Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This Bread Will Change Your Life

After last weekend, in which I basically did nothing but shop for food and cook, I wanted an easy food week. Of course, I am terrible at time management, so while it was easier, I wouldn't say 4 hours in the kitchen is too easy. Why do my recipes always take longer to make than I think they will? Ah well. Husband was very understanding the last few weeks. I really wasn't in the mood for meat (Me not in the mood for meat? Imagine that!), so I went pretty meat-lite. Husband likes his meat, but he was kind of enough not to complain (of course, his mouth could have just been too full of pork bao), so this week I made a crap-ton of chicken. Here's what I made this week:
  • Nutella and roasted hazelnut challah, courtesy of Steamy Kitchen. That's right, nevermind the 5.5 lbs of chicken I made, let's start with dessert. Because really, this bread is fan-frakking-tastic! I haven't had Nutella since I was in high school, and one look at that picture had me running to the store to buy some. This recipe is in two parts: the dough recipe, and the challah recipe. The dough recipe makes a whole lotta bread, probably about 2 large loaves worth. The challah recipe tells you to tear off a piece about the size of a grapefruit, which ended up a loaf of ~8-10 small slices. I liked this idea because now I have dough sitting in my fridge ready for a mid-week treat. This recipe was very easy, though extremely messy. Flour is your friend. And remember when you're letting the final loaf rest before baking, it's best to move it onto the baking sheet first. I let it rest on my cutting board, and the Nutella tried to escape on me! I think I'll make another loaf tonight (because Husband and I polished the first one off almost immediately), though this one we'll take in to work because while it tastes like a gift from the gods, it ain't calorie free. One note on the dough: after I mixed in the 7 cups of flour, the dough was still quite sticky, too sticky to knead with, had the recipe called for it. I figured I'd have to mix in more flour after its overnight rise, but to my surprise the next day it was completely workable. Just make sure to flour your hands.
  • Chicken Mirabella, courtesy of Serious Eats. This is my one of my boss's favorite dishes. She goes on and on about the chicken mirabella she got a few times from one of those places that sells food already prepped, you just take it home and cook it. So when I found this recipe, I immediately sent it to her. She still hasn't tried it, but it was one of the first recipes that came to mind when I decided it was going to be a chicken week. I didn't use whole chickens. I ended up using 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I think I only ended up baking them for about 45 or 50 minutes, and that worked great. I also forgot to marinate them overnight, but they still got a good 8-9 hours of marinade time, so I think it was enough. Now I'm not a big fan of chicken, so you won't be hearing the words delicious or fantastic, but I'll say it turned out good. It's moist and flavorful. Should I make this again, which I think I will, I would add more olives, just because I love them. This recipe seems like it would be good for entertaining, a crowd pleaser.
  • Whole wheat pasta with roasted red pepper sauce, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman. I had this on the side of the Chicken Mirabella. I'm not really satisfied with how these flavors went together, but I think the sauce still turned out good. I used half and half instead of cream and threw in some peas and asparagus for added veggies, and a ton of fresh basil because I had bought a whole big bunch at the store. Overall, I think it turned out a tad bland. It's still a good recipe, but it needs....something. Maybe some acid? I think I miss the acid that would come from a tomato sauce. Ah well, it's something to play around with.
  • Chicken Scallopine, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman. If there's one way I like chicken, it's breaded and fried. Of course, I'll take covered in flour and cooked in a bit of butter if that's the best I can do. Again, I used half and half instead of cream. I think the sauce could have used the cream though. It was also a little bland. What I really should have done was let it cook off more. The recipe said to only let it cook off for a minute, but after a minute it was still very watery. I think 5-10 minutes would have yielded a nicer, more concentrated flavor. Ah well, next time. Also, I would about triple the mushrooms. I prefer a much higher mushroom to chicken ratio when I can help it. I also served this over some whole wheat pasta. Yum! Oh, also, I only used 4 chicken breasts instead of 6, but they were huge, so it probably ended up being the same amount. Hammering them out was a lot of noisy, noisy fun. My puppy did not approve.
  • I was inspired to do a light salad on the side of the chicken scallopine based on this recipe. I cut up some cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, an orange bell pepper, and a cucumber. I added some very thinly sliced red onion and a ton of chopped fresh basil. I should have left it at that, but I decided to add some olive oil and raspberry vinegar. Even though I went light on it, I didn't like how the flavor turned out. I'm really not big into salad dressing, I just didn't realize how much until now. I offset the dressing flavor by adding some goat cheese. Goat cheese really does make everything better.

My favorite part of making the challah was Husband's reaction to both the Nutella and the finished bread. When I told him about the recipe he sounded pretty indifferent. He said it sounded pretty good, but he really didn't like Nutella by itself. I was flabbergasted, to say the least. How could my chocolate and nut-loving husband not like Nutella? What's not to like!? Well after I was done smearing gobs of Nutella into the challah, I started to lick off the spoon. I love Nutella, so there may have been some moaning involved. Husband came running to my noises of pleasure and demanded to be let in on the delicious action. I reminded him that he didn't like Nutella plain, and he said he was willing to give it another try. After I was able to wrestle the jar back from him (for after one lick of my spoon, he delved it back into the jar for more), I called BS on his lie! Of course he liked the Nutella, just as I knew he should have! He claims it doesn't taste like he remembers. I think his brain must have holes in it.

Next weekend I'm having a few friends over for a 4th of July BBQ. On the menu are hamburgers, hot dogs, bbq chicken, panzanella, roasted mustard potatoes, strawberry shortcake, and apple pie. Yum! Oh, I'm also going to try my hand at making my own hamburger/hotdog buns. Don't worry, I'm going to buy some at the store for backup. I'm hoping I'll have enough food left over to pick at during the week because after all that food, I really don't think I'll want to make any more the next day. Heh.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dumpling Delight!

One thing I always order when at a Japanese restaurant is miso soup. I love miso, I love soup, so it's a match made in heaven. I had seen some discussions on miso soup on some blogs, but was confused by all the unfamiliar ingredients. What is dashi?! It's apparently the most important part of the soup: the broth. How do I get it? That unanswered question had kept me from trying to make my own miso soup for...well ok, only 6 months. But last week I found the answer! Dashi is made by heating up water with sea kelp (konbu) and these nasty fish flakes I don't want to know too much about (aka: bonito). Well those seemed like ingredients I might be able to actually find in a store. To be safe, I planned a trip to my local Asian food market. I'll admit I don't particularly like going to the Asian food market. It's 20 miles away, the parking lot is always full and the spaces are tiny. It's always crazy crowded inside, and the aisles are so narrow that two carts can barely pass by each other. And it smells like fish, which I find to be a very unappetizing smell (I avoid the fish counter at the grocery store too). So I figured if I was going to make the trip, I might as well find some other Asian dishes to make.

Somewhere along the way in my food blog perusing last week I came upon a recipe for pork bao. For those of you not hip to the lingo, pork bao, or Cha Siu Bao, are those steamed bbq pork dumplings you have at dim sum. Never had dim sum? Then you haven't lived! Go and eat some right now! I also found a recipe for some shrimp dumplings that are also something similar to what I've had at dim sum. And this week's Asian food theme was born.
  • Miso soup, courtesy of Serious Eats. This isn't really a recipe, more like an explanation of ingredients and general guidelines. At the very least, it's very informative! I ended up reading this through several times, and then writing my own recipe from it. I'll post that over the weekend, hopefully. The soup used a lot of scary ingredients, but it ended up being pretty simple, and very easy (minus the ringing of hot fishy broth through a cheese cloth, that was rather gross). I'll have to play around with the proportions. I think the miso soups I've had in most restaurants are still better than what I made, but I still thought it was yummy. I ended up buying two kinds of miso at the store, barley (because that's what the guy in the article used), and white because I needed white for another recipe. I tried both kinds in the soup and they tasted so similar I don't think it really mattered. The white miso looked closest to what I get in restaurants, so I assume that's what they use.
  • Pork Bao, courtesy of Cdkitchen. This recipe required quite a few items from the Asian market of the condiment/sauce persuasion. Namely, sweet soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and oyster sauce. Other than the sweet soy sauce, which I had never heard of before (it's thicker and sweeter (obviously) than normal soy sauce), you can buy hoisin and oyster sauce at a regular grocery store. I figured, first, if I'm going all the way to the Asian market, I might as well get everything I can, and second, I've bought hoisin sauce at the grocery store before and it was disgusting. I don't know what the difference was between what I bought the first time, and what I bought this time, but what I bought this time tastes much better. Anyway, OMFG, these turned out fantastically delicious! The sauce was sweet, the buns were light and fluffy, and the pork was tender . My mouth is watering just remembering them. They are, sadly, already gone. One thing to understand about my husband, he eats pork bao like potato chips. He just pops them in his mouth whole and reaches for the next one while he's chewing. Seriously. It's hilarious. When we're at dim sum, he usually cleans out the lady's entire cart. He doesn't like having to wait for a second round. So needless to say, I had to do some major convincing (read: guilt tripping) to get these 24 buns to last 2 whole days. I was very proud of him. I actually got to eat one or two of them. Some tips on the buns: I used a steamer basket in a pot of water to steam the buns (4 buns at a time fit in mine, but I have a large one). This worked great, except the first round of buns stuck to the basket. The next round I sprayed some Pam first with the same result. Then I remembered pork bao at dim sum always have a bit of paper stuck to the bottom, so I tried cutting up squares of parchment paper to stick to the bottom of the bun while it steams. That worked like a charm, and they were perfect after that. Also, the recipe didn't specify, so I used pork rib meat. I was looking for something without a lot of fat.
  • Chinese Chive Dumplings, courtesy of Use Real Butter. Tapioca starch and wheat starch were my Asian market items on this recipe. If you've ever made mochi or used Mochiko flour it has a similar texture to these starches. It's kind of like cornstarch. Kind of unpleasant to handle and it gets everywhere. Have I mentioned I need an apron? So I'm kind of a dummy and misread the recipe. I thought it said 1/4 cup wheat starch, not 1 1/4 cups, so I was surprised when my "dough" I was supposed to "knead" was still a liquid. I ended up just mixing in more starch (trading off between tapioca and wheat since it didn't specify) in 1/4 cup increments, until it stopped sticking to my fingers. It turned out fine, I think. I also couldn't find garlic chives, so I just used green onion. They turned out delicious! The dough had that wonderful gummy consistency I love so much. I usually make food to last the week, but these really didn't keep well. The next day the dough was tough and the flavor was gone (though popping them in the microwave helped a lot), so I would recommend a single meal with these. Also, I ran out of the shrimp filling after about 12 dumplings (the recipe is supposed to make 18), so I would recommend buying more shrimp, or doing what I did and find an alternate filling. I had ended up with extra red onion (more on that later) and savoy cabbage, so I minced the onion and sliced the cabbage very thing and sauteed them in vegetable oil until soft. I actually liked this filling better than the shrimp, though I think that's only because my shrimp were a little fishy tasting (I'm very picky about my fish being fresh which is why I mostly just eat sushi).
  • Stuffed savoy cabbage, courtesy of Serious Eats. First off, I've never bought dried mushrooms before. I've always seen them in the store, but have only ever used fresh. Well this recipe called for dried porcini mushrooms. I figured, no biggie. I see that called for all the time in recipes, should be no problem. Wrong. None of the grocery stores I went to had any dried mushrooms at all. Why don't I just go live in a barn while I'm at it? One guy tried to give me fresh button mushrooms when I asked him where the dried mushrooms were located. The nerve! Thankfully Trader Joe's came to my rescue yet again with a mixed dried mushroom medley. It had porcini, oyster, and shitake mushrooms (and maybe some others I'm forgetting). I just picked out the oyster and figured it'd be good enough (and it was). I modified this recipe a bit to make it a little healthier. I used ground turkey instead of beef. I used brown rice instead of white. And I used whole wheat breadcrumbs instead of white (I just pulsed some slices of bread in my cuisinart). I couldn't tell the difference, or if anything, it gave the dish more flavor. My mom said she didn't think stuffed cabbage was very Asian, and I guess it's not, but the flavors will went pretty well, I think, with the other food. I'm not really a fan of ground turkey, and thankfully that flavor was completely masked by all the other great flavors going on. The tomatoes, the mushrooms, and the cabbage itself provided for some very flavorful mush. My favorite! One thing to note about this recipe, it doesn't use all of its onion! It calls for 1 heaping cup of minced onion, but the recipe itself only ever calls for 1/2 cup. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with the other half. I just left it out, and don't think it was even missed.
  • Sweet summer corn and edamame salad with walnut-miso dressing, courtesy of Serious Eats. Oh man, this was good. This is one of those great recipes that takes minutes. If you used frozen corn, it would literally take as long as defrosting the veggies. I'd seen recipes that used mirin in the past, so I looked for it several times at several grocery stores and never found it. No problem, the Asian market had 10 different kinds. Of course, the next day, I found some at my local grocery store. Go figure. I must say, edamame is darn filling! The dressing was light and sweet and have I mentioned how much I love miso?
All successes this week, I think. Everything turned out so delicious, that it barely lasted! Good thing this is a short week at work because Husband polished off the last of the food for lunch today. I would make everything again. In fact, I found a recipe this week for sui mai. I'm thinking having some friends over sometime for some dim sum-type food would be a good way to go the next time. Of course, I'll have to triple of the pork bao recipe at least.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Baking Up A Storm

I admit, I might have gone a little overboard this week. And by "a little overboard", I mean I have totally been eating myself fat this week. I don't know what it is (hormones maybe?), but I just found so many recipes that sounded fantastic, I decided I had to make them all. So be prepared for quite a list this week. And I'm featuring some pictures finally. I am by no means a food photographer, but I do my best with what laziness I have to work with.

I wasn't really in the mood for meat this week. Between the pork two weeks ago and all the chicken last week, I needed a meat-cation. Surprisingly, so did Husband. He's a big meat and potatoes kind of guy, so I was surprised, but proud, when he said he wouldn't mind being sparing with the meat this week as well. So everything on my lis
t this week is vegetarian (well, there are eggs if you count that...I never know the rules), but just about everything has tofu or legumes or dairy incorporated in some way for added protein.
  • I started off with some quick buttermilk biscuits, courtesy of Pinch My Salt. I had been craving buttermilk baked goods like nobodies business all last week, so I punted these out early. Thankfully, they are seriously simple and fast. It only made about 8 biscuits, so if you're planning a dinner party, you might want to double (or triple! yum!) the recipe. It ended up being the perfect amount for snacks for the weekend. A note on cake flour. I had never used cake flour before trying this recipe (I made these once before several months ago), and every time I went to a grocery store I would check out all the flours, looking for cake flour, and never finding any. Finally, I emailed Nicole, blogger extraordinaire, and asked where in the world she gets her cake flour. She was nice enough to email back and let me know it's in a red box (with a white swan) with the cake mixes and such. The next time I was at the grocery store I looked, and sure enough, there it was! I had been just a few feet off in my searches all those weeks! Just in case anyone else is as clueless as me out there, I thought I'd save you some trouble.
  • I topped my mouth-watering biscuits with some plum and earl grey preserves, courtesy of The Kitchn (I've posted the recipe before, but dagnabit, I'll do it again!). I've been itching to make this again ever since plums started popping up at the grocery store. I love, love, love this recipe. It's easy and it tastes good on just about any carb-filled breakfast food you can think of. This batch turned out a bit tart because my lemon ended up yielding the juice of about three large lemons! Seriously, it was all over the place. So I also topped the biscuits with some orange blossom honey to off-set the tartness from the preserves. Alton Brown mentioned preferring orange blossom honey on an episode of Good Eats last week, so when I saw it at Whole Foods, I thought I'd splurge. And boy am I glad I did! It's the best honey ever! I can't stop eating it! It's good stuff.
  • Next, I decided I would undertake my own bagels, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. My mom is of the philosophy "why make bagels when you can go to a bagel shop and buy them?" This is true, but I like to know what's in what I'm eating. I like the satisfaction of knowing I've made what I'm eating from scratch. I like to try and dirty every dish in my kitchen each weekend and make my husband wash them all. Ok, just kidding on that last note. Mostly, I just wanted to try it. I have to say, bagels are no challah. This recipe was hard. First off, it's a two day process. Keep in mind if you try this that most of the work is done the first day. The second day is just boiling and baking the bagels. Day 2 was easy, day 1 had me questioning my place in the world. It started with the sponge. I mixed the ingredients, covered the bowl like the recipe said, and waited for it to rise. No risening action followed. I was peeved. About an hour in I decided to move the plastic wrap from the top of the bowl to directly onto the sponge. That worked. Apparently the air between the top of the bowl and the actual ingredients was my problem. Psh! It never rose to twice its size, but it rose enough that I figured it was ok to move on to the next step. The next step was the kneading. Thanks to my trusty kitchenaid mixer, I had the ingredients incorporated and kneaded on the dough hook in no time. Then I tried the windowpane test and failed miserably. It pretty much went downhill from there. I kneaded in the machine, I kneaded by hand. I added flour, I kneaded some more. 30 minutes later, it was still failing the test and starting to get tough (the dough had continually felt tacky, which was why I was still adding flour). So I called it good enough and formed my bagels. I was bummed, and convinced they would turn out disgusting, so I was happily surprised when they easily passed the float test. Yay! They ended up coming out fine. Not fabulous. Not delish. Fine. They're good, but not ten times better than a bagel shop. I wonder if they would have turned out better if I hadn't gone wrong with my first rise in the beginning. I've have to try again sometime.
  • Phew! That was a lot to say just about the bagel-making portion. I haven't even talked about the bagel-eating portion! I did veggie sandwiches with them this week. I spread some roasted red pepper and garlic hummus (see next bullet) on each side of the bagel. Then I added a little parsley (hey, I had it, so I figured I'd take the kitchen sink approach), some sliced tomato, very thinly sliced red onion (a little goes a long way for me), avocado, arugula, alfalfa sprouts (in moderation, I love this addition), and finally, some cheese. Oh my goodness it is veggie heaven! Sorry, I didn't manage to get a picture of the sandwich or even of a finished bagel. Whoops!
  • Hummus, courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. I saw this recipe last week, but since hummus doesn't really go with Mexican food, I had to wait a week. I decided to do roasted red pepper and roasted garlic in mine. I ended up adding about 3 medium red peppers and 2 whole heads of roasted garlic (though they were really small). It actually turned out...quite bland. I think I might have added too much water trying to get the consistency right. Also, I didn't really taste the tahini, so maybe some more was in order. I definitely want to try again. I don't think there's anything wrong with the recipe. It's very similar to a few others I've seen. I think I just need to tinker with it. I ended up buying some really nice dark and heavy whole wheat pita bread at Whole Foods. This hummus actually goes very well with it because the flavor from the bread makes up for lack of flavor in the hummus.
  • When I tend towards a carb-heavy week, I'm always in the mood for soup to go with it. This time I tried lentil soup, courtesy of Alton Brown. A very simple and easy recipe, which was nice to go along with all the baking. I've never even heard of grains of paradise, so I left that spice out. I also wanted more veggies, so I ended up using 2 medium onions, about 2/3 of an entire bunch of celery, and about 2/3 of a bag of baby carrots. It also ended up a little bland, but Husband discovered that a little Cholula hot sauce cleared that problem right up. I added just a few drops (to my bowl, not the whole pot), and it ended up morphing the flavor into something completely delicious, though not at all hot. Go Husband!
  • That's right I'm not even close to done. I still didn't think I had enough veggies in the mix (I eat a lot of vegetables), so I tried this recipe for grilled spinach and goat cheese stuffed portobello mushrooms, courtesy of Serious Eats. This one is a keeper.Another easy recipe. Just mix some frozen spinach (after thawing of course) and goat cheese, hollow out some portobellos, stuff 'em, and grill! I used my indoor grill pan, and it worked great. I ended up doubling the amount of spinach because 1) I wanted a higher vegetable to cheese ratio to make it healthier, and 2) because the portobellos I bought were definitely more medium/large than small and I didn't want to run out of filling. It was a good call because I had just enough filling. Also, as the recipe says, I used a goat cheese that's rolled in herbs. It gave it a really nice understated flavor. On my way home from work yesterday I was thinking about having one for dinner and I got the bright idea to add a fried egg on top. Oh man, these things are good on their own, but with a runny egg yolk on top... I think I need a moment alone.
  • So this episode of Good Eats I mentioned was actually an episode on bars. Specifically, granola bars, protein bars, and rice crispy bars. Husband and I drooled through the entire episode and decided we had to try all three! Thus, the trip to Whole Food last weekend, which is actually about 25 miles away from where we live. All three recipes were super quick and easy. I think I was done with all three in about an hour. If you can catch the episode online or on the food network, I would definitely recommend it. He actually gives you the nutrional information for each of the bars, so you can see for yourself how fantastic they are for you. Or at least in the case of the more dessert-y bar, how not so bad for you.
  • First was the granola bars. I went with shelled sunflower seeds because the thought of eating the shells weirds me out. Taste-wise the granola bars are delicious. I couldn't stop eating it. Unfortunately, they didn't stay in bar form so well. They pretty much crumbled into just regular granola straight out of the pan (and yes, I let it cool first). That's ok, because it's still just as good when you eat it with a spoon, but I was a little disappointed it didn't stay together. It's probably a problem with the proportions. Alton's recipe is by weight. I'm far too lazy to weigh out all the ingredients on a food scale. Do you see all that I had going on this weekend? So I followed his approximate measurements. If you measure, you'll probably get better results.
  • Next, I made the protein bars. These are ingenius! They have soy protein powder and silken soft tofu for the protein, and peanut butter and dried fruit for the flavor. The tofu also provides a really nice creamy texture to the bar. The flour and eggs make it light and bread-like almost. When I say they have tofu, it seems to put people off, but really, tofu is a tasteless food. All I taste when I eat these is the peanut butter, fruit, and sugar. They are delicious and filling, though admittedly, not so great to look at.
  • And lastly (I know, I thought it would never end too), the brown rice crispy bars. I've since discovered that my body rejects marshmallow in my system like a disease, but they're so tasty I've been eating them anyway. Flavor-wise, these are quite different from traditional rice crispy treats. The puffed brown rice is, of course, more pronounced than those tasteless rice krispies (not to mention the traditional treats are overloaded with sugar), but the dried fruit, almonds, and honey definitely keep it tasting sweet and dessert-y. At first, I didn't think they tasted all that great, but after I let them set longer (I tend to dig in sooner than I should...I'm a wee bit impatient), the flavors really came together into deliciousness. Now I can't stop eating them (and my body is hating me for it).
  • Pictured from top left to bottom center: brown rice crispy bar, protein bar, granola bar:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This Week's Theme: Mexican

Three things happened when I decided what food to make this week. First, I was feeling lazy and wanted to do something with the super cheap rotisserie chickens they sell at Costco. Second, I wanted to do enchiladas or something like that. And third, I discovered the Pioneer Woman. Somehow these things combined into a Mexican food theme for the week and some seriously healthy and delicious food. Allow me to elaborate...
  • Mexican lasagna, courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. This sounded way better than enchiladas. Can you blame me? I did some small things to make it a bit healthier. I used brown rice instead of white. I added black beans to the rice for a bit more protein. I used corn tortillas instead of flour. I used the rotisserie chicken from Costco instead of ground beef. And I used 2% shredded cheese because in this setting I really can't taste the difference. Also, I halved the recipe. This makes a lot of food. Be warned. Even after halving the recipe, I still used my biggest casserole dish and packed it down so tight that the thing weighs a ton. But very, very delish. Hanging on to the recipe for sure.
  • "Spanish" green beans, courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. I thought this veggie dish would go well with the lasagna. I used fresh green beans because I have a total aversion to canned vegetables (I have yet to see my mother buy canned vegetables, so it's how I was raised), and I just happened to have a huge bag of them from Costco. I also used turkey bacon because my husband and I actually prefer turkey bacon to regular (Can you imagine how inconvenient it would be if we didn't agree on this? Phew!). I know, we're crazy. But we're crazy together. The dish turned out...just ok, I'd say. I think it's mostly because of the canned tomatoes. They were a bit sour. Next time I'll try another brand of tomatoes, or maybe fresh ones if I'm feeling ambitious.
  • Whiskey-glazed carrots, courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. These are so completely wonderful and very easy. They're like candy! I wasn't planning on using a whole stick of butter, but I have a real aversion to going off recipe the first time I try it out. But I didn't end up reserving the sauce, so there's nowhere near an entire stick in the finished dish. Next time, I'll probably try half a stick and see how it goes. I'm not lessening the whiskey though. No, sir. Also, when making this, I think it would be a good idea to have some kind of bread on hand to sop up the extra sauce if you're not going to pour it over the carrots (I think that would make it too heavy, personally). I found out too late that I was actually completely out of bread!!! (Thanks for the heads up before we went to the grocery store, Husband!)
  • And for dinner each night I've been cooking up some delicious and healthy quesadillas. Here's how I make them: I throw a whole wheat tortilla in a pan and sprinkle with 2% shredded cheese (I went with the Mexican blend this week). Ok, I more like dump it on, but it acts as the glue, a very important job! Then I add some of the shredded rotisserie chicken I had left over from the lasagna. On top of that, some sauteed bell pepper and red onion. That is the base of the quesadilla. Beyond that, you can spice it up however you want. The last few nights I experimented with adding enchilada sauce, jalapenos, and some of the leftover Mexican rice. Basically, besides the veggies, chicken, and cheese, anything goes. Once the tortilla is browned and the filling is warmed up, I fold it over, let it settle for a minute, then transfer it to my plate. Then I top it with fresh guacamole and pico de gallo (chopped tomato, onion, jalapeno, and cilantro with lime juice and salt). Voila! Quick, easy, healthy, and tasty.
It's been a real challenge keeping my portion sizes small this week. The quesadillas are so big that I was uncomfortably full after I ate one for dinner on Monday night. Last night I wizened up and ended up cutting about a third of a piece off before I sat down to eat. That way I wasn't too full, and now I have an afternoon snack for today.

I didn't end up baking anything, which I am now regretting. I have been seriously craving baked goods all week. I planned at the last minute (as in, after I had done my grocery shopping) to make cornbread, but I was out of milk (or even buttermilk! gasp!), so that was a no go. Not surprisingly, I am planning a big carb fest next week.

Monday, June 1, 2009


When I asked Husband years ago what his favorite kind of pie was (he's a cake guy), he said strawberry rhubarb.  I told him it was a good thing we were compatible in all things dark chocolate and raspberry related, because in pie tastes we couldn't be more different.  I told him I disliked rhubarb with every fiber of my being.  It's bitter in taste and chewy in texture.  Not things that belong anywhere near a dessert.

When I commented that the rhubarb in the grocery store actually looked quite good, he gave me his I-told-you-so face and suggested I try it.  I scoffed.  

Hi, my name is julo, and I was wrong.  Rhubarb is delicious.

But it was also nothing like I remembered eating in those disgusting strawberry rhubarb pies from my childhood.  I think the difference must be in preparation.  In other words, I ate me some nasty pie.

Of course, it's the fault of Deb at Smitten Kitchen, as usual.  She's been posting and posting about rhubarb and I finally caved and decided that, hey, if she likes it that much, I should give it one last try before I decide to banish to the will-not-eat list forever.

And in case you were wondering, yes, I'm still in my slaw mode.  I actually would have gone without a slaw this week (especially since the weather turned cold and rainy this weekend), but I wanted to make the pork wraps that I had made once before and were absolutely delish, and this slaw just went perfectly with it the last time.  I couldn't very well omit it this time!

Here's what I'm eating this week:
  • Slow-cooked hoisin and ginger pork wraps, courtesy of The Kitchn.  I've made this recipe once before, and knew this one would be a repeat offender, big time.  It's ridiculously easy and super delicious.  I usually fear working with cuts of meat I have to ask specifically for at the meat counter (as in, there's no pork butt in the display case, they have to go and cut it for me especially), but that's the only uncomfortable part.  Well that, and having to actually ask for butt with a straight face.  Once I'm home with booty in hand, it's smooth sailing.  The one jar of hoisin sauce I've ever bought at a store I thought tasted pretty nasty, very salty and a hint of licorice.  Bleck.  I used this recipe, which is also linked on the pork recipe, to make my own hoisin sauce.  And man, oh man, was it tasty!  I'm not sure how close to real hoisin sauce it is...I didn't think it usually had peanut butter, but it was good, and that's what counts.
  • Crunchy peanut slaw, also courtesy of The Kitchn, and also linked on the pork recipe.  That pork and this slaw go so well together.  Seriously.  Delish.  I bought some whole wheat wraps and Trader Joe's, steamed up some brown rice, and voila!  Pork wraps with slaw and brown rice.  Satisfying, tasty, and healthy.  That's what I'm all about.
  • Big crumb coffee cake, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.  This is where the rhubarb came in.  This cake is wonderful.  It's light and sweet, but not too sweet, thanks to a touch of sour from the rhubarb.  Yum!  I highly recommend this one.
  • I tried this whole wheat no-knead bread again (reminder that you have to register to view the recipe) because I'm stubborn and it was such a colossal failure last week.  I don't know if I had a bad batch of yeast or what.  This time I soaked the yeast in the water before I added both to the rest of the dry ingredients.  This time my dough rose.  It didn't rise a huge amount, but it at least hit the top of the loaf pan this time.  It's still pretty dense, but still good.
I also wanted to mention, I just discovered the ready to eat beets they sell at Trader Joe's (yes, I know I mention that place a lot, but they've got some great stuff!) in the produce section.  They are fantastic!  They are already peeled and soft and ready to chop up over a goat cheese and arugala salad.   Bit thumbs up over here.