Friday, September 24, 2010

My Favorite Cooking Gadgets, Part 1

Gadget #1: My Apron
Okay, so calling an Apron a gadget is probably quite the stretch, but a good Apron is such a great companion to any meal you are cooking.  You save your nice clothes, have a very quick hand wipe station right on you, and they instantly make you feel very "chef-y."

Anthropolgie - cute cute cute.
Growing up, my mom ALWAYS wore an apron while cooking - in fact, my mom in an apron is one of the most indelible images from my childhood. She started with the very basic white chef apron, but with the help of countless Mother's Days, has grown quite a collection of really fun aprons.

You might feel kind of marm-ish thinking about wearing an apron - DON'T!  These days you can find the cutest aprons all over the place - Williams Sonoma & Anthropolgie always have adorable ones.  And ladies,  what husband wouldn't want to come home to his wife, in super hot heels, cooking him dinner in an apron and well... perhaps something more, perhaps not.

Gentleman - nothing says "I'm comfortable with my masculinity" like an apron does.  I just love it when I show up at a friends house for dinner and the dude is rocking an apron.  He gets immediate respect - this guy doesn't dabble in the kitchen, he can cook!

For the parents out there, there are COUNTLESS reasons to get your kids involved in cooking meals (I'll elaborate on that someday) and giving them their very own apron really makes helping mom and/or dad out in the kitchen a bajillion times more fun.  It's like dress up, but better - because you get to cook too.

Gadget #2: Silicone Spatulas
I got my first silicone spatulas about 6 years ago - I still have them, and they are in great shape. I use them pretty much every time I cook, and they clean up perfectly in the dishwasher.  Silicone is a pretty amazing thing, here's Wikipedia's explanation of Silicone:

"Silicones are inert, synthetic compounds with a wide variety of forms and uses. Typically heat-resistant and rubber-like, they are commonly used in cookware...(and other stuff like fake boobies)...Silicones are polymers that include silicon together with carbonhydrogenoxygen, and sometimes other chemical elements."
Silicone Spatula: Must-Have Tool!

So enough for the science speak - what's amazing about silicone tools is that they can withstand SUPER hot temperatures (like 675 degrees fahrenheit).  I use my silicone spatulas all the time.  They're perfect for scrambling eggs, sautéing anything, and also work just like a rubber-spatula for your non-heat cooking tasks. 


These days, you can find silicone tools pretty much everywhere that sells cooking supplies. You can also find silicone muffin pans, bread pans, pot holders, and (next on my list) basting brushes.  And because they're a synthetic material, you can get them in all sorts of fun colors.  What's not to love?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chicken Caprése Wraps with Herb Balsamic Reduction

Yummy yum yum.
Tonight is the last official night of Summer (apparently fall begins at the autumnal solstice at 11:09pm, specific enough for you?), so I figured I better start using up the bunches of basil growing in my herb garden (the stuff grows like a weed!) and I should enjoy tomatoes while they still taste like, well, tomato.

So when you put basil & tomato together, you get a insalata Caprése, meaning a salad in the style of Capri, Italy, where these ingredients are abundant and loved by the locals. Typically they will just add some S&P and EVOO, but I'm going to put a party dress on this Caprése wrap tonight, while taking some labor saving short-cuts at the same time.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Grocery Store Rotisserie Chicken 
  • 1 Package of wraps of your choice (I had tortillas in the fridge, so that's what I'm using)
  • 2 T store bought pesto (I like "Contadina" brand when I don't have time to make it myself, found in the refrigerated section)
  • 1 Ball of Fresh Mozzarella, sliced.
  • Handful of Fresh Basil
  • 1 cup rough chopped Tomatoes (the grape tomatoes at the market looked and smelled great today, and they were local!)
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Stems Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Shallot, minced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 T Butter
  • EVOO
  • S&P
Directions
Start by making the reduction.  Over medium heat, sauté the shallot in some butter for about 2 minutes.  Then, add the minced garlic and some S&P.  Continue to cook until the onion is translucent, do not brown it.  Then, add the balsamic vinegar and your fresh thyme stems. Bring the mixture up to a gentle boil, and let it boil until it reduces to a syrupy consistency. You can check this by dipping the back of a teaspoon into the mixture, and then wiping your finger across the center of it - if the liquid holds the line, then it's thick enough and is done. Remove from heat, pull out the thyme stems (many of the leaves will have fallen off, that's fine, just get the twiggy parts out), and set aside. You now have a deliciously sweet and flavorful special sauce.

Tip - do not put your face over the vinegar while it is reducing, or you will get a nasty whiff of eye stinging, nose burning evaporating vinegar.

Above, clockwise: Shallots & Garlic sautéing, the mixture once vinegar is added, and the spoon passing the finger wipe test. 


All ready to wrap up!
While the vinegar is reducing, make your chicken salad.  Take the breasts of your rotisserie chicken, remove the skin, chop into bite size pieces and put in a mixing bowl.  Next, take your tomatoes and rough chop them. I used grape tomatoes so I just halved them.  Then, do a chiffonade of your basil.  (Learn what a chiffonade is by clicking here).  Add these ingredients to the mixing bowl.  Then, add 2 heaping Tablespoons of pesto  to the bowl, along with some S&P and a drizzle of EVOO.  If you want to kick it up a notch, you could add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes at this time.  Mix well, and set aside.

Now it's time to make your wraps!  Heat up the tortillas either in the oven wrapped in foil, or in the microwave wrapped in damp paper towels.  Take your tortilla, spread some of the reduction along the middle of it, then make a line of the sliced fresh mozzarella. Top with some scoops of the chicken salad, and then drizzle with the reduction.  Roll it up, slice it in half, and enjoy!

If you're cutting carbs, this would also be great as a salad on its own - in that case, I would cube up the mozarella and mix some of the reduction right into the salad.

Technical Term: Chiffonade

Chiffonade, is a fancy word that is no more than a very basic technique utilized to take a leafy food (such as basil) and cut it into nice thin ribbons.  Here's how you do it:

1.  Take your leaves, de-stem, rinse & dry them.




















2. Stack the leaves into a nice neat pile (PS - excuse my need for a manicure!!)




















3. Roll the leaves into a long thin roll. 




















4. Hold Tightly and the slice across the roll, creating nice ribbons of basil.  then just toss to fluff them up, and add to your recipe!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guest Post: Laura's "Fiesta on the Fly"!

Today is the first "guest post" feature on The Eating Keatings Blog! Written by my friend Laura - Navy Wife, Mother of Two adorable kiddos, Jewelry Stylist, Tread-Mill Master, Talented Decorator, Fantastic Home Cook, Hostess Extraordinaire, and more!  She's kind of like the real life version of "Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee" and I adore her!! 

Look Out, Sandra Lee!!!
I met Laura through the hubby  (both of our Men went to the Naval Academy, and were stationed on the same ship back in San Diego...the hubby was actually their roommate for awhile). When they moved to the DC area and then to Annapolis a couple years ago, we struck up a friendship, and I'm so glad we did!  Laura is an amazing lady and an amazing friend, and I'm so happy to share her 'fiesta on the fly' with all of you.  This chica can put out a kick-ass spread, so I really hope you give this a whirl!

Fiesta on the Fly!
By the Lovely Laura

"I am a stay at home mom of 2 beautiful children...well 3 if you count our lovely yellow lab, Leia. Ask anyone, I love love love to entertain and try new recipes! However, the days of prepping and baking for hours on end are long gone…. so when company is headed our way I usually try to keep it really easy and delicious, and stick with a theme with either an all-appetizer evening, Italian deliciousness (my husband makes the best homemade pizza) or spice it up with a Mexican night……and who doesn’t like a fiesta? So here are a few of my favorite Mexican dishes that are low stress and simple to prepare:

First and foremost…..a COCKTAIL or 2!!!!!!
I love Bettheny Frankel and she is the SKINNYGIRL Margarita guru…and yes it is available bottled for sale at liquor stores, and very delicious, so you can always go that route…however, I am a strong advocate of a fresh margarita, so here goes it:

The Skinny Girl Margarita
  • 2 ounces of clear premium tequila (I enjoy Patron)….and really don’t measure, just count to 2.  I tend to count SLLLLOWWWWLLLYYYY!!!!
  • Tiny splash of triple sec
  • Juice of a half of a lime
  • Big splash of club soda

Shake in a martini shaker, and serve on the rocks, garnished with a lime wedge.
ENJOY!!!!! and sip slowly if you count like I do  :) 

Appetizers:
As far as appetizers are concerned, this is a no fail recipe and everyone loves it!!!! (Also great for a football party or tailgate!)  I am HUGE on appetizers… if I could live on appetizers alone I would! But like I said, time is of the essence, so I usually would go to the frozen food section for TGI Friday’s jalapeno poppers which are a big hit with the men!!...and I’m not above telling you that I find a delicious guacamole in the vegetable section in a box and bag (“Holy Guacamole”). VOILA……3 easy appetizers if you so desire!

Taco Dip
can be prepped ahead of time and stored in the fridge until ready to bake
  • Lightly greased 8x8 pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • 2 (8.0 ounce) packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese softened
  • 2 cans of Hormel Chili (I use Turkey Chili when it’s just us girls, but for the boys or a big group I use the HOT with beans)
  • 1 package of shredded Mexican blend cheese

Spread cream cheese at bottom of pan evenly, then pour chili atop the cream cheese. Finish with shredded cheese and use as little or as much as you want. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble. Garnish with chopped green onions and/or olives if desired and serve with tortilla chips for dipping.

The Main Course:
Now onto the main course. I figured I would suggest 2 entrees, one that’s pretty traditional, Enchiladas, and then a little different avenue; a Tamale Casserole that is one of my very favorite  receipes from “Cooking Light” Magazine!  So pick one, or pick both if you want left extra leftovers for lunch or to send some home with your guests!

Chicken & Green Chile Enchiladas
From Southern Living Magazine
  • 3 ½ cups of cooked chicken  ( I usually but the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the store and shred it….so EASY compared to cooking!!)
  • 3/4 cup of onion-garlic mixture* (see below)
  • 2 cans (4 oz.) chopped green chiles
  • 1 tbsp. of fresh cilantro
  • 3 (10 oz) cans of enchilada sauce (divided)
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) of shredded Mexican four-cheese blend, divided
  • 9 (9 inch) burrito sized flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 425, stir together first 4 ingredients, 1 ½ cups enchilada sauce and 1 cup of cheese. 

Spoon about ½ cup of chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla; roll tortillas up and place seam side down in a lightly greased 13x9 baking dish; pour remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas; sprinkle with remaining cup of cheese.

Bake covered at 425 for 20 minutes; uncover and bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown.

* Onion Garlic Mixture:
  • 2 cups chopped onion (1 large onion)
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped

Sauté onion in hot oil in a 3 ½ quart saucepan over medium heat for 8 minutes or until tender; add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes store in an airtight container for up to 5 days in refrigerator.

Who's Hungry!??
Chiken Tamale Casserole
From Cooking Light Magazine
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided (I like to use the Sargento, reduced fat)
  • 1/3 cup of fat free milk
  • ¼ cup egg substitute
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. of ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1 (14 ¾ ounce) can cream-style corn
  • 1 (8.5 ounce) box of corn muffin mix (JIFFY is my personal favorite)
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles drained
  • 1 10 ounce can of enchilada sauce ( I like old el paso)
  • 2 cups of shredded chicken breast (again the rotissere chicken in the store is GREAT)
  • 1/2 cup of fat free sour cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine ¼ cup of cheese and the next 7 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring until just moist; pour mixture into a 13x9 inch baking dish (I also use a 2 quart casserole as well) coated with cooking spray.

Bake for 15 minutes or until set; pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over top; top with chicken; sprinkle with remaining cheese; bake at 400 for another 15 minutes or until the cheese melts; remove from oven-let stand for 5 minutes; cut into 8 pieces; top each serving with 1 tablespoon of sour cream. Enjoy!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mommy Mondays - Chicken Marsala

Here's my Grandfather and my Mom (back in the day), grilling
 in the rain! Both of them love to grill, and not even bad
weather will stop them!
My mom is an excellent chef.  Professionally trained at the Culinary Institute of America, we were soooo lucky as kids growing up to have her make all of our meals.  Whenever she sends me a recipe I know it's going to be great...so here's one she sent me today.  Chicken Marsala is so delicious, and great to entertain with.  Let me know what you think!

Chicken Marsala 
from Cooks Illustrated with note by my Mom.


Ingredients
4
boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5 ounces each)
1
cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Kosher Salt

ground black pepper
2
tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2
ounces pancetta (about 3 slices), cut into pieces 1 inch long and 1/8 inch wide
8
ounces white mushrooms , sliced (about 2 cups)
1
medium clove garlic , minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1
teaspoon tomato paste
1 1/2
cups marsala wine (sweet)
1 1/2
tablespoons lemon juice from 1 small lemon
4
tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces, softened
2
tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Instructions
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place large heatproof dinner plate on oven rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until very hot (you can hold your hand 2 inches above pan surface for 3 to 4 seconds), about 3 minutes. Pat chicken breasts dry. Meanwhile, place flour in shallow baking dish or pie plate. Season both sides of chicken cutlets with salt and pepper; working one piece at a time, coat both sides with flour. Lift breast from tapered end and shake to remove excess flour; set aside. Add oil to hot skillet and heat until shimmering. Place floured cutlets in single layer in skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip cutlets and cook on second side until golden brown and meat feels firm when pressed with finger, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to heated plate and return plate to oven.

2. Return skillet to low heat and add pancetta; sauté, stirring occasionally and scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits until pancetta is brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towel--lined plate. Add mushrooms and increase heat to medium-high; sauté, stirring occasionally and scraping pan bottom, until liquid released by mushrooms evaporates and mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, and cooked pancetta; sauté while stirring until tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute. Off heat, add Marsala; return pan to high heat and simmer vigorously, scraping browned bits from pan bottom, until sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes. Off heat, add lemon juice and any accumulated juices from chicken; whisk in butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in parsley. Pour sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

Note from my Mom:
The only thing I did differently was adding a can of chicken broth along with the wine and putting the chicken back in the pan at that 5 min mark.Then put the pan in a 200 oven and let it cook for about 15 min till nicely reduced. I also only used 1 Tbsp. of butter. It was so good.  Your Dad said it was better than anything he's had in a restaurant!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Corn Salsa - Great for beginners

Finished Product - Mmmm!
I had a busy day today - job hunting, laundry, cleaning the house, super exciting phone calls with girlfriends, errands, etc.... so by the time 5 o'clock rolled around and it was time to think about dinner, I was lacking the motivation to get really creative.  I looked in the fridge and saw that I had a bunch of tortillas left from fish tacos last week, and also found a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer.  So I decided to make some Grilled Shrimp tacos.  These are so quick, and so easy, perfect way to ease you back into the work week!

For the Shrimp:
  • 40-45 small/medium size shrimp - peeled, deveined, and tails removed
  • 2 T Chili Powder
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp Adobo seasoning (found in the latino section of your supermarket)
  • 1/4 onion, grated
  • S&P
  • Olive Oil

For the Corn Salsa:
  • 1 cup cooked corn (super easy if you use frozen corn thawed out in the microwave)
  • 1/2 cup black beans (canned is fine, just rinse well)
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 3 roma tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
  • S&P
  • Drizzle of EVOO

Shrimp on the Barby
Combine all ingredients for marinade and toss with shrimp.  Let sit in fridge for about 10 minutes, then skewer the suckers.  Grill until firm & pink, about 3 minutes per side.

Combine all ingredients for salsa, and refrigerate to let flavors marry.

While shrimp is cooking, place your tortillas wrapped in foil on the grill as well so that they heat up.

Once shrimp is cooked, remove from skewers. Serve shrimp on tortilla, topped with salsa.  I like to add a dollop of sour cream, some fresh cilantro, and a lime wedge on the side.  Enjoy!

Date Night

Yummo!
The hubby's med school schedule is pretty intense.  On average, we get to spend about 2 hours a day together during the week, so by the time Friday rolls around, both of us are more than ready for date night! This past Friday, we decided to take a venture into the city.  So, we hopped onto the metro and in about 20 minutes we were strolling through China Town.

We stopped at an old favorite restaurant of mine called "Eat First" (as opposed to last... something I would never consider!) for some authentic chinese food.  This place is the best I've found in DC, and the Zagat guide and Yelp reviewers seem to agree.We had a delicious dinner of dumplings, pork with golden mushrooms, and Szechwan beef.  Deeelish.  No matter how good of a recipe you get for Chinese food, there's no substitute for authentic food cooked in a fire hot wok.  So, no recipe from date night, just a snapshot of our partially demolished dinner.

Oh, on a side note - the hubby got a good laugh about probably the most accurate fortune cookie ever, opened by yours truly... he loves it so much that its now taped onto the side of our fridge.  For those of you  who know how much I hate to be wrong, you'll probably get a kick out of it too.  His fortune was some nonsense about being showered with prosperity and success.... of course.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bread Baking Virginity, Part 2

YES!!!
Whole Wheat "Almost No-Knead" Bread
I have to admit it - I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself right now.  When I lifted the lid off the dutch oven that I was baking the bread in, I could hardly believe my eyes - an actual loaf of bread! Wahoo!!  And, the house smells just like a bakery, I just wish that the hubby didn't have a biochem exam tomorrow (which is keeping him at school ALL day today) so he could be here to smell it, too.

The leaf design on the top could be a little better - I think I'll use a razor blade next time to get better gashes, but there's nothing like room for improvement.  The crust is nice and crispy crusty, and the inside is fluffy, yest substantial, and most importantly, it's deeeelicious. I must say, all in all, this wasn't too hard.  Time consuming, yes, but nothing really difficult. It's safe to say that this is my first foray into the world of loaves, and I/m already looking forward to trying out another recipe.

And, I must give credit where credit is due - this recipe, the yeast used to bake it, and the motivation, came from a good friend of the hubby's and mine, Alex, a masterful bread baker!  He made this recipe the other night when Ian and I were over at he and his wife's house for an amazing dinner of steak and lobster tails (Yeah, we owe them big time!).  Alex said this recipe was almost fail proof, and I must agree.

So, with that said, here's the recipe, courtesy of Alex who got it from Cooks Illustrated.

Almost No-Knead Bread
Makes 1 large round loaf. Published January 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.

An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid yields best results, but this recipe also works in a regular cast-iron Dutch oven or heavy stockpot. Use a mild-flavored lager, such as Budweiser (mild non-alcoholic lager also works). The bread is best eaten the day it is baked but can be wrapped in aluminum foil and stored in a cool, dry place for up to 2 days.

Ingredients:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour* (15 ounces), plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (3 ounces)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

*If using whole wheat flour (which I did) then you will need to add a bit more water (a teaspoon at a time) because the whole wheat is more absorbent.

Instructions:
1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar.  Using a rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

2. Lay 12-by-18 sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. (If you don't have parchment paper, use greased aluminum foil). Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6 to 8 quart heavy bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 3-inch long, 1/2 inch deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhand and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from bot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Bread Baking Virginity, Part 1.

It's Alive!!
The dough has risen!
Amazement.  It's the sort of thing that you see in a baby's eyes as you play 'peek-a-boo.' That "you're gone! Whoa! You're suddenly here again!" incredulity that, as adults, has us totally amused.  Such was my child like wonder as I set to the task of baking my very first loaf of bread.

Yes,  I am a bread baking virgin.  Sure, I've toyed with quick breads... I've made banana bread, cranberry tea bread, and even biscuits (recipes to come at a later date). I would equate those to going to 2nd base.  This time folks, I'm going all the way.

As I write, I'm nervously awaiting the 2 hour "double in size" process prior to baking.  I already made it through the 18 hour "wait for it to rise" epoch.  As I nervously uncovered the bowl this morning to see if the yeast had done its job, I had my own 'peek-a-boo' moment - it worked!  Amazing!  that lump of sticky ingredients that I mixed yesterday had risen to this airy, puffy, warm & comforting smelling mass of doughy amazingness, something only a mother could love. It seems like magic, only better, because you can eat it.

So now, I wait.  More to come when it's done.
Post kneading - waiting for one last rise.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fish Tacos

San Diego - Land of Fish Tacos
My husband, Ian, is a self proclaimed Fish Taco snob.  From the 4 years he spent in San Diego with the Navy, he became quite the connoisseur of this culinary concoction.  I've dragged him to many a restaurant, trying to find something that could compare to what he enjoyed in the good ole' San Dog, all to no avail.  I finally decided it was high-time for me to try and make them myself.  So, I put my brain in gear and developed this recipe.  I made these for the first time a few weeks ago, and I think they're pretty freakin' awesome, and Ian loved them, too.  We're having one of Ian's bachelor med-school buddies over for dinner tonight, a guy who has also spent time in San Diego, so fish tacos were Ian's choice for the menu.  Now that I have the blessing of two San Diego fish taco aficionados, I can finally share this recipe with all of you. I hope you like it!


Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos with Crisp Cabbage Slaw


Mahi Mahi - a fish so nice,
they named it twice!
Meat:
  • Mahi-Mahi filet, de-skinned and cut into fish stick sizes, and dried. 
  • Season with a sprinkle of chili powder and S&P.
Batter: 
  • 3/4 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup seltzer water or amber beer
  • S&P
  • Chili Powder
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
Breading:
  • Panko Bread Crumbs
Slaw:
  • Savoy cabbage - 1/2 head cored and sliced thinly.
  • 1/2 red onion sliced thinly
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly.
  • Small handful of Cilantro, chopped
  • S&P
  • 1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Coriander
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
  • Sprinkle of Red Pepper Flakes (adjust to how hot you like it)
Toppings:
  • Diced Avocado
  • Sour Cream
  • Cholula Hot Sauce
Start with your slaw.  Simply mix all ingredients together, and refrigerate to let flavors marry while you make the rest of the dish.

Prepare the batter by mixing all ingredients thoroughly.  Then, let rest for 10 minutes so that the fiziness from the seltzer or beer subsides a bit.

Heat oil in a dutch oven or stock pot to medium-high heat.  I recommend a setting of 6 or 7 on your stove temperature gauge.  Let the oil come to temperature, you'll know it's hot when you take a drop of batter and it fizzes and floats to the top immediately when you drop it in the oil. Now you're ready to fry.

Make sure your 'fish sticks' are nice and dry - just pat them with a paper towel if need be.  Dip them in the batter, and then roll them in the panko breading.  Drop them immediately into the hot oil.  Let them cook for a few minutes on one side, and then flip them over to ensure the other side cooks too.  Once they are nice and golden brown, remove to a plate covered in paper towels so that the extra oil drains off. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and chili powder while hot. 

It's important not to crowd your pan as you fry the fish.  If there are too many pieces in there, they will give off too much steam and getting a nice crisp crust and non-greasy fish will be difficult. So plan on doing this in several batches.

While you're frying your fish, heat the tortillas. I like using 'fajita size' tortillas, and you can either heat them in the microwave between damp paper towels, or in the oven wrapped tightly in foil.

To make the taco, take your tortilla and smear with a bit of sour cream.  Add two pieces of fish, and then heap the slaw on top.  Add some diced avocado and the Cholula hot sauce to your liking.  Serve hot & enjoy!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Risotto - Easier than you think!

Finished Product (not a glam food,
but a good food!)
I remember the first time I made risotto. I was completely daunted by the task at hand - after seeing so many episodes of top chef where risotto goes horribly, horribly wrong, I was convinced that it must be difficult.  However, I just adore the dish, so I did some research online and finally came up with a good and easy to follow risotto recipe.

I'm not kidding folks - this is SUPER easy.  Almost fail proof.  However, it is a bit time consuming.  So, if you want to make a dish that sounds impressive and tastes a-mazing, then I hope you give this a try.  I used asparagus today, but you can really add anything you like in the final stage - sauteed wild mushrooms, browned sausage, roasted butternut squash... the possibilities are endless!

Roasted Asparagus Risotto with Sage
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cups chicken stock (Swanson's stock works great)
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • one bunch asparagus
  • Dried crumbled sage
  • Ground nutmeg
  • S&P
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese

Start off by combining the wine and chicken stock in a small stock pan. Cover and put over medium heat.  You don't want it to boil, but you want it to be nice and hot.  Keep it covered so it doesn't evaporate, you need all that liquid. Once its simmering, turn it down to low to keep hot.

Red Onions so you can see them.
Don't let anything brown!
In a enamelware cast-iron skillet (Le Creusset is my choice), or just a non-stick high walled sauté pan, saute your minced onion in the 4 T of butter.  Add a few cranks of S&P, as well as a scant T of dried sage.  Saute over medium heat until translucent (about 5-6 minutes).  Do NOT let it brown.  If it starts to color, turn your heat down.

Next, add your Arborio rice.  It is very important that you use Arborio rice, any other kind won't come out the right way.  Saute this with the butter and onions until the edges of the rice start to look translucent, approximately another 5-6 minutes.


Rice covered with wine/stock mixture
Next, add the hot wine/stock mixture until it just covers the rice.  Stir well, and keep stirring periodically until the liquid is absorbed.  When the liquid is absorbed, add more of the wine/stock mixture until it just covers the rice.  Stir well, and again... keep stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Do not cover the pan of rice, unlike cooking normal rice, you rely on the evaporation of the liquid along with the absorption. Just keep on stirring, and continue this process until all of the liquid is used up and absorbed.

Roasted to perfection - not brown &
mushy, bright green & tender!
While the rice is cooking, roast your asparagus.  I took the tender spears and some of the stalk and chopped them into bite size pieces.  Drizzle with a little EVOO and sprinkle with S&P.  Roast under the broiler in a pyrex dish until the color intensifies and they get a bit tender.  Set aside.

Once your rice has absorbed all of the liquid,  add 1/4 tsp of nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, and the asparagus to the rice.  Mix well, and taste for seasoning and need be, add some more S&P.  Voila - you have Risotto!  If for some reason your rice is at all crunchy, just cover for 5 minutes.  Then stir well again. Serve hot.

It's that easy.  I hope you give it try.  This is a great meal for the fall (albeit, asparagus is not season in the fall... give it a whirl with roasted butternut squash - delish!!)

And if you want to try something else...
Fresh figs - in season now!
Check out my friend Jeanette's blog for an awesome recipe for almond-fig-brown rice risotto!  Make sure to check this blog often as Jeanette is always posting awesome recipes!!

Off the Cuff Cooking

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Happy Wife, Happy Life

Nothing like soup in bed when you're not feeling well!
I've had a terrible head cold for the past two days.  I spent pretty much all day in bed today doped up on cold medicine, and taking naps so that I can get back to normal. It has not been fun, especially since the weather in DC this weekend is the best we've seen in months!

This evening, I woke up from a nap to my sweet husband serving me dinner in bed!  Even with his busy med school study schedule, he went out to get my favorite tomato bisque soup, and then made me a delicious salad to go with it.  Thankfully, my sense of taste is back a bit tonight so that I could actually enjoy all of it.  I'm one lucky lady!  Thanks, babe!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Football Season

"Foos-ball? Buncha overgrown
monsters man-handlin' each other... "
-Mama Boucher, the Waterboy
Like many of you, my husband, Ian, spent the majority of the day with his eyes glued to the TV.  Yes folks, college football was the order of the day.  Admittedly, I'm not a huge football fan. While I like to see UW do well,  I don't have a favorite team, I have no clue who won the Super Bowl last year, or who won the college championship (What is that even called?). What I DO like about football season, is the social aspect.  Getting together with friends to watch a game can be a lot of fun - I guess I like any reason to entertain.   Football season is also a great opportunity for slow-cooking foods like casseroles, soups, stews, chili, etc - more on that later on.

 In honor of the start of the season, I thought I'd share a super easy dip recipe.  This is a big-time crowd pleaser, especially for the guys. By no means lo-cal or healthy, but really tasty. If you need something to take to a tailgate or to someone's house, I hope you give this one a whirl!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped/shredded chicken breast.  Super easy if use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, or just bake off or poach some chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup hot sauce (I like to use Texas Pete or Franks Red Hot - you can use more if you like things really spicy, or a little less if you don't like things too spicy)
  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese (I like to use Sargento's medium cheddar)


In a sauce pan, combine the chicken breast and hot sauce.  Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Then add the cream cheese and ranch.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly until the the cream cheese is totally melted. At this point, add half of the bag of cheddar cheese.  Stir to mix well.  Take the dip mixture, and pour into a glass baking dish, then top with the other half of the cheddar.  At this point you can either let the dip cool and then refrigerate for later, or put it right into the oven. Regardless of whether your serving it now or later, you do need to bake it at 350 degrees until the cheese on top is all melted and bubbly, obviously this takes longer if you're heating it from the fridge temp.

Serve with sliced baguette, celery sticks, and Ian's favorite - Fritos scoops.

And for my college buddies... GO HUSKIES!!

Sisters & Skewers

Olivia & Molly
1986
Although I didn't always feel this way growing up, I'm blessed to have two awesome younger sisters - Olivia, who's 25 and lives in Georgia with her husband, Ben, and Riley, who's 20 and lives back in Seattle with her boyfriend, Ryan.  This summer, Olivia hosted an awesome 4th of July party at her house, and for the first time in years, all three of the Kidwell girls were together for the holiday.   I adore my sisters, and it was SO wonderful for us to get together!!  We had a great time, and true to our nature, we also had great food.

A few short years ago, Olivia probably would have looked for directions on how to boil water (no offense, Lili!!); for some reason she was never interested in cooking as a kid, like I was.  However, since getting married she has been spending a lot of time cooking, experimenting, and learning, and now she's quite the little chef!  I just love cooking with her and now we frequently chat and share recipes.

Olivia called me earlier this afternoon because she and Ben had a craving for the Greek style chicken skewers I made one night while we were visiting over the summer.  I love it when people love my food, and it's always such a compliment when someone asks for a recipe of mine because they were craving it months after having it!

Since I was going to be emailing it to her anyways, I decided to share it here with the rest of you.  This is super easy, and a frequent meal in my house.

Molly's Greek Style Skewers

Meat:
  • 1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breasts OR 1 lb of pork tenderloin (both are great, but sometimes it's nice to have a break from chicken, so I go with the other white meat)
Marinade:
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I never use cooking wine, it's so gross!  Use something that you would actually have a glass of.  Think of it this way - why would you put a crappy ingredient into a dish and expect great taste!?)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup non-fat greek yogurt (helps make the marinade 'sticky' so that the awesome flavors really cling to the meat. If you don't have greek yogurt, mayonnaise works too but isn't as healthy)
  • Drizzle of EVOO
  • S&P
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • Sprinkle of onion powder.
  • Sprinkle of red pepper flakes (if you like it spicy, add more, if you don't like spice, you can omit)
  • Palmful of fresh chopped parsley
Sides:
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 zucchini 
  • Pita Bread
  • Non fat Greek Yogurt

"All of this yarn holding and topless washing really
works up an appetite, let's have skewers for dinner!"
If you're using wooden skewers, start off by soaking them in water so they don't ignite when they hit the grill. I put them in a clear glass baking dish and cover them with water. 

Take all of your marinade ingredients, and put them into a large ziploc bag (freezer bags work great).  Mush it all around inside the bag to mix it well.  

Take your meat and trim any excess fat off of it.  Then, cut it into little cubes. Sometimes when people make skewers, they use big huge hunks of meat.  I prefer to cut it into small pieces. Why?  Well, to be scientific (and to sound like my husband) you get a better surface area to volume ratio, which results in more flavor.  It also cuts down on cook time.  

Once your meat is all cubed up, throw it into the marinade bag, and mush it around some more so that all of the meat is coated.  Set it in a dish and put in the fridge to marinate.  I would say let it sit for at least 30 minutes, but if you can, let it go for an hour. 

While the meat it marinating - prep your sides.  Cut up the veggies and onion into chunks that are about the same size as your meat, and then skewer them.  Don't worry about leaving space between the pieces, just load those puppies up!  Put the skewers into a baking dish, and then drizzle with EVOO, and sprinkle with S&P.  You really don't need any more seasoning than that.  The veggies taste great on their own, and the meat packs all the punch in this dish.

Take your pita bread, and brush each side with a little EVOO, and then sprinkle with S&P.

Now take your marinated cubes and skewer them.  A lot of people like to mix veggies and meat on their skewers.  Admittedly, it does look prettier that way, but with varying cook times, I like to separate each ingredient onto its own skewer so that I don't overcook one thing while waiting for another thing to cook through.

Next, head out to grill and put everything on.  The veggies go for just a little while - let them soften and get a little bit of a char to them.  The meat goes pretty quickly - flip it at least once, and let it go until there's nice color to it, and of course it's cooked through.

Remove the skewers as they finish, and set into a clean baking dish. Un-skewer everything and mix all together.

Throw the pita bread on the grill just until it gets a little toasted.

To serve, my husband and I like to put the meat and veggies on top of the pita bread with a little bit of greek yogurt.  You can roll them up and eat it like a wrap.  Or you can serve it with the bread and yogurt on the side.  Whatever floats your boat!

So that's it - hope you enjoy!