Month: February 2014

Let’s Get Saucy! In Which Our Heroine Joins a Cookbook Swap

This past week has been pretty hectic. At school, we’ve moved past eggs and breakfast and onto roasting, which meant producing full roasted dinners two nights in a row. At work, we’re setting goals for the rest of the year and settling into new ownership. On a more personal note, I helped my Little Sister (I’ve been a Big Sister with Big Brothers/Big Sisters for three years this month!) and her family move into their very own apartment, after a really tough year of moving around from family guest rooms to hotels. I couldn’t be prouder of them, and it was such an amazing and humbling experience to be part of their special day.

And here in the blogosphere, I got to take part in my very first ever cookbook swap! I participated in the Food Blogger Cookbook Swap, hosted by Alyssa of www.EverydayMaven.com and Faith of www.anediblemosaic.com. I sent a cookbook to a food blogger and someone sent me a cookbook, too!

swap
I think I kinda hit the cookbook jackpot. I received Faith’s cookbook, “An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair.”

Blog_mosaic

I’ve always been a big fan of Middle Eastern food, but my experience has pretty much been limited to what I can get in restaurants. This book breaks down the components, the vocabulary, and the cooking methods of Middle Eastern food so beautifully, I feel silly for ever being intimidated by the idea of trying to cook it at home.

It was really hard to choose a recipe to cook for this post. All of them looked so colorful and sounded so delicious. I finally settled on Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce. This cookbook does a really good job of walking you through all the pieces of the puzzle before diving into the recipes that put the whole picture together for you, but if you’re still just a little bit unsure this particular recipe uses ingredients most of us have heard of and are probably familiar with.

Equipment:
Medium sized skillet with a lid
Cutting board and knife
Can opener
Spoon for stirring
Measuring spoons and cups
Mis en place bowls (if you do all your prep first)

Ingredients (I cut the amounts in half because I was cooking just for me, but I’m giving you the full amounts here):
2 T olive oil
1 green bell pepper, de-seeded and diced
1 small onion, diced
1 small hot green chili pepper (I used a jalapeno), minced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tomatoes, diced
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground paprika
1/4 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 T tomato paste
1/2 C water
Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

As usual, I recommend that you get all your mis en place together first. (The fact that you can see my sink in this picture means you all now know exactly how small my kitchen is.)

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Heat the oil in your skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and the onion and sweat them until they’re soft.

Add the jalapeno, garlic, salt and diced tomato and cook for about 2 minutes, then add all the spices stir them in. Cook everything for about another minute.

Add the water and the tomato paste and stir them into the cooked veggies to combine. Bring the heat up to boiling, then back down to a simmer and cover. Let the sauce cook for about 10 minutes. Faith recommends taking the lid off of the pan for the last minute or so to let the sauce thicken up.

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Use the back of your spoon to make four little indentations in the sauce. Crack one egg into each little dent, and then put the cover back on and let it them cook for about 5 minutes for a runny yolk, and maybe another minute or so longer for medium set.

Garnish with the parsley, and serve!

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What I really loved about this recipe (aside from the fact that I’ll use any excuse to eat a runny yolked egg on my food) is the blend of spices and the little bite from the chili pepper in the sauce. They just brought so much flavor to the party! This recipe was also super quick to put together, so if you wanted to add a little excitement to breakfast, this would be the way to do it.

There were 39 other bloggers who participated in this year’s swap. We’ve all written about the cookbooks we received, and it’s been a lot of fun learning about everyone through their posts about this swap. Go check them out!
A Baker’s House
An Edible Mosaic
avocado bravado
Blue Kale Road
Blueberries And Blessings
Cheap Recipe Blog
Confessions of a Culinary Diva
Create Amazing Meals
Cucina Kristina
Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Cupcake Project
Dinner is Served 1972
Done With Corn
Eats Well With Others
Everyday Maven
Flour Me With Love 
From My Sweet Heart 
girlichef 
Great Food 360° 
Healthy. Delicious. 
Je Mange la Ville 
Karen’s Kitchen Stories 
Kitchen Treaty 
Olive and Herb
OnTheMove-In The Galley 
Our Best Bites 
Paleo Gone Sassy
poet in the pantry 
Rhubarb and Honey 
Rocky Mountain Cooking
Shikha la mode 
Shockingly Delicious
Sifting Focus 
Spiceroots
Spoonful of Flavor 
Tara’s Multicultural Table 
The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler 
The Suburban Soapbox 
The Whole Family’s Food 

Ok… this is awkward.

So, this is going to be short and sweet, and I’m probably only going to do it once. I really hate asking for help– ask anyone who knows me. I will take the long and twisty and difficult way around so many things in order to not have to ask for help. I tell you that so you know that this is serious, and I’m serious.

For those of you who are new to this blog, I’ll give you just a little back story. All of this blogging and going to culinary school and recipe writing and just general obsessing over food and cooking is all going somewhere. I want to go out in the world and learn a little bit more after school, and then come home to Denver and open a little cooking school of my own. I want to help normal folks– not people who are looking to be famous on the food network or go work in a restaurant– but home cooks, and aspiring home cooks, or even just the culinarily curious, to feel that same sense of empowerment in the kitchen that I do. I want to share my knowledge, and connect my students with others in my community (virtual and literal) who have knowledge to share.

Eventually, I’ll take material from this blog and use it to put together a cookbook. Even if I have to self publish it, it’s something I have always wanted to do. It will serve as a sort of guidebook for my students, and hopefully, a helpful resource for anyone who buys it.

The International Food Blogger Conference is being held this September 19th-21st in Seattle. I believe that attending this conference is the best way to not only gain the knowledge I need to become a truly successful blogger, but also connect with other food bloggers and become an active member of the food blogging community. But, I can’t afford to go without some help. If you click the link below, you’ll see that this isn’t a vacation I’m trying to plan on other people’s dime. This is a work trip, and will be treated as such. I’ve broken down the costs to keep expenses to the absolute minimum. I won’t be staying in a fancy hotel, or taking cabs around town. It’s public transpo and a homeshare for me.

http://www.gofundme.com/6zrkx0

If you are so inclined, and are in a position to help financially, I really hope that you’ll do so. If you think you need to see a little more from me before you make any kind of investment, or you simply aren’t in a position to help with money, I would really appreciate all the good vibes and encouraging words you can muster. Those are just as important.

To my dear, sweet friends Nikki and Casey, I offer a heartfelt thank you for the support you’ve already provided. I hope I can do you proud, because your faith in me means the world.

Ok… that’s all I’m gonna say about that. Thanks everyone! Tomorrow we return you to your regularly scheduled food and fun!

I’m not down with the sickness

I’ve had a stomach thing the past couple of days. I ate fast food fried chicken on Saturday, and without getting too graphic, my body rejected it. I should have known better. Since I’ve had my gall bladder out, I’ve had to be careful about eating high fat foods because… well… I promised I wouldn’t get graphic so… reasons.

Upset_Stomach-4

Anyhoots. I cooked one thing this weekend, because I had a deadline for this really cool thing I did that I’ll tell you about on Friday. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some good recipes for that “just getting over an unhappy tummy” thing that happens when you are not quite feeling better but you don’t feel as bad as you did before.  Of course, ideally someone else is there to make these things for you, but since no one has shown up at my door with declarations of undying affection and a bouquet of wooden spoons or a Kitchen Aid stand mixer yet, I guess I’ll just call these The Foods I’d Like To Have If I Felt At All Like Cooking Food.

Ginger is known for it’s tummy soothing properties. I always carry ginger tea with me when I travel because I get air sick and car sick kinda easily. This Cleansing Ginger-Chicken Soup from Bon Appétit is packed with ginger, but not a lot of other complicated flavors that might irritate a delicate stomach.

The active component of mint, menthol, works as an anti-spasmodic and muscle relaxer, which can help calm stomach cramps and relieve nausea. Of course, the easiest way to get a little mint inside you is mint tea, but if you’re not a tea person, try modifying this Mint, Basil, Cucumber, and Lime Fizz I found on Yummly.com. I say modify, because this recipe as its written calls for a lot of sugar so I’d probably cut that down quite a bit because you don’t need to load your system with a lot of sugar at this point.  But, the mint and cucumber, combined with the stomach settling effects of the bubbly water, sounds pretty soothing.

Once you’re ready to start introducing more solid foods, you might start with this Quinoa Salad with Lime and Fresh Mint from the Gluten Free Goddess. After I’m done being sick, I still don’t want anything too heavy or processed for several days. This salad sounds clean and fresh, and can be customized to whatever fresh veggies you have on hand, just in case you’re not ready to face the masses at the grocery store yet.  You can start with a small portion and see how you do before moving on to regular food.

Another snack sized option is this recipe for Fresh Spring Rolls I found on RawFoodRecipes.com. If you’re like me, you almost always have a cucumber and some sort of lettuce/salad green type something in the fridge along with some other basic salad/stir fry veggies, so this is another one that can be customized to whatever you have handy.

I have a kitchen lab at school tonight and tomorrow night, and to be honest, I’m not exactly looking forward to having to do a lot of cooking just yet. I’m going to volunteer to take care of any veg recipes, and let the other folks on my team deal with the heavy stuff. Hopefully by tomorrow I’m mostly back to normal and I can get excited about Roasted Meat week.

If anyone has any other ideas for “post-stomach thing” foods, feel free to drop me a line in the comments!

From the Suggestion Box: My Favorite Favorite

About a month ago, I asked folks on my Facebook page for suggestions on what kinds of posts they’d like to see here. Nikki (who I’ve known since 7th grade) asked me to make my favorite recipe by my favorite chef.

My favorite chef, in case you haven’t been reading this whole time (Why is that, again?) is Julia Child. There are so many reasons for that, but I could take a whole post just talking about all of them and I promised an actual recipe so I’ll just refer you here. My favorite recipe from her? Gosh. That’s a lot more difficult to pinpoint. I had to think about it because it’s so hard to separate the recipes I like watching her cook and the recipes that I actually enjoy cooking. The conclusion I came to was that despite the fact that she might be known for complicated, multi-step French recipes, it’s the really straightforward ones that I think epitomize her style the most. She was humble before the food, and very good at letting it be what it is without a lot of fussing. So, I chose this recipe for Herb, Lemon, and Garlic Roast Chicken. It’s one you can easily duplicate at home without having to hunt down special ingredients or equipment. I made one replacement, and I didn’t follow the steps exactly because I just didn’t have the room to spread out like she did, so I’ll walk you through how I did it.

Equipment:
1 large roasting pan or baking dish
1 Mixing bowl
Knife and cutting board
Measuring spoons
Plate
Tongs
Whisk
Aluminum foil
Measuring spoons

Ingredients:
2 lemons, halved, juiced and halves reserved
4 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
6 cloves garlic, crushed, unpeeled
salt and fresh ground black pepper as needed
4-5 lb whole chicken
1 onion, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
2 tbsp walnut or hazelnut oil
2 bunch watercress, stemmed, washed and dried (I actually used fresh spinach because there wasn’t any watercress to be found at King Soopers. Use whatever leafy green you like.)

Preheat your oven to 400°.

Get your mis en place ready first, so the rest of the process goes fast.

Grab your herbs and the garlic.
herbs
Smash the garlic cloves, then chop one of them, plus  half of a sprig’s worth of rosemary leaves and one sprig’s worth of thyme leaves. Add them to the bowl with your lemon juice, plus the salt and pepper. I actually removed the lemon pieces before the next step with the chicken.

lemonbowl

Slice up your onions and put them in the bottom of your roasting pan.

onion
Put the whole chicken into your mixing bowl and coat it well all over the outside with your lemon juice/herb mixture. Season the inside of the chicken really well with salt and pepper, then place it in the pan on top of the onions. Pour whatever lemon juice is left over the chicken, drizzle it with the olive oil, and sprinkle the whole thing with salt. Stuff the lemon halves, the remaining whole sprigs of herbs, and the smashed garlic cloves inside. I think it’s more important that you get all the herbs and garlic in there, so if you don’t have room for all the lemon halves, try to get as much in there as you can. I stopped at three. Wash out the bowl because you’ll use it again when the chicken comes out of the oven.

I did not have twine (bad preparation on my part) so I wasn’t able to tie the legs together, as the recipe says. I should have, and normally I do because it just makes for a prettier chicken. Plus, it seems to cook more evenly when I do that. However, this time we went with the less dignified version. Poor chicken, here she is, legs akimbo, stuffed to the… whatever. So humiliating. Sorry, chicken!

raw
Pop the chicken into the oven for about an hour and 15 minutes. If you’re nervous about chicken cooking temps at all, use a meat thermometer before you pull it out of the oven to check. Measure at the thickest part of the meat in at least two places, without touching any bone. You want a minimum internal temperature of 165°.

Feel free to sit down and have a glass of wine or something while the chicken roasts, because you really can’t do the next step until it’s out of the oven. No, really, put your feet up! Watch that episode of Supernatural you’ve been saving on the DVR and let that chicken do what it’s doing.

(brief interlude to ask The Universe how Jensen Ackles could have possibly come to be that good looking.)
Jensen-Ackles-Celebrities

Ok. Back to reality.

When your chicken is all done roasting, pull it out of the oven and move it to a plate with your tongs (or whatever’s handy).

chicken

Poor chicken. It’s even more humiliating from this angle. Cover her loosely with some foil while she rests and let her have a moment to herself.

Strain the hot liquid from the bottom of the roasting pan into a bowl.  The chicken stock listed in the ingredients should be used to deglaze your roasting pan/baking dish. Since I used one of those throw away aluminum jobs, I didn’t really do that step. However, if you’re using a real pan that you can put over heat and properly deglaze, that’s what the stock is for. Pour your deglazing liquid into the bowl as well, and then whisk in the walnut/hazelnut/olive oil (Whatever you have is fine. I used walnut.).

What you’re basically doing here is making a pan sauce masquerading as a vinaigrette. Toss whatever greens you’re using in the vinaigrette. They’ll wilt slightly, or maybe more than slightly, depending on how hot the liquid still is and how much you toss it around. Adjust the seasoning as you see fit and give it all another little toss.

spinach
Annnnnd… you’re pretty much done! Plate it up and call everyone to the table. Time to grub!

I made some Dauphinoise Potatoes (fancy au gratin potatoes) as a side dish.|

serve
I hope you’ll try this one, because it’s really delicious and, as Julia’s recipes go, pretty flipping easy to get together. The lemon adds some nice brightness, and using the pan juices to make that vinaigrette brings a little something special to what would normally be just a plain roasted chicken recipe.

Bon appétit!

bonappetit

Rice, Rice Baby

Yeah, that pun was bad, even for me. I’m standing by it, though.

It’s still winter. STILL. You know, I pride myself on being relatively unaffected by the weather. It rarely stops me from doing what I want to do, and has almost no impact on my mood– usually. This winter has me all discombobulated, though. I have been in a perpetual state of “Why can’t I warm up?!?!” so I’ve been throwing together a lot of soups, and have eaten so much soup I’m feeling a bit sloshy. I decided (ok, the curriculum for week five at school decided and I agreed) that it was time for a change. Enter… Risotto.

If you’ve made it before, then you’re already familiar with how magical and comforting a bowl of creamy risotto can be. Infinitely customizeable, if you’re willing to put in the time and attention, a single pot of risotto can make a whole lotta people happy.

If you’ve never made it before… maybe because you’ve been too intimidated, or just didn’t feel like you had the time, let me assure you that 1) it’s not difficult, just a little demanding and 2) it doesn’t take nearly as long as you might think (20-25 minutes), and you can make it into a one pot meal, if you use your imagination.

If I had one tip for making risotto, it would be this: Never stop stirring. I’m being a little dramatic, but not very. The key to a creamy risotto is the stirring. Arborio rice, the type traditionally used for risotto, is a short grained rice with a very high starch content. It’s the constant stirring that allows the rice to release its starch and reach that creamy consistency.

Equipment:

2 medium sized pots
1 wooden spoon
Grater
Measuring cups and spoons
1 Ladle
Containers for your mis en place

Ingredients:
1 ounce plus 1/2 ounce butter
1/2 ounce olive oil
2 ounces finely diced onion
1 C Arborio Rice
4 ounces white wine
24 ounces chicken stock
1 ounce (or more, your call) grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste

Get all your mis en place together right at the start, because risotto is kinda like a new puppy or a toddler– you can’t really walk away from it for very long.

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In your first pot, bring the chicken stock to a very gentle simmer on your back burner. The stock needs to stay heated the entire time.

In the second pot, heat the 1/2 ounce of butter plus the olive oil. Add the onion and sweat it (no browning) 2-3 minutes over medium heat.

Add the rice and stir it to coat for about a minute and a half. Do not brown the rice.

Starting from this point, you’re going to be adding your liquid in stages. You’ll add a little… stir, stir, stir, and watch for the rice to absorb almost all of it before adding the next round of liquid. You know it’s time to add more liquid when the level of the rice is above the level of the liquid. I tend to take my time with risotto because I like it really creamy. Our recipe said to add the stock one third at a time, but I add mine about a ladle full at a time.

Start by adding the wine, stirring as you let it fully absorb into the rice.

Add your first ladle of stock. Stir until it’s absorbed. This is what mine looked like just after the first addition of stock.

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You can see that the rice grains are all still very separate, and almost solid white because it hasn’t absorbed much liquid yet.

Add the stock a bit at a time (whatever amount you’re comfortable with, although I probably wouldn’t go more than 1/2 a cup at a time), continuously stirring. Make sure to keep the heat low enough that the liquid doesn’t boil. If it starts to boil, check your flame, and if necessary, take the pot off the heat for a few seconds just until the boiling subsides. It’s the low and slow cooking process that’s going to give you the creamiest risotto and prevent scorching. The recipe says the risotto should be done in 18-20 minutes, but mine tends to take about 25-28.

This is what it looked like with about five minutes to go:

blog_almost there

Can you see the difference? The rice has given off quite a bit of starch, and the grains are no longer separate and distinct.

When the rice is done, you’ll remove it from the heat and add the remaining butter and however much cheese you like, season with salt and pepper according to your preference, then serve it on a plate.

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When is it done? This is sort of up to you. I prefer mine sort of al dente, but probably not as toothy as someone from Italy would. If you want to take it all the way to the point where you can bite through the rice without any resistance, that’s really your prerogative, but if you let it go past that you just have mush, not risotto, so just be careful.

This recipe is for a really basic risotto, but let me reassure you that basic does not mean boring! It’s full of flavor, and would be a great starter to a meal. However, if you want to make things interesting you can add some blanched peas or sauteed mushrooms. Try mixing in a little pureed pumpkin or squash, or even some crispy pieces of bacon.  Play around with the cheese! Instead of regular white wine, use champagne! If you make it once, you’ll soon figure out that risotto is incredibly versatile.

If you have any leftovers, you can always whip up some arancini— delicious little balls of risotto that are breaded and fried. Who wouldn’t love a snack like that?