Jumping back on the food wagon

23 05 2011

Sorry that this is one of those, “I haven’t blogged in a long time, I’m going to start over” posts…but well, it is. I’m planning a come back tour of sorts. I have lots planned for this blog and lots of potential content to add. I’m in the process of starting another 28 day marathon of cooking, CSA season is almost here, my wife Mollie is almost ready to have our second child, a girl and I’ve vowed to achieve another longstanding goal of mine: to publish a cookbook! Albeit, a self-published cookbook….but still I vow, and thats whats really important right?
If you’ve ever thought of making a similar goal of writing or some other creative literary endeavor…one interesting resource Ive discovered is: http://www.lulu.com/publish/cookbooks/ Check it out sometime, its pretty interesting how we have technology affecting the way people create and communicate these days.





CSA Season has begun!

18 06 2010

No, Im not talking about a new crime drama on tv, child support advocacy or the Canadian Space Agency. Im talking about community supported agriculture! I recently joined a local CSA and split a weekly share of fruits and veggies with some friends. A normal size share is supposed to be enough to feed a family of four for a week. Its a great way to get fresh, local produce and also forces you to use them throughout your meals and get creative with your cooking.

Each week on this blog Ill post a picture and list of our half of the haul and maybe even some pictures or recipes of what we decided to make.

CSA Week 1

The box this week contained the following:

1 extremely large head of cabbage

4 spring or Vidalia onions

1 bunch of large long radishes

5 large stalks of Rhubarb

6 pints of Strawberries

1 large head of red leaf lettuce

4 heads of broccoli

1 bag of dried corn kernel snacks

How we’ve used the ingredients so far:

Thursday night being the first night we werent really sure what to expect or even how much to expect. We were pleasantly surprised by the good variety and quality this early in the season. Everything tasted fresh and perfectly ripened from the sweet juicy red strawberries to the crisp crunchy mild radish. We quickly decided on the easiest and most obvious route to take- a green salad. We washed and chopped the lettuce, onion and radish and tossed it in a parmesan vinegarette, finished off with the corn kernel snacks (kind of like a homemade corn nut) on top. It went perfect with the spicy italian smoked sausage I decided to eat with it.

In addition to dinner I wanted to make something sweet with the strawberries and rhubarb. I love cobbler and crisp but I was really in the mood for something more like a cake. I decided on Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake. I was happy with the recipe I tried. Just be forewarned that it makes a ton of coffee cake, so you better have lots of people to share it with.

There’s still a lot of veggies left and even some more strawberries. Im not entirely sure what to make now but I definitely have a direction and a goal, to use everything before next thursday!





Dal-righty Then

31 05 2010

Today I decided to make a common household Indian dish called Dal. There are many varieties of Dal, which is kind of like a cross between split pea soup and baked beans. The recipes that I came across used all variety of legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc) and of course lots of spices. I decided on one kind that used Chick Peas because I had some on hand. Dal is often served with rice and Naan bread. Its almost always vegetarian and its really good for you.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading some information on eating…because in case you haven’t noticed, I enjoy food and cooking (hey we all eat appx 3 times a day so its not like Im alone here). One thing that I’ve made a conscious effort to at least try often is not feeling like I need to eat meat with every meal. A lot of times when I cook I think of a meat and then build a recipe around that. It’s possible to eat something and even get a good amount of protein without adding meat.

So save a little money, some extra calories and fat and get creative with vegetables, fruits or beans. You might even decide to try your hand at making Dal.

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Chana Dal

Ingredients

12 oz (about 1 and 1/2 cups) of Chana Dal (or Garbanzo/Chick Peas if you don’t have an Indian market nearby)

1 tsp of Salt

1 tsp of Tumeric

2 tsp of Chili Powder

2 tsp of Cayenne Powder

1 tsp of Celery Salt

2 tsp of Garlic powder or 1 clove of fresh chopped Garlic

1 Tbs of onion flakes or 1/2 chopped onion

Directions

Remove skins from Chick Peas (lay several at a time out on a paper towel and rub with another paper towel to loosen skin)

Smash the Chick Peas with your fingers as you place them in a small sauce pan. Add about 1 cup of water and salt and tumeric.

In a small frying pan drizzle a small amount of olive oil and add the rest of the ingredients. Fry on medium heat until the onions are cooked down.

When the Chick Peas start cooking down add the fried spice mixture and stir.

Serve with or over rice. Goes well with flat bread of Indian Naan bread.





Philly French Steak Sandwich

28 05 2010

I like Cheese Steaks. I like French Dips. Seems like a logical next step to combine them in a beautiful marriage of steak, cheese and au jus. About a hundred years ago someone thought it would be a good idea to dip a steak sandwich in beef broth. They actually dip the whole sandwich in before serving it (and some restaurants still do that to this day). Not long after this was invented Philadelphia gave birth to the famous sandwich that bears the city’s moniker.

I wanted to combine these sandwiches because I love their flavors and I think both compliment each other well. I decided on Italian roast beef heated in au jus, sautéed mushrooms and onions, provolone on French bread with a spicy horseradish aioli spread. I serve the au jus on the side as opposed to drenching the entire sandwich, its just more to dip each bite in my opinion.

Enjoy and as always, let me know if you have any good ideas for how to improve this recipe.

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Philly French Steak Sandwich

Yields 2 sandwiches

Ingredients

1/2 lb sliced Italian Roast Beef

1 to 2 cups of au jus (from mix or made fresh)

½ whole onion, sliced thin

1 cup of white mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

½ cup olive oil mayonnaise

4 slices of Provolone

1 medium sized loaf of fresh French bread

Directions

Saute onions in a lightly oiled frying pan on medium low until onions begin to caramelize. Add mushrooms and continue to cook.

While vegetables are cooking, add au jus to a small pot on medium high. Add roast beef to heat.

Cut french loaf into two halves and slice lengthwise into a top and bottom piece.

Place under broiler inside up until bread begins to toast. Remove from oven.

Mix together horseradish (if desired) and mayonnaise and spread onto bottom piece of toast. Add meat to bottom piece and add sliced cheese.

On the other half, add onions and mushrooms.

Place all pieces under broiler until cheese is melted.

Remove from oven and serve with au jus on the side.





Your-Kid’s-Won’t-Know-It’s-Not-Fast-Food Chicken Nuggets

8 05 2010

Recently I attempted to come up with a recipe for chicken nuggets that resembled the kind you get at McDonalds or other fast food joints. Although these are not my favorite way to eat chicken, I was intrigued by the idea of my “McVestigation”. I was not surprised that many others have attempted this feat before. There are countless food bloggers, home cooks and recipe hounds that have posted their rendition of the popular nugget. The most interesting thing that I found is no matter how successful their attempt to create a recipe there was always someone who posted a comment on their webpage letting everyone know that it didnt taste exactly like McDonalds and that they would continue to eat fast food… Im pretty sure thats not the point. But I digress…

Here is the recipe I finally came up with. I decided to use ground chicken. I hadn’t heard of anyone else do this but Im sure someone has tried it before. I think they taste pretty darn good. They are not identical…but will probably fool your kids into thinking you went to the drive through. All you need to complete the ruse is a fancy bag or box with popular cartoon characters pedaling processed variations food that could be a lot better…if you made it yourself.

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Your-Kid’s-Won’t-Know-It’s-Not-Fast-Food Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients

1 lb Ground Chicken

2 tsp of Salt

2 cups Flour

1 Tbs of Cornstarch

1 tsp of Garlic Powder

1 tsp of Ground Black Pepper

2 eggs

Vegetable or Canola Oil

Directions

Remove ground chicken from package and place in a bowl.

Add 1 tsp of salt (optional) and work into meat.

In a bowl or pie pan mix together 1 cup of the flour with cornstarch and set aside.

In another bowl or pie pan beat eggs and set aside.

In a third bowl or pie pan mix remaining flour, salt, garlic powder and pepper.

Using a spoon form chicken into gumball sized balls and set on a plate.

After plate is full roll each ball in flour/cornstarch combo and set back on tray

After every ball is coated with flour/cornstarch dip and thoroughly coat with egg mixture.

From the egg mixture coat each ball in final flour seasoning mixture and place on parchment or wax paper lined tray.

Using the back of a spoon, flatten the chicken balls until they resemble chicken nuggets (about ¼ inch thick)

Place a large skillet on medium heat and add enough vegetable oil so that there is about ½ inch deep in the pan.

Oil should be hot enough when you add a small amount of flour and bubbles form on the surface.

Once oil is hot, fry nuggets for appx 1-2 minutes on each side. They should end up golden brown.

Test by cooking 1 first and cutting into it to make sure that the chicken is cooked all the way. Adjust heat if necessary.

Place on paper towel lined tray or platter.

Repeat all steps until finished.





Monkey’s Jumping on the Bed Cake

2 05 2010

My son just recently turned 1. To honor the special occasion I decided to make a cake with one of his favorite animals, monkeys. Now this was only my second attempt at making a fondant style cake so cut me a little slack :) I’ll have to say that even though it took several hours to complete, I had a lot of fun doing it and would probably do it again…

I had to reach way back into my repertoire of skills and pull something I haven’t used since high school art class – modeling. Although this time instead of clay I tried my hand at both gum paste as well as marzipan. The marzipan ending up working the best for what I needed. I think gum paste must be more for 2 dimensional items. Needless to say, I ended up making 2 monkeys and a bed of cake comprised of 4 layers. 2 of the layers were chocolate chip and the other 2 were snickerdoodle. I made vanilla buttercream filling with chocolate buttercream on the outside which was then covered in fondant. I carved rice krispy treats into pillows and covered those with fondant as well.

One thing is for sure, the cake shows on tv make it look easy…Speaking of tv shows, it’s kind of like CSI…there are a lot of steps and a lot of time involved in the process that you dont see on TV. It just means that if you are going to ever get involved with Cake decorating as a hobby, or crime scene investigating for that matter..you’ll need a lot of time and more than a little patience.





Bowls of Goodness

30 03 2010

A lot of good things come in bowls. Things like cereal, ice cream, jelly, pasta, rice, soup, chili….some foods were just meant for bowls. My wife and I recently ventured out to Café Yumm were we enjoyed a wonderful Yumm bowl that included rice, beans, chicken, sauce, cheese, olives, tomatoes, avocado and salsa. Needless to say, we very much enjoyed the food and became inspired to make our own bowls.

The potential healthy implications for bowls rest entirely in what you choose to put in them. There are just so many different ideas that you can try. In order to prove my theory about the versatility of food in bowls, I’m going to challenge myself to come up with and cook dinner in bowls throughout the next couple of weeks. I’ll post each night that I make something new, I’ll try to use at least 5 ingredients and I’ll attempt to make it as healthy as possible. That’s it. Sounds simple….because it is…but this has the potential to change the way you think about cooking.

My sister in law has a couple of go to dishes (which work perfectly for bowls) that she uses to wow crowds when she doesn’t have tons of time to cook. One of my favorites is her Chili Verde. Even though its super easy to make, the wonderful flavors that have been allowed to slowly work together for 8 hours are something that even your fanciest foodie friend will fanaticize about for a long time.

I recently made this recipe myself for the first time and loved it. I nearly bought out all of the tomatillos at my local grocery store. It was so much more satisfying to make my own verde sauce then to just buy a jar of sauce, not to mention it tasted better too!

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Chili Verde

1.5 lbs pork tenderloin or chicken breast (cubed)
10 fresh tomatillos
1-4 jalapeno peppers (1 if you want it milder, 4 for extra hot)
2 poblano peppers
1 onion (diced)
3 cloves of garlic
1 T cumin
3-4 t salt
1/4 C chicken broth

Husk tomatillos and place in boiling water for 15 minutes. Strain and set aside to cool.

Put jalapenos and poblanos under the broiler until their skins are charred. Turn and char the other side. When charred, remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Mince garlic and dice onion. Place in crock pot with broth.

Cube meat, add to crock pot and stir.

Sprinkle cumin and salt on meat and veggies.

Carefully peel still-warm tomatillos and peppers. Place in blender and puree until smooth.

Cover meat with tomatillo sauce.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

Serve with rice, cheese and tortillas.








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