Thursday, May 29, 2008

Flavor of the Week

I have a new favorite food! Next week I will probably have another new "favorite food" and likely another one soon after that. I just love to try new stuff! When I try something I like there is probably a pretty good chance I will eat it again very soon and I wouldn't be surprised if few days later (sometimes even the next day) I eat it a third time.

Some of the reasons that this is my new favorite food are:
1. It is healthy and pretty low in calories which means I can eat a LOT of it. (this always makes me happy).
2. It has bold spicy flavors.
3. It is really yummy! (the most important thing)

So this new obsession started about a week ago when I went to my favorite Thai Restaurant and ordered the Thai Beef Salad. One bite and I was in LOVE! (perhaps it was only lust, but regardless...) I asked the owner what was in the dressing and more importantly did it have much oil? She told me it had NO oil! OK, that just made it 10 times better!

Two days later I was craving Thai Beef salad again. I arranged my entire afternoon around picking up one on my way to work that night. But when I called the restaurant to place the order (perfectly timed to swing by on my way to work) they told me that there was an hour and 30 min wait for orders! WHAAAAT? You are kidding me? On a Thursday night? This did not make me happy! I tried again Fri night and was told that it would be 45 min. Still not fitting into my schedule.

It seems my favorite Thai Restaurant is suddenly lots of peoples favorite Thai restaurant. They have always been busy but never THIS busy! So, out of necessity and my cravings, I began a search for a recipe.

So the main elements of all the recipes was Lime juice, and spice. What I liked about this particular recipe was that you actually marinated the meat in some of the dressing. Many of the recipes didn't marinate the beef at all or had a different marinade for the beef. Does it taste like the restaurant? Well, not exactly and I am not quite sure what is different (I will have to eat it there again to figure it out) but it is still really good. One thing I do like better about making it at home is that (at the restaurant) it is made with just iceberg lettuce which is NOT my choice of lettuce. So making it at home give you the opportunity to use more flavorful (and more nutritious) greens.
If you have never had Thai food be warned, it is H-O-T! I used 2TBS of Sriracha (hot chili sauce) I have changed that in the recipe to 1TBS because my mouth and Lips were ON FIRE! Now, I am not a wimp when it comes to spicy stuff. I like things hotter than the average person so I would recommend judicious use of the Sriracha if you are not big on spice. (but you need some spice otherwise it will not be the same dish) You could also substitute chili paste or red pepper flakes if you can't locate Sriracha. This is great served with white rice (preferably the sticky kind like you get at Asian restaurants). The rice is also good for cooling down your mouth down!

Thai Beef Salad
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup choppedfresh cilantro
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1 tablespoon Sriracha or chili paste
2 garlic cloves, minced

16 oz flank steak, trimmed

1 1/2 cups sliced red onions
4 plum tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges
6 cups lettuce/greens
1 large cucumber peeled and cut into large chunks

Wisk together first 7 ingredients together to make dressing. Place steaks and 1/4 of dressing in a zipper type bag and let stand for 1 hr. Broil or grill steaks until med-rare. Let steaks rest for 5 mins and slice as thinly as possible. Arrange Greens, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes then top with beef slices. Pour remaining dressing over top. Toss before serving.
Serves 2 (with some left over steak unless you really pile it on)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Sandwich without a Soul

I could TOTALLY be a Vegetarian! If only it wasn't for that "you can't eat meat" rule. I could be a part time vegetarian. Say 5 out of 7days, maybe 4 out of 7 if you count fish/seafood as meat although I was told fish don't count because they don't have souls (really? Fish don't have souls? Hmmm). Someone else says you can't eat anything with eyeballs...some seafood does not have eyeballs. What do eyeballs have to do with it anyway? UNLESS they are referring to "the eyes are the window to the soul." Does this mean if you don't have eyes you don't have a soul?

OK, OK, I don't want to get in to a theological discussion here. All in jest, I promise! I get Vegetarianism. I respect those who are Vegetarians. I just choose not to practice it (at least not full time) even though I do have a smidgen of guilt about the treatment of animals. I LOVE ,LOVE, LOVE, Veggies but I can't give up a nice juicy steak once in a while and chicken is a staple in my diet. The other thing about a vegetarian diet is though I love vegetable dishes. You have to work a lot harder to make them satisfying as a main dish without even talking about trying to maintain a nutritionally balanced diet. Not an impossible task but it takes time and I don't always have that extra time.

But I digress! This time of year I begin getting excited by the increase of lovely (and hopefully more economical) produce that just gets better and better as we move towards summer. I was beside myself today when I went into the store and saw that wonderful tender young asparagus. I have SO been waiting for that! But, what I went there for was Portebello Mushrooms to make Portebello burgers. Now, I am no way trying to substitute this for a thick juicy (preferably a little rare though I know that is supposed to be a no-no) hamburger. I just REALLY like grilled Veggies!

This is very simple and you can pick and choose what ever veggies you like. This was lunch today for myself and my friend Savanna who could be my twin when it comes to food preferences (aside from her bacon aversion and allergy to nuts).We enjoyed this and I hope you will also!

Souless, Eyeball free Grilled Sandwiches

1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
3 TBS minced Fresh Rosemary
3 TBS minced Fresh Thyme
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground Pepper to taste

4 large Portebello mushrooms (bun size)
1 small eggplant
1/2 each red,yellow, green peppers
1 medium red onion
4 toasted Onion buns
4 slices Provolone cheese

Optional ( Do not grill)
Chopped sundried tomatoes
Chopped Artichoke hearts

Wisk together first 7 ingredients to make dressing/marinade and set aside. Remove stems from mushrooms and clean with a damp cloth. Place Mushrooms gill side up on a platter and spoon marinade (aprox 1 1/2 TBS each) over top allowing it to seep down into gills.(let marinade soak in while preparing remaining veggies). Peel eggplant and cut into about 1/2 inch slices. Cut top and bottom off of peppers, remove seeds and ribs then cut them lengthwise in quarters to make large flat chunks (so they won't fall through grates). Cut Onion into 1/2 inch (thinner will fall apart on grill) slices. Brush veggies with marniade. Brush inside of buns with marinade and set aside.

Place Mushrooms on med-hot grill, gill side up. Continue placing remaining veggies on grill (skin side down for peppers) Grill for 4-6 minutes until veggies begin to char. Turn Veggies over and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. You want Veggies to maintain some of their crispness and not become too mushy.

Turn mushrooms gill side up and place a slice of provolone cheese on each. Place buns cut side down on grill.Begin removing remaining veggies to a platter. By the time you finish removing remaining vegetables the cheese should be slightly melted and buns nicely toasted. Slice peppers into thin strips and separate onion rings. Serve Veggies on a platter and allow each person to layer bun with veggies of their choice.

Notes: Place eggplant on the grill last and remove it first as it will cook the fastest. Pass extra balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper for those who like extra seasoning.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Retro-Style Chicken Casserole

Before you look at this recipe I want to assure you that I have not been brainwashed by Sandra Lee (Queen of short-cut cooking and being irritating). No, this recipe I got from Sandra Sue...AKA my Mother. This is a quintessential 1970s working mother's recipe. It's quick, easy, filling and tasty.

As a "foodie" I should be quite ashamed at posting this recipe I mean really, cream of mushroom soup? Processed CHEESE PRODUCT? Do you really consider this cooking? Well, depending on your definition maybe, maybe not but it was dinner on our table that I enjoyed eating so really, who cares? I also happen to harbor a deep affection for Velveta which makes the BEST grilled cheese sandwiches which I fondly refer to as Molten Lava Grilled cheese. Foodie snobs be damned, THIS is Yummy!

Molten Lava Chicken Casserole
(4-6 servings)

8 oz uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup frozen baby peas
1 cup cooked chicken cubed or shredded
6 oz Velveta cheese cubed.
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup chicken broth

Cook macaroni according to package instructions. Drain, mix with remaining ingredients. Place in a medium sized (8x8ish) casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Microwave on high until cheese is melted through out (5-10 minutes) stirring once or twice during cooking.

Notes: I used lowfat cheese and fat free mushroom soup with great results. (Every little bit helps)
My mom (and actually I have been known to also) often used a can of chicken drained (similar to tuna which could also be substitued
You could bake this for about 15-20 mins in a 350 degree oven. In which case you could also top with some crushed cornflakes, breadcrumbs or if you REALLY wanted to go Retro crushed potato chips

Friday, May 16, 2008

Does This Qualify as Making Bread?

Despite my lack of baking skills I have tried several times to make bread. As you know I have yet to be successful at this. Frankly it is REALLY ticking me off!!! I am like a rebellious teenager (and believe you me I have experience with that) who is told she can't do something. I am determined that I am going to find a way to do it. That has been a life long struggle for me. The best way to get me to do something has always been to tell me I am not capable of it. But bread, it has been the one thing that consistently can KICK MY BUTT!

So, I cheated! Seriously you can't really call this "making" bread. But I put dough in my oven and it came out looking like a loaf of bread so we are going to call this making bread. Maybe it will silence my obsession ... at least for a little while.

This recipe is supposed to be "light" you would never believe that I saw it on an episode of Paula's Home Cooking. Really, Paula Deen made something low-fat!!! I am sure this would work just as well with full fat ingredients so feel free to substitute. This is simple, cheesy and good!

Poppy Seed Pinwheel Bread

1 (8-ounce) package light or fat-free cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

1 teaspoon dried chives

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 can refrigerated crescent rolls

Cooking spray

1 egg, slightly beaten (or egg substitute equivalent)

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a small mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, parsley, chives, and garlic powder. Set aside. On a floured surface, unroll the crescent rolls into rectangles and combine to make 1 long rectangle. Spread cream cheese mixture on and roll up like a pinwheel, starting at the long side. Seal edges. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Place roll on the cookie sheet, brush with egg, and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Score at 1/2-inch intervals along the roll (not all the way through). Pull apart slightly so that your scoring will not completely seal back up during baking. Bake until golden brown.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

If Only It Could Mow The Lawn

Have I ever mentioned my that my life revolves around food? Seriously, a huge percentage of my free time is spent either looking at food in the form of blogs,TV show, cookbooks, or magazines. Preparing Food for my family, friends and sometimes events like weddings or parties. Eating food (no description needed). Then of course there is the going to the gym which is not directly dealing with food but is a necessary evil as a result of the previous. Oh wait, I do often watch the Food Network WHILE I am at the gym running on the treadmill! It is no wonder that I am single, who has time? Not to mention it would take a pretty amazing man to rival my passion!

My cooking occupies me, challenges me, gives me a feeling of satisfaction, earns me praises and comforts me. But it can also frustrate me and disappoint me. (See the similarities?)Frustrating me is what the recipe for today did.

It seemed simple enough, Pecan Encrusted Chicken Salad. The recipe I tried originally had an AWESOME flavor but as soon as you tried to cut the chicken all of the "crust" fell right off. So, it tasted good but did not look so pretty. I am firm believer that you eat with your eyes first so this would not "do." So I had to make it again the next day.

I felt what was missing from the recipe was "glue" to hold the crust to the chicken. While I was at it I wanted to tweak the recipe to make it a little more waistline friendly(Maybe if I can cut down some gym time I might have some time for dating) and a little less expensive (can you believe I paid 8 dollars for a bag of Pecans?). My result looked prettier but not quite as tasty as the original. So if fiddled with it a little more and I think I have found the middle ground between tasting good and looking good. What I love about this recipe is the surprising taste of cinnamon in the salad. You know me, I love that "Hmmm" factor!I did not however change a thing about the Caramel Vinaigrette that was with the recipe that I originally found on Vicarious Foodie ( I think it compliments this salad nicely but if you are not up for making your own Vinaigrette then a nice bottled Balsamic or Raspberry Vinaigrette would pair nicely with it also.

Pecan Encrusted Chicken Salad

serves 4
Caramel Vinaigrette
1/3 cup caramel sauce (ice cream topping)
2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lime, zested
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Microwave Carmel sauce about 10 seconds ot loosen it up. Combine the caramel sauce with water and citrus juices and whisk. While whisking, drizzle in olive oil, lime zest, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2 large Chicken breasts (aprox 8oz)
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup pecans
1 cup flour divided
2 tsp cinamon
1 egg
1tsp water
2 Tbs vegetable oil

Field Greens or other lettuce mixture
1cup dried cranberries
whole pecans for garnish.

Split chicken breast in half then cut into aprox 1 inch strips (fingers). Place chicken and buttermilk in a ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or overnight).
Place Pecans in food processor and grind to a fine consistency. Combine 1/3 cup flour, ground pecans and cinnamon.
Cover Baking sheet in Foil. Add Oil to pan and spread evenly.
Remove Chicken from buttermilk and let drain well then pat dry Salt and Pepper to taste.

Lightly beat egg and water together. Dredge chicken in remaining flour, then egg, then pecan mixture. Place chicken on Pan and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool slightly( if desired cut into bite sized pieces) and arrange over greens. Drizzle Vinegrette over top. Garnish with Cranberries and Pecans.