Monday, March 30, 2009

Carrie's Favorite Cauliflower

This weekend, I catered a birthday for my friend Carrie. When planning the menu she said, "Ooo....can you make some of that awesome cauliflower?"

Why yes, yes I can.

Cauliflower is a totally underated vegetable. Like broccoli, it's a cruciferous vegetable, full of cancer fighting abilities, vitamin C and fiber. We should eat it by the pound.

I know what some of you are thinking. Cauliflower can be bland and watery if you steam it. Fear not. Carrie's Favorite Cauliflower bursts with flavor and crunch.

1. Mix olive oil, a couple chopped garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, some dried Italian seasonings and salt in a bowl.

2. Cut the cauliflower head in half. Cut the core out of each half and break the head into florets.

3. In a gallon sized ziplock bag, mix the cauliflower with the olive oil, garlic and spices.

4. Put the bag in the fridge and let it marinate for at least a half hour.

5. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then roast the cauliflower for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

By the time I got the camera, the cauliflower was half eaten.

6. Enjoy!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tasty Tomato Sauce

My Granny was an amazing cook. And I had the pleasure of spending lots of time in the kitchen with her. She taught me how to mix and match flavors and confidently toss ingredients in a pot, as if measuring tools didn't exist.

Today I'm making tomato sauce. She, like a lot of Italians, called it "gravy." I'm not making her recipe. It's more like a combo of both of ours. The savory scents from my kitchen are bringing back great memories, so I thought I'd share:

1. Finely chop a large onion, four garlic cloves and two carrots.

2. Heat olive oil in a big heavy bottomed pot on the stove on medium heat.

3. When the oil is hot, toss in the carrots and onion. Let them soften about five minutes. Make sure they don't brown.

NOTE: Some people put sugar in their "gravy." I don't. It's bad for you and those extra calories are a serious waste. Carrots do a great job of naturally sweetening the sauce and balancing the acidity of the tomatoes.

4. Add the garlic. Let it soften a few minutes. Be sure it doesn't brown. (It will taste awful.)

5. Salt and pepper your veggies. Then add dried Italian seasonings and some red pepper flakes.

6. Add four 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes. Or you can use whole tomatoes and smoosh them up with your hands.

7. Stir it up. Season to taste.

8. Simmer on low heat with the lid cracked for about an hour. Stir occasionally.

9. Pour over pasta.

10. Top with a chopped fresh herb like parsley or basil. (This gives it such a fresh zing!)



Friday, March 20, 2009

Suzie's Caesar

I'm crazy about Caesar Salad. But I'm picky about them. So I tweaked and tweaked until I came up with this:

1. Press one large clove raw garlic into a small bowl.

2. Add four anchovies. (I LOVE anchovies. I add extras into my salad at the end. Four will suffice for a normal person. But if you're scared of anchovies, this is not the recipe for you.)

3. Add kosher salt and ground black pepper.

4. Mash all those ingredients together with a fork.

5. Boil a small pot of water. Drop an egg in it and let it boil for 30 seconds. (You just want to bring it up to room temp.)

6. Crack the egg into the bowl and beat everything.

7. Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.

8. Drop in a tablespoon or more of Parmesan cheese.

9. Shake in two squirts of Worcestershire sauce.

10. Squeeze in half a small lemon.

11. Beat the mix with a whisk.

12. When blended, slowly pour in about a quarter cup of olive oil while continuing to whisk. When there's a nice thick consistency, it's done.

13. Adjust the taste. If you want more anchovies or pepper or lemon or whatever, add it.

14. Toss it with romaine lettuce, croutons and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

NOTE: I like to make my own croutons. Not so sure what's in the boxed kind, you know? Just thinly slice a baguette, spread the pieces on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake them at 350 for about 8 minutes.



Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pan Roasted Chicken Breast

I love chicken. Maybe because as a kid, my stepfather would roast chicken on Sundays and make the best gravy on the planet and serve it up with roasted onions and mashed potatoes. It was the ultimate Sunday dinner.

When I want a quick and dirty version of his delicious baked chicken, I go for a bone in, skin on, chicken breast. I sear it, skin down, for the ultimate savory crunch, toss in some mushrooms, quartered onion, fresh herbs and shove it in the oven.

This is a great one pan meal for one person. You can also add as you go, get a bigger pan and add a chicken breast per person.

Here's what you do:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken breast, a handful of mushrooms and half a quartered onion. (Add more onion and mushrooms if you're making more than one chicken breast.)

3. Coat the bottom of a metal handled pan with olive oil. Heat it on medium high.

4. When the oil is hot, sear your chicken breast, skin side down. This should take about five to eight minutes. Make sure it's nice and golden brown.

5. Once it's brown, turn off the flame.

6. Drop the mushrooms, onion and a fresh woody herb like parsely or thyme in the pan.

7. Put the pan in the oven for anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the breast. For smaller chicken breasts, check after 15 minutes. If juices run clear and meat is firm to the touch, take it out. Check large chicken breasts around 22 minutes.

NOTE: The more chicken breasts you make, the longer they'll take in the oven. For example, if you put two breasts in the pan you may want to cook them about 30 minutes.

8. Remove pan from oven. Plate food and let it rest for 5 minutes so the juices can redistribute.

And that's it. Sunday dinner in less than a half hour. Easy, right?


Friday, March 13, 2009

Holy Guacamole!

All right, maybe it's not holy, but it's the best guacamole I've ever had. Hands down.

1. Halve, peel and pit four avocaodos. Put them in a bowl.

NOTE: The easist way to peel avocados is to halve them and then scoop the fruit out with a spoon.

Add the following to the bowl:
  • Half a small chopped onion

  • 3 cloves minced garlic

  • 1 chopped jalapeno

  • 1/2 a lime's worth of juice

  • Salt

  • Chopped cilantro

2. Cut it all up into chunks. Mix it all together. Then mash with a potato masher.

3. Taste it. If you want it hotter, add more jalapeno. Saltier? Toss in some more salt. Need a little more zing? Squeeze in the other half of that lime. You get the idea..

4. Enjoy the heavenly guac with chips, or have it as a side dish with chicken or fish.

Let me know how it goes!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Crunchy Organic Carrots

Look what I picked today! The first carrots of the season. Straight from the garden. Organic, delicious and made by me.

Growing your own veggies is great for a lot of reasons:

1. It's a fantastic way to save money. The package of carrot seeds I grew these from cost $1.99. They will keep me crunching carrots for the next two months.

2. You know where your food comes from. When I plant my own veggies, I know that they're grown in organic soil, fed organic fertilizer and that they're not sprayed with pesticides. It gives me great peace of mind to know that I'm not eating all kinds of scary chemicals. I'm eating pure, organic carrots.

3. It's so much fun! When you plant your own food you get to watch it grow. Every morning something new pops up. Vines grow a little longer, zucchinis get bigger, tomatoes get redder. It's amazing to watch the metamorphosis.

4. It's easy. All you need are some seeds, organic soil and sunlight. If you don't have a big backyard, you can plant veggies in pots. On my deck, potted parsley is scattered amongst gerbers, rose topiaries, aloe and mandevillas. People probably think they're just plants, but they're food!

So why not give green gardening a try?


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Salsa Worth Salivating Over

This salsa is crazy easy, deliciously spicy, low in calories, high in licopene and vitamin C and super cheap to make.

1. In a blender, combine:
  • One 16 oz can diced tomatoes (preferably organic)

  • Half a jalapeno pepper
  • Quarter of an onion
  • Two garlic cloves
  • A handful of cilantro
  • Half a squeezed lime

2. Blend it up!

And there you go! Salsa worth salivating over.
By the way, if you enjoy more of a kick, drop in some more jalapenos. How do you like your salsa? Mild? Spicy? En fuego?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Granny's (Super Cheap and Yummy) Chili

All right. You should know by the "Granny" that this one will be good. I catered a party last night and all the guests were gushing about how good the chili was. I giggled to myself knowing that it was ridiculously cheap and easy to make. Let's do the math:

3 lbs ground beef = $11.77
2 28 oz cans red kidney beans = $3.78
2 28 oz cans organic diced tomatoes = $5.78
Total to feed 20 people chili = $21.33

I already had the garlic, onion, olive oil and spices. If you don't have them, it could cost you a few dollars more, but seriously, 20-something bucks is nothing to kickstart a fiesta.

So here's what you do:

1. Cover the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot with olive oil. Heat it at medium.

2. Dice an onion. Toss it in.

3. After onion softens a bit, add three chopped garlic cloves. Let them soften, but be careful that they don't brown.

4. Meanwhile, in another pan, brown your ground beef on high.

5. When it's browned, toss it in with the veggies.

6. Add your diced tomatoes.

7. Slip a couple bay leaves in the mix. Then add cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder and cumin to taste. If you like extra spice, spike it with some tobasco.

8. Cover it and simmer on low for about an hour.

9. Drain the beans and add them to the chili.

10. Simmer for another 20 minutes or so.

11. Serve and enjoy your guests "Mmming" like crazy.

What do you serve at parties that gives you huge "Mmms" for minimal cost?


Friday, March 6, 2009

Crispy Tilapia

Warning: This is not the healthiest way to eat fish. But it's pretty freakin' yummy.

Tilapia is an inexpensive, delicious, flaky fish. The two pieces I made cost about $4. But it's inexpensive because it's farmed. And some farmed fish can have high levels of mercury and other bad stuff in them. It's up to you to google "farmed fish" and make your own judgement on whether or not you want to eat it. My rule is once in a while, why not?

If you choose to skip the tilapia, you can use any other flaky white fish like flounder, red snapper, orange roughy or cod. Simply:

1. Beat one egg and a splash of water in a low bowl.

2. Spread Panko bread crumbs on a plate.

NOTE: Panko bread crumbs are Japanese bread crumbs. They're super flaky and the secret to the crispiest fish. You can get them at any supermarket.

3. Salt and pepper your tilapia.

4. Heat canola oil at medium high in a frying pan.

NOTE: Do not use olive oil. You're going to fry your fish at a high heat and olive oil can burn. Canola oil or vegetable oil can cook at higher temperatures.

5. Dip the tilapia in the egg mixture.

6. Shake off excess egg. Then coat the fish in the Panko bread crumbs.

7. Fry the fish.

8. When the edges start to brown, like in the picture. Flip it.

9. Brown the other side and serve.

It only takes 10 minutes to prepare the whole meal. It's a super cheap and easy way to get your Omega 3s. Plus, it's delicious.

So why not give it a try?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Perfect Hash Browns

Sunday morning breakfast is a luxury. Bacon, eggs, and hash browns. That's what's on my menu. And as I cooked it all up this Sunday, I thought about how most people probably have the egg thing down. And taking bacon out of a package and putting it in a pan is definitely not rocket science.

But the perfect hash browns? Well, they're a little tricky. So here goes:

1. Peel your potatoes. One large russet potato should cover one medium skillet and feed two people.

2. Shred them using the large holes on a box grater.

3. Heat vegetable oil on medium high heat in a pan on the stove.

NOTE: Vegetable oil can be heated it at higher temperatures than olive oil. Since you're frying the potatoes, you don't want to use olive oil. It may burn, and frankly, it's a little too olivey for hashbrowns.

4. Add a pat of butter to the oil. The butter gives them a buttery taste and the oil prevents the butter from burning.

5. Squeeze all of the liquid out of your potatoes using paper towels. The secret is to get them as dry as possible. Wet potatoes = soggy hash browns.

6. Salt and pepper potatoes.

7. Drop the hash browns in the pan. Spread them out so they look like a pancake.

8. Brown the first side. Then flip them.

9. When they're done, slide them out of the pan and enjoy!

What's your favorite Sunday morning breakfast treat?