Friday, December 28, 2007

The Veganomicon

My husband trains for marathons...
I play World of Warcraft...
My husband worries about what he eats...
I eat butter pats (sorry guys and gals, gross but true)...

His cholesterol levels are off the charts (think Lipitor for the under 30)...
Mine, well, all of my typical doctor-type test levels rock (thank you ever forgiving Irish genes)...


As a wedding present we received a gift certificate to Borders and as usual I check out the cooking section. This time I pick up the Veganomicon, in my estimation a bonifide vegan cooking bible. Let me say folks, (awesome name and all) it does not disappoint.

Now for the record, I'm not sure I am a person who will ever go completely vegan (although for the most part, I'll try anything once). The fact remains however that I have the tendancy to take vegetables and fry them, boil them, bake them, or salad them and not much else - the "not much else" part being: actually seasoning them or really making something out of them as a stand-alone.

In tandem with this, how, how I asked myself, does one cook without cheese? (Cheese is apparently one of the cholesterol enemies? *sigh*)

Cooking vegetables? A forgotten art?

How did this happen to a self-described avid vegetable gardener?

Anyway, if you get a chance check out the Veganomicon. It's simple to use and definitely foodie. It is filled with recipes (meals and desserts) that are off the charts and made completely from flora.

Two new favorites: Coconut-lemon bundt cake, lasagne marinara with spinach

A note on the lasagne: I have to say that this really blew me away. Lasagne without cheese? Admittedly, my initial motivation was curiosity. What exactly would homemade tofu "ricotta" possibly taste like? In the end, the dish was a hit and even hubby - the ultimate cheese hound - loved it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Frozen chicken don't have to taste like frostbit ass.

We buy bags of frozen chicken because they are convenient and in the long run cheaper. I don't know why I feel the need to defend myself but hey I do so...

I've been making fairly quick and tasty dish: Chicken in a pan. With vegetables. Don't go nuts all at once now. Here's the break down.

Frozen chicken breast(s) - not thawed.
A cup or two of vegetable or chicken stock.
A liberal dose of oil - olive, whatever you want.
A good splash of vermouth.
A good splash of Rose's Lime Juice.
A punch of Kosher Salt.
Black pepper.
A couple of good doses of Top Secret spice mix.
A fistful of crushed garlic cloves...or less if you're not a garlic fan.
Some kind of herb - whatever you have sitting around and want to use.
A skillet/saute pan with a lid.

Heat up your skillet over med heat, crush the garlic, heat the oil, brown the garlic, gently place the frozen (not thawed) chicken breasts in the pan. Add everything into the pan, cover the chicken in spices and herbs, leave the heat where it is, cover the pan. Go smoke a cigarette or switch out the laundry or watch Robot Chicken then come back. Turn the chicken over, add more stock/broth, spices, herbs. Cover. Prep whatever vegetables you want - I like to use red peppers and onions but I'm sure anything would work. Start your rice or pasta or whatever you want. Look at the chicken, does the chicken look done? Does the liquid on the bottom look kind of good and browned and kind of saucy? OK, take the chicken out and put it aside on a plate. Put the prepped vegetables in the pan and move them around until they are done. I usually slice up the chicken and add it back to the mix and turn off the heat and cover until my rice or pasta is done. Add your chicken to whatever and eat. Yay! Dinner!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Iron Cook is da joint!

The end-of-the-monthly competition is going to be finger food/appetizers. If you're in the Austin area you should get in on this. It's a good excuse to we need an excuse. It's also a pretty relaxed atmosphere to just hang out and bullshit about food and assorted goodness.

Here's the link. Go there. Now. Shoo.

Neat-o kitchen crap you didn't want but now do.

I try to avoid being all sucked in by gimmicky or pretty much useless kitchen junk but sometimes form over function gets me. The Zero Gravity Spice Rack from Zevro one is pretty darn neat and only $24. Personally I am kind of a sucker for well designed organization doodads - everything in its place and what not. The prices are pretty reasonable as well when compared to Williams-Sonoma or something comparable.

Zero Gravity maybe all well and good but this chrome spice rack is something I would like to have in my stainless steel, chrome, and black marble futuristic dream kitchen.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Secret Ingredient (the first)

My Secret Ingredient #1:
Compound Butter

To those out of the know, compound butter is basically butter with herbs in it. Yep. That simple. Deelish on anything grilled, especially fish. Make different varieties and store them in your freezer so they're on hand!

My Method:
Take 2 sticks of UNsalted butter, and set them in a glass bowl. Set them atop your stove while something is baking or just pop them in while it's warm. I know this takes a while, but a little patience goes a long way. If you want to irradiate them instead, for gods' sake put your box on the lowest setting! Our goal here is to soften the stuff, not melt or clarify it. Mix in about a tablespoon of olive oil as well to soften even further.

Meanwhile, pick out which herbs you want in there. For each stick of butter, use about 2 tbsp of herbs. If fresh, dice as finely as possible. If dried, crush to release oils. Fresh herbs look and taste better, but we can't always get them on a shoestring budget, now can we? You can also use liquid extracts, about 1/2 tbsp. Yes, I said extracts! They're not for Grandma anymore!

Good Herb Pairings:
Dill, black pepper and lemon juice (or lemon extract); cilantro, chiles and lime juice; herbs de provence (That's marjoram, thyme, savory, basil, rosemary, sage and fennel, for the non-foodies out there). Shallots are good for a more intense onion/garlic flavor. Oh, and PLEASE don't use raw garlic! Roast, roast, roast!

I love plain ole roasted garlic. Cut off the tops of garlic bulbs, drizzle with EVOO and roast @ 400 until brown. Now, the roasted garlic is all smooshy, and we want our butter to have a nice consistency instead of chunks of garlic, so I recommend throwing the garlic into a Cuisinart and adding the softened butter & olive oil a little bit at at time. Add parsley or black pepper for that speckled herby look.

You also can make a sweet butter with sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of vanilla extract for baking or just spreading on toast. You can take this butter-for-toast idea and run with it! Think fruit butter, mmm...

Back to The Method:
So basically, toss the herbs into the softened butter and mix. An electric beater is best to get the butter nice and creamy and everything evenly distributed. A spoon or whisk and elbow grease works too. You can add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil at this stage if you'd like a softer butter.

Now we're wrapping it up. Sprinkle water on the counter and lay down a nice layer of cling wrap. (Love that trick!) Then glop your compound butter down onto it, keeping it roughly in an oblong shape. Then pick up the wrap and, well, wrap. Our goal here is a rolled, sausage sort of shape. Twist the ends tight, and then wrap again in heavy aluminum foil so it keeps its shape. Now pop it in the fridge/freezer to cool. Store in the freezer and cut off slices whenever you need em!

That's it!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Now taking requests for the Summer spice mix.

That's right. There was a Christmas mix...okay a mix that came out around Christmas but didn't have any funky "holiday" peppermint or nog or anything mulled. Now I think I'm gonna make a Summer batch. Something probably spicier than last time. Let me know if you want something a lot spicier and I'll put something together for ya.

Just let me know and send a mailing address and I'll get something out to ya.

Good Eats win a Peabody.

Is there anything Alton Brown can't do?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Brussels Sprouts

Most people don't like Brussels Sprouts then again most people like American Idol. I like Brussels Sprouts, in particular I like them roasted. Here's a simple way to do it. I actually stole this recipe from Playboy a million years ago and only half remember it.

Get a bag of Brussels Sprouts.
Boil some water.
Preheat the over to about 400...give or take depending on your oven.
Blanch the Brussels Sprouts for a couple of minutes - about 5 or one cigarette.
Drain and rinse off whatever loose leaves or dirt is left.

So far so good? Here comes the hard part.

Toss the Sprouts in olive oil, bread crumbs, coarse ground pepper, kosher salt, and "shakey" cheese.

Put the sprouts on a baking sheet. Personally I put a layer of tin foil on the sheet so I don't have to clean up afterwards.

Put the baking sheet and the sprouts in the oven. Cook for a half hour. Shake them around, throw some more breadcrumbs on them if you want, put them back in the oven for another 20-30 minutes.

Poke them with a fork. If they look done then they are done.

Serve with whatever you feel like eating with Brussel Sprouts. Chicken's a safe bet.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Of Cake and Rabid Babies

My niece is 14 months old now and I think I've stumbled upon evidence that she is in fact my child. At the very least we're kindred spirits, the first evidence of which is manifesting itself through food.

When my niece was born she was a shrimpy little thing. She still is. However, what has become apparent is that she can eat. I mean not only does she eat, but she really packs it away. AND apparently she already has favorites.

When the cake came out to the table this Easter, she tranformed from "cute baby" to "rabid for cake baby". She beelined for the cake (she was sitting on the cleaned post-supper table: mistake) and needed to be restrained mid-way through. In reaction to this she cried - a wail of anguish from the depths of her small soul. Now here's the best part: of course she was to have cake and as my sister cut her piece she began to shake. Yes, my niece shook and kicked her feet with baby excitement/glee over her slice.

Oh... the places we'll go and the things we will eat someday wee one.

So in solumn salute, here is one of my favorites gleened from The Herb and Spice Handbook by Arabella Boxer. The instructons she gives are more detailed, but what's below will work too.

This is for you small cake-rabid one (or at least it will be someday when you have more teeth and can handle the sugar content).

Oven: Preheated to 350

The goods:

6 tablespoons of butter
4 ounces of chocolate (The author recommends semisweet, but there is room to play. I like and have used the darker stuff.)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons of flour
3 eggs
heavy cream

Melt the chocolate. Once melted let cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Add butter 'til mixed through and then stir in flour and sugar. Separate your eggs and throughly mix in your egg yolks. Then whisk your egg whites until stiff and fold them into the chocolate goodness.

Fill your pan with the chocolate mix. I'm not a very scientific cook, so I say find a pan that seems to fit and go with it. Rough guidelines: you should butter the pan first and the mixture should fill your pan just over half way. Bake for 15 minutes (the cake should/will rise) and remove from oven. Let cool.

Frosting: Lightly whip heavy cream. I can't imagine using a sugary frosting for this. The thought makes me twitch.

The book recommends adding strawberries and mint inside and over after baking. I haven't tried this but I think it could be fantastic.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Breakfast tacos.

I didn't know what the hell a breakfast taco was when I moved to Texas way back in 1999. No seriously, I'll tell you a story:

I had some tortillas, some bacon, a fried egg, and some hot sauce. I slapped them together. I made another one. I made another one. I thought that I had discovered something new and exciting. Later that day I told a co-worker my brilliant innovation and they just kind of...looked at me. Then said, "You made breakfast tacos." I can smile about it now but at the time it was terrible.

Breakfast tacos are kind of a big deal here in Austin, TX. Practically every where has breakfast tacos - gas stations, cafes, coffee joints, bakeries, truck stops, you name it. Sometimes they are really piss poor - gluey tortillas, rubbery eggs, bland beans, half cooked bacon. Sometimes they are totally completely awesome and will banish hangovers, evil spirits, dark thoughts, and will cure gout. There's a taco truck next to a construction site near work -Carmen's - that has quite possibly the best that I have had. Over stuffed with fresh, light scrambled eggs, crispy - almost burnt slabs of bacon, and great tortillas. Cheap too, plus it's kind of awesome to stand there wolfing down breakfast tacos and a real Coke with a bunch of construction workers.

Breakfast tacos come in any number of variations but most common is egg & potato or egg & bacon. The main constant is that the eggs are scrambled. If I make them at home I just fry the egg - I'm a big fan of the sunny side up.

You can use a good red salsa - not to chunky or watery. A good verde is my personal favorite - the citrus and bright heat makes for a great wake-up call. Hell, good old fashioned hot sauce - Lousiana Sunshine, Cajun Chef, or some of the awesome cheaper than a buck a bottle Mexican stuff. If you don't have access to the cheap Mexican stuff let me know and I'll send you some.

I'm still pretty much a Yankee because I haven't truly begun to appreciate corn tortillas. I'm a flour tortilla man myself. Then again most places I go to have flour tortillas for breakfast then corn or flour for lunch. If anyone has any insights please let me know.

Here's a quick recipe for those of you who are unfamiliar:

Make some scrambled eggs.
Make some thick sliced bacon or salt pork.
Get some kick ass salsa.
Flour tortillas.

Slap the damn things together. Eat. Get ready to start grilling and drinking.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

All right!

Starting up a new off shoot site here. Was thinking that a straight up food/cooking/eating/feeding/general chatter about food would be entertaining. If it works it works...if it doesn't then it doesn't. We shall see.