Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Leaving it to the Pros.

I don't have much experience with the whole meat-less lifestyle. I went a few years attempting to be a quasi-meat eater, only eating chicken and fish, but even then I would cheat every six months or so and go to town on an In-N-Out Burger. I guess I'm fine with my omnivore lifestyle because I'm a fan of the food chain, and like to pretend it's ok that the animals I eat were raised for that purpose (which kind of negates the point of the food chain, but whatever). I'm not insensitive, I'm an animal lover, we know this. I won't eat foie gras, because I have seen in person how those geese/ducks are force fed (plus it tastes like fat). And to my knowledge, I have never even tasted veal. And don't plan to.

That said, I have a lot of respect for vegetarians (at least the kind that let you eat next to them without a grimace on their face while citing evil facts and such). It's a difficult choice to make, and I admire their conviction—and depending on their reasons behind it, it's an understandable decision.

I know I claim to make a lot of 'veggie' meals, but I've never tried a true vegan dish. So when I saw a pic of my one true vegan buddy's breakfast the other day, I figured she could do a much better job in this department than I can. And so, I turn it over to fellow Central Cali-an and blogger Jessica. Like me, she's a big fan of big taste and small effort...Thanks so much for sharing your recipe and writing this all up! It looks absolutely delish...and from your hubby's ravings, sounds like it tasted just as good! It's on my 'to-try asap' list.

She was also kind/smart enough to include a little glossary for us meat-eaters at the end of the recipe. Enjoy!

Vegan Sausage and Spinach Frittata
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ yellow onion, chopped
½ package vegan sausage (I used Lightlife Gimme Lean)*
1 block extra firm tofu
1 ½ cups cooked chopped spinach
Vegetable broth
Unsweetened almond milk
Ener-G egg replacer* (or cornstarch could would work)
2 TB Nutritional yeast*
8 spears of asparagus, quickly steamed
Preheat oven to 400.
In a large sauté pan, sweat onion and garlic in olive oil.  When translucent, crumble sausage into pan and brown.  In a bowl, mash cold tofu with fork until crumbled.  Add tofu and spinach to sauté pan and add a splash of vegetable broth to deglaze the pan.   Add in pepper and salt, to taste.  Warm throughout and then add in about a cup of your milk substitute of choice.  You want the mixture wet, but not thin.  Sprinkle about a teaspoon or two of egg replacer (or cornstarch) over the top along with nutritional yeast and fresh or dried parsley and chives.  Mix well and pour into baking dish.  Press asparagus spears into the mixture.  You can quickly steam them, or if you’re lazy like me, buy a package of already cooked frozen spears from Trader Joe’s and just use those.
Place dish into oven until bubbling and browned.  Depending on how deep your dish is, you could bake this from 25 to 45 min.  You’ll know when it’s ready when you shake the dish and the frittata doesn’t jiggle.  Let cool for 5 minutes before devouring.
Served with some ketchup, this thing is a brunch dish from heaven.  When your omnivore husband goes back thrice**, it’s a winner. Big thanks to Pam for inviting me to be a guest on her fabulously delicious blog!

If you’re not vegan/vegetarian, some of these items may sound unfamiliar or even frightening. I’ll elaborate a little on each to better acquaint readers

Vegan sausage; Comes in all shapes and textures. The tube of Gimme Lean is nice because you can slice it into patties or crumble it into dishes. I often crumble it into breakfast potatoes and peppers for a brunch potluck dish and the omnivores are none the wiser.

Ener-G egg replacer: This yellow and orange box is easily found in health food stores. It’s a mixture of tapioca and potato starch. An excellent stand-in for eggs in baking, but it is also useful in dishes like these, which are normally entirely egg-based. The tofu replicates the eggs, but the Ener-G gives it a little puff-up and hold. Cornstarch would work just as well here.

Nutritional Yeast: An excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Lends a cheesy/nutty flavor and creamy texture to dishes. Mix it into soups, stews and casseroles or sprinkle it atop veggies for a B12-filled cheesy boost.

**You’re welcome, Conan.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Jamie Oliver Experiment

I'm not sure how I feel about Jamie Oliver. I mean, I hardly ever watch him, and I don't know much about him...Being British indisputably gives him that pompous air, which is bad, yet funny (you know this is true)…but he's got that laid-back vibe going on, which is good...so far, the worst thing I can find about him is that his children are named Poppy Honey Rosie, Daisy Boo Pamela, Petal Blossom Rainbow and Buddy Bear Maurice. Though, really. That's, well...siiiigh. I can't talk crap about people's kids. Even if it's just their names. But come. on. Even for a big hippie-fan like myself, that's kinda much.

Anyway. Hubby bought me one of his cookbooks for Christmas, and thumbing through it, we both saw tons that looked great. So, as a heads-up, we'll be adding a lot of his recipes in the next few months.

This particular recipe came from his website; I was at work when I made my shopping list, so the first couple we're going to try are basically our 'intro to Jamie' recipes. Starting with Linguine with Tomatoes and Capers.

At the beginning, I was a little worried. A) I had never heard of tomato passata, and even me, the Google Queen, couldn't find any definitive explanations for it. Instead, it was a bunch of generic, "it's sorta tomato paste but not tomato paste and sometimes it's cooked and sometimes it's not and it's not really sauce but it's kinda sauce...and so I was forced to wing it. And B) This is basically red clam linguine, sans clam. And since I think the clam is the best part of red clam linguine, I was worried it would be pretty much blah.

All was fine. For my passata, I chopped a brown onion and about 6 garlic cloves, sauteed them in a bit of olive oil about 5 minutes, then added about half a can of tomato puree (the big can). Cooked a few minutes and then proceeded with the recipe. Easy, especially with my chopper. And I do love easy.

Final results? We both give thumbs up. Simple, fast, and tasty. Make sure and use the lemon, btw, I think it brightens it up quite a bit.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Insert Pickle joke here...

Oh. good. god. Our curry last night was over spiced. In my own defense, I only have a couple years of experience in this realm under my belt. One day, when perfected, you will get a recipe. Until then, however, you have to listen to my frustrations. And Hubby didn't mind much, since that's basically how he likes it, but it was a bit much for this little white girl. Probably cause I used Madras curry AND garam masala, and it definitely needed more curry than masala, and significantly less of both. Yowsers.

So, yeah, my bad. But what I don't understand, when dealing with flavor-packed curries, is why pickle makes it easier to eat.

Do we not know pickle? (Yeah, I'm asking that kind of like an a-hole, cause I had no idea what it was pre-Hubby.) Pickle is basically a type of relish. Personally, I'm fond of either lime pickle or chili-mango pickle. The Husband likes his garlic pickle, not surprisingly…but no matter what kind you like, it's going to make whatever you're eating alongside it crazy tasty.

I really don't know how to describe it…it's super sour and spicy…like an insanely rich sour chutney? I don't know. It's not something you eat on its own, but I've had it on everything from plain white rice to super intense Indian foods. So if you're into Indian food, or just up for something new, I recommend picking some up and trying it for yourself. You probably will have to go to a specialty store, so if you're interested and don't have one around, let me know…I've got paypal and have a UPS guy on speed dial.

Seriously, it's good. Trust me on this one.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

French Onion Chicken

Well, Laura, you asked...here you go.

I do love me some French Onion soup. As soup…as a side dish…and apparently, as chicken. This is totally one of those pantry meals that just worked out. Though caramelizing onions never doesn't work out. Ya know??

Hope you enjoy. I'm off to make the man some Indian curry.

French Onion Chicken
One yellow onion, halved and sliced
2 chicken breasts
2 slices provolone or swiss
Beef broth, about a half cup
Thyme, chopped
Parsley to top

Cook onion over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until all brown and cooked down (in other words, caramelize them). Remove from pan and keep warm.

Sprinkle chicken well with S&P and fresh thyme.

Coat pan is cooking spray, brown chicken for about 3 minutes, then flip. Pour in a good splash of sherry and cook down. Add broth, turn to medium low, and cover. If needed, add more sherry as the chicken cooks, about 10 minutes.

Turn over chicken, and place one slice of cheese on each breast. Spoon over caramelized onion. Cover and let cheese melt for a couple of minutes.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Moroccan Beef and Butternut Squash Tagine

I'm still not feeling great, but after spending 18 hours in bed, I had to at least try and be productive. So I vacuumed, I cleaned the bathroom, I washed sheets...the essentials.

As a sidenote, I've also been putting the new TiVo Premiere to good use. This thing is amazing, and it's not even hooked up to cable yet! (apparently only 4 service guys in Kern County are familiar with TiVo Premiere, which requires a special cable card instead of the normal cable box. I am not joking. Couldn't get an appt for 3 weeks.)

You know I love Netflix. And I also love my TiVo. So the fact that this combines the two makes me oh-so-happy. (It streams Netflix and blockbuster on demand, pandora, YouTube, picassa, etc. etc. etc.)

Ramona helped set it up. Good god, every cat toy we own made it in this shot. Spoiled little shits.

Anyway, I have discovered the show Bones about 6 years late, and since Netflix carries the entire series on demand...it's embarrassing/disgusting how many epis I've watched this week. So to sum up, I love Netflix, I love TiVo, and I love Bones...and I'm not entirely sure what my point was there. And I love making the most of being sick? Sure. Moving on.

Being sick also means soup and not cooking. But since I bought meat for stew 3 days ago, I figured I better use it asap. So the Moroccan Beef and Butternut Squash Tagine I saw in Cooking Light it is.

I wish you could smell my house. It's cinnamony and spicy, garlicky and meaty.

(Yes, I shot from this angle so you can see my new adorable kettle. Everything in my kitchen is becoming orange and red and I love it.)

Here is the recipe I took this from. My only changes were pre-cut butternut squash, a bit of extra garlic and all spices, parsley instead of cilantro, and using a cheaper cut of meat. Problem with cheap meat, however, is that you've got to cook it differently.

Instead of only cooking 5 minutes once the tomatoes boil, I turned the heat to low, covered it, and let it cook slowly til soft for about an hour. Then I put in the squash and cooked until they were done. I also added a small mixture (a tbsp or so) of cornstarch and water to thicken it before I added the squash.

I chopped some extra shallots and garlic when I was prepping the stew, and sautéed them quickly for a couscous (below) to serve.

Herbed Couscous
1/2 cup couscous
1 cup broth
1 chopped shallot
2 chopped garlic cloves
1 thinly sliced green onion
About a 1/2 tsp fresh chopped thyme
Small handful chopped Italian parsley

Add the broth to the sauteed shallots and garlic, bring to a boil, then add couscous, turn off heat, cover, and let stand 10-15 minutes.

Add herbs. Add salt if you'd like (or are having it on its own), but with the Tagine it really doesn't need it.

New Year's cleaning time

What I really want (and by want, I obviously mean need) to clean today is my house. But as I'm in bed with the flu (again, damn you flu shot!!) I'm going to settle for cleaning out my phone instead.

My photo album on my phone is utterly ridiculous. It basically goes food, cat, food, food, food, cat, food, human, food...you follow me here. And the last few months of 2010 were crazy for us, so only a small number of these pics actually got blogged about, and there's no way for me to catch up now...so here's my solution.

As always, if something catches your eye, let me know and the recipe is yours. So here we go. Out with the old, so they say...here's a bit of what you missed.

We both know I have more, but I'm tired of photoshopping and this is making me hungry. So as of today, I am moving forward. No more 2010 food. Tonight, I'm going to attempt to get up and cooking, cause I want to try a Moroccan beef tagine. If it's worth it, I'll be posting. If not, the inevitable photo I take before digging in is going bye-bye. Cause really...I need more humans in my photo album.

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ever seen snow capped palms before?

Ahh, another new year. And for once, I have stories from the big night itself! See, we're bad about celebrating...I tried for hours to remember what we had done to ring in 2010, only to have hubby later remind me we sat on the couch and tried to keep our eyes open.

Festive, I know.

So this year, finally, we made plans to spend the weekend in San Diego. Hubs goes down every year around the 30th for a football bowl game (I'm not invited...), and I'm always trying to convince him to stay a few days longer and have me meet him there. Luckily, this year I had back up—our boy G-Lowe went with him to the game and was a big fan of the idea.

The weekend was awesome. It was also a borderline disaster. So let's just sum it up, shall we?

Wednesday: I realize I have no shoes to wear with my new dress. Decide to ensure a last minute zappos.com delivery by paying for overnight delivery.

Thursday: Literally track down my UPS guy on his cell phone and chase him around town to get my shoes. Alas, zappos=fail. Though he did have a Christmas present for Hubby I forgot I ordered. Eh.

Friday: G-Lowe's girl and I head out of town at 7:30am. UPS man calls at 9 (as we're already through LA) to tell me he's got my shoes. Great...

Make it to SD in record time-meet up with the boys, then head to Pizza Nova for lunch. Pizza Nova, btw, is delicious. Just in case you've got one around. The roasted garlic appetizer...yum. Lunch is followed by a drive around the bay to downtown, where we picked up some passes for the night, then back to the hotel for a nap for our tired, hungover men. (I watched Minority Report...wtf is going on in that movie??)

Dress up (sans new shoes). Taxi Downtown. Hennesey's Tavern. Rock Bottom. Minor panic attack on my account. Back to the hotel at 11. Champagne, champagne, champagne. Sleep.

Saturday: I needed the ocean, so we headed to Ocean Beach for lunch/wandering. Not much beats breakfast with a view...

Though walking the pier isn't exactly a terrible waste of time, either. Gorgeous day=happy campers.

I could stare at this all day.

Once they dragged me away (all the while shooting Mr. Iowa aka G-Lowe eye death-rays for saying the beach smells 'gross'), it was back to the hotel, minor drama at the Old Town Saloon, deliciousness with a handful of my faves at Harney Sushi, ridiculousness at the Lamplighter (including a Living on a Prayer karaoke duet by the hubby and the Canadian, natch), hotel, sleep.

Sunday: Ah, Sunday, the day the fun really started. See, it takes about 4ish hours to drive from San Diego back to the Central Valley. So by leaving at noon, we figured we'd have enough time to settle back home, give the poor kitties some much needed attention, do dinner, etc.

Not so much. Instead, it went like this.
12:30pm On the road
1:30pm Island's Restaurant in the OC (Mmmm, our necessary staple)
5:30pm Traffic stops. Snowing at the base of the pass (at like 1500 ft, wtf??). 5 freeway shuts down at the Grapevine, we are re-routed to the back highway (the 14, aka, BFE).

Let me just insert here that Californians, especially southerners, do not understand snow. It falls, everyone freaks out. And as people are freaking out and there are no snow plows, the five lane highway becomes, well, what I like to call a 'clusterfuck.' Actual lanes are not used...cars are turned sideways... Miatas are sliding into ditches...basically, after 30 miles and 2.5 hours of this business, it was time to pull over and reevaluate.

8:30pm Debate ensues regarding Motel 6 vs. powering through. The boys won. And so we stayed.

9:00pm Um, Motel 6s are GROSS.
"What IS that on the bed skirt?...What the eff is that SMELL?...Seriously? How many people are in the room next door?...SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS THAT SMELL????"

6:00am Wake up to check the weather report. Not only is the 5 still closed, but now our alternate route is closed. And back to sleep we go. (the room still smelled, btw)

9:00am Debate ensues: Take the 101 (um, a 10 hour drive), or wait a bit longer until something changes. Decide on 101. Then change minds. Pack up so we can head across the parking lot for breakfast to kill some time. Open the door to find this. Kind of awesome.

10:00am Realize cops in Palmdale are assholes. Or just have way too much time on their hands, cause one drove through the parking lot at 8am ticketing the snow-covered cars with 2-day expired plates belonging to stranded people.
(Dear DMV, next year, a notice that my registration is due would be fantastic. This year you sent nothing, and I do not keep my car's registration date (Dec. 14, apparently) at the front of my memory. Cause, really? Come on. You owe me $34 for a ticket. Love/Screw You, Pammy)

Annnnnyway, we finally got home at like 3:30...27 hours after we first left. Exhausted, dirty (I was so not getting in that motel shower), hungry...ugh. But it was an adventure, for sure. I'm rather excited to spend next New Year's back on the couch.

And I'm still bitter about my ticket.

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thanks for the chopper, ma

I forget how time consuming Crunchy Chicken Casserole can be...it's not hard, but it's a lot of pre-cooking and chopping. So as I stood pouting about my lack of an egg slicer, the lightbulb went on—I got a dicer for Christmas!

If only I'd remembered before I'd chopped onion, celery, and water chestnuts.

Next time. In the meantime, I'll let the Vidalia Chopper speak for itself. (Mama, I love you for loving "As Seen On TV" stuff. Gadgets are fun.)

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.