Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blah, blah, I've been MIA, blah.

So, as it turns out, being 8 months pregnant makes me grumpy. And tired. And not particularly in a mood to cook—and even less of a mood to be in front of a computer. Not when I could be eating cookies and watching Bones lying in bed with a book.

And that is why I've been quiet. I do have a couple of good ones I've been meaning to post, though, so let's do this.

I can't believe we're already basically done with the holidays...this time of year always seems to just fly by, especially when traveling is involved. This year we did Hannukah at the in-laws in Sacramento for 3 days, then the following weekend drove to my parents' house and hung out there a couple days, turned around on Christmas day and came home to do Christmas afternoon with just the two of us (for the very last time, which is so weird), then had Christmas dinner at my Father in Law's house. (Have I ever mentioned I owe that man? A single guy who can cook up a storm...he did me a favor passing that skill on to his son, even if I don't let him use it nearly enough.)

At my parent's, however, I was in charge of Christmas Eve dinner. Hubby's mom sent us home with a 5lb prime rib roast, so we took that with us, ignoring the fact that neither of us had ever actually cooked a prime rib before. Turns out, it's pretty damn easy—you coat the whole thing down with a simple rub, and bake it. Remember that prime rib is supposed to be served rare, but you can always put individual slices back into the broiler for a couple minutes if people complain or aren't supposed to eat rare meat due to their current status as human incubators. (Grrr. I'm ready for a real steak, damnit. With a bottle of Zin. A bottle.)

Don't be nervous about the coffee grounds being bitter, either. It all melds really well. Great with roasted tomato salad (we used gorgonzola since the moms doesn't like goat) and smashed potatoes (with gorgonzola instead of cheddar to tie it all together).

You can rub the roast up to a day in advance and refrigerate, but let the meat come to room temperature before you put it in the oven-this should take 1/2 hour to an hour. (Not sure how big a roast you need? Count on roughly 1 lb per person. Bones have weight, too, so you won't actually be eating 16 oz each.)

Earthy Prime Rib
5-7 pound prime rib roast
2 tbsp ground coffee
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp pepper
1/2 tbsp chili powder
Horseradish to serve

Heat oven to 450. Combine coffee and spices in small bowl. Rub all over rib roast, putting extra on the fattiest part of the meat. Arrange meat rib-side down in a greased roasting pan.

Cook at 450 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and cook an additional 1 to 1.5 hours. (Adjust depending on size of roast-cook 14-16 minutes per pound). Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil, and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

After it has rested, brush off as much of the rub as you easily can-especially any big clumps. Turn roast on its side and cut off the bone section in one fell swoop. The turn cut side down and slice into 1/2 in slices.

Serve with horseradish.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sam the Cooking Guy

There are a ton of things I loved about living in San friends, the weather, the also gave me my love for Thai food, fish tacos, and cooking in general, seeing that SD was where I first had my own kitchen (and boys to impress, natch.)

There are obviously a million special memories to savor from any big city you live in for any extended period of time. One of my most favoritest things, however, was Sam the Cooking Guy. (Favoritest is totally a word today.)

This is Sam. Back then, he was just a local dude who liked to cook, and someone brilliant decided he was rad enough to put on local television. I. Love. Sam. Hubby and I both absolutely adored his show, and it was one of those quirky things we had in common back in our dating days. His food is generally pretty simple, but it's always packed with flavor, and he honestly looked like he was just having a good time cooking. In his own kitchen-dog running through the shot and all. Sometimes he even burned shit. It was awesome.

Last year I discovered that Discovery Health had picked up his show for a bit, and I was beyond stoked. It wasn't quite as fun as the original, being "real tv," but that happens. Now it looks like you can still catch him on certain local channels, but not here, so I have no idea what it's like these days. Check it out and let me know??

Anyway, I forget about Sam...and then for some reason he'll pop into my head. Last week that happened, and I immediately started craving his Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad. Hubby swears I had never made it for him before, but that can't be true...but the fact is, I need to make it more often. It's fabulous.

While I was at it, I also tried his Pasta with Artichokes. All I can say is yum.

Add a roasted head of garlic and a loaf of french bread to all of that, and it was quite the garlicy feast. Sam, you never let me down. And am just now realizing I should have asked for one of his cookbooks for Christmas.

Tomato & Goat Cheese Salad
(adjusted to serve 2)
1 package cherry tomatoes (I used yellow ones this time)
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
A few cups of mixed greens or romaine
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper (I actually used white kampot pepper)

Cut tomatoes in half or fourths, depending on how big they are. In a bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, a tsp or two of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic. Cook at 400 for about 25 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and starting to brown.

Arrange greens in bowl, top with tomatoes, and sprinkle on goat cheese. Top with a bit more olive oil and balsamic (less than a tbsp or so, depending on your taste) and finish with more pepper.

Oh, and if you need more of a reason to jump on the Samwagon, there's always this:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free food and fame? I'm in.

Yesterday the hubby proposed that I become a professional food critic and take us on jaunts around the world, Anthony Bourdain style, ordering plate after plate of whatever looks tasty, all on someone else's dime.

Let me just say that I am all for this idea. However, I pointed out that not only would I first have to become famous, I'd also need a reason for people to respect my opinion about what makes great food...namely, I'd need to be a professional chef first.

Cooking is what it is for me. It's a little bit fun, it's a little bit experimental, it's a little bit relaxing. Some days it works out better than I had hoped. Other days, I sit chewing, wondering what exactly I did to fuck it up.

Cause yeah, I eat it. Even if it's not the best. Usually. How else would I figure out what was missing/went wrong/I like?

Take my spinach and pork lasagna, for example.

We're trying to save money by not eating out at lunch, so I have been deliberately making things that will produce mass leftovers. However, this round was a bit...dry. And needed salt. Had I used more sauce (and salt), though, I think it would have been great. Still totally edible, but not a total winner as is. (I can post the should-be recipe if anyone wants it, just let me know) I've now eaten it 4 times, and there are 2 more servings left, so I'm guessing I'll be working on it all week. Alone, because Hubby has no imagination when it comes to Italian food and can't just pretend it has extra sauce on it and just eat it anyway.

Maybe he's the one that needs to be the professional critic. Or chef, while we're wishing things. Just sayin.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Vietnamese Pork Salad

Ok, I promised easy this week, but I actually made this last week, so no calling me a liar. The recipe was described as pork bun, but this is actually more like the other Thai/Vietnamese salads I make and less...bun-ish. I know only those of you who are familiar with Bun can make any sort of sense of that, but oh, well.

It really is pretty easy, though. Cutting the veggies is the hardest part of this-once that's done and prepped it all comes together really quickly. Oh, and the longer you marinate the pork, the better. Overnight, ideally, but an hour will work in a pinch.

Vietnamese Pork Salad

2/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
A little less than 1/3 cup lime juice
4 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp chili paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz rice sticks
Romaine lettuce
Half an english cucumber, peeled and match-stick cut
About 20 baby carrots, match-stick cut
About a cup of bean sprouts
handful fresh mint, chopped
about 20 basil leaves, chopped
about a tbsp chopped cilantro
1/4 cup dry roasted chopped peanuts
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp chili paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 4oz boneless pork chops

To marinate the pork, combine soy sauce, hoisin, honey, chili paste, garlic and chops in a large zip lock bag or covered bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Bring water to a boil in small sauce pan. Add sugar, and stir till dissolved. Turn off heat and stir in lime, fish sauce, chile paste and garlic.

While that cools, cover rice sticks with boiling water and let sit 10-30 minutes or until they are soft to the bite. Drain and let cool.

Remove pork from marinade and then grill over high heat about 3 minutes a side or until cooked through. Slice into 1/4 inch thick pieces.

On plate, spread desired amount of romaine lettuce. Arrange noodles, veggies and herbs on top, then top with pork slices. Serve 1/4 cup or so of fish sauce mixture alongside each plate to use as dressing.

375 cals/4 servings
500 cals/3 servings

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Some days the grocery store hates me.

I planned ahead and did my shopping for four dinners at once this week, planning to make some gooey spinach and cheese stuffed shells the first night. But then I got home and realized I hadn't bought shells. Or sauce....or cheese. I stomped around for a minute, pouting, until I realized I had three other perfectly good options; Hubby opted for this one, a super easy and filling pasta based soup I dressed up just a bit. I wanted to use refrigerated tortellini, but there was a reduced fat ravioli option, so that won out.

I also intended on making Pepper Garlic Flatbread to go with it, but the dough somehow didn't make it from the grocery conveyor belt to my house. I have a feeling the woman in line behind me now has no idea what she's going to do with refrigerated Pillsbury pizza dough. Some days the grocery store hates me, what can I say.

I didn't get any, but the hubby swears it was also delicious as lunch leftovers. Double score.

Cheese Ravioli Soup
1 package fresh light 4 cheese ravioli or similar (tortellini, etc.)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp butter
4 cups chicken broth or stock
1/4 cup chopped basil, plus extra for garnish
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
Asiago or parmesan to top
Fresh ground pepper to top (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and keep warm. In large soup pot, saute garlic in butter about 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and tomato and bring to a boil. Add pasta, then remove from heat and stir in basil. Top with 1 tbsp cheese, pepper and fresh basil.

235/4 servings
313/3 servings
470/2 servings

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I need easy right now.

I'm tired, I'm lazy, and my freakin' belly hurts when I'm on my feet too long. Round Ligament pain. It's awesome.

Plus, I'm gaining weight right now just looking at food. I've been trying to do yoga more regularly, which really does seem to help me sleep better, but it's not exactly burning a ton of calories. I was walking a half hour after work, which felt great, but then we had the shift to winter that seriously happens overnight around here, and I'm a big pansy about working out outside when my nose is cold. (It hurts, ok?) My point is, I'm not burning as many calories as I should be, and while I'm "supposed" to be gaining weight right now, I'm trying not to over do it.

So back to depending on Cooking Light, where I can generally find recipes that are short on ingredients and prep time, and long on possibilities (I never seem to use their "as written" directions.) Oh, and their portion sizes are totally decent, so I've been better about having my one helping and then getting to give the eyeball to the hubby when he goes back for more.

This week we're doing easy. There will be some chopping, of course, but I'll keep it to a minimum, I promise. Oh, and if I haven't recommended the Garlic Zoom before, stick it in your own stocking this year. It's probably my most used kitchen tool, and makes anything with garlic a breeze. No knives, no mess.

First up—Thai Beef Stir-fry, which was delicious. I bought pre-sliced meat and frozen beans, which sped this up quite a bit. Flavors were great-tasted pretty hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant to me. Didn't take much time, either, just make sure and have everything ready to go as soon as you get the wok (or big fry pan) heated up.

Thai Beef Stir-fry

1/2 tsp salt
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp chili paste
about a 1 inch section ginger, minced
1 tbsp lemongrass (from a tube)
zest from one lime (quarter the lime as garnish/to top)
cooking spray
1 lb stir fry beef steak (or flank steak, sliced thinly)
1 package frozen cut green beans
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp cider vinegar
About a cup basil leaves, whole
Cooked jasmine or white rice, to serve

In small bowl, combine salt, garlic, chili, ginger, lemongrass and zest. In another small bowl, combine sugar, fish sauce and vinegar, stirring til sugar is dissolved.

In hot wok, coat with cooking spray, then add paste and stir fry quickly, about 30 seconds. Add beef, and continue stir frying another two minutes or so. Add beans and about a tsp water, and cook about 3-4 minutes, moving everything the whole time until beans are hot. Pour in fish sauce mixture, and cook another minute or until meat is cooked (Mine came out medium, so it may take longer if you want it more cooked). Turn off heat and stir in basil leaves until they begin to wilt. Serve over hot rice with lime wedges and sriracha to taste.

Per serving (add another 150 for 3/4 cup rice):
258/4 servings
345/3 servings