Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hiding veggies like I'm Jessica Seinfeld

Dishes are for suckers.

Especially when you don't have a dishwasher. (Or when you feel guilty making your handsome dish washer hang out in the kitchen all night). So I like to do what I can to make dish doing a little easier…I clean as I go, I re-use dishes when I can, and as you know, I swear by the all-wondrous immersion blender. (Ever cleaned a blender? Totally worth the 30 bucks to never have to clean one again.)

When I found this recipe, I had to roll my eyes at all of reviewers bitching about the number of dishes it makes. So screw that. Their way: six pots/pans/bowls. My way: two dish meal, kids. It's like magic.

Speaking of magic, this Mac & Cheese is so totally healthy food in disguise (well, kinda. It's still cheese and carbs. Over it.) That awesome cheddary color is all butternut squash, but the flavor is all cheese. I'm guessing this is the kind of thing I'll have to feed the kids someday when they turn against me and refuse to eat anything but Mac & Cheese and chicken nuggets...fitting, since that's all I want these days. I've resisted the mcnuggets so far, but I had to cave for the pasta.

We actually had broccoli on the side, but we both ended up mixing it in to the pasta as we ate. Feel free to skip the broc if one veggie is enough for you (one veggie should never be enough, btw) or go ahead and add in a cup or so of lightly steamed, bite-size pieces before cooking. Or have it on the's a good addition, either way.

Veggie Mac & Cheese
olive oil (1 tsp or so)
1 shallot, peeled and diced
12 oz package cubed butternut squash
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup 1% milk
salt (about 1/2 tsp)
pepper (about 1/4 tsp)
Fat free greek yogurt (2-3 tbsp)
1 cup shredded fontina (Dutch)
1/2 cup shredded romano cheese (divided)
2 cups cavatappi pasta
Italian breadcrumbs
Heat oven to 375

Boil water for pasta in large sauce pan, and then cook for about 5 minutes (about half the time it says on the package). Drain.

Rinse pan, then heat oil and shallot over medium high, and cook about 2 minutes. Add squash, milk and broth. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook over low about 10 minutes or until squash is soft.

Blend squash mix with an immersion blender (or transfer all to a blender then transfer back to pan when smooth), then stir in yogurt, salt and pepper. Stir in fontina and 1/4 cup roman until mostly melted, then add pasta and mix gently.

Coat a medium baking pan with cooking spray and pour in pasta mix. Sprinkle remaining romano cheese and breadcrumbs lightly across top.

Cook for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No, really...I'm melting.

Note: The following recipe (Garlic and Mushroom Chicken) likely works better when cooked in a reasonably tempered kitchen. Not for any particular reason—it's not any more heat inducing than any other stove-top meal, but our house is ridiculous right now, and any amount of heat I add just isn't helping.

Blah, blah, blah, it's hot, I know. There are also earthquakes and hurricanes and basically, Mother Nature is pissed off about something (My guess? Their last names rhyme with Hawkmann and Berry) and we all have to suffer for it somehow.

But seriously, have I mentioned our Master Cool only works when it's under 101 out? Any hotter than that and it just kind of says, "fuck it, y'all are on your own." Not that I blame it…I wouldn't want to work that hard in this heat either.

So Hubby wins the Brilliant Award tonight for digging in the even hotter garage to find a free-standing a/c unit that I didn't know/forgot we had. It currently says my kitchen is 81 degrees, which is 10 degrees cooler than it was an hour and a half ago. Even the cats are happily sprawled out in there.

Garlic and Mushroom Chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
About 20 peeled garlic cloves
chicken broth (1/2 cup)
vermouth (1/2 cup)
thyme (1/2 tsp or so)
tarragon (1/4 tsp or so)
Package sliced brown mushrooms

Brown chicken in olive oil over high heat about 2 minutes a side. Remove from pan. Add garlic cloves and let sauté a couple of minutes, moving the pan around frequently so they don't burn. Add shallots, cook about a minute, then add about 1/4 cup vermouth, tarragon and thyme. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer about 5 minutes, moving pan around occasionally. Add about 1/4 cup of broth as wine cooks down.

Add chicken back on top of garlic mixture. Dump mushrooms on top, and pour another 1/4 cup of vermouth over them. As they cook down, stir them in and around the chicken. Cook about 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove the chicken and keep it warm, then add another good splash of chicken broth, raise heat to high, cover, and let the rest of it keep on cooking down for 5-10 minutes or until the liquid is almost gone and the garlic is soft. Add the chicken back in to reheat just a bit at the very end.

I added about a tablespoon of fat-free half and half before serving, but that was totally just cause I had some. Not necessary, but good.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I love Rice-a-Roni.

I've been totally swamped with life this week, but I realized it's been too long since my last post, so here's the quick and easy Asian feast I made myself (Hubby's off doing his football thing...yes, already) tonight. I'll post the actual cooking I did this week (Pad Kee Mow! Crab Quiche!) later.

Now, excuse me as I get back to watching my new Gossip Girl DVD from Netflix really important things. It's Friday night, and my day was ridiculous. I need a break.

I completely eyeballed the ingredients, so I'd suggest you do the same. It can't hurt. Served with Rice-a-Roni Fried Rice. Uh, huh. Classy. But soooo easy.

Quick Chicken Stir-Fry
Cooking Spray
1 chicken breast, sliced
garlic powder
half a lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
good pinch brown sugar
1/2 tp chili paste
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
squirt sriracha, to taste
package frozen baby corn, carrots, and peas

Spray a saute pan with cooking spray, heat over medium high. Add chicken breast slices and sprinkle with garlic powder. While it cooks, combine lime through oyster sauce in a small bowl. When chicken is white and cooked through, reduce heat to medium and add sauce and bag of veggies. Stir, then cover and let steam about 5 minutes or until veggies are just hot. Add sriracha to taste.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Shut up, I'm being domestic!!

Hubby got home from work this evening right as I was mixing batter for zucchini bread. He kissed me hello, then immediately made a face as he glanced at the bowl.

"Um, what...That looks...pukey."

Hello to you, too. And guess what? Youuuu don't have to eat any. (Of course, 40 minutes later I got an, "ok, that smells really good." Too late, my love. All mine.)

Have I mentioned I want carbs? Even if it means I have to bake (gah!) Man, all I can do is thank my dermatologist for recommending Cera-ve to me, cause it has saved my life. My ring fingers are monumentally itchy these days, but the rest of me is doing shockingly well. I am, however, still trying to be conscious of the health factor, and am trying to eat whole-grain versions of things when I can. Low-fat doesn't hurt, either, so I decided to experiment a bit and see what I could do with what seemed like a rather generic zucchini bread recipe.

I substituted most of the white flour with whole grain, and substituted oil with applesauce, which cuts 850 calories and 112 grams of fat from the loaf.* I didn't mess with the sugar, because it needed to be edible.

Verdict? It tastes healthy. But not in a bad way. Moist and wheaty and yummy. And don't worry, dear Kris...the baby is getting plenty of fat. I think. But now you've got me all paranoid about it...

Oh, and preggo brain over here measured in 1 tsp of baking soda instead of baking powder before I realized I was an idiot, so I ended up using 1 tsp of each (soda and powder) instead of the recommended amounts. It didn't affect the taste, but it did make the thing a little...heavy...and didn't rise like it probably should have.

I so love having the baby to blame for my dumbassness. I'm totally using this to my full advantage for the next 6 months. And probably longer. Best. Mom. Ever.

Health(ier) Zucchini Bread
1/2 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 zucchini, grated

Preheat oven to 350
In medium bowl, combine flours through salt. In Large bowl, combine applesauce, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in zucchini. Add in flour mixture, and combines gently until just mixed (don't over stir it)

Coat a bread pan with cooking spray (or butter it). Spoon in batter. Cook 55 minutes (Or between 50-60 minutes depending on your oven. If you're not sure it's done, insert a toothpick in the middle and if it comes out clean and not sticky, it's done.) Let cool for 30 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and place on a wire rack until cool.

*The original version says 1/10 of a loaf is a portion and has 253 cals/13g fat. I'm saying that's ridiculous on all counts, and for a far more realistic 1/8 of a loaf portion, my version has 210 cals/2g fat. Or eat the whole damn thing for 1680 calories and 15g of fat. You're welcome.

The great bagel debate

Does a whole wheat bagel still qualify as a bagel?

Apparently this is debatable...

I say: Well obviously. I mean, hello. It's a bagel. It may not be shiny, but it's chewy, you toast it, you schmear it, you eat it. Bagel.

Hubby says: No. Just because it is round and has a hole in the middle, it doesn't make it a bagel. (He was, however, unable to expand on this argument, so I am sure he would appreciate any support you guys want to throw his way.)

Even though he's wrong. And I think was mostly irritated I only bought fat-free cream cheese. For my whole wheat bagels. (I had to promise to buy him plain shiny ones and chive cream cheese next time.)

Thoughts? Arguments? I want to hear from you New Yorkers. You guys know bagels.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Best Yet Chicken Curry

You know what's amazing? I prepped everything for dinner last night (chopped potatoes, onion, garlic and ginger then measured out all the spices) and then settled in the living room to get some work done before I started cooking...and I kept getting enticed by some serious aromas wafting my way. It smelled amazing, and nothing was even cooking...No wonder my house always reeks smells like spice for 2 days after we make curry.

I've posted some curry recipes before, but Hubby told me this was my best yet (of all time! Hooray!) and so I felt I owed y'all the recipe. I'm calling this Indian curry, but I actually used Cambodian curry powder, as it was all we have right now. I'm really not 100% sure what the differences between the two are...I do know that the Cambodian stuff is a tad sweeter and often is used in coconut based curries, much like Thai curry, but it worked just fine for this dish, and I wouldn't worry about the difference too much. Use what you've got or can find.

Oh, and Hubby is convinced that if we keep feeding me spicy food, the kid will end up a fan, so it's been a bit of a trend lately. (I even added garlic pickle to mine to amp it up, but that's totally me.) This one is spicy, so adjust the cayenne accordingly, or top with some extra yogurt and lime at the end if it's too hot.

Chicken Indian Curry
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, peeled and chopped small
4 garlic cloves, minced
about 1 inch of ginger root, peeled and minced
1 heaping tbsp curry powder
1 heaping tsp cumin
1 heaping tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne (less or none if you prefer less heat)
1 tsp garam masala (see note below)
1.5 cups chicken broth
1/2 a 15oz can diced tomatoes
3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped about 3/4in thick
1/2 cup greek or plain yogurt
handful cilantro, chopped
chopped green onion
lime wedges
Hot cooked basmati rice to serve

NOTE: If you don't have garam masala and don't want to buy it, you can either make your own or just use a bit more cumin and 1/2 tsp all spice.

Heat olive oil over high heat in large stock pot. Sprinkle chicken with salt, then add to pot and cook about 3 minutes a side or until browned. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, garlic and ginger, and saute about 3 minutes. In small bowl, combine all the spices (curry through masala) and about 1 tsp salt and add a splash of broth, mixing to make a thick paste. Add paste to onion saute, and continue cooking another 2 minutes.

Add chicken (and any juices that have joined it), tomatoes, potatoes, and the rest of the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low and simmer about 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked (taste one).

Turn off heat and stir in yogurt and a tbsp or so of chopped cilantro. Add salt as needed.

Serve over rice with lime (the juice will cut the heat), and top with a sprinkle of green onion and cilantro.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm not really a baby person...

The two lovely Sarahs at Salt & Nectar were sweet enough to ask me to guest post for them today, so check me out:

I'm not really a "baby person". But I'm having one anyway.

If you're new to Salt & Nectar, I love it because it's always an honest, well-written, funny and sweet look into the throes of motherhood and beyond for two lawyers who each moved cross country to start new chapters in their lives. I was following well before Baby H was on the horizon, so I promise it's not a sappy look at mommyhood or anything like that (they asked ME to write for them, after all!)

Truly an honor, ladies! Thanks!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Turkey & Black Bean Chili

I love Bobby Flay. He comes across as such a weird mix of smart, funny, cocky, and nice guy...but more importantly, the man can cook. Having eaten at his Mesa Grill restaurant twice, I can personally attest to this, but besides that, I don't think I've ever watched a Throwdown and not cursed technology for not yet inventing taste-o-vision.

In all honestly, however, Tex-mex is not my favorite genre, because it always seems to revolve around chipotle, which can be a really strong, super spicy flavor, so I try not to use it very often. It had been a while, though, so when I found this recipe for Black Bean Chili, I decided to trust Bobby and go for it. His version calls for beef chunks and beer, but this way worked just fine. Great with cornbread, but remember...low fat cornbread only sounds like a great idea. In practice, it's only ok. Even if you can eat more of it.

Careful with this's got some heat, which is why I put the chile as optional.

Turkey & Black Bean Chili
olive oil
1 pkg ground turkey
salt and pepper
half an onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chile, minced (optional)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tbsp chipotle peppers/sauce (from can)
1.5 tbsp honey
3 cups chicken broth
2 cans black beans, drained
Juice from one lime

To top:
finely chopped onion
shredded cheese (monterey jack or cheddar)
Cumin Crema (1 tsp cumin and a pinch of salt and pepper mixed with 1/2 cup greek yogurt or creme fraiche)

Combine cumin, chili powder, drained tomatoes, chipotle and honey in blender (or bowl, if you have an immersion blender. Have you bought one yet?)

Sprinkle turkey with salt and pepper, heat a splash of oil over medium high, then add turkey and stir fry until cooked through, 5 minutes or so. Transfer meat to a big bowl. Add a bit more oil to the pot, and saute onion about 3 minutes. Add garlic and chile, if using. Cook another minute or two, then stir in tomato puree, broth and add meat back in. Raise heat to bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat back to low for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in beans and cook another 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in lime. Taste and add a little bit salt, if needed, and a bit more honey if it's too spicy.

The original recipe serves this with the cumin crema and homemade guac, but it's good with cheese and/or onion, too. Or regular sour cream. It's it how you like it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Seriously Literate-Summer '11.0

It's amazing what a couple beach days and flying round trip across the country lets you accomplish, reading wise...I've been a reading machine the past month, so I'll spare you any long drawn out reviews (or, will try, anyway) and just post my basic impressions. If you want to chat/more info, you know where to find me.

Testimony, Anita Shreve
Well, I finally read my last Shreve novel. Not because I've read them all, just because I'm a) over it, and b) this one I really disliked. Way too confusing to read (each chapter changes tone, POV, and narrator. Weird.) and I just didn't like the story very much, which is about a teenage orgy that gets videotaped and leaked throughout a private boarding school campus, and then the mess/general life-fuckery that follows. (Is that a word? It's going to be my new favorite.) It got all kinds of rave reviews elsewhere, so I was actually looking forward to it, too. Eh. Oh, well.

Girl in Translation, Jean Kwok
Quick fact: Burbank is one of a long list of airports who have bookstores with a Read and Return program—you buy, you read, and you sell it back at a participating airport for 50% of the price. Which would have been even cooler had I not immediately lost my receipt after I bought this, but good to know all the same.

This is a semi-autobiographical story of a young girl who immigrates to America with her mother and is forced to spend her days struggling at school to fit in and gain her footing (she's incredibly bright, but the language barrier proves to be a constant battle for her), her evenings working in a sweatshop, and her nights attempting to survive in horrible sub-human living conditions. It's not an earth shatteringly new concept or story, but it was interesting to see the world we're used to from the other side...I liked it.

Sarah's Key, Tatiana DeRosnay
You know how you sometimes read a book knowing it's going to be sad...knowing what has to happen...and still get sucker punched into shedding a tear when it does? Sigh. I'm such a baby. And this one gut punched me twice-once in a sad way, once in a happy way, even though I knew both were coming.

This is not a good way to begin this review. So now, I will just say that I really enjoyed this novel. It tells two stories simultaneously-one of a Polish girl living in 1940's Paris, whose family is swept off to a concentration camp, and one of an American journalist living in 2000's Paris, who is assigned to write about the sweep 60 years later. Their stories become intertwined, family secrets are exposed, and lives are irreparably changed. Historically fascinating, incredibly sad, and hard to put down...I read this one between Buffalo and Las Vegas in one swoop.

I Know this Much is True, Wally Lamb
First thing out of Hubby's mouth when he saw this cover was, "(sneer) What's that about? Baaaabies?" Yes, darling. Just because I'm knocked up, I now read books about babies. What? No. It IS however, about twins—one of whom has schizophrenia, and the other who has to deal with the repercussions of his twin's turbulent actions. If you've read anything else by Wally Lamb, you know he doesn't mess around...he digs in deep and tells some effed up stories. But as dark and uncomfortable as they can be, they still seem...real. Thumbs up. Totally satisfying ending, even if it wasn't all puppies and rainbows.

The Calling, Inger Ash Wolfe
Ok, what is it with authors and pseudonyms? Just use your real name! Are you ashamed? Did you lose a bet? Trying to dodge your taxes? I don't get it. Cause Mr./Ms. Wolfe, all I know is that you're a Canuck (well, presumably anyway, your books take place in Canada), and a "well known North American novelist." And, damn it, I want to read more of your stuff, which is difficult when you play so coy.


This book reminded me why I love forensic crime dramas on TNT and devoured Patricia Cornwell novels back in the day...psychopaths can be fascinating. I'll be reading more of the mysterious Wolfe's novels, I guarantee that.

The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
I'd actually love to hear from those of you who read this, because I'm assuming some/most/all of you know more about the bible stories that this is based off of than I do, and I wonder how that changes the reading of this novel. My personal opinion was that, not knowing these stories at all,I had no idea what would happen, who these people were, and why/if they were important in the biblical sense. It also meant I spent a lot of time flipping to the front of the book to the family tree the author so kindly provides for people like me (and maybe like you, I don't know.)

Based solely on what it was, this is the story of the lone daughter in a family of a dozen siblings, her four mothers (sister-wives, in the most literal sense), their husband (Jacob), and her life both with and without this 'tribal' family. The detail is beautiful, even when telling of horrible happenings, and it's pretty easy to get pulled into the world that's being described. It's basically just her life's story. I was expecting something different, but it was good.

I also read the Hunger Games, but I'll spare you and leave that for August, when I'll read the rest of the trilogy. In the meantime, just go get it and read it. You'll devour it. I've also got another Inger Ash Wolfe mystery, Cutting for Stone, and Zorro. And hopefully Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement, but we own that one, so it keeps getting pushed back for library books.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ridiculous things preggos do, Vol. 1

I'm not a superstitious person. When we found out we were pregnant, the first thing hubby did was run back inside the bar and tell his boys (Um, yes, I told him in a bar parking lot. I figured if Pam and Jim could get engaged at a gas station, it wasn't the worst thing to have to do). Which was fine with me; boys don't typically sit around gossiping about who's expecting next and when...but I still made sure they all knew we were keeping it quiet.

We decided to wait until 9 weeks to tell our parents (after our first official doctor's appointment...uh, yeah, that didn't go so well. There was one mom in particular—cough,ma,cough—who was not so happy about the fact that I didn't call her the second I peed on the stick), and then gradually let people know as we crept to that all-important end of the first trimester.

In the meantime, however, I've been keeping track of some of the weirder things this whole experience has caused my body and brain to go through. You experienced mommies are either giggling at my naivete here or nodding in agreement...those of you who have The Great Hormone Shift ahead of you, however...heh. Just. You. Wait. It's been pretty easy, long as I keep saltines and Wint-o-Green life savers around, I've kept any nausea in check, and the only other things that have been tormenting me are the acne (what, am I 14 again?) and the massively sore boobs. Don't hug me, btw. I'll cry.

So here are a few other gems I noted in my first trimester...

I am thirsty all. the. time. Every time I get up (usually to pee), I find myself in the fridge looking longingly at the Sierra Nevada and the three bottles of white wine I bought ONE WEEK before the booze-ban began, and annoyingly reaching for whatever cold, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage is in front of me instead, forgetting every time that I already HAVE a drink waiting for me.

Yep. All full.

I cannot make a decision. I generally know what I want for dinner well in advance. Today, around 2pm, I decided I wanted macaroni salad. Went to the store, boiled eggs and pasta, chopped tomatoes, celery and onion, mixed, and promptly decided I'd rather have Cream of Mushroom soup. From a can. It's 104 degrees outside.

Oh, and then I burned it. And ate it anyway.

Hormones. One afternoon I burst into tears because hubby was being an annoying back-seat driver (ok, he said one small yet unnecessary thing). Burst. Into. Tears. He soon after texted me to apologize "for being a dick," and I apologized for being a hormonal wreck. My husband is not a dick. I however, am a hormonal wreck. Siiigh.

Cravings. I want carbs, and I want them all. the. time. Bagel for breakfast? Check. Sandwich for lunch? Yep. Pasta for dinner? Um, definitely. It's so bad I told Hubby that the freaking Olive Garden sounded great. Even saying it made me shutter, and writing it is no better. I hate the O.G...As the great Anthony Bourdain recently put it, "I can't drive past a Chili's or an Olive Garden and not boil with rage."

I am with you. It's just wrong. But I would still give anything for some salad and breadsticks right now. Like, a barrel of them. And then I want to stop at the Tutti Frutti afterward and serve myself a gigantor Banana fro-yo with raspberries. I need this to happen.

And last, but not least, Booze. I like to drink. This is not new information...I'm quite vocal about this fact. This is also why the couples we regularly hang out knew we were expecting before we even had to tell them..."Pam. Why aren't you drinking...Oh, crap, you're knocked up!"

Sigh. Yep. Guilty.

Yes, I miss my booze. I've given up on the idea of vodka and gin martinis (I just realized last night that by not drinking, I'm saving hundreds—hundreds!—of olives from a sad and lonely death via consumption) and I'm not wanting beer in particular, but wine—particularly when I'm craving steak—that I miss. Enough so that I committed the ultimate boozer sin...I bought some non-alcoholic stuff to try.

I'd looked this brand up before I plunked down the cash for it (it's like six bucks, not the point), cause I was afraid it was just going to be bottled grape juice, which would be a complete waste of my time, money, and taste buds.

Verdict? It might be passable if you're used to $3.00 Merlot.

Otherwise, skip it. I'm just happy to have made it to the second trimester...cause damnit, I'm ready to have a glass of wine. You wanna argue with a pregnant lady about that? Bring it. I've got stats, damnit. And they are in my favor, and in favor of some Pinot Noir. Which (a littttle bit of) will go just wonderfully with my Chicken Parmesan tonight, thankyouverymuch.

Let's just hope Hubby agrees. He's been on board so far, as in, "Damnit, Pam, you can make it 3 more weeks!" everytime I whine, But I just want a litttttle's done developing!!! His reasoning is that our baby is "special" and therefore takes longer to be perfected. I think that's obviously some sort of jab at my family's genetics, but I'm a little hormonally oversensitive right now...

Monday, August 8, 2011

I don't bake. But I'm making an exception.

But only until February 20th or so.

Thanks to the handful of you that knew and didn't spill the beans. :) I'll pay you back by letting you babysit someday. Mwah!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Note: Substitutions don't always work as planned.

I think my mouth is still on fire from this one.

While on my marathon Cooking Light recipe search this week, I found this recipe for spicy salmon that looked like a winner...It calls for 2 tbsp of chili garlic sauce, which we don't have…so I figured I'd just use 2 tbsp fresh chili paste (Sambal Oelek) mixed with 2 minced garlic cloves. Um, no. I'm pretty sure that was a dumb assumption on my part. I know CL recipes, and they tend to lean on the bland side, so I can only assume their version is not supposed to be so. ridiculously. spicy. Eh. You live and learn. Substitutions don't always work.

The flavor was delicious, yes, but so incredibly en fuego that I ended up having to scrape most of it off before I could eat. (I can handle heat, too, so this amused Hubby to no end...he totally iron-stomached it.) So if you do need to go this route and substitute, just brush the glaze on ONCE, not twice, or just use garlic plus one tbsp chili paste instead of two.

I served with CL's recommended Sugar Snap Peas.These were meh. Fine, not OMG Best Peas Ever!, but easy, especially when you buy the steam-in-the-bag peas. (Which admittedly may have had something to do with their meh-ness, but come on. So much easier.)

I also threw together some couscous at the last minute-1/2 cup couscous, 1/2 cup hot water, which I covered and let sit about 4 minutes, then stirred in about a tsp of butter, a tsp or so of orange zest and a squeeze of orange juice, a sprinkle of chopped green onion I had been saving to top the salmon with, and salt and pepper.

Chili Garlic Salmon
2 6-8oz salmon fillets
2 tbsp chili garlic sauce
one green onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp marmalade
Squeeze of orange juice (about 1/8 of the orange I used for the zest)
1/2 tsp soy sauce

Rinse salmon and pat dry. Cover broiler pan with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. Arrange salmon, skin side down. Turn on broiler (Or you can grill this, if you prefer)

Mix remaining ingredients in small bowl. Brush about half the mix over salmon. Broil for 5 minutes, then brush on remaining mixture. Broil another 2-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Serve hot.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shredded lettuce does not a salad make.

I love Taco Salad, but restaurants almost always mess it up for me. I hate the giant fried shell thing they always insist on using as a "bowl" (Just use a bowl!!), or the meat is too greasy, the beans are too lardy, it's caked with guac and sour cream, or they forget that the base to taco salad should be lettuce. A handful of shredded, limp lettuce like you normally get is not gonna cut it, I'm sorry.

And so, as with so many other dishes I'd rather just do my damn self, I'm generally better off making it at home. I found this recipe on Cooking Light while I was trolling around for shrimp tacos (I got a little sidetracked), and used it for my base, as usual switching things up a lot..mostly out of necessity, since I wanted to use up some ground turkey, only had icky brown cilantro (yet 3 bunches of parsley...?), and was almost completely out of cumin.

This isn't exact... you're making a salad, so top with as much or as little as you want of these toppings. For two of us, we used about a 1/4 of a small onion, two small tomatoes, half an avocado, a handful each of chips (small for me, big for him), a spoonful each of yogurt, and about 1/3 cup cheese. And we had quite a bit of meat/bean mix left over. I'm planning on trying the leftover dressing on spinach tonight, so we'll see how that goes. I'm hoping well...that stuff is awesome. I'm sure it would be good with the cilantro, as the original recipe calls for, but I didn't miss it at all.

Turkey & Black Bean Taco Salad

Splash of olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp chili powder
About 1/2 tsp cumin
About 1 tsp Tapatio hot sauce (optional)
About 10oz ground turkey (half a package)
1 can low-sodium black beans, drained
Bagged romaine lettuce
juice from 1/4 lime
thin red onion slices
tomato slices
avocado slices
reduced fat tortilla chips
0% greek yogurt or sour cream
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese

About 1/4 cup tomato slices or chunks
1 large garlic clove, quartered
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
juice from 1/2 lime
zest from one lime
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

In small food processor or blender, mix all dressing ingredients on high until smooth.

Over medium heat, saute garlic, oil, cumin and chili powder. Add meat, stir until crumbly and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add beans, hot sauce, and lime juice, then saute another minute or two or until beans are hot.

Arrange as much lettuce as you like on a plate, then top with a scoop of bean mix and drizzle with dressing. Top with any or all of the onion, tomato, avocado, chips, cheese and/or yogurt (and more Tapatio, natch).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pasta with Chicken and Brie

My darling friend Kate has up and left us "temporarily" for the German countryside. Actually, is it countryside? I really don't know, but it sounds far more pleasant that way...I really need to pay better attention. Miss and love you!

It seems, however, that she's been busy entertaining herself in my favorite way—with food—which results in her posting pictures of deliciousness on her facebook and making me hungry at really strange hours of the day. I stole this Real Simple recommendation from her, and adapted it to make it, well, meatier. Fantastic. Thumbs up from both the hubby and me.

Penne with Chicken and Brie
About 12 oz whole wheat penne (3/4 a box)
freshly ground pepper
cooking spray
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1/4 inch thick medallions
1 tsp butter
1 package sliced brown mushrooms
1/3 cup vermouth or white wine
2-3 cups baby spinach
8 oz Brie (rind sliced off), cut into small chunks

Cook pasta in large pot with salted, boiling water (add 1/2 tsp or so before you boil it) for about 8-9 minutes or until al dente (almost cooked). Drain pasta when finished and return to pot.

In the meantime, heat large saute pan over medium high, coat with spray, and cook garlic for about a minute. Add chicken slices, and sprinkle well with salt and pepper. Saute, flipping chicken over as needed, until completely white and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and keep warm. (When pasta is done and drained, you can just throw the chicken in the pot with it and cover.) Return pan to fire, and add butter, mushrooms and wine. Saute for about 3 minutes or until soft, then add spinach, and continue sauteing until wilted.

Combine pasta, chicken and mushroom mix (including any leftover liquids) in the large pot, and return to very low heat. Stir in brie, and combine gently until brie is melted completely (should take a few minutes).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Calamari problem solved.

Dear Thai Taste on Panama and Stine,
Your service kinda sucks. But your giant, panko breaded, sweet chili sauce sided calamari rings totally win.
That is all.
Love, Pammy

Monday, August 1, 2011

Look at me baking.

Toaster ovens are not the same as ovens. They don't cook as evenly, the food is generally too close to the heat source, and they're damn small. But when your regular oven doesn't work...well, you use what you've got, even if it means cooking 5 batches of cookies cause you can only fit 6 on a sheet at a time.

I was craving macaroons...and I needed to use the rest of the coconut in the fridge before it went bad. If coconut goes bad...actually, I have no idea. But it must. Anyway, turns out the toaster oven worked just fine, even if it did take 3 times as long as it needed to. (Using the convection setting is much more effective than the toaster setting, btw. In general, I mean...cookies, it/I can handle. Toast, not so much.)

Oh, and if you have a low-fat recipe for macaroons, send it my way, wouldya? These get compliments galore, but they are not good for my ass.

Chewy Coconut Macaroons

1 egg white, beaten with a whisk until foamy
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract (use two tsp of vanilla if you don't have almond)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (if they have fat-free, use it)
1 14oz bag shredded coconut

Combine all ingredients in large bowl (I beat the egg in it and then added everything to it).

Heat oven to 350.

Coat cookie sheet with cooking spray. Using a spoon or your hands, make balls about 1 inch across or so, and drop onto sheet. Cook each batch 15-20 minutes or til they turn golden brown. Remove immediately from sheet using a spatula and transfer to a cooling rack. They'll be soft, so don't worry too much if they don't stay together perfectly. Let cool. Makes about 30 cookies.