Thursday, November 12, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (I would use WAY more garlic than this.)
- 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon minced chipotle pepper in adobo (Next time, I would skip this and add jalapeno, roughly chopped or two to the onion garlic mixture.)
- 4 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (I salted each layer of the dip.)
- 2 cups corn kernels (10-ounce box frozen corn)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 2 ripe avocados
- 4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion (I used a small red onion.)
- 1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeno pepper, optional
- 3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions (and jalapeno, if using) and cook until they soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.
Put half of the onion (and all the jalapenos) mixture into a food processor with the black beans, chipotle pepper (optional), 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, cumin, water and salt. Puree until smooth. Set aside.
Add the corn to the skillet with the remaining onion mixture and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro leaves. (Add a pinch of salt.)
In a small bowl mash the avocado with the remaining lime juice. (Add a pinch of salt.) In a medium bowl toss together the tomatoes, scallion and jalapeno, if using. Season tomato mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.
Spread the black bean dip into the bottom of an 8 by 8 glass baking or serving dish. Top with the corn mixture, spreading it out to form a single layer over the beans, repeat with the avocado, then the tomatoes. Top with cheese. Serve with baked chips.
Makes 12 servings. Calories 140; Total Fat 8 g; (Sat Fat 2 g, Mono Fat 3 g, Poly Fat 0.7 g) ; Protein 5g; Carb 16 g; Fiber 5g; Cholesterol 6mg; Sodium 245 mg
Friday, April 17, 2009
Then one magical day. A Thursday to be exact. A pug rescue group posted a picture of this adorable, perfect, healthy female pug puppy. She needed me! I could see it in her eyes. She was calling to me! I quickly emailed Andy, telling him, "She needs a home." He emailed back, "Cute."
I started to send messages to the rescue group telling them how perfect I was for this puppy. Well, they started as messages and developed into full fledged essays. I pleaded my case to the foster mom. And then I pleaded my case to my husband. Maybe I just wore him down. Or maybe the picture of this adorable puppy called to him also. But finally he said, "We can go look at her."
After we passed a home inspection, bought the entire puppy section at our local pet store, we drove out to Omaha to meet and adopt the puppy. We named her Addy. Addy May.
She's the most perfect puppy ever! (And she loves me!) She's not destroying the house. We realized we really don't travel THAT much. And Zona's losing weight because he has someone to play with and go on walks with. Andy has even professed his love for the newest member of the family and confessed that he is, in fact, happy we adopted her.
Shortly after we adopted her, I took off in a jet plane with my mom for San Jose, CA to visit my brother, leaving my new puppy with Andy and Zona. Despite missing my puppy, I had so much fun with my family! We walked through a red wood forest, strolled the Santa Cruz pier, and made the short drive to San Francisco to ride the trolleys, shop in the Haight-Ashbury district, and of course, eat in North Beach (Little Italy).
When I think of North Beach I think of Trattoria Contadina. A delicous Italian bistro on the corner of Union and Mason. It's one block off the beaten path. And it's an intense hike uphill from the wharf. And I mean UPHILL! But it's heaven on a plate and worth every bead of sweat you work up by the time you arrive. This ristorante is so good, you'll need a kleenex to dab the tears that will fall as you bite into their expertly prepared dishes. I did. I started with a Salad Caprese. The tomatoes weren't in season, but I looked past it as the pesto and basil and fresh mozzarella on top of fresh greens were so flavorful.
I've had the pleasure of eating at Trattoria Contadina three times. I always order one of the specials. This time I ordered Spinach Fettuccine with Sea Scallops and Mushrooms in a Basil Cream Sauce. I ate every bite and proceeded to plan how I would recreate this dish when I returned home.
I started with some shitake mushrooms. Stemmed and chopped into small strips. I reserved the stems for stock or the cream of asapargus soup I've been planning on making one of these days.
Then I prepped some shallots.
Next, I made a basil chiffonade by stacking the leaves, rolling it into a cigar and slicing very thin strips.
1 box Spinach Fettuccine
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Garlic, minced (Don't use garlic out of a jar. And use as much fresh garlic as you can stand! I love it!)
About 2 Shallots finely chopped
Shitake Mushrooms (you decide how many, stemmed and sliced into thin strips) Can also use Cremini Mushrooms if Shitakes are unavailable.
Sea Scallops (you decide how many) blotted dry, sliced in half horizontally
Dry White Wine (I used 1/2 c. at least - you be the judge)
1/2 c. to 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream (I rarely measure, just add until it looks good and taste delicious.)
Salt and Pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan (let's say 1 cup)
After prepping my shallots, mushrooms, and scallops I bring large pot of water to a roaring boil and generously salt it with Kosher salt. Add pasta and cook according to directions on box.
While waiting for the pasta to boil, I heat enough olive oil over medium heat to cover the bottom of a large dutch oven. Add shallots and garlic. Once they begin to soften I add the mushrooms and let them start to brown. Remove shallots and mushrooms from dutch oven. Increase heat to medium high. Add more olive oil if necessary. Season scallops with kosher salt and pepper and add to dutch oven. Cook 1-2 minutes on each side and remove from pan. They'll cook more later.
De glaze the pan with the white wine. (And pour yourself a glass - this is a must.) Let wine simmer for a few minutes letting the alcohol evaporate and the flavors concentrate. Scrape up all the brown yummy bits also known as fond up from the bottom of the pan. Add basil, reserving some for garnish. (Some people add their basil in the beginning of the cooking process, but I think it retains more flavor if it goes in towards the end. Plus then I have less of a chance to burn it, something I'm very good at.) Then add the cream. Sprinkle some Parmesan over the top and stir to combine. (By some Parm, I mean a handful. It's good stuff!) Taste for seasoning. Add some freshly ground pepper. Add salt if needed. (I needed it.) Let sauce simmer and slightly thicken. Add shallots, mushrooms, and scallops back to pan. Reduce heat to medium low.
Pour yourself one more glass of wine. (Hey! You deserve it! You've been working hard!)
Drain pasta and reserve a ladle full of starchy pasta water. (Just in case.) Add pasta to dutch oven. Coat pasta with sauce. If sauce is too thick, thin out with reserved pasta water. (Mine was fine and I ended up discarding the water.)
Serve in large pasta bowl. Sprinkle some Parmesan and basil on top and enjoy!
I thought this recipe was ALMOST as good as the dish I had at Trattoria Contadina.
It's definitely an indulgence!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
For most of us "normal" people out there, this is just not the case. And for those of us who love to cook - not just cook - but really spend hours in the kitchen with challenging mouth watering recipes, full of butter, cream, and carbs... - Our inability to lose weight by simply eating more of these tasty fat laden ingredients is a problem!
To be honest, I don't trust skinny chefs anyway. I like watching the Food Network and drooling over the dishes Ina Garten creates on her show Barefoot Contessa. Even Rachael Ray is a little curvy. Look at Mario Batali! Emeril! BAM! - There's a chef I can trust!
Over the years I've played with the South Beach Diet. And for the critics out there, no - it is not a low-carb diet. The diet relies on nutrient dense food, high in fiber and low in fat. And to be honest, every time I've dabbled on the diet, I've lost weight. Not only that, but I just feel better! I sleep better. I have energy.
But slowly, as I would see the pounds come off, I would feel the need to celebrate my new found weight loss! Like the bread basket at a restaurant - yep - the WHOLE bread basket (and butter, because that's the best part). Or mounds of hand-rolled pasta. Mounds of ANY pasta. Brownies. Custard. Movie Theatre Popcorn. Real cream in my coffee. Cupcakes.
I mean, I deserved these treats, you know? I had worked so hard eating lean meats, fruits full of fiber, lots of vegetables. Plus, I hit the gym 4-5 times a week! Give a girl a cupcake!
And after awhile, all that progress was undone, there I was standing in my kitchen, chubbier, tears streaming down my cheeks, crying "WHY???? WHY????"
Over the course of my battle with the diet - I did find one super star recipe. One that is appropriate for all phases of the South Beach Diet. (There are three phases. Phase one is the strictest and lasts for a couple of weeks, followed by a less stringent phases two which lasts until the weight loss goal has been met. Finally, Phase three is the maintenance phase.)
Here's my adaption from a South Beach Diet Recipe: White Chipotle-Chicken Chili
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (Or 3 Shallots)
4 boneless, skinless chicken-breast halves (1 3/4 pounds), cut into 1" chunks
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoons crushed red pepper
Salt and black pepper
3 (14.5-ounce) cans white kidney or cannellini beans*, drained (save 1/2 cup draining liquid) and rinsed
1-2 cans butter beans, drained
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 teaspoon canned chipotle chil**, seeded and minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, ribs removed, finely diced.
1/2 cup nonfat half-and-half
Garnishes: Shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Warm oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion and jalapeno; cook 4 minutes, stirring. Push onions and peppers to one side; add chicken to skillet and sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, stirring.
Increase heat to medium-high. Add 2 cans of white kidney beans and 1-2 cans of butter beans and draining liquid, 1 1/4 cups broth, and chipotle; bring to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 can of beans and 3/4 cup broth in bowl of food processor. Puree until smooth, then add to soup in pot, along with half-and-half. Simmer a few minutes, stirring, until ingredients are warmed through and flavors incorporate. Taste to check for seasonings. It will probably need at least another pinch of salt. Serve hot; garnish with cheese and cilantro.*If you are unable to find white kidney beans (AKA cannellini beans), substitute Navy Beans or Great Northern Beans or a combination of the two. (I prefer the draining liquid for Navy Beans over Great Northern.)
**Chipotle in Adobo can be found in many markets now. However, not in small town Wahoo. When I can't get a can of this spicy and smokey pepper - I add an extra jalapeno or two and a tablespoon or two of a smokey salsa.
My best advice with this recipe is to measure the liquid ingredients. I never measure! But everytime I've eyeballed the wet ingredients, the soup wasn't the right consistancy.
Also, if you like it more spicy, leave the seeds and ribs of the pepper and increase the crushed red pepper.
Just remember - all that spicy food is said to increase your metabolism!
Sunday, March 1, 2009
If there's one thing I generally don't touch in the kitchen, its steak. Not because I don't like it or don't know how to cook it, but because my husband has perfected steak. After drooling over our steaks at Ruth's Chris and Maestro's, Andy took it upon himself to recreate these mouth-watering, sweet buttery steaks at home. Without a 1500 degree oven, however, the task requires some improv.
We get our steaks, specifically - fillets, from Cetak's Meats and Sausages at 70th & Pioneers in Lincoln. He pulls them out of the refrigerator about an hour before he's ready to start cooking. Doing this is so important as it gets the chill off the meat and is less of a shock when the fillets hit the heat. While the steaks come to room temperature, Andy blots the steak dry with a paper towel to remove all excess moisture. He wants a good sear on the steak. He then brushes them with good olive oil and seasons the them with sea salt and pepper. We've prepared fillets a number of ways. When its too cold to grill we go for the cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets can get incredibly hot and distribute the heat evenly throughout the pan. They are not expensive and every cook should hopefully have at least one!
Sometimes he sears them in the pan on the stove before putting them in a 450 degree oven while they finish cooking to the desired temperature. Other times, he cooks them in the oven in the cast iron pan on high broil and later reduces the heat to finish cooking the steak.
Tonight, he puts the cast iron pan in the oven and preheats the oven and the pan to high broil for at least 30 minutes. Immediately, I remember that I should have cleaned the oven yesterday and I open some windows! BRRR! But it definitely beats the fire department showing up!
He broils the meat for 3 1/2 minutes on each side. Before turning the oven to 450 degrees, he inserts the meat thermomter probe.
One of my favorite gadgets is a digital meat thermometer whose console sits on the counter while the oven proof probe is continually measureing the temperature. It makes it so easy to know when to pull the steak out of the oven! Perfect steak every time. Or poultry. Or Pork.
Andy pulls my steak out when the internal temperature reaches 128 degrees and pulls his out when it reaches 133 degrees. He immediately tops it with butter, tents with foil and lets the butter melt on top while the steak rests, at least 10 minutes.
When the Steak Master is in my kitchen, I'm in charge of the sides. Tonight, I chose a brown rice pilaf and roasted asparagus. Brown rice is so good for you but can be tricky when it comes to developing its nutty flavor without drying out the rice. In my last issue of Cooks Illustrated, they suggested cooking it in the oven in a large dutch oven. Here's what I did:
Brown Rice Pilaf with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Parmesan, Peas and Almonds
4 slices Applewood Smoked Bacon
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 cups water
1 cup chicken broth (reduced sodium)
Large pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
3/4 cup frozen peas
5 oz. parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat dutch oven on stove over medium high heat. Meanwhile, chop bacon into small pieces. Add to dutch oven and render until bacon is starting to crisp. Remove bacon from dutch oven with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Remove all but 4 teaspoons bacon fat from pan.
Add shallots to pan and cook 8-10 minutes or until shallots start to brown. Stir in water, broth, and salt, scraping up all the flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cover. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in rice. Cover. And put in preheated oven. Bake about an hour.
Remove from oven. Stir in reserved bacon, peas, Parmesan, and toasted almonds. Cover. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve!
For a bit of green on our plate, we go with asparagus. Its loaded with Vitamins K, A and C as well as folic acid. Andy doesn't care about that. He just loves the taste. After snapping off the tough ends of the spears, I lay them on a baking sheet and drizzle the green goodies with some good olive oil, pinch of kosher salt, and freshly cracked pepper. (I save the ends for cream of asparagus soup!) In the oven they go at 425 for 15 -20 minutes, or until the heads start to turn slightly crispy. Mmmm!
Let me know what you think!
Friday, February 27, 2009
I thought it appropriate that my first entry be about my greatest culinary love. Maybe to you, chips and salsa seems a novice answer. Not a fitting option for someone claiming to be a wannabe foodie. (At least I said wannabe - right?) But good salsa, no wait, not good - GREAT salsa - salsa that makes you get up and do a Mexican Hat Dance - is hard to find. And then trying to find the perfect chip to go with said salsa? That's practically impossible!
Recently, on a trip with my absolutely wonderful and adorable husband (more about him later) we went on a hike in the West Maui Mountains. It was raining. We couldn't hike to the waterfalls for a brief swim because of severe flash flooding. We were covered in red dirt mud. In fact, we were thinking about what a waste of a day in Hawaii this was. The guide crammed us into a van, promising us a tour of beautiful country on a road fit for one small car. It was a death road. Needless to say we survived the hike. We survived the death road. But nothing could have prepared me for what followed.
The guide served us lunch at a local art boutique. Lunch was good. My husband, Andy, hated it. It consisted of spinach wraps. Turkey sandwiches. Vegetable crudites. And juice - out. of. a. can. Really, every food that he refuses to eat was what was served for lunch. And lunch was OK - that is until the guide brought out the special sauce.
It was made from pomegranate syrup and hot chili sauce. That's it! It was spicy and sweet. And it was heaven all wrapped up in a bottle. Now I guess technically this isn't salsa. Its sauce. But salsa means sauce in English. I digress.
As my husband does each day on each trip we take, he turned to me later that evening, as we sat on our balcony overlooking the ocean, the sun setting on its endless waves, glittering the water with bright golden freckles, the island of Lanai in the far distance, "What was your favorite part of the day?"
I knew it immediately! The salsa! The special sauce! The heaven in a bottle! I knew this answer wouldn't surprise him. He knows how I live for good chips and salsa.
This was my latest adventure in the quest for the world's best chips and salsa. Now, the chips on the other hand - out of bag! UGH! Not good eats - as one Alton Brown might say. But the sweet and spicy salsa sauce? So memorable. And that's what makes a good salsa. Something you remember and can still taste days, weeks, months, after you've had it.
This was a very special sauce. But probably not the WORLD'S greatest salsa. And I've long way to go to find the perfect chip. So, my quest continues. And I'll report any other culinary gems I find along the way.