Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spam Musubi, Chicken Nuggets and Sweet Potato Fries

My poor fiance was sick today, so I made him breakfast. Dinner was even better, but you'll see that in a second.

As far as breakfast, I have to blame Andrew Zimmern for this one. We were watching the Hawaii episode, and all of a sudden my man got a craving for spam musubi. We didn't have the right kind of rice, but we had everything else, so...

Spam Musubi in a Bowl

1 cup brown rice

1/2 can Spam

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the brown rice according to the package directions (usually 3 cups water to 1 cup rice, cook till the rice grains swell and burst and the water disappears, about 30 minutes). In the meantime, cut the Spam into small cubes and brown them in a pan. Put the cooked rice in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and add the Spam. Serves three.

Dinner was a reasonably speedy affair. I found chicken thighs in the freezer and made short work of them. Thank goodness for YouTube videos...

Chicken Strips

6 chicken thighs, sliced into strips

2 cups breadcrumbs

2 cup panko breadcrumbs

4 eggs

3 cups oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pan. Meanwhile, beat the four eggs in a bowl and lightly season with salt and pepper. Combine the breadcrumbs and season them as well. Dry the chicken strips and dip them first in the egg, then cover them with breadcrumbs. Fry them in the hot oil till golden brown. Serves three.

The sweet potatoes... what can I say? I turned them into french fries, my favorite side! YouTube came to my rescue again. It's the best way to figure out how to slice a root vegetable into fry shapes.

Sweet Potato Fries

1 1/2 sweet potatoes, sliced into sticks

1 cup cornstarch

Sugar (or Splenda) and salt to taste

After the chicken strips are done, lightly coat the sweet potatoes with cornstarch and fry them in the hot oil till golden brown. Sprinkle with sugar (or Splenda) and salt to taste. Serves two.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Doorknock Dinners--Fried Chicken,Stuffed Bell Peppers, and More

After two days of being taken out to eat, and a day of fast food, my friend begged me to come over and help her move. I was starving and I told her as much. "I'll help, but I can only stay for a short time. I have to make dinner for myself and the fiance."

"You can cook here," she said, waving at the partially enclosed, well lit kitchen. "The middle shelf in the refrigerator is mine. You can use whatever I have on there."

My friend lives with two other roommates,hence the "personal shelf". And lemme tell ya, this kitchen is a dream. It's the size of my dining room, you can see into the living room and the rest of the area, and it has a GAS STOVE. I haven't cooked on a gas stove since I moved out of my parents' house!!! Needless to say, I consented, and pulled off my own version of "Doorknock Dinners."

My appetizer came from my friend's fruit bowl. Who knew kiwi and banana could taste so good?

Kiwi and Banana Hors'dOeuvres

2 kiwis (ripe, yet fairly firm)

2 bananas

1/4 cup chai honey

Slice the kiwis and bananas crosswise. Stack the banana slices onto the kiwi slices, arranging on a nice plate. Heat the honey in a separate container for 15 seconds, and drizzle over the fruit. Done!

While my fiance and her boyfriend ate the fruity hors d'oeuvre, I started in on the side dishes. Bell peppers, yams, and ground chicken are your friend. And so is sugar and butter.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

3 bell peppers

1 package ground chicken (sold in a sausage like tube; about 1/2 lb)

1 small can sliced mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Take the tops and seeds off the peppers. In a separate bowl, mix the ground chicken, mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. Stuff the bell peppers with the mixture and place in an oven safe pan. Bake at 350 for roughly 45 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.

After starting the bell peppers, I realized I needed to make the candied sweet potatoes. I then remembered that I could cook them in the microwave. And it would take about the same amount of time as the bell peppers!

Microwave Candied Sweet Potatoes

3 sweet potatoes (the ones with the bright orange flesh)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 stick butter, cut into small pieces

Cinnamon to taste

Peel the sweet potatoes, then slice crosswise. Put the first layer in a microwave safe container, then add a small piece of butter on top of each slice. Sprinkle the whole thing with a teaspoon of sugar from the 1/2 cup. Do the same thing with the next layer of sweet potatoes, and continue till all the potatoes are gone. Add the last of the butter and sugar (if there's any left), then carefully pour the orange juice down the side of the container to avoid washing off the butter and sugar. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon. Cover with saran wrap or a lid, and microwave for 30-40 minutes on high. Serves four.

Last but not least, at one point in the evening, my fiance had to go home to pick up some tools for my friend's computer. I asked him to bring back the chicken I'd just defrosted in the refrigerator. It became our main course. Who knew one chicken could feed four hungry people?

Fried Chicken for Four

1 chicken, cut into pieces (separate the thigh and leg, and cut the breast into four chunks)

4 tablespoons oil

Salt, pepper to taste

Carefully dry the chicken parts and season with the salt and pepper. Pour the oil into a hot pan (use medium to medium high heat). Once the oil is hot, carefully place the chicken pieces into the pan, with the bone-in pieces close to the center. Cook for ten minutes on each side. Serves four, depending on the number of pieces per person.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Baked Tilapia and Fried Okra

My fiance and I came back from martial arts practice exhausted. While he began another load of laundry, I came up with this recipe. I love a full freezer. It makes life so much easier.

Baked Tilapia and Fried Okra

4 tilapia filets

1/2 bag breaded Okra

2 small potatoes, cut into small sections

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 cups canola oil

3 fresh garlic cloves, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Pour the oil into a heavy skillet and set the heat to medium high. Spray a pan with nonstick coating. Put the filets in the pan. Season with salt, pepper and garlic on both sides. Place in 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

While the fish is cooking, toss the potato chunks into the cornstarch. Set aside. Drop one piece of breaded okra into the oil. If it sizzles, the oil is hot enough to cook with. Add okra and potato chunks carefully in batches, using no more than half the pan space at a time. Cook till golden brown, then carefully remove and drain on a paper towel.Season with salt and pepper.

Pull the fish out of the oven after 30-35 minutes and check for doneness. If the fish flakes when you gently twist a fork in it, it's done. Serve hot with okra and potatoes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Creaming Butter or Sugar--Crucial Step or Waste of Time?

The only thing I cooked over the weekend was hot dogs--so lemme talk about creaming butter and sugar today.

When you read most cake directions, you'll notice that the first instruction is, "Cream butter and sugar together." Why waste time doing this when you can just throw everything in the mixer? By blending the butter and sugar together, you're whipping air into the butter, and the sugar helps trap those fine bubbles in there. You'll also notice that the butter will change color as you whip, which is how you know you're doing it right.It may take about five to six minutes to cream properly.

Cakes that have taken this step have much more volume than ones that don't, all other things considered. My mom makes a seven layer cake, but she never bothers to cream the butter and sugar first--as a result, her layers are about a quarter of an inch high. I tried to do the same, but I followed the steps. I used the same recipe, but my layers were four times as big as hers (and I had to stop at three or risk the structural integrity of my cake!) So next time you see this step in a recipe, take the 5-6 minutes and do it. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shrimp with Garlic Pasta and Sausage

So yesterday, my fiance was kind enough to cook dinner, since I was too exhausted to be bothered. Probably better for both of our health anyway. He made this dish, which was surprisingly good. I just wish he hadn't used the shrimp I was saving for his birthday, which was today...

Shrimp with Garlic Pasta and Sausage

4 cloves garlic

1/2 box pasta

1 package raw shrimp

2 sausage links

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the shrimp thoroughly until well cooked.Drain the cooking water, then rinse them off (this step is for people who are allergic to shrimp's high iodine content). Shell the shrimp and set them aside.

Either pan fry or microwave the sausage till done (tastes better pan fried). Slice into small rounds and set those aside.

Follow the package instructions for the pasta and cook till al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, zest one lemon and juice it. Mince four cloves of garlic. When the pasta is done, drain it and mix it with the rest of the ingredients. Serve warm. Serves one hungry writer and her considerate mate.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Spinach With Vidalia Onions, Baked Chicken Thighs

Dude. I. like, wrote up two thirds of this entry, and inadvertently erased it ALL.

*sigh* OK, round two...

For my birthday, even though I was hacking up a lung, I managed to make us dinner. The spinach dish is something my mom used to make when I was a kid; she would add a little bit of sugar to caramelize the onions. But she never knew about Vidalias, which are now available year round. I skip the sugar and use those instead. It's now my fiance's favorite dish.The baked chicken thighs are one of the easiest recipes ever, and you'll see why in a moment.

To be fair, my fiance did make rice--four cups of it. And I mean four UNCOOKED cups, which translates into, like, 8-10 cups of cooked rice.

Meh...at least we have leftovers.

Do you have any creative tricks for leftovers?

Spinach with Vidalia Onions

2 tablespoons oil or a few blasts of a nonstick spray

1 bag of spinach

1 sweet onion, sliced into rounds (it doesn't have to be a Vidalia; sweet onions go by many names. Look for them near the yellow onions, and look for the sticker).

Salt and pepper to taste

Add oil or spray to a pan. If you're using a nonstick one, you can skip this step. Give the pan a minute or two to get hot over medium to medium high heat, then add the onions. Cook till they become slightly translucent. Then, add the spinach. Cook everything until the spinach is fully wilted and the onions are slightly browned. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Baked Chicken Thighs

2 tablespoons oil or a few blasts of a nonstick spray

1 package chicken thighs, boneless

Salt and pepper to taste

Spray an oven safe pan with oil or nonstick spray. Preheat the oven to 350. Salt and pepper the thighs, place them in the pan, and bake for an hour or until chicken is no longer pink. That's it!

Adult Hot Toddy

I've been drinking a lot of these over the last two days. Mainly because I had a nasty sore throat, and a hot toddy tends to ease the pain, as well as the coughing. Depending on the amount of booze you put in, it can be a VERY effective nightcap as well. Mine is pretty basic, but I've seen ones where people use cloves, sugar syrup, and (wonder of wonders!) a teabag. And any alcohol will do--brandy, rum, whiskey, scotch, etc.You can even use wine, but...that's a recipe that comes later, closer to Christmas. [:)]

Scientific fact: alcohol can temporarily raise your body temperature, which is why many people feel flushed when they've had too much. I wonder if that's why I woke up the last few nights sweating profusely...?

This recipe can also be used for kids, without the alcohol of course. We want the little darlings to feel better, not kill them off.

Ok, off to go make another one. I really, REALLY need to get some more lemons...

Adult Hot Toddy

6 ounces water

2 tablespoons honey

1 shot brandy

1/2 a lemon

Pour water and honey into a microwave safe 8 ounce cup. Heat for two minutes, or until honey has melted and water is fairly warm. Add the brandy and lemon and stir. Makes one serving--which, depending on how strong you made it, may be the only one you need for the rest of the night.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Boeuf Bourguignon

decided to tackle a Julia classic, just to see if I could--Boeuf Bourguignon. Sounds super fancy, doesn't it? Truth is, it's just beef stew. And just like the American version, there are a BUNCH of different ways to make it. In fact, Julia's co author, who was born and raised in France, had a problem with this recipe originally. Julia simply reminded her that she wanted to make it accessible to Americans. And that was pretty much that.

There are at least three different components to this recipe that you have to cook separately in order to make this dish the way it's written, so I'll just give you a link to it:


It even has PDFs for easy access. One word of advice: READ THE RECIPE ALL THE WAY THROUGH BEFORE YOU START. If you don't, you will kick yourself when you get to the meat browning section--and realize you should have sauteed the mushrooms first.

Another warning: This recipe took me about three hours from start to finish, and I did pretty much everything as efficiently as possible. You can make it over two days, or you can start it early in the afternoon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Since I went to a friend's party over the weekend, I didn't cook--again. But I wanted to talk a little about aphrodisiacs.

Aphrodisiacs, according to Merriam-Webster, are defined as "an agent (as a food or drug) that arouses or is held to arouse sexual desire." A food might be called an aphrodisiac simply because of the way it was shaped--ginger looks sort of like a human being, figs look like testicles, and carrots look like a penis. Science eventually determiined that there were certain foods that had a high nutritional value to them. And, of course, if you feel good, you'll want to do more in the bedroom. Oysters are high in zinc, strawberries in Vitamin C, and ginger and cinnamon help improve circulation. There are two "aphrodisiacs" that should never be consumed, however--Spanish fly and yohimbine. To make a long story short, these two don't arouse you--they irritate the urinary tract, causing a burning sensation when you go to the bathroom. Not the kind of reaction you want when you're trying to seduce your date.

Isabel Allende, author of "House of the Spirits", wrote another book called "Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses". In it, she talks about aphrodisiacs and lists a number of recipes that contain them. You can find crepes at specialty stores, or you can look up a basic recipe on allrecipes.com; they're fairly easy to make. This particular recipe looks so good I may have to save it for my fiance's birthday in a few days--or my wedding night.

Bottom line is, an aphrodisiac is whatever you and your partner think it is. What's yours?


6 crêpes

2 cups fresh peeled ripe figs

4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

4 tablespoons very finely chopped walnuts or pecans

2 teaspoons brandy (or Cognac)

Pinch ground nutmeg

6 tablespoons whipped cream

With a fork, mash the figs. Mix in the sugar, nuts, brandy and nutmeg. Divide the filling among the crêpes and fold each crepe into a square. Place in a glass dish and microwave for about a minute. Top each crêpe with whipped cream. Serves six.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bourbon and 7Up

So I was somewhat irritated when I got home today. I decided to watch a little TV and make a drink to calm down. I grabbed some diet 7Up and some Four Roses, and did a little experimentation. The result is pretty damn tasty.

Bourbon and 7Up

1 oz Four Roses Bourbon (or whatever bourbon suits your fancy)

3 oz Diet 7Up (you can also use regular)

1 lime, sliced into wedges

Get an old fashioned glass (the short kind) and fill it with ice. Add the bourbon and 7Up. Squeeze the lime into the drink and stir lightly. Serves one annoyed and keyed up blogger.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Word of the Day

I went out to dinner last night, so I have no recipe for you. Which means it's time for--the Foodie Word of the Day!



A tiny tree and the small, deep-red,cherrylike fruit that grows on it, found primarily in and around theWest Indies. The fruit, which has a sweet flavor and one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C, is used in desserts and preserves. It'salso called Barbados cherry, Puerto Rican cherry and West Indies cherry .

This word is brought to you by the nice folks at Epicurious.com, and

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


So bruschetta is an Italian hors d'oeuvre of sorts--slices of bread with tomatoes, basil, and sometimes balsamic vinegar. A few folks add salt and pepper to their bruschetta; to me, if the produce is good, it's not necessary, but hey, what do I know? As I was roaming around forums, looking for questions to answer, I stumbled across a woman who was looking for a bruschetta recipe similar to the one Amy Adams (Julie) serves her husband in "Julie and Julia". I Googled up a recipe, and then found myself thinking about it for the rest of the day. On my way home, I made a quick detour to the store, made a slight alteration to the recipe, and here it is. My fiance and I ate the entire baguette, by the way, so be forewarned. This is some good stuff.

What was the last food that you craved?

Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil

3 ripe tomatoes on the vine

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil1

4 fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 smallish baguette French bread or similar Italian bread (get the Safeway homemade baguette with sea salt--you won't have to add anything to your topping)

1/4 cup olive oil

Cut the tomatoes in half and get rid of the seeds and pulp. Dice them. Make sure there is a top rack in place in your oven. Turn on the oven to 450°F to preheat and move the rack to the highest position.

3 While the oven is heating, Put the tomatoes, garlic, and 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a bowl and mix. Add the chopped basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4 Slice the baguette on a diagonal about 1/2 inch thick slices. Coat both sides of each slice with olive oil using a pastry brush. Place on a cooking sheet. Do these in batches if you need to. Once the oven has reached 450°F, place a tray of bread slices in the oven on the top rack. Toast for 5-6 minutes, until the bread just begins to turn golden brown.

Alternatively, you can do the traditional method. Toast on a griddle for 1 minute on each side. Take a sharp knife and score each slice 3 times. Rub some garlic in the slices and drizzle half a teaspoon of olive oil on each slice.

5 Put the bread on a plate. Either place the tomato topping in a bowl separately with a spoon for people to serve themselves over the bread, or place some topping oneach slice of bread and serve. If you top each slice with the tomatoes,do it right before serving or the bread may get soggy--but it may not last long enough to get to the soggy stage ;) .

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Zuppa Toscana

Last night, my boyfriend told me he needed to run to Salinas to pick up some paperwork. So we ate Zuppa Toscana, or Tuscan Soup, for dinner (since I, in my wisdom, had started dinner early). The original recipe can be found in "Top Secret Recipes," by Todd Wilbur, and it's a clone recipe of the soup you'll find at the Olive Garden. My version triples the recipe, adds more kale and uses less potatoes than the original.This is one of my boyfriend's favorite dishes, and I'm glad I made it. Remember that trip to Salinas I told you about? It was just a ruse to get me to Carmel--where he proposed. [:)]

If you were to make an "engagement" meal (as opposed to a Valentine's Day or birthday meal), what kind of stuff would you make?

Zuppa Toscana (hacked)

8 cups chicken stock or broth

2 lbs sweet Italian turkey sausage, either links or ground meat

2  medium russet potatoes

4 cups chopped kale

3/4 cup milk or cream

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Brown the sausage in a large pot. Slice it up into 1/2 inch thick rounds (if you have links), and add that as well. Cut the unpeeled potato in half, then cut the halves into 1/2 inch slices, then cut those in half and add them to the pot along with the kale. Stir, and bring it to a boil. Then turn the heat down and let the soup simmer for an hour, or until a fork goes through the potatoes easily. Turn off the heat and stir in the milk right before serving. You can also do this with a crockpot. Serves up two as a dinner or four as an appetizer. Serves one hungry, love addled couple.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Baked Chicken and Peas With Bacon

So yesterday, I raced off to a job interview at a local paper. It took me forever to get there, since my boyfriend had the car, and lemme tell ya, public transit in the Bay is not perfect. By the time I got home, it was almost 8 PM--and I'd left at five. From there, I raced off to visit a friend I hadn't seen in ages. But I knew my boyfriend was hungry, and I didn't want to leave him with nothing to eat--that didn't seem right at all. So I made Baked Chicken and Peas with Bacon. Or rather, I started the chicken and prepped the peas, and he finished it. I hope he didn't feel abandoned, even though he only saw me for five minutes.

What kinds of meals do you make for someone who doesn't cook very often ( children, spouse, elderly person) that can be finished quickly and easily?

Baked Chicken and Peas With Bacon

1 whole chicken

1 cup frozen peas

1 slice bacon

Garlic powder

salt and pepper

Get a 9x13 baking pan, preferably Pyrex or metal. Spray it to avoid sticking. Take one chicken, defrosted, and cut it apart. Carefully arrange the pieces in the pan, then season the chicken with garlic powder, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Flip the pieces and do the same for the other side. Bake at 350 for 1-1/2 hours or until done.

Just before the chicken finishes cooking, put a cup of frozen peas in a microwave safe bowl. Add a tablespoon of water, and one slice of raw bacon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a microwave safe lid, then nuke the whole thing for three to four minutes, making sure the bacon is done. Serve everything hot. May serve two or more.

Rum and Gingerale

I love cocktails and rarely drink a spirit straight (If I do, you know I've had a really , REALLY bad day). This rum drink is a takeoff on a Cuba Libre, my personal favorite (and my boyfriend's as well). Best of all, it takes seconds to make.

Rum and Gingerale

2 ounces rum

4-6 ounces gingerale

Lime juice (optional)

Serve over ice. Stir to combine. Serves one relaxed blogger.

Semi Homemade Pho

Pho, pronounced "fuh", is a Vietnamese noodle soup dish. It usually is made up of a beef broth, meat, noodles, and spices. And unlike American soups, you don't have to eat all the broth; it's just there to help cook the meat and keep everything else warm. I have a wonderful Philipino friend who is married to an equally wonderful Vietnamese man. The two of them helped teach me how to make pho the easy way. Now, let me be clear--there is absolutely nothing wrong with making your own pho broth from scratch. Nothing, I say. But if you happen to be able to get your hands on some pho spices, and some beef broth, and maybe some ginger and onion to really improve the flavor...well, you can make a pretty good version. So when my boyfriend and I had a craving for pho, we knew what to do. And paired with a good beer (him) or a rum and gingerale cocktail (me), we had an awesome lunch.

What's your best version of a comfort food classic?

Semi Homemade Pho

4 cans beef broth

1 bag pho spices

1 whole sweet onion

1 large piece ginger

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 package instant noodles (Chapagetti is a good brand, as is Maruchan)

½ lb flank, London broil, sirloin or eye of round, raw

1 bag bean sprouts

1 bunch basil

2 limes, cut into wedges

Siracha sauce

Hoisin sauce

Jalapenos or other chile peppers (optional)

Cut the onion into ½ inch rings and the ginger into ½ inch slices lengthwise. Grill or lightly broil them until the edges brown and the onion is translucent. Pour the beef broth into a large pot. Add the pho spices, the fish sauce, and the onion and ginger, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cook the instant noodles and slice the meat thinly(partially freezing it makes this easier). When the broth is boiling, place the noodles in a bowl, pour broth over them, add a few slices of meat, then add basil and bean sprouts to taste. Mix well to make sure the broth cooks the meat thoroughly. Use the limes, siracha sauce and hoisin sauce to taste as well. Serves four.

Gnocchi with Chicken and Sweet Potato

Last night, I reread my issue of Gourmet magazine and decided I wanted to make gnocchi from scratch. My boyfriend had no idea what gnocchi was; for him, and for those who aren't aware, gnocchi are tiny Italian dumplings. They're a little larger than a pencil eraser, and have ridges on them to hold the sauce. As it turns out, my boyfriend and I ended up going grocery shopping, and I stumbled across a box of gnocchi. Realizing that this would cut my cooking time in half ( and it was close to nine at night anyway), I asked him, "Are you still interested in gnocchi?" Loyally, he replied, "If you're cooking it, I'll eat it.

Why yes, I AM a lucky woman.

What kinds of recipes do you cook when you don't have a lot of time?

Brown Butter Gnocchi with Sweet Potato and Baked Chicken

1 box potato gnocchi
1/2 a sweet potato (make sure you're getting a sweet potato and not a yam-- yams aren't as sweet)
10 fresh sage leaves
1/2 stick butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
Leftover baked chicken

Put the butter into a small saucepan, and let it heat until it turns a dark brown. Remove it from the heat and set it aside.

Set a four quart pot full of water to boil on the stove.

Cut the sweet potato into small chunks, and brown them in three tablespoons of olive oil. Remove them from the pan to drain on a paper towel, and set them aside.

Fry the sage leaves in the leftover oil for 30 seconds at a time. Remove from the oil and set them aside to drain on a paper towel (they will get crispier as they cool).

Check the water. If it's boiling, add the entire box of gnocchi. Cook and drain according to the directions. Dump the brown butter in the pan that was used to cook the sage and sweet potato, then add the gnocchi and turn to coat. Divide into three servings (or 1 1/2 if you're serving two), and garnish with the sweet potato chunks and sage leaves. Serve hot, with leftover baked chicken.