Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jamie's Spicy Meat Gumbo

I know I teased more Jamie recipes last week than I actually posted about...but that was for your own good. Beer Butt Chicken was fine (and very juicy, even though I was worried my prehistoric oven over-cooked it), but nothing earth shattering...although Hubby has since insisted it was worth posting about. Maybe if I use a better rub next time. I'll keep you posted. As is, my favorite part is that it looked more than slightly inappropriate before and after cooking:


I also made Zucchini and Couscous made a ton and, over the course of a couple days, I ate a ton...but to be honest, it's pretty similar to my Greek Chicken and Quinoa Salad, and I prefer the latter. It was good, but something was missing for me.

Yesterday, however, I attempted one of his Gumbo recipes...and it's worth sharing. There were a few changes I had to make: his version calls for sweet potato and fresh herbs, all of which I was out of, but omitting the potato was fine, and dried thyme and bay leaves worked just as well. I also added the hot sauce, since my cayenne pepper seemed a little questionable, and used beef broth instead of chicken. Served over some white rice and we pretty much destroyed it. It was hard to just have one serving. (But I did. It's not exactly low-fat.)

I'm not going to lie and say this is an easy one...I mean, it's not difficult, but it does take time (About 2.5 hours, AKA way more than I anticipated—otherwise I would have done it on a weekend). Just pay attention to it and, as Jamie says, 'dedicate a bit of love' to it.

Also, and this is gross...I'm recommending you take the skin off the chicken either from the start or after you brown it. Between that and the bacon and sausage, I skimmed off a good 1/2+ cup of fat/attached broth while it cooked. It took forever to do, and liquid fat is just nasty to deal with.

Meat Gumbo
olive oil
1 package bone-in chicken thighs (about 6)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or about 2 tsp Frank's or other cayenne sauce)
3 spicy sausages, thickly sliced (I used the Spicy Louisiana flavor)
4 slices of smoked bacon, chopped roughly
Large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
3 tbsp flour
6 cloves garlic
leaves of 6 thyme leaves, or a little less than a tsp dried
4 bay leaves
6 cups broth
green onion to top

Season chicken with salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. In a large pan (You need a big one), heat a bit of olive oil (I'm sure spray would have worked fine), and add the chicken, sausage and bacon. Let brown a few minutes over high heat, then flip and stir fry it all around for about 10-15 minutes or until everything is a little golden. Reduce heat to medium high and remove chicken from pan and place on a large plate. Cover with foil to keep warm.

The pan should have a bunch of drippings in it by now, so just add the veggies (onion, bell peppers, celery) and saute about 10 minutes (move it around a bit occasionally).

In the meantime, pour yourself a drink, grab a book, tune the station to something you like. Cause you're about to be stuck at the stove for awhile. Add the flour, and start stirring; slowly but very often is good. Jamie says it should be at least peanut-butter dark by about 10-15 minutes, but mine never got that dark, and I cooked it about 25 minutes. So...aim for darker than lighter, and cook between 10 and 30 minutes.

Stir in the broth, bay leaves, thyme, garlic, and a bit more pepper. When it comes to boil, reduce to a low boil (medium low heat or so), and cook about 45-60 minutes, stirring once in awhile. When it's ready, the chicken will easily pull off the bone.

When you're ready, remove the chicken from the pot, pull off all the meat, and return just the meat to the gumbo. Season to taste with S&P and hot sauce.

He says this serves 6-8...I say closer to 8. But Jamie loves his fat-kid portions. About 245 cals (plus rice) if you aim for 8 servings.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I love vacation.

Especially when Thai places deliver.

The Russian and I are in Marina Del Rey having some girl time, eating Tom Yum Gai in bed while watching 50 First Dates. It's pretty much amazing. Lazy? Yes. But it's raining outside. The only thing that could be better is if we were watching a terrible Lifetime movie.

The soup, PS, is all broth, chicken, and straw mushrooms. In other words, it's perfection.

Way to go, Siamese Garden. (

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sushi: A Valentine's Day Story

If you're a fan of my Facebook page, you know I had a hard time deciding where to go with hubby for an early V-day dinner. My options were sushi from Toro, Caribbean tapas from Mama Roomba's, or basque from Chalet Basque. (I apparently need to talk to these people about having websites done, btw) We eventually decided on Toro, which was fitting, seeing that we inevitably drop far more cash than we intend to every time we go, and therefore reserve it only for special occasions, i.e. Birthdays and Valentine's Day.

Anyway, the night was bittersweet. As usual, it was great atmosphere with great people watching (the girl next to me was wearing a gigantor wrist corsage and face bedazzling, even though it appeared she was on a date with her mother), but it was also kind of a rude awakening, food wise. Because I finally realized I really don't like sushi.

I've always thought I loved sushi. Hubby's and my first date was at Zen 5, and while it was 6+ years ago and I have no clue what was ordered, I know we loved it (though it may have been our infatuation haze)…I love, love Sushi Deli in downtown San Diego (though my favorite thing is the scallops dynamite…which is baked…and I've almost mastered.)

So it's confusing for me, because I turn up my nose at California rolls (psssh, for beginners), yet shy away from rainbow rolls (that's a LOT of raw fish),and my favorite appetizer at Toro is seared Ahi (AKA the Screaming Orgasm).


But no matter where we go, I'm almost always disappointed by rolls. I don't like when they have extraneous stuff on top:
I don't like too much fish, and I shy away from tempura (calories, not taste). I do like anything with eel, eel sauce, and/or avocado…and now that I've finally realized I only want Dragon rolls (eel and avo), I have no idea what the hell to order next time. Cause why go to a fancy place for a super standard roll?

Well, cause I can have Sapporo and sake, and both of those typically equal a good (yet overpriced) night for me. So next time we hit Toro, I'm going for the Korean part of the menu. (And I'm not ordering green tea ice cream. Not only should it be free, it should not be doused in ridiculousness. Really Toro? Keep it simple. WTF.) Or better yet, maybe we'll just hit up some Tapas and Sangria. Or Basque and wine...My birthday is coming up…

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jamie's Green Chili

One of the most interesting things about this cookbook is that he seems to have traveled deep into parts of the country most of us will never go. This particular dish, Green Chili, is a Navajo dish from Arizona, and it really isn't like anything else I've made. It's a little like a taco, a little like a lettuce wrap, a little bit southwestern, a little bit Cali-fusion. I mean, look at these fresh ingredients! Not exactly what I think of when I think 'chili,' which to me typically means meat, beans, and spices...maybe with a can or two of tomatoes thrown in. So this was a welcome change from the norm.

How come his and mine always look so different? Where's the tomato, Jamie??

So there's a bit of chopping involved in this one, but Jamie uses one of my favorite cooking phrases over and over here: Rough Chop. Love it. Especially since it's got a bell pepper, and it's damn near impossible to cut bell peppers evenly. Or maybe that's just me...anyway, I cut down the quantities of everything a bit, since he called for 1.75lbs of meat and I only had a bit over 1lb, but hubby and I both thought it turned out great. It's definitely spicy, but the yogurt and lime help with that, so don't skimp.

Green Chili
olive oil
package lean ground pork
dried sage, about a tsp
Really big onion, roughly chopped
large bell pepper, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
4 green chilies, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
a couple green onions, sliced thin
flour tortillas
greek yogurt

Heat a splash of olive oil in large pan over high heat, add pork, sage and a big pinch each of salt and pepper. Break meat apart and let cook about 5 minutes. Add onions, garlic, bell peppers and chilies, stir fry everything about 20 minutes or until they start to brown a bit and all the liquid is gone. (It may take less or more time depending on what kind of pan you're using)

Add tomatoes and a bit of water (1/4 cup or so—you want it pretty dry), and let cook over medium for 10 minutes or so. Stir in the juice of a lime, half of the mint, and more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over hot flour tortillas, topped with chopped lettuce, and a bit of greek yogurt. Sprinkle with the rest of the mint and green onion.

Makes four big servings. Minus the tortilla, about 260 calories each.

I'm so ready to cook.

After last week's non-cooking, I'm ready for a challenge…so it's officially Jamie Oliver week. I totally got excited/ahead of myself and shopped for like a week's worth of food...only to later realize that I'd only be cooking Sunday, Monday, Tuesday (only for myself, Hubby has a game), and Wednesday...Thursday I'll be in LA hanging with Daniel Tosh (as well as two of my fave gf's), followed by a ridic weekend of LA/SD/LA/back home. So needless to say, a lot of what I bought ended up in the freezer. On the menu we have beer butt chicken, green chili, and couscous and zucchini salad...and once things are thawed, we also have gumbo and enchiladas. First, however, we're trying braised pork with greens and turnips.

I have never made collared or other greens…I've only even used kale and swiss chard like once each, so I have no idea what I'm doing. Jamie was kinda vague, so I did a quick peek around the interweb and took some advice from Ms. Paula Deen—after washing the greens, I cut out the hard center stalks before slicing them. Pretty sure this was a good call, cause they were super tender.

Jamie's recipe also calls for pork knuckle…I have no idea what that is, and the only real descriptions I found online were less than helpful ("A lean boneless cut from the tip portion which is the front part of the leg above the kneecap also known as the forecushion of the hog. Braised or "red cooked" pork knuckle is a classic Shanghainese dish"......oh.). Whatever the hell it is, Vons definitely didn't have it…so we went with pork shoulder, instead. And it was fantastic...fall off the bone-tender-fantastic.

As I served this, I told Hubby that Jamie is convinced that everyone has a favorite part, be it veggies, pork or broth, and to be ready to pick one. So once all the dishes were clean and we were settling down for the Grammys (you're so welcome to everyone who got to follow my running commentary on fb last night), I asked for his decision. His answer? "I liked the veggies...and the broth...and the meat was great."

Normally I would totally roll my eyes at this non-response, but to be honest, I totally agree. The meat was perfectly tender, the veggies were delish, and we both slurped up the broth at the end, totally face first. Next time I may even try this in the slow-cooker and see how it turns out. Cause there will definitely be a next time.

And with that, day one of the Jamie Oliver Experiment complete, I gotta say...I'm excited for the rest of the week.

Greens with Pork and Turnips
Pork Shoulder (ours was 3lbs, that was the smallest they had)
Cooking spray
4 Bay leaves
A couple large bunches of greens (I used one bunch of mustard greens and one bunch of kale, both washed and stalks removed)
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and cut in big pieces
2 or 3 stalks of celery, trimmed and cut in big pieces
4 or 5 medium sized turnips, peeled and quartered
Vinegar and tabasco to serve

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Coat a large soup/stock pan with cooking spray and heat over high heat. Be sure and use a large enough pan; I started with my dutch oven, but had to relocate everything to a stock pan once it came time for the veggies. Not something I recommend. When hot, add meat. Place two bay leaves on top and cook over high for a couple of minutes. Turn meat over, repeat with remaining bay leaves, and brown the other side another couple minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add about 3 cups water. When it comes to a boil, cover and let simmer over medium low for about 2 hours or until the meat starts falling off the bone. Add carrots, turnips and celery and a good pinch each of salt and pepper. If the water is really low, add another half cup or so. Cook about 20 minutes, add greens (smash them down if you need to!), stir it up a bit, and cook another 30 minutes or so or until tender. (If you are using collard greens, they take longer, so put them in at the same time as the turnips, carrots and celery and cook about an hour total.)

The meat should be basically unattached from the bone at this point, so it should be easy to remove. Besides the bone, also remove any pieces of fat you can see and the bay leaves. Add a good few shakes of tabasco and/or vinegar before you dish it up (and we each added more tabasco at the table).

You'll probably want to serve with some bread to help mop up any extra goodness.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ahhh, fatkid food.

Far better for my psyche than my ass. But beneficial all the same.

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

We are finally out of bread.

And not a moment too soon.

I. want. meat. Or at least something completely different…I want sushi. Or tapas. Or, like, a hot dog. Seriously, I'm so bored with soup, salad and sandwiches I could go insane.

But with the exception of my caving for pho once and a $2.99 shrimp appetizer (plus wine) from Tahoe Joe's Happy Hour menu once, we spent less than $20 on food this week. Good to know it's possible, but not a fun experiment to try. Even if I did cheat...oops. Here's a run down of the "highlights."

Wednesday & Thursday
Made a little 'soup to go,' with shirataki noodles,* a mix of fish sauce, lemon grass, and sriracha, lemon and beef bouillon. Microwaved about 3 cups water with the bouillon till hot and added the rest of the stuff.

* If you haven't tried this stuff, consider it. It's kinda slippery, and it smells nasty (to get rid of that, drain and rinse them, then cover in water and microwave 1 minute and a half. Drain and rinse again and you're good to go), but those are non-issues when you consider the fact that a full package is 40 calories. That's literally like a tenth of that same amount of regular pasta. Amazing.

Cream of mushroom soup with a veggie sandwich…provolone, tomatoes, cukes, lettuce and homemade herbed cream cheese (light cream cheese with some finely chopped green onion, cilantro, garlic and grated romano—would make for a great cheese ball and is also fantastic on triscuits, btw.)

More soup…with a turkey, mustard, tomato, provolone and cuke sandwich.

Green salad a la Buffalo, AKA a bunch of greens with some light blue cheese dressing and some Frank's hot sauce…mostly hot sauce, seeing that we only had about a tbsp of dressing left. Not bad. And low cal. Seems to be a theme this week…

Ugh. Just looking at this stuff makes me bored. Yet what was the first thing I ate when I deposited my paycheck at lunch?

Vegetarian Pho. The irony kills me. Now watch me eat a salad for dinner.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

And it's only Tuesday.

We're poor this week. Like, have my understanding hair stylist hold my check, eat nothing but pantry meals, buy gas with pocket change poor.*

So, here's the plan. I made a double recipe of tomato soup, stocked up on bread and deli meat (using hubby's $8 Super Bowl winnings, cha-ching), and am intent on getting creative.

Please keep in mind this is all on-a shoestring ridiculousness. I'm not proposing you eat any of this (except the soup, definitely eat the soup), but in the spirit of full disclosure, I'm simply documenting. I can tell you one thing...I'm going to be over grilled cheese by Friday.

Start with the week with Tomato Soup and Cauliflower & Broccoli Au Gratin. Yes, because we had a bag of Steam-fresh Cauliflower & Broccoli. And about 2 tbsp of cheddar, total. It worked out. We're out of butter and/or margarine, though, so I totally went with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray. I'm not proud of this.

An almost exact repeat of my All-American Meal, except that this grilled cheese was two slices provolone, a bit of turkey, mustard and dill. It was ok. Better with green onion, but I'm totally open to trying it a bit differently every night for experimentation's sake. Also used a pan rather than our grill, and it didn't melt as nicely.

* Thanks for calling me out, Jenny!! Shhhh! Cheap lunch and happy hour (once each!) totally don't count in the 'poor' budget this week. Or so I'm telling myself (wink).

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tomorrow we watch commercials and eat.

I miss college. As a communication major at UCSD, there were no scantrons...there was no library time. I read and I wrote. A LOT, but these are things I know, and these are things I love. Obviously. So I have been looking forward to going back to school for my Master's since I graduated with my second bachelor's degree in 2006. Am I a nerd? Yes. And totally ok with that. When that will happen, I really don't know. Hopefully when all of some of our student loans are paid off? Sigh. It sucks being poor.

(This is where I insert how grateful I am for my parents having paid for my first degree. Thanks, Ma. Thanks, Daddy. You guys rule. But we really should have worked out some sort of language around the four years you paid for being the four most expensive, not just the first four...)

My point in all of this? Well, this blog is my compromise. And some days, well, some days I need to write. Thus explaining this rather non-topical intro. And so, with that, let's get back to food.

Superbowl is tomorrow. I must admit, as apathetic as I feel about "the big game," I'm pretty ridiculous about the commercials.
(My college roommates may grudgingly remember one of the years (2003?) Pepsi teamed with Britney for a commercial...As far as I can remember, it never ended up airing, but I demanded a mandatory silence during all commercial breaks in anticipation. Said commercial was streamed ad nauseum for the next 2 months, which I guess prefaces a future post about my love for all things Brit-Brit.) I'm also a fan of "party" food, and I'm a fan of hosting...unfortunately, we have a lot of friends who feel the same way, so tomorrow we're off to one of the several parties we were invited to (it's so fun/hard being popular!)

In all seriousness, no matter where we watch, I'm going to cook. Tomorrow the plan is to steal the BBQ for an improvised version of Grilled Jalapeno Poppers (both stores I tried were out of goat cheese), chicken drumsticks and spare ribs. Hubby is in charge of meat around here, but I know his chicken marinade consists of a combination of Bernstein's Italian dressing and Basque marinade. The ribs so far have been rubbed with Pappy's and will get a coat of Sweet Baby Ray's tomorrow.

Yum. I'm excited. Somehow this entry turned into a Superbowl commercial in and of itself (I am NOT sponsored by any of above referenced brands, but am taking all offers), but it's gotten me in the mood for some football. Or—more correctly—some beer, some food, and some commercials. Here's hoping Britney makes an appearance.

Oh, and go Packers.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Going All American

In honor of Super Bowl week, (AKA, 'I don't have to watch football for months and months' week.) I thought we'd go a bit more traditional than normal.

I somehow stumbled across a tasty little recipe for tomato soup the other day while perusing Cooking Light for cheap recipes (not only are we on a diet, but a budget as well), and figured I'd play with it a bit and try my hand at an "all American" meal.

Why does tomato soup go hand-in-hand with grilled cheese? I know that tends to be the norm, but I never ate them together growing up, as far as I can remember, so I figured I'd try it out for myself with some grown-up homemade versions of each.

I'm going to go ahead and interject that I'm, as you probably have realized, off the wheat-free kick. I have two reasons:
1. Vitamin D. I take a boatload of it a day. My mom insists it's just a placebo effect, but my dermatologist recommended it, so I'm gonna go ahead and go with it.
2. CeraVe lotion. I got so hooked on their cream that I also have the night and day face lotions now, too. It's fantastic.
Between those two things, I am hardly itching and quite the happy camper. And had I not needed a second opinion from a second dermatologist (Kaiser=Fail, CBCC=Win) I'd still be back in miserable I-hate-gluten land.

And so, without further ado, low-fat, grown-up grilled cheese and tomato soup. Hubby didn't have a grilled cheese, but his official soup review was, "Wow, you can make this anytime. Was it hard? This is better than Fresh & Easy's."


Grilled Cheese (per person)
2 slices sourdough
dijon mustard
one slice provolone
2 thin slices of ham
a few thin slices of green onion, separated
small bit of shredded sharp cheddar or other cheese
cooking spray

Spread dijon on each slice. Stick everything else in between (you know how to make a sandwich). Spray skillet or griddle with cooking spray, cook about 3 minutes a side.

Tomato Soup
One peeled brown onion, chopped coarsely
Olive oil (about 1 tbsp)
1 tbsp flour
1.5 cups chicken broth
Large can crushed tomatoes (the kind with basil is great)
6 tbsp fat-free half & half (a bit less than a 1/3 cup)
S&P (good pinch each)
Small pinch of cardamom (optional)

Saute onion in oil a couple minutes until soft. Add flour, mix in well for about a minute. Add broth and tomatoes, bring to a boil. Turn off, and either blend in batches until all is smooth, or use an immersion blender (buy one.) to blend in the pot. Add half and half and return to simmer. Turn off and add S&P, etc. to taste.

See? Not hard. In fact, super, super easy. And yes, better than Fresh & Easy's...and I do love me some Tomato Basil from F&E.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Laker Fans

Her eyes are totally open, btw. Mine, however, not so much...

Herbed Roasted Butternut Squash

I keep hearing that people don't like squash. And I have to say...really? If you're one of said squash-haters, please share your beef (so to speak, you probably like beef). Cause I don't get it. I think most types of squash are quite delish, especially when cooked with herbs and/or spices. Yum. So when I was searching for something interesting to do with butternut squash as a side, this one jumped out at me. Roasted with whole garlic and thyme? Done.

And wow. It's not often dinner smells amazing right off the bat. But literally, this one started beckoning my nostrils after...well, how much time does it take to change laundry from the washer to the dryer? I popped my squash in the oven (adjacent to the back door, which is three steps from the garage door, which is two steps from the washer/dryer), changed the laundry, and what, two minutes later? The house smelled fab. I'm guessing it's more the smell of the chicken in the oven, but even the monsters were hanging out in the kitchen. Yuh-uh-um.

Super easy, too, if you do it the Pammy way (aka the Sandra Lee/cheat it way). Try it. Especially if you don't "like" squash. Trust me here, ok? Roasting makes it caramelize just enough to add a tad of sweetness, while the herbs and garlic give it big-kid flavor.

Oh, and I used the convection/toaster oven for this, so I only cooked it for 35 min total at 375. If you are using the regular oven, follow the given directions.

Bay and Thyme Roasted Butternut Squash
1 lb package pre-cubed butternut squash
1 package pre-peeled whole garlic cloves (aka, about 8 of them. If you're not hugely into garlic, remove before serving)
olive oil
good pinch pepper (1/8 tsp ish)
salt (1/2 tsp or more) kosher salt
3 or 4 springs of fresh thyme
2 large bay leaves

Preheat oven to 450. Combine all in bowl, tossing to coat. Spread onto small pan (in one layer), and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and put back in oven for another 25 minutes or until cooked.

Remove bay leaves and big thyme stems before serving. Great with roast chicken (totally store bought, btw) and a green veggie. Yes, I'm back on a diet. Even Ramona wanted some. Though, really, when doesn't she...