Friday, March 4, 2011

Going Away? Refrigerator Raid!

How many times have you gone out of town, and come back to a stinky fridge full of food gone bad? I know it's happened to me more times that I would like to remember. There is nothing I hate more than wasting money. Next time you are leaving home, set aside about 30-40 minutes to do a refrigerator raid to properly dispose of items that can be trashed and preserve items that can be saved. For example, I recently found a package of mushrooms, a bell pepper, several heads of broccoli, a pint of blueberries, and a half gallon of milk. All of these items were organic (read:EXPENSIVE) and I did not want to lose them to rot. I quickly flash froze the mushrooms, blueberries, pepper (cut into strips), and broccoli on a sheet pan, then put them into individual containers and stashed them in the freezer. The milk had more than an inch of space in the carton, so I felt confident it would freeze without bursting. The milk will need a day or two in the fridge to thaw, and the veggies and berries can stay put until needed.

You can blanche and shock the veggies first, but since I am only freezing them short term just throwing them in the freezer in a properly sealed container will do. And voila! A whole lot of expensive produce and dairy lives to see another day. Got eggs in there too? Freeze them like this.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cultural Eating Habits

This article is about a Puerto Rican woman who found out that she was at risk for some health issues like heart disease.  She notes that it is not part of her culture to eat certain types of healthy foods.  This is an issue that hits close to home for me, and many other I know.

As an African-American, and a member of a 5-person working class family, I grew up eating what I will call "not the best" foods.  We ate a lot of pre-packaged foods, a lot of pork, a lot of cheaper cuts of meat, canned vegetables, and indulged in our favorites like mac and cheese what I would say is too often.  Not to say that I grew up on Pop Tarts alone; my mother was a stickler for presenting a square meal to us at dinner-- protein, starch and vegetables every night.  But those things weren't always fresh or homemade, only to the extent that time and income allowed.

I venture to say that this is not unlike many Americans.  Culturally, minorities tend to lean towards these types of foods for a bevy of reasons including access, income, tastes and time.  And also because these types of foods that are bad for you tend to also be very good, in their own kind of artificially flavored, high fructose corn syrupy, sodium packed sort of way. 

Today, many of us know much more about how to choose healthier foods but there is still that pull towards what our parents and families have done for years that is hard to let go of.  I can't lie....I gets DOWN at Thanksgiving! Mac and cheese, turkey with gravy, stuffing, the works.  But the rest of the time I try to limit my beef consumption, skip meat at least once a week, eat only lean meats, and eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies with a huge side of water.  In my opinion, choosing a healthy life doesn't mean letting go of some of the cultural food traditions that are not so good.  It just means limiting those indulgences; plus, when you have them they taste soooo much better!

Powerful Cheese??

Cheese...powerful? And we're not talking smell here.  Cheese is not one of those foods you think of as having any special "powers" besides making your fat and clogging your arteries, right? Well, it seems that cheese has some hidden benefits that give you all the more reason to enjoy some on....well, anything really. Cheese is that good.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Quickie Quiche: Tomato, Spinach and Cheddar


Do you ever feel like every meal is running together? The same ingredients rearranged?  I know I do.  One night I decided to mix it up a little, and have some Quickie Quiche for dinner.  I know, Quickie Quiche is a really clever name....yet, I feel confident I am not the first to use it.  Oh, well! On to the quiche.

The great thing about quiche is that you can make it so many different ways, and eat it at any time of day.  Bacon and spinash.  Asparagus and cheese.  Mushroom and tomato.  You get the picture, eggs go great with everything.  You can make it heartier or lighter depending on what you add to the magical mix, not to mention it is a great way to pack a bunch of veggies into one meal.  Using store bought crush makes it a super-quickie quiche, but make your own if you prefer. I always make a pretty big one, it goes fast!

Tomato,Spinach and Cheese Quiche

1 pie crust
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 tomato, sliced thin
1/2 cup thawed (frozen) or wilted(fresh) spinach leaves
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake the crust alone for about 7 minutes, or until the surface is set and no longer moist to the touch.  Lower the oven to 375 degrees.
Beat the eggs and all the ingredients besides the sliced tomato.  Pour the mixture into the crust, and arrange the tomatoes on top.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and puffed.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What's For Dinner?

I am not feeling well.  At all...leaving a big, gaping hole in the part of the day where dinner is supposed to be.  Right now I am preparing to give my children a "breakfast for dinner" but have no clue what I will be eating myself. 

What's for dinner at your house?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Okay, so I have to start out by saying that I had no parts in coming up with this recipe.  I only succeeded in making it deliciously without many of the items on what I consider to be a sprawling ingredient list, and in a mere portion of the time.  It turned out to be a winner with lean protein, tons of veggies and a sweet but not overly sugary sauce that everyone pretty much loves.*Brushes sugar from shoulder* Now that I'm done bragging about my culinary prowess and chameleon like adaptability in the kitchen, let's move on to the method and ingredient list.

First of all, this recipe is actually for Sweet and Sour Pork (butt) which was changed to chicken. I nixed some of the fresh items like ginger, shortened the marinate time for the chicken and eliminated the deep frying in favor of a saute in a shallow pan of oil. I also omitted the celery because it just seemed wrong to me. Celery? In Sweet and Sour Chicken?

I ended up making substitutions for about half of the ingredients, and it was a smash hit with everyone around the dinner table.  To save money, I pulled two breasts from one whole chicken cut up.  As always I stashed the neck and back in the freezer for stock making, and made the other six pieces into Oven Fried Chicken for another night.  One chicken, two meals, happiness all around!  I will post the recipe with my changes since I think that the ingredients I used are more likely to be found in YOUR fridge/pantry today since you will be making this at your next meal immediately following a thorough reading, commentary and sharing of this post via all of the social networks you are a part of.  You will.  Trust me!

 Sweet and Sour Chicken
2/3 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 ground ginger
1/2 cup flour, separated in half
2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes
Kosher salt and pepper
1 tb. oil , plus more for saute (canola, olive, whatever you like)
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 ounce honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup large diced onion
1/3 cup carrots sliced 1/4-inch thick, on a bias
1/3 cup large diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup large diced green bell pepper
1/2 can pineapple chunks

1. In a large non-reactive bowl, combine soy, garlic, ginger, and half the flour Season the pork generously with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the bowl and toss to cover. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hr.

2. Drain off any excess marinade and dredge the chicken in the remaining flour seasoned with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan heat enough oil to cover the pan to 350 degrees F. Fry the chicken in batches until golden brown, flipping each piece half way through. Drain on paper towels. Reserve on a warm plate.

3.In a separate bowl, combine the ketchup, sugar, vinegar, and honey. Whisk to blend.

4. In a small roasting pan heat the tablespoon of oil. Place the vegetables into the pan, allow them to soften for about 2 minutes then add the chicken pieces and cover with the ketchup mixture. Bring to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shrimp Etoufee, The Easy Way

Hello bloggers, sorry it has been so long.  Sometimes life just takes a hold of you and takes you for a ride, ya'll can understand that right? I knew you would :x <----a kiss for you

I went to a wonderful Cajun restaurant in Charlotte called Bordeaux's for Eid, and had a wonderful shrimp etoufee topped with a blackened whitefish.  It was so good I nearly ordered another one.  Not to go, to eat a second time around.  Alas, I decided one day that I would endeavor this dish at home.  When the time came for me to make it, I looked up some recipes and found ones with ingredient lists miles long.  Let the intimidation begin!

I decided to tackle this one on my own, using the ingredients and spices in other recipes as an inspiration for my own.  And guess what? It worked!  I put this dish together in about 20 minutes, then put on some rice while it simmered for about 30 minutes and as though through some divine inspiration everything came together right around the same time.  Rice: perfectly steamed, etoufee: perfectly spicy,warm and the perfect texture.  Best of all, it was easy!

Shrimp Etoufee
Prep Time: 20 mins  Cook Time: 30 minutes
Cost: $9.64      Servings: 4-6

1 lb of cleaned shrimp
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup flour
1 chopped onion
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 tb. chopped garlic
1- 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes
1/4 ts. cayenne pepper
1/2 ts. black pepper
1 ts. salt
1/2 ts. garlic powder
1/4 ts. onion powder
1 bay leaf
2 cups water or stock (shrimp if you have it!)

1. Add the flour and oil to a large stockpot or dutch oven to make a roux, and let it cook about 15 minutes until it is a caramel color.  Add the vegetables and garlic then allow them to soften for about 5 minutes.
2. Add in the stock,tomatoes with their juice and all of the spices and stir to combine.  Bring the mixture to a boil and turn down to low heat, simmer for 20 to thirty minutes.
3. Add shrimp and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked.