...*a glimse into the daily life of a chef*...

...this blog is a place for me to record and reflect the passion that i put into my everyday life.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

soup of the week #4

...this week on soup of the week i thought that i would share with you a simple and delicious soup butternut squash soup, its so easy, its so good, and good for you! Ok here it goes-

this is how you start-------------------------->
cut up 2 medium butternut squahes
2 granny smith apples
1 lg. white onion
2 garlic cloves
put all of this in your soup pot
then add 2 cups white wine
and cover with water
add 2 bay leaves
some fresh cracked black pepper
let all of this simmer away with the butternut is soft
then blend it up
season with salt
add 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
and 4 T butter

there you have it, DELICOUSNESS!

you could put fresh granny smith apples and blue cheese crumbles
a tartare of fresh strawberries and fresh thyme
bacon, caramelized onions and mushrooms


You could turn this into a whole other soup!

Make the soup above
and then do this:
brown bacon
1 white onion diced
2 stalks celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups corn
in a blender puree 3 c corn with 1 c heavy cream 
and salt pepper
then deglaze pan with 1 can of beer 
(or white wine if you would rather)
add puree
and 1 1/2 qts. of butternut soup

season....and there you have it...sweet corn chowder!

its a TWO-fer!!!

HAPPY & JOYOUS cooking!

Friday, March 26, 2010

hot TiP #5:::>

....tip number 5 is....make your food look pretty...before you taste and even smell, you eat with your eyes...so pay attention to how things look, the colors you have on your plate...the plate you use...You can use everyday things you have around your  house to mold food to make it look better...take a coffee cup and spray it with pam and then mold rice it it...or potatoes. Try stacking things or putting them on the plate in a way to make a focal point...just take an extra few minutes to cut up a garnish or add a flourish to make the feast with for your eyes as DELiCiOUS as the one in your tummy!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

on The SiDe**conTiNUed

....where did we leave off?!?! maybe right around warm mushroom salad and a creamed onion trio (doesn't sound too good....but oh man it is!!!) well lets not wait another minute, lets get this party started!

Warm Mushroom Salad
Take your favorite assortment of mushrooms
or whatever you can get your hands on!
Just a few kinds to think about if you can find them:
(even buttons if nothing else)
but those 4 are my favorite and pretty easy to find!

You will need like 5-6 cups of mushroom for 4 servings!
1 red onion, diced
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 c. diced tomato
1/2 bag of roughly chopped spinach

In a bowl mix together:
1 shallot, minced
1/2 t. ground pepper
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried basil
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/4 garlic powder
2 T. sugar
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1 T. dijon mustard
and 1 c. olive oil

In a saute pan start the mushrooms with 4 T oil, put them in the pan and leave them until they start to brown, don;t touch them don't move them around just let them be. When they start to brown, season with salt pepper and add the rest of the veggies, when all tender and looking fabulous, add to the vinaigrette...and if you want add some goat cheese or parmesan...and you are GOOD TO GO! If you want to get REALLY really fancy top with a poached egg....yumm yum!

Creamed Onion Trio

This is how you start:
4 leeks, half mooned
1 white onion, diced
4 shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic. minced 

put all of this in a pan that has a lid with 2 T oil (when pan is hot) and then add 5 T butter, you do not want to brown the onions and garlic at all...
You will need to keep stirring the onions on and off every few minutes to keep from sticking
but aside from seasoning that is about all you need.
but i like to finish with 1 T butter and 1 T cream (or cream cheese)
and a handful of parmesan... this is GREAT with a piece of salmon...YUM! it might not sound awesome...but try it...it is!!!

HAPPY EATING, cReaTiVe CooKiNG, and enjoy the aroma!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

on The SiDe**

...so we can all come up with wanting to make some kind of chicken, or steak, or perhaps even fish...but the real question is what do you serve with it...what are your options and how do you get out of a rut of baked potatoes, or rice, or anything else that doesn't sound exciting...well i've given you the ins and outs of making risotto or succatash or cous cous, so.... what else do i have, i have a few things up my sleeve. how about green beans almondeen (with a twist) or a hot potato salad....maybe creamed onion trio, warm mushroom salad (i do love my mushrooms...extra protein and lots of flavor- i am in!!!)...just for a start!

Green Beans

You can do these beans a few ways:
In a hot pan saute with
3T olive oil 
add raw green beans
1/2 pkg. grape tomatoes, cut in 1/2
1 shallot, sliced
(you can pre-cook them if you don't like them aldente, 
but i like them a little crisp and i like them to get a little brown from the pan)
while those are cooking make a quick vinaigrette,
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 T. olive oil
1 green onion, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 srpigs fresh oregano, chopped
and lots of fresh ground pepper
1/4 c. toasted almonds
(i like the sliced ones with the skin on, or crushed whole ones!)
Mix the vinaigrette together minus the almonds and pour it in the pan when the green beans and tomatoes are to the texture you like
then add almonds to finish!

so you know that you can take out whatever part of these green beans you don't like this is just my version...so make it work for you...but on we go-

so start the beans just like above, but leave out the tomatoes and shallots, 
and add in water chestnuts and red peppers (diced)
For the vinaigrette use:
2 T. Soy sauce
2 T hoisin sauce
1 t. sambal (thai chile paste)
zest and juice of 1 lime
4 T toasted sesame oil
2 green onion, chopped
7 leaves basil, chopped
2 T chopped cilantro
then toss it all together,  
you can use almonds again, 
or i prefer cashews!

OK there are 2 ways to make green beans, i'm sure i could think of many more...but i have so much more to share- next stop, potato salad!!~
Potato Salad

I love hot German potato salad..so we will start there and then go to other places!!!

I like to start with yukon gold potatoes, i just love the flavor, 
but you can use Idahos or red potatoes if you like- 
if you wanna get REALLY funky get the rainbow colored fingerling potatoes 
(white, red, purple)....really whatever you want! 

so for any version of my potato salads you will start in the same place;
1) wash your poatoes
2) fill your pot with how much potatoes you want
(i leave the skin on)
3)cover with water
4) add salt, more than you think
5) put over high heat, bring to a boil, then turn down just a little 
and boil until potatoes are tender, it is really important not to over cook them.
(take one out, stab it with a fork if you can stab it and pull it out with no problem, they are done)
it is normally about 45 minutes for a full pot. 
You can do this a day or 2 in advance if you like...you will just have to reheat them, or you can use potatoes from another meal....
 After the potatoes are cooked drain water, and carefully slice them.

All dressings below are based on 7 sliced yukon golds (reds are about the same unless you used the baby ones, then it will be about 14), which is equal to 5 russet potatoes, and 1 bag of fingerlings.

German Dressing
   2 c. cider vinegar
3/4 c. sugar
1 T. mustard powder
1/2 c. canola oil
1 lg. white onion, sliced
1/2 # bacon, chopped up
 salt and pepper to taste

Start by cooking bacon and onion in a saute pan, when bacon is browned (but not quite crispy) deglaze with vinegar, add sugar, and mustard, than add oil and season.
Then toss with potatoes while still hot!

Goat Cheese Dressing
10 oz. goat cheese
4 springs fresh thyme (just leaves)
1/2 c. Sherry vinegar
1 c. sour cream
1/2 olive oil
1 c. Parmesan cheese (shaved)
2 T honey
1 T dijon mustard
1/2 pkg. grape tomatoes, 1/2ed
1/2 red onion, diced

in a saute pan:
sweat onions and tomatoes, deglaze with vinegar, add honey, mustard, thyme, and oil- 
(TURN OFF HEAT) then stir in sour cream and drop in bits of goat cheese.
then toss with potatoes and parm...finish with cracked fresh black pepper....and enjoy!

Italian Dressing
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 c capers
1 c ricotta cheese
1/4 c chopped basil
1/4 c sliced olives (whatever kind you like best)
1/2 diced red onion
4 cloves roasted garlic, chopped
1/2 c. olive oil

sweat onions, add capers, olives, tomatoes, roasted garlic, and ricotta cheese- then stir in oil....toss with the potatoes, and basil...season with salt and pepper and VIOLA there you have it!

ok the rest of the sides with have to wait till tonight...
i got a little long winded and i need to leave for work! 

stay tuned...
and if you like what you are reading, follow me! :o)

Monday, March 22, 2010

something swEEt**

....so last week i discovered something sweet and tasty and thought i should share it with all of you wonderful readers...i discovered a super easy to make German chocolate cake frosting, one of my favorites, but not in the traditional way! its a little different but just as good and this new way gives it a world of possibilities beyond the cakE!

Coconut-Pecan frosting (ALY style)

1 c. sugar
1 T water
put in a sauce pot and bring to a caramel stage
then add:
2 oz. heavy cream
1 package cream cheese
1 c. shredded coconut
1/2 toasted pecans
1 T. vanilla

thats it! 
so this frosting is playable enough that you could roll it into balls and cover with chocolate to make truffles....or drop littler balls in the middles of a brownie cupcake for a gooey filling. there is just so much you can do! 

**this has no eggs and you could substitute something like toffee or oatmeal for the nuts or just leave them out completely....this on top of that pound cake made with some cocoa powder and german baking chocolate would be heaven! there are so many possibilities! Have FUN!
You could also leave the coconut and pecans out all together and use this is a dip for fruit....or a caramel cake frosting....or drizzle over cookies....i could go on and on, but i'm stopping!

Happy Eating! 
Enjoy the process!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

SOOOOOOUp of the WeeK #3

....((**so i LOVE mexican food, latin food, anything that is of that nature so you are going to see a ton of it on this blog, i'm sorry if that does not appeal to you, i really truly am, but my darn noggin is jam packed with it, so i hope you enjoy :o) **))

the soup this week is a soup that makes everything better, when you are sick is helps you feel better or when you are a little down...it picks you up. Its a snuggle up with me and have a bowl after a long day or on a cold night...make a pot and keep it around...share with friends who make you laugh kinda soup!

all better soup
in your soup pot:
4 cups of water
3 roma tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
1 white onion, large diced
2 chipotle peppers + 3 T adobo sauce
(from chipotle can)
2 bay leaves
bring this all to a boil and cook until tomatoes are mushy and onions are cooked. 
(if you want it less spicy remove chipoltes after cooking)
now place all contents of your pot minus 1/2 the water, and blend until smooth
then put back in sauce pot with the rest of the water 

add 1 can diced tomatoes
2 russet potatoes, diced
 cook until potatoes are done 
then add:
1 zucchini, in 1" strips
1 yellow squash, in 1" strips
1 white onion, diced
2 lg. portobellos, diced
1/2 cilantro, chopped
1 c. whole (41-50) small shrimp
salt to taste
(i buy contessa)
simmer till everything is fully cooked.
Then grab a bowl, squeeze a lime in it, and enjoy!

This soup can wipe the blues away from any day, its delicious...and nutritious!

I really hope you enjoy this soup...it so easy, super fast, and just good for the soul!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

LeTs EaT Cake, You 2 SaM**

...this recipe is for my little buddy with allergies, i found this recipe while searching for a recipe i had used before but this sounded perfect...i love pound cake and it is so versatile...you can add cocoa powder and make it chocolate...add mashed up bananas (my fav!!!) and maybe a little cinnamon...orange zest and dried cranberries...really whatever flavors you like and the cake is perfect every time...i've never used this exact recipe but i have add things to another recipe and loved it every time! you can make it into coffee cake or swirl in a pudding or sweetened cream cheese or even make it into a carrot cake...you choose, awesome every time!!

Sam's Pound Cake
All Purpose Flour – 1 and 3/4 cups
Baking Powder – 3/4 teaspoon
Salt – 1/4 teaspoon
Butter, at room temperature – 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks)
Sugar – 3/4 cup
Milk – 3 tablespoons
Silken Tofu, pureed – 3/4 cup (1/4 cup for each egg replaced)
Vanilla Extract – 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
(from eggless.com a great website for information 
and some really awesome chocolate oat cookies i want to try using rice flour!!!)


Basic Pound Cake
  • 4 cups flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 2 cups butter
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Flavour extract (your choice)
  • Pinch of salt 
use same method for both: 
Cream butter and sugar, mixing well. (for eggless add tofu)Add the eggs, one at a time. Add flour, baking powder, salt and extract. Beat well. Pour batter into a greased cake pan. 
Bake in a 325 for 45-50 minutes 
or until pick comes out clean!
...i don't do much baking but i love cake, pound cake is among my favorites, 
so i thought i would share this...enjoy :o) 
...and one day soon, ice cream and sorbet recipes...


...so i love eggs, well i love certain kinds of eggs, fried with a runny yolk for dipping, omelets with all kinds of filling especially avocado, cream cheese, green onion, and cilantro...but my perfect breakfast, the one that i crave, makes me mouth water just thinking about it, is a breakfast that  my fiance and i came up with just kind of out of the blue one day and it has grown into our special breakfast that we make when we have days off together (which if you know us are a special treat for us since we both work crazy hours, so this must be really special...and it is!!!**) so with no further ado---->
sriracha eggs, fried tortillas, and pico de gallo w/ avocado

this is how you start this glorious breakfast, it is some what a job for 2 if you are not a trained professional like me because you need to be doing a few things at once, this is why it is a GREAT breakfast for you and someone special to make and enjoy together.

1) Sriracha Eggs
crack 4 eggs in a bowl
2 T milk
1 T sriracha 
(or more if you like it spicy like we do, we do 2 T)
1 t garlic salt
scramble this all up and pour into a medium hot saute pan that has a little oil and cook as normal 
then add:
2 T cream cheese
1/4 shredded chihuahua cheese

You will need 2 saute pans that are about the same size and one should be none stick for the eggs.

2) Fried Tortilla
Although we love corn tortilla this breakfast is WAY WAY better with flour tortillas, 
you could even use the wheat ones if you wanted. 
You will need 4 or 5 tortillas for the 2 of you unless you are really hungry and want more, 
but the eggs will cover 5.
to fry the tortilla you just need a thin coating of oil in your pan that is on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot you can drip one tortilla in at a time and get it golden brown on each side, you don;t want to fry it until it is hard just enough to get that toasted flavor and for it to be hot, when golden brown remove from pan sprinkle lightly wit salt and place on a plate with paper towel underneath and one to cover on top to keep the heat in. ((**this is why i recommend 2 people so one person can cook the eggs and do the chopping and the other can fry the tortillas**))

3) Pico de GaLLo w/ aVoCadO
1 tomato, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced
salt to taste
then mix in with the eggs and serve

..so there you have it, my 3 step SUPER easy but SUPER delicious breakfast treat for you and someone you love. I know you will LOVE it! 
Enjoy my perfect breakfast, and share with me yours :o)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

magical helpful hints #4:

...salt----> there is a salt fine line, too much, YUCK! not enough YUCK! salt is really what makes your food taste as it should, it is a flavor enhancer, so use it wisely taste as you go, and don't be afraid of it! it really does make or break a dish, and when used properly it can make an average cook look like a pro!

the power of CuMiN*

....i believe in the magic of cumin, it just taste so good and you can go to so many different regions of the world with cumin, so hope on my magic carpet and lets to for a cumin*ride! hold on tight!...when someone says cumin most people go directly to Mexico without even passing GO! it is just where their mind is off the bat. but there are so many places- Morocco (and many other parts of Africa), Thailand India, all over south America, Texas and Mexico....

1st stop: India, for some CURRRrrrrRRRY----> Curry is a combo of a bunch of pretty regular flavors like ginger, peppercorn, coriander, clove, cinnamon, turmeric (not to regular), cardamom (also not regluar) some sort of chile if you want it spicy, garlic, and cumin (seeds taste the best)
1 1/2 T coriander seeds
6 cloves
6 whole peppercorns
3 caramom
2" fresh ginger
1 T tumeric
1/2 T cumin seeds
1" cinnamon stick
4 garlic cloves
3 jalapenos
if you grind this all with the ginger and garlic you will get a paste, but i recommend slicing the jalapenos, grating the ginger and garlic and grinding the spices and then mixing them together. This is a great with chicken legs, duck, shrimp or whatever you like just mix with some stock and coconut milk, and 2 T peanut butter or ground nuts...So good! 
**(if you need a more in depth recipe let me know!!)**
Different places have different curries they are all about the same things it is just more of one thing and less of another. But there are also red curries and green curries, this to me is just a basic curry that i LOVE, it is simple and always tastes good, but learn what you like about curry and go from there...if you love them and want more info i'll be glad to provide just ask!
***for making anything like curry i recommend getting a coffee grinder that you use only to grind whole spice...they taste WAYYYYY better!***

2nd stop: Morocco----> Cous Cous=yum yum
1 c cous cous
1/2 c rasins
1/2 slivered almonds, toasted
1 can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 c. Water
1 red onion, diced
1/2 c. carrot, diced
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 c. sliced green olives
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T cumin seeds, ground
1/4 t cayenne
1" fresh ginger minced
1 t paprika

In a pan with 3 T olive oil brown onions, carrots, and garlic then add couscous, cumin and other spices to heat up oils, then add chickpeas, raisins, almonds, and tomatoes(all liquid) and water bring to a boil and turn off the heat and cover, let sit for 15-20 minutes till all liquid is soaked up and then add in your green onions and cloves. This is great paired with chicken or fish....and best with lamb!

To pair with this i have a yogurt sauce i love that i have to share!
1 c plain yogurt
1/4 c chopped cilantro
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 T finely minced white onion
1 1/2 T cumin
1 t salt
(this is so good on grilled chicken, shrimp, or lamb and paired with the cous cous....yum yum!)

3rd stop: Mexico---->
Well this isn't really from Mexico just inspired from it

(The spice blend i have talked about and will talk about, i figured out how to make it)
2 dried anchos, gently pulsed up but remove seeds
3T dried onion
2 T dried garlic (or powder if you can't find)
2 T cumin seeds 
1/2 T chili powder

this is a great spice blend to add background flavor or to use as seasoning on just about anything...
add it to meat loaf, hamburgers, coat steaks, and lots of soups!

hope you enjoyed our cumin trip and learn to love it as much as i do, some times i can't get enough! Happy cooking, better eating, and HAVE FUN!!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

HeLPFuL HiNT #3:

...your knife should be nice and sharp, you are less likely to injure yourself with a sharp knife because it won't slip as easy....sometimes there are places you can take your knives to make them sharp again or you can just buy a good steel to sharpen it yourself. Go talk to the person where you can purchase knives and see if they have any info for you. Don't buy those knives that say you never have to sharpen and they never go dull, they are either lying or all the knifes are serrated which isn't all that cool. so have a sharp knife and keep the tips of you fingers bent back so you don't risk loosing one of them, make careful thought out cuts and be mindful of your hands, there is nothing fun about cutting yourself! 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

SaLsa or Relish if it pleases you

...so tonight i at work i made a watermelon "salsa" that was knock your socks off good, but it wasn't traditional in any way, or even mexican...it was asian! but you could have served it up on a torilla chip or veggie chip or just passed me a spoon. it was fresh, light, refreshing, and lip smacking good, go back for seconds good. But i was really thinking it would make a GREAT relish for a fish taco!!! maybe catfish tacos with a sambal slaw and watermelon relish....anyone wanna try that, because i do!!!

Asian Watermelon Relish
2 c. small diced seedless watermelon
1 red pepper, small dice
1/2 red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, minced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
8 basil leaves, chopped
3 T toasted sesame oil
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 T sugar
1 T lime juice

First mix the vinaigrette in the bottom of the bowl and then add your veggies/fruit. Let this marinate for at least an hour before serving, and pour off some of the extra liquid before serving. 

...so if i was to make fish tacos to go with this salsa here is what i would do (don't get me wrong, if you just want to put this on a piece of grilled fish or even serve with a tempura battered fish or shrimp, no one would complain!)

preparing fish for tacos----->
1) use tilapia or another white fish, even catfish
cut into chunks

2) sprinkle with salt and coat the fish in cornstarch 
(this will give it a nice crispy outside without heavy breading)

3) preheat oil in a deep pan 
(probably whatever you use to make soup)

4) carefully drop fish in, one piece at a time, when oil is hot and cook to golden brown
(you will know oil is hot when: drop something in it and it begins to bubble like its frying)

5) remove fish with a slotted spoon and 
put in a paper towel nest, 
sprinkle with salt

things to prepare before frying fish-
 ....make sure you have everything ready to go before you fry the fish because it is not easy to keep the fish warm! you want to be able to start eating when it is done.

make your slaw---> i like to use a simple slaw, just thinly slice your cabbage or use the bag stuff, some chopped green ones, shredded carrots, and for the dressing i use equal parts mayo and sour cream, black pepper, and sambal or sriracha (this is a thai chile paste that is red and comes in a clear plastic bottle with a green top, it is nice and spicy with an asian flavor, a home staple for me!) and then a squeeze of lime and season with salt

To make fish tacos i prefer corn tortillas, but you have to buy good ones, real ones, i use el milagro....(nothing made by taco bell) make sure you heat the up on the grill or over a burned to char them just a tad...or just heat them in the microwave...

then serve them up... picture this, a nice warm corn tortilla, a couple pieces of fried fish, spicy slaw, and watermelon relish....my mouth is watering!

OThEr "SaLSas"---------------------->
Pineapple Salsa
 Diced pineapple, tomato, red pepper, red onion, and cilantro
squeeze of fresh lime and salt

(you can use whatever ratio of the ingredients you like, that is the nice thing about salsa as long as you know the flavor profile you can make the parts just as you like them!!!)

Corn Salsa
corn (fresh, canned, or frozen), diced tomato, red onion, green onion, and cilantro
squeeze of lime, cumin, and salt

(*** you can add jalapeno to any of the above to add some heat***)

Cucumber Salsa
Diced cucmuber (seeded), jicama*, red onion, mango, and carrot
mix together with lime juice and tamezula or valentina (a mexican hot sauce that is a little sweet...if you can't find it the only subsitute i have found is the packets of taco bell hot sauce with a little added sugar, i prefer to use agave nectar) 
This is a great salso for fish as well, i know it all sounds weird, but then you mix it up it will blow you away!!!

*jicama- it is a vegetable that has a flavor of an apple mixed with a potato...it is a great this to add crunch or to use as a dipper....you can dice it up and add it to lots of dips, like a cold spinach dip!

....i believe i am having spring fever as the warm weather begins to emerge because my food is already shifting towards summer fair...but they are some of my favorite foods...but i eat them year round!!! happy fresh, light eating!

Friday, March 12, 2010

1 tamaLe, 2 tamALe, 3! TaMaLe'

i love tamales...but how can you not, they are so unique, so delicious, inventive, and alot of work, full of love. So i have come up with a million ideas on how to make it easier, but they are never as good. so i have learned to stop comparing what i make to a tamale itself, and started just trying to interpret the flavors of the tamale...so here it is, the first time out of the gate, but its good and smart, and most of all it draws on the Midwestern soul with in me...so as i cringe to call it a casserole, i guess that is what it is, a one pot wonder of love, so dig out your earthen ware casserole dish and get ready to take your taste buds on a wonderful ride across the border and into tamale heaven :o)

Mexican Chicken and "Dumplings"

 2 large chicken breasts, oven roasted (or grilled) and shredded
1 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can pinto beans in liquid
1/2 can creamed corn (reserve 1/2 for "dumpling")
2 cans mild or hot diced green chiles
2 roma tomatoes, diced
2 4oz cans tomatillo sauce
1 T cumin
1 T ancho spice blend (optional if you can't find it)
Mix all above ingredients in the bottom of your casserole dish and preheat oven to 375

In the store you can buy either powdered masa or 
you can in some places buy the ready made masa 
(check the freezer section in some places)
***to use the powdered kind i just pour 2 cups of masa powder in a bowl and slowly add water and need it until it is the texture of play dough, but for this you need it just a touch softer more like cookie dough***
when you have the masa to the right consistency add the rest of the creamed corn and 1 t salt then drop it on top of the mixture in the casserole just like dumplings or crumble topping
Bake until masa is firm and filling is hot.
Serve up with sour cream, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges.....
if you you are feeling crazy, sliced avocado...

you could also serve it with a roasted garlic salsa (recipe below) or any salsa you like!

Roasted Garlic Salsa
1 cans fire roasted tomatoes
8 roasted garlic cloves 
(direction on previous blog)
1 T cumin
1 diced small red onion
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1 can diced green chiles
2 green onions, grilled and chopped (optional)
Mix and enjoy!

...this is my first recipe for a friend of mine that needs recipes that are egg, nut, peanut, and fish free...hope she likes it, i was so inspired after talking to her- i love to help people and make their tummies happy! i'll continue to work on helping her with recipes, but this was a good start for me...i've got the ball rolling in my favorite direction, south of the border. I might make alot of Mexican recipes because i love their culture, there food, and margaritas....well the isn't much i don't love about it, so happy eating!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

...helPfUL hiT #2:

....some people say they can't cook or when they cook it never tastes as good as mine well there are many secrets to cooking like a professional,  that i'm sure i will SHARE with you thoughout this blog if you pay attention, but the best kept secret is....L O V E, love. Everything in life is better when love is involved, and food folks is no different. Don't let the food intimidate you, people can taste and smell fear, i promise. Cook with confidence, it makes cooking easier, but if all else fail just add a ton of love. I love what i do, i love tastes, smells, the look and feel of food, and most of all the light it puts in people eyes when good things are on their plate, that is love. It is what got me into cooking and it is what keeps me cooking every day...i try to fill each bite with love the same way i do when i'm painting...what is the point of doing things you don't love, so share that love in each bite and day by day your cooking will grow and get better....so there you have it folks the biggest professional secret, love, well that and salt, but that's a whole other blog, happy loving :o)

wHat MakEs a Salad, a SalAd?

...i love salads...not those "salad" every church gathering has that aren't really salads- you can't have a snicker salad, marshmallow dream salad, or pretzel salad...you can't just call it a salad because you want to eat it in place of a salad or because you don't know what else to call it...i even have a hard time with potato salad, egg salad and tuna salad....what makes all of them a salad, well if we have to use all of those in our search, then i would have to say, the binder. The thing that brings the whole "salad" together, the dressing. So in thinking about that i thought that I would share a few of my favorite binders-

1) Poppyseed Dressing
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1/2 c.  honey
1 tsp. mustard powder
2 T minced green onions
1 c. canola oil

2) Tahini Vinaigrette
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1 T. Honey
2 T. tahini
3/4 c canola oil

3) Avocado Green Goddess
1/2 avacado
7 leaves fresh basil
1/4 c. cilantro
2 T. chives, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. blk. pepper
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1 c. oil

Put first 8 ingredients in blender and pulse till broken down then 
add your cream,  and yolk before slowing drizzling in the oil. Blend till smooth.

2) Peppercorn "Ranch"
1 T. whole Peppercorns
2 oz. Brie Cheese
4 oz. Cheese Cheese
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1/2 c. Milk
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. fresh thyme
1/2 t. Salt
1 1/2 c. oil

Put everything but the oil in the blender and 
then slowly drizzle in the oil as the blender purees. 

4) Cumin Lime Vinaigerette
1 t. Cumin 
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 c. sour cream
3 T. Cider  Vinegar
1 c. Oil

Put everything but oil in a bowl and slowly wisk in oil.

So in typing these recipes of a few of my favorites i realized that i love cider vinegar...or at least i love it in dressings. You can use fancy vinegars or red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar...but to me cider gives the cleanest flavor...don't get me wrong balsamic vinegar and oil is one of my all time favor things on salads but when i want to make a dressing and taste something other than the vinegar i like to use cider or champagne vinegar (i just never keep champagne vinegar in my house, but i am never without cider)....i love to make salads for people because many people get in a salad routine, but me i like to switch it up, don't get me wrong i have my favorite "good stuff" as my nephew calls it but i love to make cool dressings and put fun stuff in with the lettuce.  Try using the seasoned pretzel pieces by snyders (i love the honey mustard with the poppyseed dressing) or add in some candied pecans, experiment with different fruits like grapes, apple, oranges, pears, blue berries....add some fresh herbs....get creative test your taste knowledge, push the limits....go crazy, whats the worst thing that can happen...it tastes terrible? so, at least you tried and with cooking that is 1/2 the battle.  So as the sun starts to shine and the snow melts test your salad abilities...YOU CAN DO IT! ;o)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

**heLpfuL TiP #1

...always make sure your pan is hot enough before adding food to it. You need to get both your pan and your oil hot before adding food. then you add food to the pan it bring the temperature of the pan way down...you don't need to get your pan SMOKinG hot...but hot enough that you hear a sizzle when you add your food and it starts to cook your food right away.

SoUp of the WeeK #2

....me being catholic and it being lent i decided to try a vegetarian soup this week and next to good ol' Campbell's tomato soup and a grill cheese...this is my favorite!

Tomato and Mushroom Stew

1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves roasted garlic
2 roasted red peppers
2 large cans good whole plum tomatoes
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 pkg oyster mushrooms
1 pkg shiitake mushrooms
1 portobello mushroom, diced
2 stalks of Mint
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
2 T balsamic vinegar

Start by blending up your plum tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and garlic, then put to the side.  In your soup making pot put 1/2 c of olive oil and get it nice and hot, then toss in your onions and mushrooms that have been roughly chopped and season with salt and pepper. When your mushrooms are nicely golden brown (to get this do not stir them too much, just let them sit for a few minutes with out disturbing them.) stir then up and then add your diced tomatoes, your blended mixture, and your balsamic vinegar. Then let it simmer for 15 or so minutes before adding your fresh herbs. At the end just stir in the herb, season, and serve.

I love this stew, it is fresh, hearty without being heavy, and super fast! 

I like to serve this stew a few different ways- you can garnish with a spoonful of sour cream, more cilantro, and some tortilla chips....or you can garnish with fresh basil, a drizzle of nice olive oil, and garlic bread, maybe even a little Parmesan cheese....or keep it traditional and serve it up with a nice grilled cheese- maybe some nice cheddar cheese on grilled sour dough...so many options, maybe you should try them all!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

GarLic **

...so i was thinking about my post from last night and realized that not everyone knows how to roast garlic...so i thought that I would give you a few simple ways to roast garlic.

#1) take whole head of garlic, chop the top off to expose the garlic put them on a piece of aluminum foil (that will be big enough to wrap them up) pour a little olive oil on them and salt, then wrap them up tight (making sure the ends go up so the oil doesn't leak out) and put them in the oven on a baking sheet at 350 for 20-30 minutes. When finished let cool and then just pick up the garlic head and squeeze the cloves out.

#2) remove all the cloves from the husks and place in a saute pan and cover with oil, turn the pan on high until it starts to boil then down to low until garlic is tender...this way you have also made garlic oil which is great for garlic bread, an olive oil based sauce for pasta, or vinaigrette.

#3) break up the pieces of the garlic head into cloves leaving them in the husks and put them into a dry saute pan. Turn the heat on high, let the pan get hot and the husk will start to brown, turn the heat down to medium, move the cloves around a bit until all the cloves inside are tender.

All the ways to roast garlic are pretty simple so give it a try. Roasted garlic is great for so many things, if you store it in oil it will keep in your fridge for a really long time. I love roasted garlic with a little oil and salt just spread on a crusty baguette or added to a creamy dressing....tossed with pasta, some roasted mushrooms, and tomatoes with fresh basil....may mouth is watering just thinking about it! Enjoy!

BuTTer Everything is BeTTer with a Bit of BuTTer:

...so i know that this day in age most people are staying away from butter or are concerned about fat or cholesterol...but as we grow older we learn that life is about moderation and everything has its time and its place....and in my eyes so does butter. Butter can be a great way to spread a lot of flavor. After cooking a steak if you just put a little butter that you have infused with flavor, that flavor just sits on the outside of the steak until you eat it...and its delicious! Or try putting a cumin and lime butter on shrimp or scallops...yum! or even infuse your butter with flavor to add on top of baked potatoes or corn on the cob...there really is no limit! You could make a cinnamon and sugar butter for oatmeal or waffles...So whAT YOU  have to do is just bring the butter that you wish to infuse to room temperature (or slowly melt it on the stove without the fat and why totally separating.) then you choose your flavor and stir it in....when that is over you scoop all of it on to a piece of plastic wrap and roll it up carefully so you don't get the plastic wrapped up in the butter!

Here are a few of my favorites:

1) Cumin-Lime--->

1# unsalted butter
1 T cumin
zest of 1 lime and a little juice
s/p to taste

2) ciNNamoN & SuGaR
(it really is amazing as your breakfast substitute for regular butter)

1# unsalted butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 T cinnamon
1/4 tsp. vanilla
2 shakes of salt

3) Chipotle-Cilantro Butter

1# unsalted butter
3 T chipotle puree
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

4) FrEsH HerB BuTTEr

1# unsalted butter
1/2 c. chopped herbs,
basil, chives, cilantro, thyme, parsley
(or whatever combo you want)

5) Rst. GarLiC

1# unsalted butter
1 head of roasted garlic*
1 T cajun seasoning

Try adding a flavored butter to your next meals...
and watch out for that flavor you will discover! If you find one you love, please share!

...ok if butter is just really not your thing, why not try infused oils and vinegar?!?!? Its really is as simple as it sounds, and on top of all of that it can make a really great gift! (HiNT: I like to use old wine bottle or jars) You can make these infusions as simple or complex as you like. For simple ones you just put your flavoring in the bottle, pour oil over it and let it sit. Be sure to use an olive oil that you really like the flavor of to begin with....this is not something you want to do with a cheap oil like canola or a vegetable oil....you should use olive oil or grapeseed oil for best flavor. YOu can use fresh herbs like basil or thyme....or a roasted garlic...or why not sun dried tomatoes and rosemary...these infused oils make a really great dipping oil for bread. If you want to infuse an oil with something like paprika or chile you will need to heat the oil up and strain the spice out before you use it...a coffee filter is a great way to strain particles that will pass through over strainers!

Happy CrEaTinG~!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

SuCcoTash, the new hash

...so I have always known that i love hashes, and in more recent years, succotash...it is so glorious. So many of my favorite things put together. So i know that many people think yuck succotash has lima beans, i hate lima beans...well there is a FANTASTIC solution for those yucky lima beans....Edamame!!!! yUm!!! what could be better than that?!?! it has protein and other good stuff, and its very tasty!

try this:
equal parts edamame and corn
1 red pepper or yellow, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 large tomatoes or 2 romas, diced
and sautee them all in a olive oil just until the onions and peppers are tender
season with cumin, lime, a bit of butter, and salt pepper

**if you like you could use a diced zucchini or ever diced beet, a fancy mushroom would be wonderful, my favorites are oysters or shiitakes, but you never can go wrong with a portobello or crimini mushroom!

***if you like a little spice you could add in a diced jalapeno and/or poblano pepper, my favorite pepper for things like this is an Anaheim pepper, they are long and skinny and very pale green, they have alittle spice but not a ton...they are just sweet, spicy and delicious! Also for spice you could add a little finally chopped chipotle pepper which would also add a bit of smokey-ness...sounds good to me!

When the warmer weather rolls around try doing some of your succotash parts on the grill. There maybe nothing I love more than grilled onions, so you could grill the onions, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, corn on the cob and my little secret grilled vegetable, carrots, (also try grilled green onions!!) and then toss it all together with some blanched edamame or sweet peas...then add a simple dressing, you could use whatever your favorite is from the store or just go as simple as lemon and olive oil and perhaps a LITTLe GOAT cheese if you like that kinda thing. But the real secret to simple dishes like this is fresh herbs. Just find out what your favorites are, mine are basil and cilantro so i tend to lean towards those, but if you love thyme, it goes well with everything!

Now for a very special twist, what if you just put succotash and hash together....i love to use a combination of  sweet potato and Yukon golds  or use a butternut squash, then just add all my succotash favorites, also you could use a diced apple....think about this- butternut squash, sweet potato, Fuji apple, red onion, corn, and red pepper...seasoned with cajun and fresh ground black pepper. This would be delicious with a grilled pork chop or pan seared pork tenderloin medallions...or the possibilities are endless!

Now lets talk about pairing, you could put a succotash or hash with just about anything you desire but i recommend scallops, grilled shrimp, just about any pork that is not something like ham...you could do it though with a smoked and pulled pork, or maybe this would be great with a nice piece of salmon...think of all the good things you would get in a meal with salmon, edamame, and then maybe add a bit of wilted spinach?!?!? sounds like a super star meal to me throw in a nice glass of wine and its golden!

Man I hope all of you are getting as overly excited about all this as I am! Happy cooking and even happier EATING! dazzle your taste buds!


***Please if you ever have any food questions that you are seeking answers to, or recipes you wish you had, let me know I would love to answer questions for you or come up with a recipe for...its what i do! ***

Neo Risotto

*** HeLPful HiNTs from the ProFeSSioNal: ***

Did you know that you can make a really yummy risotto from your left over white rice?!?! I know that traditional risotto is made with arboriro (sp?) rice, but technically risotto a technique and not a type of rice. Risotto is made by stirring the rice to release the starches. So what you have to do to use your old rice is this, (using half the amount of liquid to cooked rice, ie: 1 cup cooked rice, 1/2 cup liquid) in a pan bring water or cream to a boil. I like to start with water and then finish (to FINISH means: adding something at the very end to complete whatever it is you are making) the risotto with cream or a bit of cream cheese whatever you have around. Then add your rice and turn your heat down to med low or low, the trick is that you have to stir and stir and stir and then repeat that over and over until you get a really creamy consistency. You can add basically whatever flavor to it that you would like...i like to do a sweet pea risotto, or butternut squash and apple. To do this you just need to make a puree: so take cooked peas and put them in the blender with a bit of water, a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a touch of sugar (to bring out sweetness) puree till about smooth then add this to your risotto when it is about finished and always finish your risotto with a little Parmesan cheese for a traditional flavor.

to make butternut: 1#) cut your squash in 1/2, 2#) scoop out seeds, 3#) and put cut side down in a baking dish (that is deep enough to add water) 4#) then add about a 1/4" water and a couple tablespoons of butter inside the cup of the squash 5#) bake at 375 until tender 6#) then blend with butter and a bit of water or cream until smooth and add to risotto, i then like to use raw apples, i prefer a sweet apple like a pink lady or fuji, i just dice it up and add at the end.

as with most thing in cooking you just have to make your favorite flavors work for you. Learn the technique and then adapt it to the things that you like. You can saute onions and yellow squash and add it to a cream parmesan risotto with fresh basil- or simply any combination of flavor you like, get creative and as always if you have a question about the technique or a flavor, just ask...i'm honest enough to tell you the truth. HAPPY COOKING!

**Try making the sweet pea risotto with a nice fish (i like seabass, and cooking fish is a whole other blog :o) ) and serve it along with a small goat cheese and spinach salad with a lemon vinaigrette....its a great friday lent dinner, and i really don't believe that anyone could tell you is wasn't delicious. **

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The 1st Week of Soup of the WeeK** :o)

***SoUp of tHe WeeK:

Chicken Enchilada

1 white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced (optional if you hate peppers like my sister)
5 chicken breasts
1 can diced green chiles
1 can corn
1 can black beans, washed
1 can Chicken broth (or 12 oz. homade stock)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 T. Cumin
1/2 T. Chili Powder
1 pint Heavy cream
5 slices American cheese (or any creamy melting cheese)
3 T butter
1/4 c. flour

In a hot stock pot (or your favorite soup making pot) put 3 T olive oil and add chicken breasts (you want to get all the good flavor when you de-glaze the the pan) when browned flip and add your onion, garlic and red pepper, when chicken in fully cooked, remove and dice. Then add butter and flour to make a rue (make sure butter if fully melt and flour is all coated in butter and it looks like a paste) to thicken your soup. Then de-glaze with chicken stock and bring to boil. Then add 1 qts. of Water and the rest of the ingredients (except cheese) and diced chicken and simmer fo at least 1/2 hour. Then add cheese and stir till melted. Then taste and season with salt, and ENJOY! one of my favorite soups!

This recipe is not EXACT it is and Aly-a-mation, it is merely a guide line, but it should be really close, cooking is about having fun! so have fun and ALWAYS, always Enjoy!

just another manic day

so while making hummus today i had an epiphany, most people do not know how to make hummus. Well i made a DELICIOUS hummus today so to start this food blog off on the right foot I'm going to share a few easy steps with you to a yummy and easy hummus. Traditional hummus is chickpeas, tahini, lemon, salt, and olive oil. But SURPRISE! you can make it whatever flavor you want, and cut back the fat by cutting out the tahini. So today i made a Mediterranean white bean and black pepper, here's what i did. I started with...

1 can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
1 can white beans
1 roasted red bell pepper
1 handful sundried tomatoes (not the pack in oil kind)
2 T fresh ground black pepper
1 T Ancho spice (you should be able to find an ancho spice blend in the store)
(or you can leave it out, just add some garlic salt, dried onion, and cumin)
1/2 c oil

put it all in the food processor and WHA-la you have a yummy snack and great veggie dip. (you could do it in the blender too you will just need to add a bit more oil and make sure to stir it ALOT.) ENJOY!!!!

Hint #2: You can make any flavor Ice Cream you want if you have a good vanilla ice cream. Just take your favorite vanilla ice cream and put it in you mixer and add any flavor to get what you want. Rocky road just add marshmallows fluff or small marshmellows whichever you prefer, peanuts, chocolate syrup, and chocolate pieces and there you go. It is a bit like cold stone creamery right in your house! Think how much fun you can have with you kids and all the money you can save! FYI if you want a flavor like coffee you will need to reduce the coffee down in a sauce pot or make really strong coffee in a french press to get a strong enough flavor!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

day one, day off

...since i haven't been in the kitchen today i have nothing to report on that front, but if you want a delicious deli sandwich i can point you in the right direction. I had a wonderful lunch with friends at Manny's Deli on Jefferson, I would definitely recommend it if you want a good pastrami sandwich and an amazing potato pancake. Make sure you have a knish...On top of great food its nice to get out with friends and have a good laugh and remember what life is like when I'm not working it away.