Thursday, February 28, 2008

Post #94 - Rice and Beans with Stuff

Here's one of my favorite comfort-food dinners:

Start the rice first:

Rinse 1 1/2 cups of long-grain rice until the water runs clear. Let drain.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté (in vegetable oil) some chopped onion and a minced clove of garlic until fragrant and translucent. Add the drained rice and stir to coat the grains with oil. Toast the rice, stirring every now and then. When you notice that the color has definitely gotten darker, add in 1 can (drained) of diced tomatoes. Stir around a little. It'll soon try to stick to the bottom of the pan - when this happens, add 2 cups of chicken or veggie broth and a scant teaspoon of salt (table salt this time, not kosher).

Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to really-really low. Let cook until the rice is done - I think it's somewhere around 20 minutes, but I've never timed it. I usually stir once halfway through cooking. (How can you stir halfway through an unknown cooking time? Sorry.) When the rice is done, if there's still too much liquid, remove the cover, increase the heat, and flip-stir the rice gently so you don't break it.

While the rice is cooking:

Open a large can of pinto beans (Sun Vista is my favorite), pour off the top inch or so of beany liquid, and dump into a pot. Add a chili (jalapeno or serrano, slit or not) and a chunk of onion if you have it. Heat.

Chop/shred iceberg lettuce, and dress with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Chop up some cilantro, green onions, tomatoes, black olives. Shred some cheddar. Make some guacamole. Gather your hot sauces and sour cream.

To serve, plunk some rice in a bowl, and top with beans (free of liquid thanks to a slotted spoon). Sprinkle with some cheese. Mix it up a little to melt the cheese. Then add any or all of your veggie toppings and condiments. Mix. Eat as is, or scoop with chips.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Post #93 - BLT with Avocado and Egg

Make a BLT, bacon on one side, mayo, tomatoes, lettuce and avocado on the other. Before you close the sandwich, fry an egg overeasy. Poke the yolk and let it dribble all over the bread and bacon.

Sandwich heaven.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Bet Nobody Else Has Ever....

...accidentally dropped their engagement ring into their printer, and been unable to retrieve it without some serious printer dissection.

What a crappy day.

Post #92 - The I-Don't-Feel-Like-Cooking Dinner

Morningstar Farms Buffalo Wings dipped in Thai Kitchen's Sweet Red Chili Sauce, white rice, and stir-fried Chinese long beans with my standard spicy sauce.

Sometimes fake meat and real veggies is all I can handle.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Post #91 - Baked Chicken Thighs

Simple dinner, 5 minutes active time, ~45 baking time:

Rinse and dry chicken thighs. Coat lightly with olive oil, Lawry's, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. (Sound familiar?)

Slice onion, lemons and oranges a little less than 1/4" thick, and line the bottom of a baking dish with them. I used my Descoware skillet (Descoware is awesome, think Le Creuset, but old).

Bake until the internal temp is 180, anywhere from 350 to 400 degrees. Add a little water during cooking if stuff starts burning.

Served with rice and sauteed greens (or whatever else tickles your fancy).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Post #90 - Turkey Wings

I picked up a couple turkey wings from Sprouts a while back. I chucked them in the freezer, and promptly forgot about them. They resurfaced when I was looking for my frozen roasted green chilies.

I had never cooked just the wings of a turkey before, so I went simple, using my roast chicken technique.

Dry the wings, rub with olive oil, sprinkle with paprika, garlic powder, Lawry's and pepper. Bake at 350 for about 1 1/2 hours, with a little liquid in the bottom of the pan (so drippings don't burn), and propped up on a rack (I used 2 biscuit cutters) if you like brown-crispy all around (I do). If the wing tips start burning, wrap them in foil, or just rip them off (not any meat on there, but I like the skin).

I served it with rice and spicy stir-fried choy. I read recently that there are over 20 varieties of choy, and given the selection at the market (99 Ranch Market on Claremont Mesa Blvd.), I believe it. I have no idea what variety mine was, but each plant was about a foot long, darker green stems than bok choy, and therefore a greener taste. Possibly gai choy?

I'm going to have to start taking notes when I go there...

Anyhow, the turkey wings turned out beautifully - from now on, I'm only doing wings (and maybe legs) for Thanksgiving. Why waste so much time trying to figure out what to do with leftover breast/thigh meat that nobody wants to eat anyway?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Post #89 - Granola Bars

Last evening I made these Granola Bars, courtesy of The Kitchen Sink.

I didn't have any flax seeds, so substituted sunflower seeds. I also didn't leave the almonds whole, but cut them in half (I love my kitchen scissors).

The only problem I had with this recipe was that the bars refuse to hold together, which is probably because I used the minimum amount of liquid (1/4 each of honey and peanut butter). I'm not really complaining, because the crumbles are excellent with milk poured on top.

My entire house smelled wonderful from the toasting nuts/seeds/coconut, and the flavor of these granola bars is better than anything storebought. I'm definitely going to try this again, but with increased binder amounts. I may actually turn into a breakfast person because of these.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Post #88 - Costa Brava, Pacific Beach

For Valentine's dinner, we went to Costa Brava in Pacific Beach, but not on Valentine's Day - we figured out a couple years ago that we got better food and better service a day or two before or after "the Day".

We ordered from the tapas menu:

Garlic Soup with Poached Egg:
I was expecting creamy caramelized roasted garlic blended into the soup, but we got barely simmered minced garlic sitting in the bottom of the bowl. The croutons were good, the poached egg was beautiful, but that's about all I want to say.

Patatas a la Brava:
Billed as spicy, they really weren't, but they were crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and tossed with a smoked-paprika aiolli. Very good. Definitely not health food.

Fried calamari - perfectly tender, light crispy batter. Squirt on a little lemon juice, black pepper, and dip in the aiolli from the patatas.

"Spicy breaded mussels", according to the menu. Again, not spicy. They looked battered more than breaded, and we certainly weren't expecting the "breading" to cover not only the mussel meat, but the entire half-shell. From the looks of it, it was deep fried after batter-dipping, then covered with a tomato sauce with bell peppers and celery. Too much saucy stuff on top, but overall, a very good dish.

Dátiles con Tocino:
Bacon-wrapped dates. This was our dessert course, and up until this point, we were thinking we wouldn't make a return trip. Date, wrap in bacon, stick with toothpick, bake until bacon is crispy. Serve on a plate with apricot and raspberry sauces. Sweet, salty, creamy, crunchy. Heaven. Yes, we will return.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Post #87 - Stir Fry

If I don't have any leftover rice for fried rice, and have nothing else planned and/or available, "stir fry" is usually what happens in my kitchen.

Cook some rice (I like Three Ladies brand jasmine rice).

If you have thawed proteins, chop them (it, she?) into bite-size pieces, and marinate in soy sauce, maybe with ginger, chili paste, etc., while you prep the veggies.

Chop up whatever vegetables you have on-hand - cabbage, carrot, celery, onion, bell pepper, water chestnuts, peas, bean sprouts (obviously don't chop the peas).

Mix up some soy sauce, fish sauce, Chinese black vinegar, Chinese rice wine, chili-garlic sauce, chili paste, (etc., etc., etc.), add some cornstarch, whisk to combine, then add water. (For 1 lb of chicken, I use maybe 3T of soy, 1/2-1 teaspoon of fish sauce, about a tablespoon of chili-garlic and chili paste, about a teaspoon each of vinegar, wine and cornstarch, and about 1/4 cup of water. But I don't measure, so don't yell at me if it doesn't turn out.) If you don't use chili-garlic sauce, add some minced garlic. Microplaned ginger is always a good addition.

Here's a picture of the black vinegar, to make up for my current lack of a camera. I don't know how it's different from regular vinegar, other than being darker, but it makes this dish delicious.

Get your wok really hot, then add a little peanut (or vegetable) oil, swirl to coat, then add the protein of choice. Stir-fry, but don't stir obsessively - it's not a risotto. You want some Maillard reaction going on, happy caramelized brown spots.

When the meat (tofu?) is fully cooked, remove from the wok.

Add a little more oil to the wok, then add the veggies, starting with the ones that take the most amount of time to cook (e.g. carrots), and ending with the ones that take the least amount of time (e.g. cabbage leaves). Stir, fry, etc.

Almost immediately after you add your most delicate veggies (green onion, cilantro), dump in the soy-flavoring-liquid. Bring to a boil, so the cornstarch can demonstrate its thickening powers. Lower the heat, and simmer a little, until everything's as tender as you want it.

Serve over the rice.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Post #86 - Lamb Chops and White Beans with Leeks

No flowery phrases tonight, just the method and a link.

Marinate lamb chops (I used shoulder chops because that's what I had) in olive oil, lemon juice, roughly chopped or smashed garlic, paprika, pepper, oregano and basil overnight. Be generous with the olive oil, even though the chops are fatty.

Next day, let the chops come to room temperature, unless you're hungry, in which case you should let them sit on the counter until the beans are almost done. Heat a skillet over medium-high with a very small amount of vegetable oil. Take the chops out of the marinade (save it!), and sear them about 3-4 minutes on each side. Salt them if you want - I forgot, and didn't even notice. Lower the heat and cook until they're done to your liking. Turn off the heat and remove the chops to paper towels to drain. Pour off any oil in the skillet, but leave the brown bits.

Pour the saved marinade into the still-hot skillet (I had about 3 tablespoons), and let reduce until it looks, honestly, kind of gross. Spread this on top of the chops, and serve with the beans.

For the beans, use this recipe for Creamy White Beans with Leeks courtesy of Jamie Oliver via Serious Eats. Depending on your stove, reduce either the cooking time or the heat level, or you'll burn your leeks/garlic. The parsley isn't necessary, and neither is the créme fraîche. And for God's sake, please use a good white wine.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Post #85 - Biscuits!

I had planned on making lamb chops for dinner tonight. But after making these biscuits from Everybody Likes Sandwiches, the chops get to sit in the fridge marinating overnight.

If you're frustrated with never being able to get a good biscuit out of your oven, try these. They were light, flaky, layered - everything a biscuit should be.

Biscuits + butter + raspberry-jalapeño jam = dinner.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Post #84 - Why I Love My Discover Card

About a month ago, I had to buy a new laptop. When I was at the counter attempting to complete my purchase, the clerk had to call Discover to ensure that the card was valid, or something. So she's on the phone with one branch of the company, when my phone rings. It's Discover's Fraud Prevention department, calling to inquire if I am currently trying to make a relatively large purchase of electronic equipment. I said yes, and everything went well.

This afternoon I got an email from Fraud Prevention, asking to call them immediately. So I did. The very nice agent, Barb, ran through yesterday's purchases up to the current time. Everything yesterday jived. This morning started with 7-11 (hubby bought gas). No problem. Then "three charges of $60.61, about 1 minute apart, at a Walmart or a Sam's Club".

Wait just a goshdarned minute. Why would I charge $60.61 3 times? And I don't shop at Walmart or Sam's Club. I asked Barb where the store was located. She said Nashville. Umm, yeah, not me.

So the account was quickly closed, the disputed charges (for which I am not responsible) sent to Fraud Investigation, and I am to expect my new cards delivered via DHL on Saturday. That's 48 hours, people, and a weekend.

And that's why I love my Discover card.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Post #83 - Ful Mudammas

I made (and ate) ful mudammas for the first time today. Click here for more information than you probably wanted. ;)

After my first bite (scooped into pita bread), I was actually walking towards the garbage disposal. But then I decided to give it another chance. Millions of people (it's practically the national dish of Egypt) eat this stuff every day for breakfast.

One pita and a half-bowl later, I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

1 can fava beans
olive oil
lemon juice
tomato, chopped
garlic, chopped
onion, chopped
cilantro, chopped
chilies, chopped (optional)
green onion

Drain and rinse your beans. I popped their outer skin off, but I'm not sure if it was necessary. Heat over low-ish heat, while sauteeing the onion, garlic and chilies separately. Stir sauteed stuff into beans, along with tomato, cilantro, s&p, lemon juice, and olive oil. Mash slightly. Garnish with green onion, and serve with pita bread.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Post #82 - Poultry Parts from Jaden!

A while back, Jaden over at Steamy Kitchen offered various assorted poultry parts (and dried squid, yum) to those who asked. I immediately jumped at the chance to try something a) new and b) that would gross out my kids.

Here are my notes, unedited, typed while partaking:

(Jaden's picture)

Spicy Duck Neck:
nice ducky smell when I opened the package
soft bony bits
meat shreds
gelatinous bits congealed on the outside
not very spicy, but nicely spiced
vertebrae separated easily
spinal cord for Chula (ed: Chula's my chihuahua)
am I supposed to eat the bones? didn't.

Next up was Spicy Chicken Claws:
smells like the duck neck
looks interesting
where do I start?
umm...that was texturally unpleasant
other end same thing
comes apart easily, anatomy is cool
can't find any part that isn't cartilage-y skin stuff
(it's a foot, what did I expect?)

Sorry, Jaden, most of that one went to the dogs (you're their new favorite person).

And last but not least, Spicy Duck Giblets:
smells like the first 2
ever cut yourself on foil? ow.
just what the hell is a giblet anyway, it looks like lungs or liver or something
outside unpleasantly gelatinous
inside nicely chewy and meaty
oh god what am I eating
like the neck, not spicy, but nicely spiced
saltier than the neck
I think I like it

And as a final note, when I opened the envelope from Jaden containing my gifts, her business card fell on the table. Hubby picked it up and said "Why is a hot Asian babe sending you duck parts?"

Thanks Jaden!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Post #81 - Artichoke Dip

Here's my recipe for artichoke dip. Pretty simple. But the dish is always emptied quickly.

1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, broken up
1 cup shredded mozzarella
3/4 c grated parmesan (canned is ok for this)
1/2 c mayo (sometimes I fill the 1/2 c measure about 3/4 of the way, then top with milk)
1 clove garlic, minced
few dashes of your favorite hot sauce

Mix it all up. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the edges get that beautiful crusty yummy brown. Serve with tortilla chips or crostini.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Post #80 - Stuffed Cabbage Soup

I just finished my first bowl of Stuffed Cabbage Soup, recipe courtesy of Chuck over at Sunday Nite Dinner. Oh my, is it delicious!

I followed his recipe, using beef, but omitted the thyme and lowered the salt slightly.

And, in my impatience, my first bowl was rice-less, accompanied by the end of a baguette.

Rice is now cooking, second bowl to come.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Post #79 - White Bean Bruschetta

I made one of my favorite dinners tonight, rapini with cannellini beans (see Post #17). Since it was only hubby and me tonight, I didn't use the entire can of beans. What to do with the remainder?

Inspired by Kirsten, but lacking mackerel fillets, and forgetfulness and pure laziness preventing the red wine vinegar, rosemary and red onion, here's what I ended up with:

Smash 'em up, stir in some lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Spread on toasted bread (sourdough from Boudin is yummy).