Friday, March 30, 2012

Go-To Dinners: Salmon and Roasted Vegetables (Part 5 of 5)

I could lie and tell you this post is a tribute to my Catholic friends who are abstaining from meat during this Lenten season, but I will tell the truth: Friday night cop out. But it really is a go-to dinner for me. 

Salmon and Roasted Veggies

Ingredients:
salmon filet
veggies (I chose asparagus and sweet potatoes.)
lemon

Preparation: Spray olive oil over the salmon and veggies. Season with salt and pepper. Slice lemons and place on top of the fish and asparagus. Cook everything at 350 until done. Squeeze some more lemon juice over the fish and asparagus. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Go-To Dinners: Sausage Ragout with Grits (Part 4 of 5)

I spent the better part of my formative years living in Indiana, and although we lived a mere two miles from Kentucky, crossing the bridge over the Ohio River felt like going into a different world.  We opted for you guys over y'all, sweet tea was not ubiquitous, we had a take it or leave it attitude with college football, and we never ate grits.  Never.  It was not until I moved to Memphis in 2001 that I actually ever laid eyes on grits.  I was not a fan at first, but now as an 11-year born-again Southerner, I have embraced y'all, sweet tea, SEC football, and of course, grits.  With butter.  And Cheese, please. 

Grits are an amazingly versatile food. They are a great substitute when you get tired of the rice vs. noodle debate. They are easy to prepare and can be made healthily (i.e., no butter, no cheese).

Granted, I just use corn meal to make my grits, and I'm sure there is some epicurean law admonishing me for this practice, but to me, ground up corny mush = grits. And, grits just seem so much more en vogue than polenta.

Now, on to the go-to recipe,



Sausage Ragout with Grits
Ingredients:
1 lb Italian sausage (You can use turkey or pork; if you buy links, remove the meat from the casings.)
1 green pepper, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 jar marinara sauce
1 cup corn meal

Preparation:
Cook the sausage in a skillet on medium heat until it's cooked through. Remove from heat and let drain. Wipe out the pan, add a bit of olive oil, and add the onions. Saute for a few minutes, then add the green peppers. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, then add the sausage and marinara sauce back to the pan. Stir until everything is coated and combined well. Keep it on low as you make the grits.

Boil three cups of water, and add 1 teaspoon salt. Slowly add in the corn meal, stirring well as you add. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often until they get to a consistency you like. You will probably want to add more water.

Serve the ragout mixture over a spoonful of the grits. Feel free to top with parmesan cheese and basil. (I did not do this. As this recipe serves as a go-to dinner, I went to it at 8PM last night, and my grocery shopping elf forgot the cheese and basil. Why, I declare!) Anyway, whatever you top it with, enjoy!



*Note, in my picture, I made the grits the night before. I refrigerated the mixture in an even layer overnight, then cut it into slices and sauteed the slices in olive oil before serving. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Go-To Dinners: Fish Tacos (Part 3 of 5)

I clearly remember the first time I ever heard of putting fish in a taco.  Discovering this dish was one bright spot on an otherwise torturesome trip to Finland.  (Five girls, one car, two tents, one thousand miles, and three million mosquito bites)  We planned to camp on the night of the Summer Solstice, and we were looking for something to cook for dinner at a market in Helsinki.  The idea of fish tacos came up, and I was sort of horrified.  We ate a lot of tacos growing up, but the standard fare was ground beef.  My friend Lisa cooked fish tacos that were very non-horrific; in fact, they were heavenly. Thus, my love affair with this dish was born. 

My recipe includes a spate of my favorite spice (cumin) and my favorite herb (cilantro).  It requires quite a bit of prep, but once you get the fish going, it's a quick and very easy meal.

Fish Tacos

The Coleslaw:
2 T light mayo
Squeeze of 1/2 lime
1 T vinegar
pinch of sugar, salt, and cumin
pre-shredded cabbage, about 1.5 cups
1 green onion, chopped
1 T cilantro, chopped

Mix everything except the cabbage, green onion, and cilantro in a medium-sized bowl.  Add in the cabbage and herbs and mix well.  This will give a pretty light coat on the cabbage, but know that you should make it a day (or a couple hours) before hand, and as the cabbage breaks down, it will get juicier.  But if you like your coleslaw really saturated, add more mayo and lime/vinegar, and if you like it lighter, add more coleslaw.


The Pico: 
1/4 jalapeno, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T cilantro, chopped
2 T onion, chopped
squeeze of 1/2 lime
salt

Mix all the ingredients together and taste.  It should taste like freshness in a spoon.  Not so much? Add more lime juice and/or salt.


The Fish: 
I use any white fish I have on hand, tilapia, cod, halibut.  While I prefer the meatiness of cod or halibut, my wallet prefers tilapia, so I went with that most recently.

2 filets tilapia
olive oil (I've been using the spray variety.)
salt
pepper
cumin
squeeze of 1/2 lime

Pat the filets dry and season with salt, pepper, and cumin.  Squeeze about 1/4 of the lime over the top. Heat a skillet on medium, and spray a few spritzes of olive oil.  Once the pan is hot, add the fish and cook about 3 minute minutes or until it's toasty brown.  Turn the fish, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Once the fish flakes easily and is opaque in the center, it's finished.  Remove it from the heat, and squeeze the rest of the lime juice atop.


The Assembly: 
4 corn tortillas
coleslaw
pico de gallo
fish fillets
avocado
sour cream
queso fresco (or feta)
lime and cilantro for garnish

Heat the corn tortillas in a dry skillet to warm.  Once they are pliable, pile on the 1/2 of a fish filet, hefty scoops of coleslaw and pico, a few slices of avocado, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of cheese.  Garnish with some chopped cilantro and another squeeze of lime juice. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Go-To Dinners: Chicken Parm (Part 2 of 5)

My two favorite meals served at the Rat (the pet name for the cafeteria at my alma mater) were chicken pot pie and chicken parmesan.  My hallmates and I would often call to ask if they were serving these dishes before we headed over.  I'm not sure which this evinces more: our love of the Rat food or sheer laziness.  Chicken Parm has become a go-to dish for me. It only needs a few ingredients, and I usually have most of them on hand. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare. Here's my recipe. 


Chicken Parm

Ingredients: 


1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 egg
handful of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
marinara sauce
shredded mozzarella cheese
your favorite pasta, to serve alongside 



Process:


1. Pound out the chicken breast, so that it doubles in size.
2. Heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium. Make sure it's a skillet that can also go in the oven. While you're at it, preheat the oven to 350.
2. Scramble the egg in a wide dish.
3. Pour the breadcrumbs in another wide dish.
4. Dip the chicken in the egg, and then coat with breadcrumbs.
5. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook for about 5 minutes, until it browns. Turn it, and then cook for another 5 minutes. While this is going, boil water for cooking the pasta, if you so desire.
6. Put the chicken in the oven and cook for about 8 minutes. The pasta water should be boiling at this point, so add your pasta. 
7. Remove the chicken from the oven, and top with a hefty scoop of marinara sauce and a handful of shredded mozzarella. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the cheese melts and the chicken is done.
8. Remove from the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
9. Serve with pasta and marinara sauce and a side salad.
10. Garnish the chicken and pasta with parmesan cheese and basil, and enjoy!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Go-To Dinners: Turkey Sausage with Peppers and Onions (Part 1 of 5)



Over the course of this week, I'm going to post five of my go-to dinners. These are all quick, easy, and somewhat healthy.

Without further ado, I present

Turkey Sausage with Peppers and Onions


When I know I'm going to have a busy week, I like to buy smoked turkey sausage. As it's already cooked, dinner can come together very quickly. This dish takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare. 


Ingredients:

smoked turkey sausage (any flavor)
onion, sliced
bell pepper, sliced (I prefer yellow in this recipe.)
1 garlic clove
1 beer (I've used Miller Light and Sierra Nevada. I didn't notice a difference.)
eggs for scrambling
hot sauce and rice vinegar to taste


Preparation:
  1. Slice the sausage into 1/2 inch segments. Brown in a skillet on medium heat with a small amount of oil. 
  2. When the sausage is brown (about 3-5 minutes), remove it from the pan, and add the sliced onion to the same pan.
  3. Cook on medium for about a minute, then add in a sliced bell pepper. You could add them at the same time, but I like my peppers to be crispier than my onions. 
  4. Let the peppers and onions cook on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. 
  5. As they are cooking prepare the garlic as such: Mince a clove of garlic on a cutting board. Sprinkle it with a pinch of salt. Leave it alone for a couple minutes. Then take the side of your knife and mash/spread it on the cutting board, making a paste. 
  6. Add the garlic paste to the peppers and onions, and let it cook for about a minute. 
  7. Add the sausage back to the pan, and turn the heat up to medium-high. 
  8. Pour in a couple tablespoons of the beer to deglaze the pan. It is going to bubble up and smoke a lot, but that's okay, because now you have nearly full beer to drink. Bottoms up! 
  9. Once the beer cooks down a bit and gets darker, turn the heat off. 
  10. You could eat the sausage deliciousness now, but if you let it hang out in the pan, the beer "sauce" will thicken up. 
  11. So while you're letting the sausage mixture age gracefully, you can make something to serve under it, like..
    1. Scramble a couple eggs (like I did in the picture)
    2. Make a batch of creamy polenta serve as is, or
    3. Make the polenta in advance, let it chill, and then pan fry a couple slices of it. 
  12. Before you serve the sausage mixture, taste it. Is it a bit dull? Does it need something to brighten it up? If yes, add in a splash or rice vinegar. It goes a long way to making the dish more pleasing to the palette. 
  13. Serve the sausage mixture atop the eggs (or polenta). I like to top mine with some hot sauce. You may like the same. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Apiarist for a Day



I was recently bequeathed three buckets filled with the remnants of a giant beehive. 

So I set out to make some honey.

Note: You might think this is a post about honey, but it's really a post about trust. As in, do you trust the internet? I had no idea what I was doing. Based on my research, making honey seems like a really complicated process. I didn't want to get into all that, so I found a website that had straightforward instructions more to my liking and somewhat followed those. Proceed with caution. 


The honey was mixed in with a lot of dead bees and honeycomb pieces, so I first strained out all of that junk with a wide mesh sieve. I squeezed the large honeycomb pieces to extract as much honey from them as I could. 


The honey still had a lot of particles in it, so I strained it two more times, once with a fine mesh sieve and again with cheesecloth.

     

After the cheesecloth strain, the honey was gorgeously translucent, but the canner in me decided to cook it to get rid of any hidden contaminants.


I cooked the honey to at least 140 degrees and let it simmer there for about 20 minutes or so. It developed a foam on top as it cooked. The pot you see above got a bit out of hand. 

By the way, I don't know if you know this or not, but honey is sticky. And messy. And gooey. And currently covering every surface of my kitchen.

While I let the honey cook, I got prepped to can it in a water bath.  This means boiling the jars to remove any containments there, boiling the lids so the wax melts to the jars, and boiling several gallons of water in my canner.  It was 80 degrees yesterday.  And I don't have proper A/C.  I was in the weeds!!!

But I prevailed and canned the honey.

  

I let it boil in the water bath for 10 minutes, per my iffy internet instructions. 

And....it seemingly worked.  I've eaten it twice, and so far, so good.  No botulism yet.


It's much darker than store-bought honey and quite a bit sweeter.

I'm now adding "make honey" to my bucket list, so I can go ahead, cross it off, and then retire a successful apiarist. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Crafting + Cats

I am not shy about my love of the Kentucky Wildcats.  This borderline obsession has been going on for about the last 29 years of my life, but over the last three years, it has reached a new apex.  I have coupled my love of the cats with my love of crafting.  And enter, stage left, UK-inspired costumes for the SEC tournament:

Note: I am aware that I may lose some dignity with this post. Either stop reading now or judge not, lest ye be judged.  

2010, inspired by Demarcus "Boogie" Cousins, I made this outfit in reference to his predilection for wearing Buddy Holly glasses and a fur cap during his press conferences. 



2011, inspired by Josh "Jorts" Harrelson, I made jorts. Because what else would I have worn?


2012 went to the extreme. I was able to gain two converts in my mom and sister. We had several looks this year...
Laurel's shirt was inspired by Darius Miller, the most clutch player on the team. Susan's by the gesture Doron Lamb does after he makes a three-pointer. And mine by Anthony Davis and his beautiful unibrow.


Everyone loved the brow, including Texas Pete. He requested a picture with me! Anyone else find his costume a touch creepy?

         
Three goggles for all!
 
Tighten it up, Marquis!!

Unibrow family. This picture made it on the KSR College blog.

---------------------

Minus the loss in the finals, the tournament was a complete success. Here are some of my favorites: 

Mascot of the Tourney: Rebel, the Ole Miss mascot


I love his costume and constant surprised expression, and he definitely had the most energy out of all the mascots. 


And in my opinion, Ole Miss fans should be thankful they got rid of Colonel Reb, because an old man mascot is kind of gross. Case in point, Cornelius Vanderbilt (aka worst mascot). 


Dance Team of the Tourney: Ole Miss
They actually relied more on good dancing and less on hair flipping. 

Tweet of the Tourney: Thomas Beisner's about Skylar McBee banking in a three pointer to send the UT-Ole Miss game into overtime. 



Song of the Tourney: Dynamite by Taio Cruz
We heard this song approximately 30 times over the course of 11 games. (Runner-up: Rocky Top. We heard it exactly 12 times during UT's one game.)


Draw Something Clue of the Tourney: Unibrow!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Discovering My Inner Latina

On the iPod: Enrique Iglesias, who else? 
On the brain: My Spanish lessons
On the menuCaramelized Onion, Corn, and Pork Carnitas

While this is a multi-step, multi-day process, they are so muy delicioso, that it makes it all worthwhile. Like a lot of my recipes, this one is totally up for adaptation, substitution, etc.


Buckle up. You're in for a long blog post.


Step Uno:


Cook giant piece of meat (pork to be specific). Here's my recipe:

1 T salt
1 T cumin

1 T garlic powder
1/2 T coriander 
1/2 T oregano
2 t chili powder
2 bay leaves

7 lb bone-in Boston butt
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 cups chicken broth
1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno, coarsely chopped
handful of cilantro

Mix together seasonings and massage onto the butt. (Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter!)
Put the bay leaves and smashed garlic at the bottom of your slow cooker. Put the butt on top, fat side up. Pour the chicken broth into the crock pot, careful not wash the seasonings off the butt. Crank the slow cooker to low and cook for 7 hours. Turn the butt over halfway through. Add the onions, jalapenos, and cilantro for the last hour of cooking. 

After 7 hours, turn the crock pot and take the lid off. Let it cool for an hour before you handle it. Take the bone out and pull the meat. You can use it right away, put in the fridge for a few days, or freeze it. It makes so much meat, I like to do a little of each. 



Step Dos:
Caramelize the onions. You can do this anyway you please, but here is my method:

1. Chop an onion and put it in a skillet with some olive oil on medium high heat.

2. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown and look like this: 
3. Add a hefty pinch of salt and sugar and stir it around.

4. Turn the heat to low / medium low, and let the onions cook for about 30 minutes. I know it's a long time, but pour yourself a glass of wine and catch up on your Words With Friends while you wait.  You don't need to stir per se, but just keep an eye on them so they don't burn. They'll look like this when they're done: 


Step Tres:
Cook the corn.
Follow the steps found in my quinoa recipe here


Re: Corn
Are you ready to make a pact? This summer, promise me that you will freeze corn. Promise. Do it. It's a lot of work, but come February, and you feel like having some fried corn in your pork carnitas, you will thank yourself. Look for a freezing corn blog post this summer.


Step Quatro
You're on the home stretch.  You're ready to put it all together.



Add some vegetable oil to the cast iron skillet, and add your shredded pork. Remember that? Seems like ages ago that you made that. Let it reheat in the oil, and stir it around, so it doesn't burn but gets a little crispy on the edges. Once it warms, add the onions, corn, and about 1/3 cup of jarred pickled jalapenos. Stir everything to combine and reheat, and voila, carnitas son finito.


Step Cinco:
Top with accouterments.
I serve my carnitas on a warmed corn tortilla with pico de gallo, guacamole, queso fresco, and some chopped cilantro.




Wow! Congratulations! You made it to the end of my blog post! Now put the Enrique on and discover your inner Latina!