Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fried Cauliflower Rice, no grains necessary

It's pretty amazing what you can do with a head of cauliflower.  Steam, roast, fry, eat raw, carve little faces out of it (what? you don't do that???) mush up to mimic mashed potatoes (it works!).  I've even seen recipes using it as pizza crust. I'm kinda a pizza snob so that'll be hard but I'll try it.  AAANyway, I wanted to quickly share how I made fried rice with it tonight. There's none left so don't come knockin on my door....well, you can, but you won't get any of this. 


Ingredients:

1 large head (refrain from "thats what she said" comment) of Cauliflower
1/2 small red pepper diced
1/2 small onion diced
1 carrot small diced (I used matchstick carrots and cut those up small)
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 Tbs Oil
1 Tbs butter
S&P
Teriyaki
Low Sodium Soy Sauce
2 beaten eggs
Sesame Oil- drizzle

Ok, first things first, make your "rice".  Core and coursely chop your Cauliflower (to be referred to as CF for the remainder of this recipe). Place a few handfuls of the CF in the food processor at a time and pulse until it resembles rice.  If you have some pieces that won't chop, don't worry about it.  Don't over process the CF.  Hit those pieces up on the next batch.  It took me 3 batches to pulse so I didn't overprocess.  When done, place the CF rice in a strainer over a bowl. A little moisture is ok (a little more on that later)
While your rice is chillin over the bowl, heat your oil and butter over medium high heat, then add all veggies  EXCEPT THE PEAS and salt.  Cook for about 5 min until they're translucent.  Now, add your "rice" and a bit more salt, remember you're also using soy sauce later so be careful.

Here's where your moisture comes in.  Cover your pan with a tight fitting lid, turn the heat to low/medium low and let the rice steam in its own moisture for a few minutes. This will soften your rice up.  This is so much easier and faster than cooking real rice separately.  Seriously, I'm saving you time and calories.  You're welcome.

While your rice is steaming, go ahead and beat up a couple eggs.  Don't worry I give you permission to beat them. Set those aside.  Remove the lid and it's time to add your frozen peas and sauces.  You'll notice that I didn't put amounts on here because, well I didn't measure.  But, here's the thing, CF doesn't absorb like real rice does, so it doesn't take quite as much sauces as you might use in traditional FR (Fried rice...my time is precious people).  So here are estimates.  ummmm maybe about 2 tbs of teriyaki, mayyyyyyybe 1-2 tbs of soy?  start there, stir and taste.  You can always add.  Once you get the flavah you want, push the rice to the side of the pan and add your eggs to the other side and stir, scrambling.  Once the eggs are cooked thru, stir the entire dish together.  At the very end, drizzle on your sesame oil, if you have it. I also topped mine with some scallions. 

Like all of my creations MUHAHA... this is super versatile.  So stir whatever veggies you have on hand into your rice.  Enjoyyyy y'all!!!




Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Soups On, Let's Chat

baked potato soup


What does soup have to do with politics?  Nothing and everything. I gotta say, I'm exhausted today. I stayed up late watching the election results.  Shortly after they came in there was an earthquake. Did y'all feel it?  It was so strong it shifted the Earth right off its axis.  It was the proverbial stomping from the losing team.  Politics, all the sudden feels about the same as college football. We're less concerned about the other guy winning than we are about our guy losing.

Over the past few months, I've sat in a dark corner politically (at least publicly).  I have a small business and I don't live in a forgiving area, so we "liberals" are closeted in this neck of the woods.  And I'm a military wife, which historically leans right. I will and probably have lost customers and friends.  But, while I was sitting in my dark corner, staying mum, I noticed a trend.  People backing a specific candidate weren't necessarily making their cases in the nicest ways possible.  Dear friends of mine have become bitter, snarky bullies.  These are people that live in 4-5 bedroom homes in the burbs, have 3 car garages, trade stock options on such a high scale they make $70K at the drop of a hat.  From the outside, they have very little to complain about.  But, it's a free country and you can complain.  I know, there are honest, hard working people, small business owners like myself, that are truly hurting.  They've been hurt by the economy or other mandates.  Those people, have been a pleasure to have conversations with because they have the stories and statistics to back their opinions. And I've learned a lot from them.   But the hate and the misinformation and the disrespect and the hate (oh did i say that already?), has become overwhelming.  If there were a yelling option on facebook, people would have lost their collective voices. Suddenly, when I came out, I was "insensitive and ignorant" because of who I supported.  To all of my friends, you have my word, that I have never, will never call anyone names for who they support politically.  No promises if you're sporting jean shorts (guys) or mock turtlenecks.  Then you're fair game.  But political affiliation is a protected class by birthright.

In the meantime, if you're so fed up with the government handouts and big government, lets do something about it.  New Rule:  If you live in a RED STATE, you can no longer receive any kind of government assistance (sorry Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, Wva), to include welfare and food stamps.  You can no longer enjoy your food being assed by the FDA and your water and air by the EPA. Dear Alabama, I certainly hope you're not visited by a hurricane or tornado because FEMA will not be visiting you afterwards.  Count Dracula won't be teaching your children to count to 10..TEN MUAHAHAHA but thats ok, because they can't take advantage of federal student loans either. Hell, don't even go to the national parks.  Pretty sure those are federally funded.  Bummer. 

Anyway, That was all crazy talk wasn't it?  Guys... All two of you that are reading this, this kind of division is dangerous for our country.  A divided country looks  like a weak country to our enemies.  This is a time we have got to pull together. Not hope for our President to fail.  If he fails, you fail.  If he succeeds, we ALL succeed.  Lets bet ON him, not against him. You had your moment of disappointment.  No more hateful rhetoric.  Breathe and let it go. Harness your energy, use your powers and your passion for good.

So what does soup have to do with politics?  Literally nothing,  but pull up a chair and have some soup. Let's chat, respectfully, factually (and quietly) about our similarities, and our differences, in opinion.  We can begin to mend the wounds we've incurred over the last decade. I don't know about you but my friends are really smart. My friends from all sides of the isle and argument. And I look forward to future debates that are passionate yet fair, and quiet.  Shhhhh..  Simmer down y'all (pun intended)..

No, I did not get these brownies from Colorado or Washington

Sunday, September 2, 2012

BELIEVE IN YOUR PALATE

Sometimes, I'm asked to write things about restaurants.  Nothing negative, just a spotlight.  Sometimes, this is really hard. It's like writing a book report for a book you didn't read.  What can I write about this place?  The food is horrible, the place smells like natural gas and smoke (not a good combination) and the wobbly tables makes me wonder how long we have until our food ends up on the floor, if it hasn't already been.  OH, but the chef is a really lovely and personable and the bathrooms are fairly clean.  Yep, thats how it has to go, just sometimes.  

I'm tired of giving the restaurants in Panama City Beach a mulligan. The tourists settle for the food because it comes with a view.  I guarantee, if the same places were in their hometown, in the corner of some random strip mall, they wouldn't have anything to do with it. I haven't been to ALL of the restaurants at the beach and in town, of course.  But I've been to quite a few.  It literally keeps me awake at night thinking about how, if I had just 2 hours with that kitchen staff and the owner, I could show them how to properly cut that meat, flavor their rice and beans, or make their food taste better in general.  Really... for hours, I'm up.  I get so frustrated.  I keep thinking, do they think this tastes good?  I'm not the most creative cook, but one thing I can do well, is make what I make really really well. I can taste food and tell you what it's missing. I may not create the menu, but I can tell you how to prepare it better.

Here's a good example: We live ON the GULF OF MEXICO...WHY ARE YOU COVERING THE FRESHEST, MOST DELICIOUS SEAFOOD IN BREAD CRUMBS AND FRYING IT?  Why?  You WANT to contribute to the obesity problem in the country?  The lady that makes the sample dinner at Publix can cook a better piece of fish. Send your cooks to the Apron lady and take notes.  Every single restaurant on the beach sells the same old crap, this same old crap. 

When a new restaurant opens in the area, we settle for mediocrity. We get sucked in by the newness of it.  I am just as excited as anyone to get a new place to grub, but I'm not wasting the money or the calories if I can make it better. Because, again, I will lose sleep over it and as my family knows, we all value my sleep. Why aren't we all demanding better quality food? 

So, fuck it,  I've been pretty nice to this point, but nice restaurant reviewer stops here. I don't get paid to be nice.  Hell, I don't get paid at all. So why not?  I might make a lot of enemies but I'm willing to sacrifice myself for the greater food eating world.   From now on, if I eat somewhere I don't like, I'm letting you know.  And, rightfully, if I love some place, I'll let you know that as well. I rarely steer people wrong. Because, Bay County (and all over the country) if we don't start saying "no" to shitty food, barely there service, and filthy establishments, we'll never get better food.  We'll always only have "mediocre".  Don't think quality food can't transcend into better retail establishments and tourists ready, willing and able to spend more at these places.  All of this cycling into our economy...aka..jobs!!  Big picture, I know, but it's the way it works.


If you are one of the places I had some criticism about, let's chat. I can help you....maybe. Probably even.  Just know, you've been warned.........................

~sincerely, fed up and hungry

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Basic Potato Salad..aka, baked beans best friend

 I rarely think so far ahead for dinner that I'm able to put together a potato salad well enough in advance that its gotten the proper amount of time for the flavors to marry.  We usually pick some up premade from the store.  Honestly, I despise MOST premade potato salad.  There's something in it the has a weird, funky aftertaste.  I can even doctor that mush up and it still lingers.  What IS that? Anyway, I had a few minutes today and the lightbulb went on.  I already knew that we're grilling burgers tonight and what goes better with grilled burgers than some rich, creamy tater salad.  So, yay me for thinking ahead! 
There are a million billion ways to make potato salad of course. But, tonight, I'll stick to the basics. I do have a little tip:  After draining your potatoes and letting them dry out, sprinkle them with salt and vinegar. It's just another layer of flavor.

Ingredients:
5-6 medium potatoes
1/4 onion or green onions
3 eggs
3 strips bacon
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayo with olive oil (for taste, not cause its healthier)
2-3 tbs apple cider vinegar
2 tbs dijon mustard (creamy with wine!)
2 tsp white sugar
generous amount of salt

Directions:
Fry bacon until crisp, let cool, chop into bits and set aside. You can also use precooked bacon.

Peel and cut potatoes into bite size pieces and add to pan full of salty cold water.  Add eggs to pan as well.  Bring to a boil.  After water has boiled for a few minutes, remove eggs and run under cold water.  Check potatoes for doneness.  Should be able to pierce with fork but not mash.  When done, drain potatoes, add back onto eye of stove, with heat off.  This will allow potatoes to steam and dry out completely.  Sprinkle about 1 tbs vinegar over the dried out potatoes and about 1/2 tsp. salt.

In a separate bowl, mix sour cream, mayo, eggs, chopped bacon, chopped onions, mustard, vinegar and sugar.  Taste for need for salt.  The Mayo made with olive oil is a bit saltier (which is why i LOVE It).  Fold in potatoes. Now chill for at least 3 hours :).. enjoy with baked beans. Weird, I know, but it's kinda a thing i have.


mmm bacon

mmm eggs!
chillin

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A peek into my .....pantry

Someone mentioned recently that I should do a quick blog about what pantry staples I like to keep on hand.  This person will remain nameless, but here's a hint: She contributed 50% of my DNA.  You'll never guess.  Anyway, a few days ago, I talk a bit about the tools I use the most in the kitchen, so we'll take it a step further to pantry, fridge, freezer items that I ALWAYS have on hand.

Pantry:

Dry or baking items:
AP flour..although after Christmas I found myself with 5 different kinds of flours!
Sugar
Brown Sugar
Powdered Sugar
Corn Meal
Cocoa Powder
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Kosher Salt
Corn Starch
Variety of chocolate chips
Craisins

Starches:
Spaghetti noodles...always (its my comfort food)
Variety of pastas (I stock up when my store has BOGO free)
Quick Brown rice
Israeli Cous Cous
Arborio rice
Jasmine rice, love the way it smells
Cornmeal
Regular breadcrumbs and Panko

Jars and Cans:
Jarred spaghetti sauce (again, stock up during BOGO's. I have 8 jars right now)
Variety of canned tomatoes, diced, stewed, whole. Tomatoes with chilis, little cans of tomato sauce...etc
Sooo many beans:  Black, pinto, pink, cannalini and chickpeas are my favorites.
Green chilis
Sliced water chestnuts
Coconut milk
Canned fruits. I am NOT a fan but my family loves them. I always get the ones in juice, never syrup.
Sweetened condensed milk
Evaporated milk
Chicken, beef and veggie broth.  But I use chicken the most and always the low sodium kind

Ok, i have a cabinet that holds all the daily used items like oils/vinegars/peanut butter/ nutella etc.  Here's what you'll always find there:
Canola oil
Olive oil:  Light and EVOO
Lard..yes lard
Crisco
Balsamic vinegar and glaze
White Vinegar
Apple Cider vinegar
Red Wine vinegar
Cooking sprays
Peanut butter
Nutella
Syrup
Agave Syrup
Honey

Spice drawer:
I'm not going to go through everything in there, but they're mostly spices because I don't really use dried herbs.  Here are the most common that I use:
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Cumin
Curry
Sazon (its a must)
nutmeg
Cinnamon
Bay Leaves
Crushed red pepper
Of course salt and pepper
Variety of extracts: vanilla and almond mostly
Chili Powder
Cayenne Pepper (but thats to sprinkle around the yard to keep the dogs from digging)


Lets move on to the freezer:

Nuts nuts nuts...it's not just an adjective in this house.  You name it and I have it stashed in my freezer. I am a self proclaimed hoarder of nuts and beans.
Chopped spinach
Peas
Broccoli
Pureed butternut squash
Berries
And whatever meats have been caught, hunted or purchased :)
I also keep my grits in the freezer.


Fridge:

OK, I'm not going to go through everything i have in my fridge but I will go over what you'll always find in there:

Cheese: blocks of cheddar and mozerella, goat cheese, a wedge of parmigianno regiano, fresh mozerella packed in water
Prosciutto
Organic milk
Eggs (Davidson pasteurized eggs, because what good is a cookie dough if you can't eat it raw?)
Teriyaki sauce
Soy Sauce
Chili Sauce
Red Curry Paste
Tomato Paste
Anchovy Paste
Jams and jelly's
pickles
Condiments
Cream Cheese
Salted and unsalted butter
margarine
Sesame oil
Bacon
SWEET TEA. 

Breads:
Good ole honey wheat sandwich bread
Na'an
Real bakery break for food snob mom, ciabatta or sourdough
Flour and/or corn tortillas



Yes, I have every one of these items and always do. And no, I'm not taking pictures of my pantry, fridge and freezer...y'all must think I'm nuts.

Having a list like this helps to know what you should have extras of on hand.  I'm quite a few jars/ bottles deep of most of these things.  Thanks to BOGO's :)  I can't pass up 50% off my pantry staples 

Hope this helps a bit when you're thinking of what to stock your pantry with.   



Monday, March 5, 2012

Gnocchi swimming in Creamy Pesto



If you're on a diet that doesn't allow for carbs and saturated fat, turn away now. This isn't the recipe for you.  It's extremely indulgent and to be honest, it's not something I would typically eat either.  Melting the butter in the pan flipped my guilt switch immediately knowing how much sat fat I was about to consume.   BUT.... Since it's so rich, you don't need to eat much of it.  Its that whole moderation thing. By the way, its the sauce that's so indulgent, so you could make the gnocchi and toss it in a fresh tomato sauce.  That would be delectable.  I didn't measure a single thing for either the gnocchi or sauce. I just went by feel and taste so I'll do the best I can with measurements. 

Gnocchi:

2 large starchy potatoes
3 egg yolks
About 1 cup or so of AP flour
Salt/pepper/nutmeg

Creamy Pesto Sauce:

Handful of Basil (about a cup of whole leaves)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs pine nuts
1 garlic clove
Just enough EVOO to bring pesto together but not liquidy. (about 1-2 tbs)

3 Tbs. Butter
1 Cup Heavy Cream
3/4 Cup fresh grated parm cheese


Directions for gnocchi:

You can either bake the potatoes or peel and boil them.  If you boil them, make sure you give them plenty of time to dry out.  I also didn't run mine through a food mill because I don't own one. So i used a fork to break up the potatoes really well.  Let the cooked/mashed potatoes cool.

After they're cooled, add 3 egg yolks, dash of nutmeg, salt and pepper.
mix well and start adding flour about a 1/4 cup at a time until you have a dough that isn't sticky and you can work with.   I think in all I added about a full cup of flour, plus more for bench flour.

it has come together and feels like dough

turn it out on floured board or counter and divide into workable amounts
roll out into snakes
cut into 1/2 inch pieces and lay on sheet tray
Now, you don't have to do the ridges thing on the gnocchi but I had some time on my hands waiting to pick my son up from school.  So I tried it.  Basically, I just rolled each piece down the back side of a fork.  Seemed to work out well.

set pan aside and let velvety pillows of deliciousness dry while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, First, start with a simple basil pesto.  Throw the basil, pinenuts, garlic, 1/4 cup of the cheese in food processor.  With processor running, slowly add the EVOO just until the sauce comes together. You don't want it to be as thin as a normal pesto since you'll be adding it to the cream later.  It shouldn't be more than a couple Tbs.
set this aside while you prepare the creamy part of the sauce

Before you start the cream sauce, go ahead and put the water on that you'll boil the gnocchi in. That way it'll be ready to go as soon as the sauce is.  You'll want to bring it to a low boil and just leave it there until ready to drop gnocchi nuggets in.

For the cream sauce:

Melt 3 Tbs unsalted butter over medium low heat, add cup of cream and stir. Slowly add in the remaining 3/4 cup of parm cheese.  Continue to stir until mixture thickens.  Keep it over medium low to low so as to not "break" the cream.  Once mixture thickens, add in your basil pesto mixture and stir. You can turn the burner/flame to very low or even off at this point.



By this time, the water should be a low boil for the gnocchi.  You can drop them in in batches.  Mine only took a couple minutes to cook. You'll know they're done when they float to the top.  Pull them out with a strainer and drop them into the pesto cream mixture.  Continue to cook gnocchi and add it into the cream mixture until all the gnocchi is done.

Now place into a Tupperware and send it home with the super nice friend that came to work on the pool for him and his lovely wife to enjoy :)






Monday, February 27, 2012

Living in and Loving our Cottage by the Sea

 Have you ever noticed when describing homes, if one uses "cute", "cozy", "bungalow", or "cottage" it almost literally translates into tiny?  Let me describe my house:  I live in a cute, cozy, bungalow type cottage on the corner, by the sea.  It's lovely and it's just a hop skip and a jump ( if you chose to use that method of transportation) from the Gulf of Mexico.  But, it is a bit on the cramped side.

SEGUE .....

So, before my school sabbatical, I was reading through chapter on tools and gadgets. Not sure that was the title, but it was definitely the idea.  It made me think about what my most frequently used tools are.  Then that led to the internal dialogue of how I don't have a ton of tools because I really don't have the room for them.  So I wanted to #1. show you the tools I almost couldn't live without and #2, show you some of the things we've done to fit more into a little bit of room.

Tools:
Now, these are not by any means the fanciest tools in all the land, but they are the most often used in this little cottage cucina.  Lets discuss from the top:
  • Whisks:  You should have multiple sizes of whisks.  I use them the most when scrambling eggs and make bechamels or gravy's, or to sift dry ingredients when baking.  The smaller whisks are good for sauces and dressings and even hot chocolate. 
  • Bench Scraper:  I just added this to my arsenal recently.  I'm a sloppy cook and was so tired of dropping onions between the cutting board and the stove.  This helps me pick up more veggies and transfer them safely across the counter.  The dogs, however are pissed. 
  • Silicon brush:  Love this invention. From basting meat with BBQ sauce, to spreading olive oil on pizza dough.  It cleans up so much easier and doesn't shed bristles like a normal pastry brush. 
  • Tongs:  #2 most used tool (behind knife).  It flips meat, pulls the rack out of the oven and serves pasta.  As many pairs of tongs in as many sizes you can get your hands on..do it. I even picked up a pair at a garage sale for $.50.  WINNING!!
  • Knife:  I love this knife.  My life changed when I got it.  Invest in a good quality one.  I need a lot more but your dices will turn out much better and the sharper the knife , the safer. 
Ok, the next two things were actually purchased to go in our RV.  But I used them so much they're in my kitchen now.

  • Hand grater:  Used almost daily for garlic or cheese.  It can also be used to zest citrus.  Love it. 
  • Spatula:  Yes this one is teeny tiny. But that's one reason I love it.  Its versatile and treats cookies and eggs equally gently. You should have metal spatulas as well as plastic/silicon to use on the non stick pans. 
  • Corkscrew:  I believe this needs no introduction.  I like the old fashioned waiter style corkscrews.  It's never met a cork it couldn't remove.  Some of the new fancy corkscrews don't work on fabricated corks. In this case, simple is better.
So are there things missing from my tool box?  I'm sure there is, but I would never know.

Let's move on to organization (i cringe at that word)

This is my kitchen... no, I'm not hiding any of it.  This is it:
I don't take up too much room when I'm preparing food. So the counter space is fine.  But the storage..UGHHHH.  There are 5 drawers...Count 'em.. One BIG on and 4 ittttyyyy bitttyyyy little drawers. About three regular size cabinets and two lazy Susan's  Which by the way, I LOATHE.  Terrible invention.  Those will be coming out here soon and we'll transform those corner cabinets into something a lot more workable. Anyway, With such little storage where is everything?  Well, first of all, thanks to some lengthy negotiation with my husband, some of my bigger platters and trays are stored in a cabinet in the garage.  I've also resigned myself to having to store some things on the counter top. I'm not usually a fan of it, but had very little choice in the matter.

 Plus, my mixer is pink.  So it's worthy of being front and center.  Or at least in the corner.

We also had an oddly placed bathroom right off the kitchen when we moved in.  Fortunately, I'm married to a very talented man who likes my cooking a whole lot.  So in order to continue to be on the receiving end of said cooking,  I gently persuaded him to take out the bathroom, seal it up and build a pantry.  I got the pegboard idea from Julia Child of course.
There is no way, I would have room for these if it weren't for this pantry.

                                                        A couple other quick ideas:
knife magnet


lid holder

One more thing we did to save space was add a couple little baskets on the inside doors under the sink.  I hold all my aluminum foil, plastic wrap, plastic baggies..etc.  It saves drawer room.

Hopefully these tips are helpful to someone.  I'm sure well continue to rearrange and come up with additional space saving ideas.  When we do, I'll be sure to share those as well.