Monday, July 30, 2012

Childhood Favorites Times 10!

While palling around in the kitchen last evening, I got the idea for this recipe.  About 2 weeks ago, my sister Terry had brought S'mores fixings by for the kids.  I already had several go- to ingredients for bake, no-bake and easily assembled sweet treats for pop-up occasions.  I felt awful about not having prepared the S'mores yet, and I was determined to  make it happen!  While gathering the ingredients, I remembered the kid's eating a bowl Rice Crispy's cereal and enjoying them for snack and remembered I had Marshmallow Creme.  LIGHTBULB!, why not combine the two for a wonderful double treat!  With a few simple steps, this recipe was born.  The end product tastes amazing and is incredibly easy to make.  Try this recipe and see what I mean, these squares are a double treat the kids, big and small , will really love!
S'more's Crispy Squares
3 tbsp. salted butter
1/2 bag large marshmallows
1/2 large bag Rice Krispies or Crispy rice cereal
4 sheets graham crackers, broken into small and medium pieces
1 chocolate bar, broken into tiny pieces
1 7 oz. container, marshmallow creme
cocoa powder for dusting
In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, melt butter.   Once butter starts to form small bubbles, add marshmallows.  Stir until melted and a few of the marshmallows still have a little form, this forms mallow pockets in the finished product.   Pour in crispies, graham crackers and chocolate.
Fold until well blended and all cereal are coated.
Press into buttered or non stick sprayed dish to about a 1 inch thickness.
Dust with cocoa powder.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set.   Makes 12-16 squares.(rectangles in this pan!) :)

Latin and Asian Fusion: Delectable Beef and Zucchini Wonton Cups

Looking for a quick and delicious recipe for entertaining.  This  is a sure fire winner for the crowd, especially if you like ground beef, veggies and wontons.  This recipe makes good use of your flavor building vegetables like peppers and onions too!  The prep time is minimal and the kids can even  take part, which helps encourage them to eat more variety in their diets. The presentation is spectacular with the two to three bite portions.  I did a lab last evening and my four year old, Bronwyn, thought they were delicious.  I  got rave reviews all around the board and the vegetables are inconspicuous to the little ones that may persnickety about what they eat.
These babies are packed with an outstanding profile of flavors.  Cumin and garlic are the key spices and the taste is reminiscent of eating scaled down Tostadas,  especially with the vibrant and tangy sauce I created to complement the savory wonton cups.  Monterey Jack cheese is featured in this recipe as well.
     Vegetarians and Vegans don't fret, they may easily be prepared sans beef for a satisfying medley of veggies.  Mushrooms may be added in place of the meat.  The zucchini in this recipe when sauteed lightly can create the idea of meat, so even the devout carnivore won't feel slighted in the least.  On the other hand, if you want a leaner menu item, simply substitute in lean ground chicken or turkey.  Do keep in mind that white meats will dry out faster, and become tough, so incorporate a little olive  or grapeseed oil to maintain  the moisture balance.   This recipe makes 24 cups, using a mini muffin pan, but feel free to double the recipe, depending on guest or family size.   For appetizer servings, it's 3 per person, serving 8.  Admittedly, it's not going to be easy sticking to that ratio, so plan to make more, many more!  
Delectable Beef n' Zucchini Wonton Cups
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
6  mini peppers, various colors, small dice, about 1/3 c.
1/2 soft beef bouillon cube, optional
1 jalapeno,, small dice   
2 c. zucchini, medium dice
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
24 wonton wrappers
Monterey Jack cheese
Chili Powder for garnish
Preheat oven to 375*F.
In a saute pan over medium high heat, add beef , bouillon and onions.  Once beef is  browned, add peppers and zucchini.  Cook for several minutes until veggies begin to soften. SPST.  Drain off excess oil and add spices.  Turn off heat.
Meanwhile, spray with non stick spray or lightly grease and press a wonton wrapper into each muffin hole, and  add equal amounts of ground beef mixture.  Top with desired amount of cheese crumbles or shreds.  Sprinkle tops with Chili Powder and bake until golden and bubbly, about 5 minutes. 
NOTE:  For extra crispy wonton shells, BAKE FIRST WITHOUT FILLING, until golden, several minutes, then fill and broil until cheese is melty and bubbly.
Meanwhile prepare the sauce:
1/2 c. fat free sour cream
1/3 c. good quality Ranch dressing
1 tsp. Sriracha 
splash of lime juice
  Mix all ingredients until  well blended.  SPST.  Transfer to serving bowl.                                                                                                                     

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dorm Favorites Revisited: Fiery Miso Ramen w/Mussels

Many blogs back, I started developing recipes with Ramen noodles and  coined the results Dormitory  Gourmet, finding versatile and creative ways to enjoy the same thing without feeling like you are.  These recipes are not limited to just the dorm however, and can be fun and delicious at home as well.  Today's installment of the Dormitory Gourmet is a lovely and simple seafood dish, with wonderful Asian ingredients like Sambal Oelek and Miso.  Sambal Oekek is an Asian chili paste to add as little or as much heat as you can stand.  Miso is a staple in Asian cuisine and is made from fermented soybeans.  Miso imparts support to the broth and long simmered umami notes.  Lime juice adds a spark of citrusy freshness and  the mussels come already cooked, so the prep work is minimal.  Fresh tomato, parsley and garlic help round out the flavor and brighten the overall appearance.
Fiery Miso Ramen w/Mussels
1 lb. pkg. frozen, cooked mussels*
2 c. water
1/4 c. Miso paste**
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 pkgs. Ramen noodles, using only ONE of the seasoning packets
1 medium tomato, quartered and de-seeded
2 tsp. Sambal Oelek**
1/4 c. fresh parsley, rough chopped
lime juice
lime wedges for serving
Olive oil for drizzling
In a heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat, add mussels, water and Miso paste.  Bring up to a boil and add Ramen and the seasoning packet.  Bring back up to a boil and stir in tomato crushed with your hands, garlic and Sambal Oelek.  Cover and let cook until most of liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
Stir in parsley.  Add a couple splashes of lime juice.  SPST. Drizzle with olive before serving.  Serves 4.

*Precooked mussels can be found in the frozen seafood section of larger supermarkets.
**Miso and Sambal Oelek can be found in specialty shops or grocers.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cruciferous Goodness!

Right about now, gardens are yielding major harvests of various kinds.  We barely have time to preserve, utilize or give to friends and family before our gardens are ready to show us more of the good stuff.  Popular home garden veggies include green beans, corn, squash, cabbage, zucchini, peas, beets and broccoli to name a few.  Though some people grow broccoli at home, they may not be as partial to it's lighter colored cousin, cauliflower.  Both are in the cruciferous or cabbage family.  Cauliflower is rich in major vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium and zinc, riboflavin,thiamine, and a host of other B vitamins.  Cauliflower is also rich in dietary fiber and phytochemicals known to reduce risks of certain cancers.  There are 4 major types of cauliflower and 4 major colors including white, green, orange and purple.  Cauliflower is best served raw or with relatively low cooking times, as with the extensive heat, there is a drastic breakdown of it's healthy chemical components.  Cauliflower makes for an excellent substitute for potatoes, being similar in taste and texture, but without the carbohydrate factor.  Today's recipe consists of fresh cauliflower and several ingredients of Asian origin to produce a quick and delicious side dish for any occasion.  This recipe is great, because aside from being delicious, it can also promote and maintain a healthy prostate for the men in your life.  Plus, the thermogenic effects of the chilies will help to raise the metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day!!!
Spicy Cauliflower Saute
1 head cauliflower
2 tbsp. rendered bacon fat or olive oil
2 dried Thai chilies
1 tsp. sambal oelek
2 tbsp. oyster sauce, plus 1 tbsp. water
pinch of brown sugar
scant pinch of allspice
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
splash of lime juice
Preheat cast iron skillet or saute  pan to medium high heat.  Add oil.
Meanwhile,  remove thick inner stalk of cauliflower.   Slice from top to bottom in about 1/4 inch increments.  Season with PEPPER, THE SALT WILL BE ADDED LATER.
Carefully add cauliflower and Thai chilies to pan and shake slightly to get  cauliflower settled and caramelization on some of the slices.  
Cook for about 2 minutes undisturbed, then add  kosher salt to taste.  
After about 1 more minute, toss again to to allow other pieces to get some caramelization, and add sambal oelek, oyster sauce, brown sugar, allspice, garlic and lime juice.
Toss to coat.  Cook for 1 minute more and turn off heat.
Cauliflower should have bite and not be mushy, so DO NOT overcook.  
Some of the florets will break apart while sauteing and that is o.k.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Southern Comfort Foods!

Food can provide more than just sustenance and the building blocks for our body's physical and biological functions.  Food has been used as a glue for bringing families together via gatherings and special events.  We seek out certain foods when older that bring us comfort when we consume them, because they remind us of a time and place when things were less chaotic and have the psychological ability to lift our spirits when feeling low.  I can't really call it Southern Comfort Foods when I cook, because being from the south, (more like middle eastern south) these are foods I learned to prepare at a young age and and have been doing so concurrently to present day.  The foods you may have to travel to mom's or grandma's to eat every now and then, are a part of my regular menu planning.  You wouldn't have to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy delicious Turkey and Stuffing with Yams and Broccoli Casserole. Easter is not the only time for delicious Ham, Yeast Rolls and Baked Macaroni and Cheese with a hearty helping of homemade Potato Salad.  Meatloaf with Savory Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans long simmered with ham fat is no stranger here.  Creamy Banana Pudding and Sweet Potato Cake with Poppy Seed Caramel Glaze, yeah I make those too. I  have developed those recipes with my own unique spin and I dare say  that I execute them rather well.  Basically, you can precipitate those comforting feelings at will and on the regular, being once every couple of months for time's sake and our waists' sake respectively. That being said, today's menu consists of BBQ Country Style Ribs, Garlic Scented Carrots w/ Peas, and hand picked greens that had been frozen from last harvest.  This menu invokes what I'd like to call SO-CO Nostalgia in that when I hear these foods names, especially the bbq country ribs, I automatically think of Sunday dinners and cookouts and spending time with my family, whom I hold dear.  I get that same feeling preparing these foods and when my people enjoy them so it's a win- win situation, full circle.  My comfort comes from knowing my family will enjoy those meals whole heartedly and give feedback on the highest points as well as possible ideas to make them even better.  Most of the time, they wouldn't change a thing, and that's really a comforting thought!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Garfield's Favorite, Lasagna!

Garfield movies have become my girls' and nephew's new favorite as per cartoon animal entertainment and was a go-to show when I was a young girl.  Most of us are familiar with Garfield and his habits including the consumption of  copious amounts of lasagna.  Needless to say, I have had lasagna on the brain for  few weeks now.   There are  numerous variations of Lasagna, the ever popular Italian dish, and I have several of my own including one with pepperoni, one with classic bechamel and no ricotta, as well as a couple with ricotta and ricotta/veggie blends.
The lasagna  I created today has more of a lighter combination, incorporating more veggies  in part because I had some that needed to be utilized before they lost freshness or expired.  Lean ground turkey is the main protein for this recipe, with about 1/2 lb. good quality ground beef for layering/flavor component.   The ricotta blend contains julienne of spinach, Pecorino Romano, and a scant amount of nutmeg, YES, NUTMEG. Nutmeg complements cheesy dishes and spinach very well.  Small diced zucchini is added for nutritional value and help absorb some of the flavors, like little flavor sponges!  The recipe turned out well and I'm looking forward to leftovers, since to me it tastes better the next day.  I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Having Your Tea with a Knife and Fork!

Many of us enjoy the wonderful and soothing benefits of drinking tea!  Whether it 's iced or brewed hot, teas can provide a plethora of medicinal and antioxidant contributions to our overall health.  Chinese Green Tea has been noted to offer benefits ranging from heart  and lymphatic system health to weight loss.  Whatever your motivation, it's a suitable solution for marinating proteins as well.  I created a recipe last evening using loose Chinese Green Tea and lemon as the primary flavor builder for grilled chicken leg quarters.  The end product was a subtly flavored and citrus scented  bird with lots of smoky infusion and a cacophonous blend of earthy tones.  Using this tea as a marinade, helps to infuse  the chicken with the boundless enzymes that make Chinese Green Tea so popular!  Feel free to use other parts of the chicken if you like. The longer you marinate it, the more pronounced the flavor.
Chinese Green Tea and Lemon Chicken
3 to 5lbs. chicken parts
1 tbsp. loose tea leaves
1 large lemon, halved and squeezed
1 soft chicken bouillon cube
olive oil for drizzling
seasoned salt
In a small saucepan, heat about 2 cups water with chicken cube and tea leaves.
Bring to a boil, and let tea steep in liquid until cooled.
Pour cooled liquid over chicken and SPST.  Add lemon and rind.  Fill vessel with cold water until chicken is just covered.  Refrigerate for several hours until ready to grill or roast. and
When ready to grill, drain and scrap off excess tea leaves, allowing some to stay for dexterity
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoned salt before grilling!.