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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Clean Food Rundown

Hello all!
I just want to highlight a few of the meals I made this week. The rules: No white starch, no refined sugar, no additives. I focused on green vegetables and whole grains, and I didn't skimp on the olive oil. And yes, 7 days in, I feel amazing. 2 days to go.

1 - Brown rice with greens, spinach salad with homemade apple cider vinaigrette, cranberry tea
2 - Spinach and onion omelete with a side of mango and honey
3 - Memorial Day cookout fare; lentil patty, vinegar slaw, broccoli casserole
4 - Chinese food! Vegetable lo mein with fried rice
5 - Wheat pasta with spinach, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil
6 - Lentil and quinoa chili soup
7 - Tilapia and brown rice "sushi"
8 - Spinach salad with boiled egg, raisins, carrots, onion, and homemade vinaigrette
9 - Herbal tea, Home Stretch Soup (split peas, lentils, cabbage, onion, carrot, brown rice, quinoia, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, homemade chicken stock)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

***Detox Hiatus***

Hello friends!
For the next 9 days, I will be eating clean; no white starch, no white sugar, no alcohol. I am cooking up some nice things, cranberry tea, brown rice with greens, stuff like that. I will probably blog most of this later on, but be patient, your old favorites will be back in June. :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mouthwatering Potato Salad

I never do the same thing twice when making potato salad. Little mayo, little mustard, cut up some celery and pickles, boom.
...That is, I never used to do the same thing, but after discovering this combination, I will use it from now on. I just finished making some potato salad to go with hamburgers later, and holy cow, it's so good I just have to write it down.
The shallots, tarragon vinegar, and whole grain mustard are what make it so special. Trust me, these things only sound expensive. Tarragon vinegar can be pricey, but it takes a while to go through; I've had mine for a year or so.
Now, this may not me the way your mom told you to do the potatoes and eggs. If you have a method you're used to for boiling them, by all means use it. Otherwise, just trust me.

Mouthwatering Potato Salad
serves ... a lot, probably like 8 or 10? We like leftover potato salad. :)

4 cups potatoes, cut into large chunks and cubes
2 eggs*
1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
2 Tbsp yellow mustard
1 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions and shallots (i.e. the entirety of the green onion)
1/3 cup chopped pickles
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

*Just to be clear, we are making hard boiled eggs. Do not crack the eggs. Just put them in the water.

Add cubed potatoes and eggs to a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combine the rest of the ingredient list in a bowl, and stir to combine.
After 15 minutes of boiling, immediately transfer eggs into cold water. Drain potatoes and rinse with cold water. As soon as you can handle the eggs, peel and chop them, then stir them into the dressing. Gently fold in the potatoes. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Stuffed Chayote with Salsa Verde

This morning, I went to my local Mexican grocery to pick up some fresh produce. I didn't have a plan, I wanted to get stuff for salad and 1 or 2 exotic things that I hadn't worked with before.
Those items ended up being tomatillos (right rear) and chayote (center). I also got scallions and a bundle of cilantro; I've grown cilantro on my window and also used the dried kind before, but now that I know Tienda Morelos has bundles for 79 cents, I'll buy that from now on.
Cooked chayote has a mild flavor, somewhere between a zucchini and a pear.

Tomatillos are most commonly used in salsa verde, so I decided to make some. I started by dry roasting the tomatillos along with some garlic. You can dry roast vegetables by placing

them skin-on in a dry iron skillet turning occasionally until the vegetable is cooked and the skin is dotted with brown/black blisters. This took about 20 minutes.

To make the salsa:
In the food processor, combine unpeeled roasted tomatillos, peeled roasted garlic, 2 chopped scallions, 1-2 jalapenos, a big handful of fresh cilantro, 1 Tbsp lime juice, and a pinch of sugar. Pulse until it reaches desired consistency; you can make it rustic and chunky or blend it smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the stuffed chayote:
Slice the chayote longways and boil the halves for 30 minutes. Don't touch the goo that comes out when you cut it, I hear it causes skin irritation. Remove boiled halves and allow to cool. Scoop out seed and discard. Scoop out flesh and blend with fillings of choice in a bowl, I used chili con queso. You can use all kinds of veggies, meats, cheeses, rice, use your imagination!
Preheat oven to 350.
Fill each half with some of the filling. Cover and bake for 25 minutes, uncover and cook for 5-10 minutes depending on whether or not you want a crispy top.
Serve with the salsa verde.
(I reserved some extra chili and served tortilla chips on the side.)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls for Dummies

Cooking catastrophes can be difficult to deal with, especially when you busted your butt making something. And especially when you're making it for other people. And ESPECIALLY when it's been bought and paid for by your best customer. 
Some of my readers know that I sling a little bread on the side, mostly for coworkers. My most famous and frequently bought item is my cinnamon rolls. I've made them a couple dozen times or more, and they are the fluffiest most flavorful cinnamon rolls you can buy for $10 a dozen. I pride myself on making them by hand, from scratch, with real butter icing. 
I had a system. My system was flawless. Why mess with perfection?
Moral of the story:
When you make the following recipe, please use a bowl to combine the dough ingredients. Resist the urge to make a flour mound on the counter, make a well in the center, and pour liquid into it. If you do that with the ratios I give you, you will have a wet sticky ball. You will add more and more and more flour until it stops being sticky, and in your haste, you will forget to add the salt. The dough will look fine, so you'll use it unbeknownst that it tastes terrible. Your husband will tell you that it tastes fine, and you will take the rolls to work. Unconvinced, you will ask your boss to have a bite because you trust her to be honest with you. She will take a bite and make a yuck face while shaking her head and saying "". You'll have to call your best customer, (and by the sound of his voice you woke him up) and offer him either a redo or a refund. You will take your inedible shame back home. Then, you will cry while your husband puts it out as food for the neighborhood fauna. 
Don't cry while your husband puts out food for the neighborhood fauna. 

~*~*~*~ My Famous Cinnamon Rolls: A step-by-step tutorial that anyone can follow ~*~*~*~

This recipe is for 2 dozen. You can halve it for a dozen, quarter it for a half dozen, or multiply it to feed an army if you want to.  The measurements are numbered the way they are so that it's easy to memorize. For example:
This is a "4-loaf" recipe. I am using 4x the ingredients it would take to make 1 loaf of French or Italian bread: 1c flour+, 1/2c water, 1 tsp salt, 1 heaping tsp yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1 Tbsp oil (optional). For cinnamon rolls, I double the sugar and use vegetable oil instead of EVOO or nothing. Otherwise, it's roughly the same recipe I use for all my yeast breads. Once you master yeast breads, your possibilities are endless. 
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour* plus more for kneading
4 tsp salt
2 cups water between 90-105 degrees
8 tsp sugar (~3 Tbsp)
4 heaping tsp active dry yeast
4 Tbsp vegetable oil (1/4 cup)

*It's not the end of the world if you don't sift but it takes like 1 minute and it makes a difference in texture.

Combine the salt with the flour in a large bowl. You want a large bowl, since this dough will grow to be very large. 

Be sure your water is the right temperature. I recommend a thermometer; if you don't have one, the ideal temperature should feel like bathwater. I add the yeast and sugar to 1c water, then add the other cup to the dough after. Stir the sugar into the water, then the yeast. No matter what you've read about 'sprinkling yeast on top of water', don't be afraid to give it a good stir. This helps to activate everything. Let this mixture rest for 5 minutes; it should look like this:

Add the vegetable oil and water/yeast/sugar mix to the flour/salt mix. Stir with a rubber spatula until combined and turn out onto a floured surface: 

Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. 
Now, you have 5 minutes to kill! 
Why not do the dishes? You'll need your big bowl again anyway. 

Poof, I blow suds at you!

This was my mistake. I wanted to save time by not washing the giant bowl. This is why I tried to do it in a flour-well on the counter. 
Don't mess with success! 

Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes, working in more flour as needed. Here's an old video of me kneading:
Let your dough rise in a well oiled bowl covered with a damp cloth for 1 hour.
You want a warm place; I recommend turning the oven on for 30 seconds then turning it off and letting the dough rise inside.
After the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into 4 equal portions. 

The filling:
The jar on the right is a mix of cinnamon and sugar, roughly 2 parts sugar 1 part cinnamon. With each quarter of dough, spread it out into an 8x12 rectangle. Rub it with a layer of Crisco so the cinnamon-sugar has something to stick to. Sprinkle on about 1/4 cup of mixture and pat it down to cover the dough evenly. 
Now roll the dough into a log and cut it into 6 slices. Repeat with the other dough quarters.
Place those slices into  9x13 baking dishes as shown.
Allow these to rise covered for an hour, or overnight in the fridge. While these rise, you can make the icing!
For the icing:
You will need 1/2 a stick of butter,  about 4 cups of powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, a shake of salt (this is LESS than a pinch, very little!) and  7-8 tablespoons of water, or as much as you need to get the desired consistency. 
Start with a microwave-safe dish that measures cups and holds at least 2 cups. I recommend a Pyrex glass measuring cup; every kitchen needs one! Melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in 2 cups of powdered sugar to combine. Add vanilla and salt. Then, alternate adding a little water and a little more sugar, whisking with a fork until smooth, until you have 2 cups of icing. It should be thicker than gravy but thinner than pudding. 
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425. 
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until tops start to brown. They will take longer if chilled, and times may vary depending on your oven. 
If you add the icing right away, it will soak in nicely but visually it might not look good. If you want picture pretty rolls, let them cool for 5 or 10 minutes before icing them. If the icing has been in the fridge, microwave it for 30 seconds or so and stir.


Thanks for reading. Remember, our journey is the sum of our experiences.
 :) xo

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Confetti Frittata

Frittata is a beautifully versatile Italian egg dish. It's basically an open-faced omelette, and like an omelette, you can stuff it with anything you want. That's why mine is called 'confetti'. I stuffed my frittata with an assortment of leftovers; sausage and peppers, pasta, and broccoli.

Confetti Frittata
serves 4
4 eggs
2 Tbsp sour cream (or milk, or cream)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups of roughly chopped goodies (meats, veggies, anything you like!)
1/2 cup of your favorite shredded cheese

Turn on the broiler.
In a bowl, whisk eggs with sour cream, salt, pepper, and garlic powder until very well blended. Set aside.
In an oven-safe skillet, melt butter with olive oil. Cook your filling goodies for as long as you need to; if they are precooked, just cook them long enough to get them hot. Add egg mixture to pan. Cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle cheese on top and broil for 4-6 minutes.
(I like mine with a little sour cream and hot pepper sauce. :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Stuffed Pasta Shells

This is an easy recipe that's perfect for picky eaters. I wanted to do something Italian with the shells, but hubby hates ricotta and to be perfectly honest it's not my favorite. Don't get me wrong, I like ricotta, it's just...
Not my favorite.
I kept it very simple, using just 3 ingredients for the filling. When you bite into these, you get the heavenly sensation of cream cheese!

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Stuffed Pasta Shells
makes 4 meals or 8 appetizers
8oz cream cheese, softened
8oz shredded mozzarella
1 egg
16 jumbo pasta shells
Your favorite red sauce

Preheat oven to 350.
In a bowl, combine the cheese and egg. Cover and chill while you cook the pasta. Cook the shells per package directions, drain open side down on paper towels. Stuff each shell with about 2 Tbsp of your cheese filling.
Pour a 1-inch layer of sauce into a 9x13 glass baking dish. Lay the shells on top. Bake for 40 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Top 10 Best Recipes of 2012

I occasionally look back over my old posts. Last year was a great year, but it had its problems; bad photography (still working on that), cliche overly simple recipes, confusing overly complicated recipes, etc. However, there are a few real diamonds in the rough. Let's reminisce together, shall we?

#10 Easy Burgers and Fries

Aww, baby's first post! Despite its generic simplicity, I like this one for many reasons. The step by step photo tutorial is adorable and the potato method is one I'm proud of. If there's one thing I hate, it's flipping over 30 or 40 burning hot little french fries halfway through cooking. Resting on the skins = even cooking, NO flipping!

#9 Potato Skins with Ham

Transform ordinary ham lunchmeat into bacon! ...Kinda! Crisp fried ham with liquid smoke is no substitute for real bacon but it's pretty good. I love the photograph, and these always take me back to football Sundays.

#8 Eggless Cranberry Coffee Cake

The picture doesn't do this dish justice. However, the flavor and texture were to die for. I designed this as a way to use up leftover cranberry sauce; I always have a TON at Thanksgiving. I shared this with friends and they raved about it, I think someone even pinned this on Pinterest.

#7 Caramel Lover's Cupcakes

These were fun to make. It was my first paid baking job, long before I started advertising. Who doesn't love a gooey caramel cupcake with white chocolate frosting?

#6 Turkey Stuffed Soft Pretzel Rolls

A true diamond in the rough, these came out practically perfect in every way during a time when so many of my breads didn't work. I have an open pack of hot dogs in the fridge right now...I might just have to make some pretzel dogs. This picture is making me want some. It's a good picture.

#5 Pantry Cleaning BBQ Chicken Pizza

Ah yes, the "Pantry Cleaning" series. It was fun but not as fun as Use It or Lose It. I like this recipe because it gives a better and more simple description of how to make pizza crust than Soft Crust Pizza. BBQ Chicken pizza is one of my all time favorites.

#4 Imitation Crab Cakes

I love these! Not only are they delicious, decadent, fancy, easy, and dirt cheap, !!! They bring me a lot of traffic from Google search. Imitation Crab Cakes is the second most common search term that brings people to my blog. Which brings us to...

#3 Bacon Wrapped Cheddar Brats

These babies have had more hits than anything else on the blog. Bacon Wrapped Cheddar Brats  is the most common search term that gets people here! I just wish I had taken a better picture!

#2 Craving Brownies

Oh baby. I have made these several times since posting. They're just the best brownies in the universe, you guys.

#1 Italian Bread

Step by step instructions that anyone can follow. Heck, there's even a 7 minute video of me kneading dough. I make this once or twice a week, of course now I don't need to look at a recipe.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Greek Bites!

This blog post is brought to you by my dear friend Erin, author of the Low Fat Sugar Free Whole Wheat Diet Food Blog. She generously contributed jumbo pasta shells, broccoli, and dried figs. I am determined to use them all, and I'm thinking Greek appetizers! Also, I have some cucumbers that need to be used yesterday, so it works out perfectly.
These recipes are designed as part of a set. Each recipe makes 4 small servings, adjust your amounts accordingly.
Grilled chicken strips with tzatziki
Fig and feta pizza
Greek stuffed pasta shells

...Too much fun. :)

Grilled Chicken Strips with Tzatziki

2 large raw boneless skinless chicken breasts
Vinaigrette dressing

1/2 cucumber, grated
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Prep these together:
Cut each breast into 4 long equal strips. Marinade in dressing for 1 hour in the fridge.
Combine sauce ingredients. Cover and chill in fridge for 1 hour. 
Grill the marinated chicken, or pan fry. Serve with cold sauce.

Greek Stuffed Pasta Shells

8 jumbo pasta shells
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli
1/4 cup finely chopped olives
1 minced garlic clove
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup cream cheese
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup marinara sauce

Boil the shells for 10 minutes. Rinse in cold water and drain open-side down.
Preheat oven to 375.
Combine all remaining ingredients except feta in a bowl. Scoop a small spoonful of the mixture into each shell, and top each shell with feta. Garnish with basil, oregano, or parsley if desired.   Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce into a baking dish. Add shells. Loosely tent with foil and bake for 20 minutes covered, 5 minutes uncovered. 

Fig and Feta Pizza

1 Tbsp butter
12 figs, fresh or dried, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 425. 
Melt butter in a skillet and cook the figs for a minute or two. Add honey and balsamic vinegar,  reduce for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. 
Spread the fig mixture evenly onto the crust and top with feta. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until the crust is browned. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

*SPECIAL* Use Or Lose: Spicy Mango Chicken Melts

Recently, a beloved coworker of mine moved on to bigger and better things.
She just happened to be a culinary genius and a personal inspiration.
She also just happened to leave a few things in the break room fridge and freezer!
It had been a while, and nobody claimed them, so the boss said I could have them. I decided that not only was I going to use them, I was going to use them together on a super special edition of Use It or Lose It!

Spicy Mango Chicken Melts
Makes 4 appetizers or 2 meals

2 raw boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup vinaigrette dressing, plus 1 tablespoon
1/2 cup chopped mango
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped jalapeno
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 cinnamon-raisin English muffins, split
2 Tbsp butter (optional)
4oz sharp cheddar cheese, sliced

First, marinade the chicken in the salad dressing for 1 hour, reserving 1 Tbsp for the salsa.
While the chicken is marinading, combine the mango, onion, jalapeno, sugar, salt, and 1 Tbsp salad dressing in a bowl. Cover and chill for 45-60 minutes.
Preheat the broiler for the cheesy cinnamuffins.
I recommend grilling the chicken, but you can bake it or pan-fry if you want to. Rest the cooked chicken while you broil the 4 muffin halves; you can butter the muffin halves before stacking 1oz of cheddar cheese on top if you like, or you can just use cheese. Broil for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is melty and a little bubbly.
Remove cheesy cinnamuffins from oven and plate them. Slice the cooked chicken breasts horizontally and place 1/2 breast on each muffin cut-side down. Top with your mango salsa and garnish with cilantro, parsley, or basil if desired.

Guys, I just gotta say, these came out amazing. If you make them, do it as written. Trust me. ;)