Thursday, January 13, 2011

NOTEBOOK ENTRY #3: MY CUTTING METHODS

Tomatoes-on-the-Vine
I am very particular about the way I like my tomato cut.  Anyone who has cooked with me knows this.  I like consistency and accuracy.  My method uses a pairing knife (which is to me very much like the x-acto knife I used to use for all my artwork) to carefully, but efficiently cut the tomato into strong little cubes.  When you try this method at home on a ripe tomato, you will see what I mean... these cubes are so sturdy and consistent in size that they will not lose their shape when mixed in guacamole nor will they be easily destroyed by even the most zealous chip dipper.  Now, let's get started.

Tomatoes-on-the-Vine are my personal favorite, but really any fat, ripe tomato will do.  I have recently been on a fairly tight budget, so I began buying those 4 packs of tomatoes from the grocery store.  They are not perfect, but they are not bad when you are paying only $2.50 for the lot of them.  If you can head over to BJ's or Costco, however, grab a six pack of the Tomato-on-the-Vine.  It will be well worth it to your tastebuds.


Our first order of business is removing the stem.  Take your knife and cut a small circle around the stem, much as you would a pumpkin before carving.  This will allow you to pop it out neatly with one gentle twist.  You are now prepared for removal of what I refer to as "the guts" (once again, like a pumpkin(I suggest carefully pulling the tomato from the vine and cutting a small circle around the stem (much as you would with a pumpkin before carving).  This allows you to pop it out with a gentle twist and prepares you for removal of what I refer to as "the guts." (once again, like a pumpkin). 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Broiled Steak & Mashed Potato

Shopping List (FOR 2)

  • 2 Steaks
  • 2 Potatoes
  • Fresh Chopped Garlic
  • Cali Garlic Powder
  • Ground Cumin
  • Ground Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Country Crock
  • Soy Milk
  • Basil

Rumor has it that it is going to snow tonight. In light of this, I have been food shopping for basic necessities... such as tofu, avocados, tomatoes, soy milk, ravioli, soy yogurt, green tea with coconut milk ice cream, and limes. (I know, I know, these sound like silly "necessities" but if you've ever met me and know anything about my personal eating habits, I wouldn't have survived being snowed in for five minutes without these goodies about!) After working all day and then shopping, however, I wanted to eat something a little less involved.

Enter: My Mother.

Low and behold, there were three little steaks sitting in the refrigerator just waiting to be prepared for dinner that night. How on earth did I overlook them? Well, that's simple. #1 they weren't mine and #2 I've only recently been trying to convert back to an omnivore. Anyway, they were there and they were about to be cooked. Lucky me.

Now, my mother had plans to broil these steaks lightly seasoned and to the point of near charcoal. (she likes everything VERY well done) and I decided to save mine from that horrifying fate. Originally asked to simply find some fresh garlic and chop it up to perfection, I found myself once again digging through my cabinets in search of the goodies I knew were hidden somewhere within its depths to further enhance my dining experience. Out from the abyss came some ground cumin, california garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Delighted, I sprinkled generous portions of each respectively and rubbed it in to the meat with my fingertips. Flipping the steak over, I rubbed this mixture into the other side. Finally satisfied, I grabbed the garlic I'd been chopping and sprinkled it on top of both mine and my family's steaks, giving them a double dose of flavor by pressing the garlic into both sides of the meat. (I really should have sliced little incisions into the meat and placed the garlic INSIDE while it broiled, but I didn't think of that until now. Next time!!!)

My mother took over from here and placed the steaks in the broiler... for I'm not sure how long or on what setting... but I do know that it was far longer than I ever would have. The steaks came out "well done" for lack of a better phrase.

Okay, so the steak is cooking. Meanwhile, we began debating what sort of side dish to include. French fries were apparently out, even though I was itching to try out my newly acquired deep fryer. Baked potatoes were also dismissed because no one really seemed interested. My solution? Mashed Potatoes!

Alas, we did not have enough time to make the mashed potatoes. ("But but but, there is photographic evidence that you DID in fact MAKE THE MASHED POTATOES," you might say? Well, I am getting to that point, so hang tight.) There was not enough time before the steak was cooked to make the mashed potatoes traditionally. My next best bet (because I could not lower myself to using instant when the resources were right there in front of me to make fresh ones) was the microwave.

Grabbing two of the biggest potatoes in the bag, I quickly peeled them and threw the skin in my bin to compost. I then made tiny incisions on all sides of both potatoes and threw them in the microwave for a little while to soften up. I tried the potato button which took longer than I anticipated, but still not nearly as long as if I'd tried boiling them. Low and behold, my idea was a success. The potatoes were cooked and soft enough to mash with a fork and spoon together (much like mashing avocados). I added a bit of soy milk and country crock to make them creamy and continued mixing in some dried basil, fresh garlic, sea salt, and pepper. They were quick and simple. That was just what I needed after such a long day on very little sleep.

The steaks were done by the time I was finished and I divvied out the mashed potatoes onto each plate alongside the meat. Realizing that I did not prepare any gravy for the potatoes, I used the juices and spices left in the pan from the steaks to create a light sauce that I poured on both the steak and potatoes. It was a little tough due to how long it was cooked, but overall the meal was successful despite limited resources and time.


What would I do differently next time?

Cook the meal for less time. I would also improve the gravy.

All in all this was a great learning experience to reintroduce myself to the world of meat

I, however, would take seitan over steak any day... but that's just me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

WELCOME TO MY NOTEBOOK: ENTRY 1

I am having one of those days where nothing that I am looking for has been here. On the flip-side, I have been on a mad cleaning spree and have discovered many useful household items I had previously deemed lost or swallowed by my living space. For example: my Tabasco is missing, so all hope of making some delicious buffalo chicken vanished... but I found not only my hair dryer (which has been missing since I moved back in September and apparently didn't make the cut when I was chaotically unpacking) but also found not one, not two, but six assorted bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Lucky me... that should save me a trip to the store for at least four to five months.

Anyway, in light of my recent findings and new year's resolution to Peter Pan my life if I have even the most minuscule desire to fly (aka: "Think Happy Thoughts") I turned my gaze to the bright side... I have defrosted my chicken breast and still have Chili Powder and Tomato Sauce. HOORAY! Mexican dinner night came early this week... and at lunch time no less!

Digging through my cabinet, I rounded up some sea salt, black pepper, and a bit of ground cumin... and with a bit more digging, I uncovered some 10-Minute Rice. Excellent. (If you are cooking along with me, please throw a quart of water with a pinch of sea salt on to the boil... and make sure your chicken breast is defrosted... NOW!) Now, what are we working with... 1 Chicken Breast, 1 bag of 10-Minute Rice (white or brown, your choice. I use white.), 1/2 jar of Tomato Sauce (I suggest Francesco Rinaldi Sweet & Tasty Tomato), fresh ground black pepper, fresh ground sea salt, Vegetable Oil (to cook the chicken), McCormick Original Chili Seasoning (it's the BEST... if you can get your hands on it), a sprinkle of ground cumin, and (if you have it) 1/4 cup Chicken Stock or Chicken Broth. (If you're like me and are limited on time, I suggest multitasking the quick and easy way... with Lipton Ring O'Noodle instant soup. Just add the packet to 4 cups of boiling water and stir for 5 minutes! I will warn you, however, if you are using soup BE SURE TO DRAIN OUT THE NOODLES!)

Got everything ready? Good. Let's cook.

Let's start by slicing your chicken while all that water boils. You want dimensions the size they would give you in Chicken Lo Mein at the Chinese Food Restaurant... this means small rectangles. Got that? Good.

Let's turn now to the stove top...

Your three ring circus should now consist of a quart of boiling water (for the rice), 4 cups of boiling water (for the soup), and a frying pan to cook your chicken in.

BURNER #1: Drop the bag of 10-Minute rice into the quart of water... for 8-10 minutes.

BURNER #2: Dump your packet of Lipton Ring O'Noodle soup into the 4 cups of water... for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

BURNER #3: Coat the bottom of the frying pan with Vegetable Oil, turn the burner on, and start frying up your chicken. While one side cooks about half way, be sure to grind some sea salt and black pepper onto your chicken slivers. Repeat on both sides. Next, shake a light dusting of Chili Seasoning Powder onto your chicken and begin to stir fry. Keep the chicken moving as you add 2 tablespoons of Tomato Sauce. Cook until you can slice the chicken in half and it is white on the inside. By the time you are finished with this, the soup should be done. Turn off your burner when the chicken is cooked.

BURNER #2: Turn off the burner when your 5 minute alarm sounds. Carefully drain 1/4 cup of the chicken broth and place it to the side. You can now drink or store your chicken soup for later.

BURNER #1: Your 8-10 minute rice alarm should be sounding now. Turn off the burner. Then, carefully remove the bag from the boiling water and let drain. I now suggest placing the bag of rice into a separate bowl while you snip the top off the bag off.

BURNER #3: Leave the chicken in the frying pan and turn the burner back on to a medium heat. Dump the bag of rice into the frying pan and begin to stir fry. Dump the chicken soup and remaining Tomato Sauce into the frying pan. Continue to stir. Smell your concoction... if it doesn't smell spicy enough, add more Chili Seasoning Powder. Add more sea salt and black pepper to taste. Sprinkle a tiny bit of Ground Cumin across the top of the rice & chicken mixture and continue to stir. Put the burner on low heat now and allow to reduce into a sticky-paste sort of mixture. Stir occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the frying pan and/or burns. When you feel as though you could scoop the mixture out with an ice cream scooper and it would remain in a ball, turn off the burner.

LET THE MIXTURE COOL (AND "SOLIDIFY" MORE) BEFORE REMOVING IT FROM THE FRYING PAN!


Take and eat... or or or! You can grab a whole grain tortilla, soften it in the microwave for 15 seconds, plop a generous portion of the rice and chicken mixture in a small line at the center with some fresh chopped tomato and perhaps some onion, fold two of the ends in about an inch, and roll the tortilla up like a burrito... before popping it in the oven at 350 for 6-8 minutes and enjoying with some salsa and guac... but I mean, that's if you're feeling ambitious. Today, I am happy with just the Spanish Rice.

For more recipes, tips, tricks, and reviews, please visit my website: http://peaceloveguacamole.com

MEXICAN RICE (WITH CHICKEN)


SHOPPING LIST:
  • 1 Chicken Breast
  • 1 Bag 10-Minute Rice
  • 1/2 Jar Tomato Sauce (Francesco Rinaldi Sweet&Tasty Tomato)
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Ground Cumin
  • McCormick Original Chili Seasoning
  • Chicken Stock/Broth
  • Ground Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper

I am having one of those days where nothing that I am looking for has been here. On the flip-side, I have been on a mad cleaning spree and have discovered many useful household items previously deemed lost or swallowed by my living space. For example: my Tabasco is missing, so all hope of making some delicious buffalo chicken vanished... but I found not only my hair dryer (which has been missing since I moved back in September and apparently didn't make the cut when I was chaotically unpacking) but also found not one, not two, but six assorted bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Lucky me... that should save me a trip to the store for at least four to five months.

Anyway, in light of my recent findings and new year's resolution to Peter Pan my life if I have even the most minuscule desire to fly (aka: "Think Happy Thoughts") I turned my gaze to the bright side... I have defrosted my chicken breast and still have Chili Powder and Tomato Sauce. HOORAY! Mexican dinner night came early this week... and at lunch time no less!

Digging through my cabinet, I rounded up some sea salt, black pepper, and a bit of ground cumin... and with a bit more digging, I uncovered some 10-Minute Rice. Excellent. (If you are cooking along with me, please throw a quart of water with a pinch of sea salt on to the boil... and make sure your chicken breast is defrosted... NOW!) Now, what are we working with... 1 Chicken Breast, 1 bag of 10-Minute Rice (white or brown, your choice. I use white.), 1/2 jar of Tomato Sauce (I suggest Francesco Rinaldi Sweet & Tasty Tomato), fresh ground black pepper, fresh ground sea salt, Vegetable Oil (to cook the chicken), McCormick Original Chili Seasoning (it's the BEST... if you can get your hands on it), a sprinkle of ground cumin, and (if you have it) 1/4 cup Chicken Stock or Chicken Broth. (If you're like me and are limited on time, I suggest multitasking the quick and easy way... with Lipton Ring O'Noodle instant soup. Just add the packet to 4 cups of boiling water and stir for 5 minutes! I will warn you, however, if you are using soup BE SURE TO DRAIN OUT THE NOODLES!)

Got everything ready? Good. Let's cook.

Let's start by slicing your chicken while all that water boils. You want dimensions the size they would give you in Chicken Lo Mein at the Chinese Food Restaurant... this means small rectangles. Got that? Good.

Let's turn now to the stove top...

Your three ring circus should now consist of a quart of boiling water (for the rice), 4 cups of boiling water (for the soup), and a frying pan to cook your chicken in.

BURNER #1: Drop the bag of 10-Minute rice into the quart of water... for 8-10 minutes.

BURNER #2: Dump your packet of Lipton Ring O'Noodle soup into the 4 cups of water... for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

BURNER #3: Coat the bottom of the frying pan with Vegetable Oil, turn the burner on, and start frying up your chicken. While one side cooks about half way, be sure to grind some sea salt and black pepper onto your chicken slivers. Repeat on both sides. Next, shake a light dusting of Chili Seasoning Powder onto your chicken and begin to stir fry. Keep the chicken moving as you add 2 tablespoons of Tomato Sauce. Cook until you can slice the chicken in half and it is white on the inside. By the time you are finished with this, the soup should be done. Turn off your burner when the chicken is cooked.

BURNER #2: Turn off the burner when your 5 minute alarm sounds. Carefully drain 1/4 cup of the chicken broth and place it to the side. You can now drink or store your chicken soup for later.

BURNER #1: Your 8-10 minute rice alarm should be sounding now. Turn off the burner. Then, carefully remove the bag from the boiling water and let drain. I now suggest placing the bag of rice into a separate bowl while you snip the top off the bag off.

BURNER #3: Leave the chicken in the frying pan and turn the burner back on to a medium heat. Dump the bag of rice into the frying pan and begin to stir fry. Dump the chicken soup and remaining Tomato Sauce into the frying pan. Continue to stir. Smell your concoction... if it doesn't smell spicy enough, add more Chili Seasoning Powder. Add more sea salt and black pepper to taste. Sprinkle a tiny bit of Ground Cumin across the top of the rice & chicken mixture and continue to stir. Put the burner on low heat now and allow to reduce into a sticky-paste sort of mixture. Stir occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the frying pan and/or burns. When you feel as though you could scoop the mixture out with an ice cream scooper and it would remain in a ball, turn off the burner.


LET THE MIXTURE COOL AND THICKEN UP BEFORE REMOVING IT FROM THE FRYING PAN!


Take and eat... or or or! You can grab a whole grain tortilla, soften it in the microwave for 15 seconds, plop a generous portion of the rice and chicken mixture in a small line at the center with some fresh chopped tomato and perhaps some onion, fold two of the ends in about an inch, and roll the tortilla up like a burrito... before popping it in the oven at 350 for 6-8 minutes and enjoying with some salsa and guac... but I mean, that's if you're feeling ambitious.

Today, I am happy with just the Mexican Rice.