they do have the texture of a crispy salmon patty, and they are wonderful.  I think they taste a lot like meat from a t.v. dinner (I mean that in a good way).  I will be making them again when meatless May is finished.  Tomorrow, we're off to a mother's day brunch buffet, so I imagine a lot of side dishes will be consumed.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Meatless May Day 5: Veggie Quesadillas

Last night I made pepper, onion, mushroom, and cheese quesadillas with avocado salsa.  The salsa is just something I throw together with avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, and salt.  It's much better when the tomatoes are in season, but that is going to be awhile.  For the quesadilla filling I just sauteed the veggies with salt and pepper and deglazed the pan with some silver tequila.

Today my students found out that I'm not eating meat for the month, and they are confounded by this.  They aren't really sure what I'm going to be eating, and this led to a conversation about how long a person could survive without meat.  I don't think they believed my answer of "forever."  There was also a long discussion about tofu, which I still don't think they understood.

There won't be too much excitement in the way of food posting for the next couple of days.  Jason made supper tonight which consisted of a frozen stir-fry kit and some pre-marinated teriyaki tofu because I worked late.  Wednesday and Thursday nights are usually leftovers, but I may get creative and whip something up.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Meatless May Day 4: Cornmeal Crusted Tofu Po Boy (Triangle food is more fun)

Why does eating triangles make me so happy?  Think about it.  Sandwiches cut diagonally are better than sandwiches cut horizontally.  Pizza is usually cut into a triangle, and then there's pie.  Tofu is another food made better by cutting it into a triangle, especially when it's fried.  The narrow pieces at the end get crispy while the wider parts at the top stay a little softer.  It's two wonderful textures for the price of one.  These cornmeal crusted tofu triangles were no exception to the tasty triangle rule.

If you don't know about po boys, they are basically sub sandwiches.  The ones I've had include some kind of fried fish or seafood, lettuce, pickles, and tartar or cocktail sauce.  They are popular down south, and I believe they originated in Louisiana.  Jason had his first one a few years ago in Alabama and was instantly hooked.  I'm not surprised he choose this recipe.

 I took this recipe out of The Veganomicon, so I can't post it, but I can tell you it was delicious.  You basically dredge tofu triangles in a spiced cornmeal mixture and then fry it until it's crispy.  I've had fish sticks with a lot less flavor and crunch.  I added some Old Bay seasoning to my sandwich, which made my brain think I was eating fish.  We had this with coleslaw and green beans.  Jason claimed the coleslaw was just "okay," but I came home tonight and found out he had eaten almost all the leftovers (about 3 cups worth), so I'll try to get a recipe together for that and post it soon.  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Meatless May Day 3: Tortellini with 5-Cheese Sauce. Oh, and I'm ridiculous.

Penne with 5 cheeses can be found here, and it's a recipe that I used to make often.  I've made it with Penne as directed, but I've also baked it with cheese raviolis and used it as a sauce for scallop stuffed cannelloni.  I love this sauce, but I haven't made it for almost three years.  I just kind of forgot about it.  The other day, I thought about it again, and I knew it would work well for the meatless month we are having.  I planned out the weekly meals, and then promptly forgot that this recipe called for ricotta.

Here's where we get into the problem, and me being a little crazy.  I haven't made this recipe since I've started making my own ricotta cheese.  I refuse to buy ricotta because mine is so much better than the pre-packaged stuff.  I had this planned for Friday night, but didn't make any ricotta.  The recipe only calls for 2 tablespoons of the cheese, and I still rearranged dinner plans because I didn't have it.  I think this is an issue, but now I do have some lovely homemade cheese waiting for me to broil on some toast later, so that's not all that bad, right?

This meal comes together quickly, especially is you don't have to make your own cheese.  I used two 19 oz packages of frozen tortellini (cook the tortellini first), and baked it at 500 F for 15 minutes.  There is a lot leftover, but it reheats well, and I think it would freeze well too.  We never get to that point, and I guarantee that in two days only a small fraction of this will be left.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Meatless May Day 2: Tofu Puttanesca

I thought I had everything planned to make cheese tortellini with a five cheese sauce, but then I remembered I didn't make any ricotta, and I refuse to buy the store-bought stuff (more on this tomorrow).  This was around 5:00, so I needed to think of something fast for supper.  Flipping through my cookbooks, I found a recipe for a tofu puttanesca scramble.  Brilliant I thought, I have a jar of capers hanging around that I've been wanting to use anyway, so a quick trip to the grocery store for tofu and tomatoes, and I was set.

I expected this to be good, but it was better than that.  If you've not had puttanesca, it's a briny, spicy, garlicky, tomatoey sauce, usually tossed with pasta.  I know it has some connection to brothels because it was something the ladies could whip up quickly with what they had on hand.  The tofu was a great vehicle because it soaked up all the briny flavors of the olives and capers, but you could use pasta or chicken here too.  I do wish I had some crusty bread to eat this with.

I served the tofu with parsley-buttered potatoes and roasted green beans.  This is my favorite way to have green beans, just toss with a little oil, salt, and pepper, and roast on a cookie sheet.  I roasted these at 375 F for about 25 minutes, but sometimes I'll roast them longer to get them softer.  

For the potatoes, use a waxy potato like yellow or red for best results.  Steam or boil cubed potatoes until tender, but not falling apart.  Toss with butter, salt, and lots of chopped parsley.

I didn't use the recipe I found, but it did give me inspiration to whip something up on my own.  So, here's my version of Tofu Puttanesca (recipe below picture)

Tomorrow: Cheese Tortellini with 5 Cheeses

Tofu Puttanesca

  • 12 or 16 oz package extra firm tofu, drained and cubed
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (you may need a little more depending on how much the tofu sucks up)
  • 1 cup whole grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 12 large black olives, sliced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/2 tablespoon caper brine
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • optional 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley to top
  1. preheat heavy bottomed straight-sided or pan or large skillet over medium high heat.
  2. Add olive oil and garlic, cook garlic until brown, but watch it, it will burn quickly.  This should take a little less than a minute.
  3. Add cubed tofu and red pepper flakes.  Cook in skillet for 10 minutes until tofu cubes begin to brown.  You'll need to flip the cubes a few times during this process, but be gentle, and try not to break then up too much.  Add more oil if the cubes start to stick.
  4. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, and brine.  Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until tomatoes start to get soft.
  5. Remove from heat and top with parsley if using.  

Friday, May 2, 2014

Meatless May Day 1: Learned Helplessness

About a week ago, Jason declared that he would like to eat only vegetarian in May.  Two minutes later he said "We can still have fish, right?"  We decided on no fish, but we will be eating dairy and eggs, so May is now deemed Meatless May.  Jason believes this will lead us down a path of healthier eating, but I think we'll just eat more cheese.  I have set a rule of pasta no more than once a week because I know it will be a fall back food if there's no limit.

In my planning for Meatless May, also among trying to get caught up on my end of the semester grading, I neglected to remember that we always eat leftovers for lunch.  So, when Wednesday night hit, and we'd eaten all the meat products in fridge, Jason realized that he didn't know what to have for lunch the next day, and I'd be at work.  I reminded him that there  was leftover broccoli cheese sauce, but he'd have to microwave a potato.  "You do know how to microwave a potato, right?"  The disheartening reply "I don't think so."  Keep in mind, we do have a special bag for microwaving said potatoes.  He ended up with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

This month should be a little more interesting in the culinary department than just peanut butter and jelly, and I plan on posting our dinners daily.  Last night we had sauteed pepper, onion, and mushroom melts.  No recipe, just saute onions, peppers, and mushrooms until soft.  Spread marinara on hoagie rolls, top with sauteed veggies and sliced mozzarella, and then put into the oven until the cheese is melted.  I put these in at 400 F for about 7 minutes.  Just watch that the bread doesn't burn.

Tomorrow: Tofu Puttanesca