Thursday, February 25, 2010

Red Curry

I've been craving a good sweet curry for weeks now. And having no particularly good Thai places nearby, I took matters into my own hands. This did require a few special ingrediants, but I found them all at Safeway (ok, well the coconut milk is from Trader Joe's-- they have light and normal, while Safeway only has normal).

It was also pretty simple. Nothing more complicated than stirring and dicing.

Shrimp (I used shrimp because I had some; you could use chicken but you'd have to simmer it for much longer, or you could use tofu or just veggies)
Red Curry paste, 1 tablespoon, pictured above
1 14oz can of coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce (not nearly as scary as it sounds!)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (or regular if you don't have brown)
1/2 cup water
assorted veggies, fresh or frozen, I used carrots, onions and frozen peas. It'd be great with fresh bell peppers too, though!
rice or noodles to serve with the curry

Pro tip: microwave frozen peas in a little water for :30 to make them rehydrate before cooking.

1. Thaw your shrimp in cold water. Chop veggies.
2. Dump the coconut milk into a saucepan, and add 1 tablespoon of curry paste. The jar says to go easy on it, but I not very humbly disagree. I say go for at least a generous tablespoon, perhaps even 1 1/2! It's not all that spicy, really. Whisk together, and let simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. Add everything except the shrimp and the rice (unless you're using chicken, then add it now). Mix it all together, and let simmer for 15+ minutes. Don't let it really get to a rolling boil, it'll start to seperate a bit.
4. Add the shrimp, simmer for 4-5 minutes, or until the shrimp are done. You may want to add a bit of cornstarch dissolved in water if the curry is too runny for your tastes.
5. Serve over rice. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Ok, so you want to cook something. Great! Step one: accomplished.
Let's say you have a recipe. Sweet. You have most of the ingredients! But not one, which you forgot, couldn't find, ran out of, or don't like. For most cooking dishes (as opposed to baking) that's not usually a problem, unless you're making an omelet without eggs. But spices, meat choices, veggie additions, and such are "suggestions".
Some are no-brainers: a recipe calls for a red onion-- go ahead and use a yellow or white. A recipe calls for peas: use another green veggie instead.
Some are no-nos: a recipe calls for heavy cream-- you cannot just substitute skim milk. Skim milk will curdle or sour where heavier creams will not. Don't boil your skim milk, ok? So, as in the previous recipe, you shouldn't carelessly substitute skim milk for the cream. You can, but you have to watch it very carefully, and probably thicken the sauce (a little flour dissolved in water will do).
Oil types fall in between. If a recipe recommends olive oil, it's probably for flavor. Sesame oil is also a flavor oil. Vegetable, peanut and canola, for example, don't taste like much, but they do have different smoke points. So you have to moderate the temperature of your pan appropriately, but you can substitute.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Cajun" shrimp pasta

Oh man. I am eating this right now, and I am so pleased with myself. (You thought I was kidding.) It is totally making my day. And, before you get scared, it's easy. And frozen shrimp aren't very expensive, especially if you opt for smaller shrimp. And they keep! (However, most frozen shrimp are pretty salty. So keep the salt in the pantry until you've had a good taste. Seriously.)

shrimp (I used small, frozen shrimp) or you can use chicken or sausage if you prefer
either a few plum tomatoes, or a can of diced tomatos (better in the winter than the lousy hothouse ones we have right now!)
a green pepper sliced
a red pepper if you feel like splurging, sliced
an onion sliced or diced (red makes it so pretty but I used yellow because I had it handy)
garlic, minced or pressed
black pepper, chili powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, sage, and cumin (or cajun blend)
chicken broth
heavy cream
a little wine if you have it (yum but not worth buying a bottle just for this)

1. Thaw the shrimp in cold water for about 10 minutes. Don't use hot water to speed things up; that actually cooks the shrimp. Meanwhile, you can chop things that need chopping, and start cooking your pasta.
2. Heat up a heavy pan/skillet. When it's pretty hot, add some butter and a little olive oil. Get that nce and hot. Drain your shrimp, and toss some chili powder/cayenne on them before throwing them into your hot pan. (Be careful! Wet shrimp and hot oil make for splatter. Protect yourself!) Try to get them into a single layer if you can, but don't burn yourself. Leave them there a minute or two, and then turn them until they're cooked through. Remove them from the pan with a spoon or tongs, and keep them nearby.
3. Add your onions. Stir 'em up. Add your garlic (2-4 cloves depending on your proportions). Add the peppers. When everything seems to be almost done, add the tomatos. If they were canned, drain them first. Give it no more than a minute to cook a bit. Scoop all that out too, and put it on the same plate as the shrimps.
4. With the heat on high, throw in about 1/4 cup of wine if you've got it. Or some. It should sizzle nicely and start deglazing your pan. Now chicken broth. Stir everything, and get all those brown bits off the bottom. Turn the heat down to medium, and add cream. I never measure, but I would guess a cup would be a good place to start, compared to about a cup of wine/broth. Whisk the broth and cream together. You're looking for a nice warm color, the creaminess blending with the darkness of the cooked deliciousness from the deglazing. Start tossing in spices. Start with chili or cayenne if you're blending your own, then paprika, which gives a nice warmth and sweetness to everything. Finish off with the fresh black pepper, and if after tasting you want to, a bit of salt.
5. Throw everything (shrimp, veggies) back in. Stir to combine, and heat through. Toss with pasta. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley if you're trying to impress someone.


Yeah, this was all that was left. I was the only one eating. Oops. :-D

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Community Supported Agriculture

I just thought I'd take a second and make a little pitch for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I just joined a local CSA here, called One Straw Farm. It's a program where you buy a share in advance, and then you get produce through the entire growing season. You've prepaid a decent part of your grocery bill (while usually saving money compared to what you might spend of veggies if you're eating healthy), all while buying local, usually organic produce. Your share cost also helps the local farms support their costs ahead of time, and they're guaranteed a market for their produce.
In my case, I'll pick up my produce at my church, and the farm has agreed to donate one full share (enough for at least a family of 4) to a food bank for every ten shares my church members purchase. This is a great thing, and I am very excited!
I'm a little nervous, but also really excited, to be cooking with what I consider to be exotic veggies. The basket I'll get each week is a bit random, ranging from arugula* to zucchini and everything in between. So, I'm sure some of those crazy veggie experiments will end up posted here.

*Fun arugula fact: it's known as "rocket" in the UK and is a very common sandwich ingredient. When I was there, I never tired of ordering food with rocket in them, even if it wasn't my favorite green. It was just so fun to say!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I love lentils. They might be my favorite pulse. They're kinda boring if you don't spice them up, but of course you will spice them up.

Here's an easy, and amazingly cheap dish I make when I am feeling lazy.
Extra step for the adventurous! Sautee some onions and garlic with some curry powder and/or chili powder. Extra optional: add green peppers, or any other handy veggies. Frozen peas, carrots, whatever's handy!
In a pot, boil some water and add chicken stock. Don't worry about how much water you add, you'll almost certainly need to add more. Add 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup (each) of rice and lentils to the garlic/onions/etc. This makes a fair amount of food! Add hot sauce if you want... tomato sauce, tomato paste, canned chopped tomatoes (etc) also make a great addition.
Keep the pot on a steady simmer for a while. You'll need to keep stirring, and making sure that it doesn't burn at the bottom. It takes 30-45 minutes. Avoid adding salt until the end, as extra salt slows down the speed of the lentils cooking.  You know it's done when the texture is right-- pull out a little bit, and taste it. If it's too tough, add a bit more water and keep going. It's low mainenance, but not quite where you can ignore it. I try to keep the liquid level a little above the mixture while it's cooking, at least until the last 10 minutes.
After that, you can throw in whatever other seasonings you want. Even serve it with some meat, or whatever else is handy.
Easy, nutritious (mm, fiber!) and so cheap.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Unsolicited Product Review: Trader Joe's Simmer Sauces

So far, I've tried three of them. They're all pretty good, especially for a good fast dinner for 1-3 people. (For 4, you'd have to serve other stuff too.) And as a note, I always add more stuff- veggies and potatoes, usually, even though the directions don't tell you to do that.

Korma: Decent. I like the flavor profile, but it doesn't have the sweet creaminess of restaurant. Better than the Masala; it has a sort of tomato-sweetness without the cream that I like, which probably means it's a lot better for you than the version that is my Platonic Ideal of a Korma. With both of these, it is key to simmer everything for a while! But not too long if you're using white-meat chicken, because it falls apart. Dark meat chicken or other proteins react differently to prolonged simmering. Dark meat chicken handles it better and doesn't change texture nearly as much.

Masala: Decent. Not really the warm, buttery flavor that I really love in a good Masala sauce. The Kitchens of India paste is much better for this, though it's spicier than the simmer sauce (and a slightly different recipe, but since neither is wholly authentic, I think I can be forgiven!) See the note above about chicken. The simmering gives it a nice soft feel, and for this, you lose a lot if you cook the chicken in a pan as I usually do.

Thai Green Curry: The best of the bunch (at least that I've tried)! A lovely green curry flavor, with lemongrass and wonderfulness. It's a light flavor and a great texture, and packs a lot of flavor without much spice, for those of you who enjoy mild curries. I ate it with rice but it would also be fantastic with noodles. Yummmmmm. Here is a recipe (and the blog I borrowed this photo from) using the Green Curry. This does require that you cook the chicken separately, though it's really not any more work than a basic stir fry. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fried Tofu

Ever had this? Or seen it on a Thai (or other Asian) menu?
It's delicious. And easy. And a great vehicle for your favorite dipping sauce. When I made it this week, I used Trader Joe's Thai Peanut Sauce for dipping, and was pretty pleased with that. Sweet and sour sauce would also be nice, or a tamarind sauce... the possibilities are practically endless. Plus, the tofu is super easy to make. Even though it's fried, it's not oily, because the flour helps form a really nice crust and prevents the tofu from soaking up all the oil.

You need:
Tofu. Sold in water. I used extra firm, though next time I might step down to firm. You can pick whatever you like, or have handy.
Vegetable oil

  1. Drain the tofu, and pat it dry with a paper towel. Slice it up into pieces-- wedges as shown above, or my favorite, small cubes.
  2. Toss the tofu in flour, covering it completely. This dries out the surface of the tofu, greatly reducing the oil spatter (caused by water in hot oil, and often resulting in nasty burns or messy cleanup). It also allows the nice crust to form.
  3. Heat some oil in a wok or skillet. A nice round bottomed wok is great because you get the best frying volume with the least oil, but you only need a bit of oil-- half an inch deep, perhaps. Heat the oil until it's nice and hot. 
  4. Gently place some of the tofu into the oil. If you've got enough to cover the tofu, great. Let it fry for three minutes, perhaps.  If you've got less oil, then let fry for a few minutes, then turn until all the sides have a nice golden color.  Add the next batch, until it's all done. 
  5. Drain the fried tofu on a wire rack, or a plate with a paper towel. Serve with sauce while still warm. 
Leftovers are great in soup or stir fry, or as an appetizer tomorrow. To show you how great, this is all AJ and I had left after we made a whole package:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Easy and Romantic: Perfect.

In honor of Valentine's Day today, I'm going to post the easiest recipe for romance I know. (Or, if you prefer, wallowing in singleness with pastries. It's all good.)

1. Buy a roll of Crescent Rolls in your grocery store refigerator case. Also buy some chocolate chips. Good ones, if you're feeling special.
2. Unroll the Crescent rolls. Add some chocolate chips to the wide end, then roll them up.
3. Bake as directed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rice + Lentils, Set and Forget

Do you own a rice cooker? If so, great! This is super easy. If not, and you want one, here is a little one on sale. If not, and you don't want one, you can do this in a saucepan too, but it takes a bit more attention (stirring, tasting, etc).
Add some rice to the rice cooker pot. (Remember that what you put in dry doubles when it cooks, so proportion accordingly. Add some lentils. Consider how hungry you are, if you're feeding others, side or only dish, etc when adding amounts. I usually do 1/2 cup of each, and end up with some leftovers.
Add a dash of oil, maybe 1 tablespoon if you want a number (olive, veggie, canola). Add a healthy shake of curry powder or soy sauce, salt, pepper, ginger if you want, white pepper if you want, sesame oil if you have it, hot sauce if you want. (Basically, go to town on the seasonings. The rice and lentils are really quite bland without them.
Chop an onion and a pepper if you've got 'em. Toss those in too. If you have some canned diced tomatoes, those make a lovely addition to a curry. Add enough water to cover everything well. Give it a swirl. Turn the rice cooker on, and come back when it's done.
If you want, add chicken or shrimp to the top/side (cooked separately) for a whole meal.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kitchens of India

Dear Readers (ok, hi, all three of you)
I recently decided to try out the Kitchens of India variety pack from Amazon. They were doing one of those subscribe and save deals, and I decided, why not? So I've been using them, and they're pretty great. Each package contains a small silver packet with paste in it. The paste is made in India for export, and is easy and delicious.
The Butter Chicken was first up: it was a really lovely combination, though not quite what I'm used to. It had the smooth butter chicken flavor, but with a moderate spicy heat that gave the whole dish a different spin.
The Chicken Curry: a lovely, if not awe-inspiring classic brown curry. I added veggies to make it a full meal, and it turned out really well with basically no effort whatsoever.
More reviews as I make the other 4 types. Yum. 

You can buy them in stores, or on Amazon here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On Chicken Fat

Or, Why You Buy Chicken Breasts Without Thinking About It.

Recently, while looking at the meat case at my local grocery store, I suddenly became aware of the high price of decent looking chicken breasts. I was astonished at the prices; usually my store has something on sale, reducing the price to something rather more palatable. Not this day, however.

Of course, right next to the cold chicken breasts were chicken thighs. They looked mostly the same as the breasts, with a bit more fat. I imagine this fat makes for a nice stock, and perhaps also decent fried chicken (though I've never done it myself). I knew, as many a KFC eater does, that thighs are dark meat, and while I have a preference for white meat myself, I thought the 60% price reduction would be no problem.

As it turns out, I chose poorly.

While the usual dark meat characteristics showed up in my dish, I didn't anticipate how long it would take me to cut the fat off (and out of) the meat. It took me nearly 20 minutes to prepare less than a pound of meat, and I ended up throwing away a decent part of the weight I'd purchased to fat and trimmings that didn't suit my purposes. I found that it was much easier and faster to cut the fat out of mostly frozen thighs, but next time, I will buy the breasts even if they are more expensive. 

*A youtube prize for the reader who picks out the movie references in this post. There are at least three that you should be able to catch.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Easy Sesame Noodles

I love Asian food of almost every stripe. (I guess I'm least sold on Japanese cuisine, but I've also had the least exposure.) I'm not 100% sure which country can claim these amazingly easy noodles, but I don't care. They're fantastic.
(Again, I take no credit for this recipe. It comes from my favorite food blooger, Ree Drummond at Pioneer Woman Cooks.)
  • 12 ounces, fluid Thin Noodles, Cooked And Drained These can be any kind of noodles you've got. Angel hair, spaghetti, rice noodles, etc.
  • ¼ cups Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar I think this is too much, I use 1 tbsp.
  • 4 cloves Garlic, Minced I just press them for quickness
  • 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Pure Sesame Oil YOU MUST OWN THIS. Best kitchen item ever.
  • ½ teaspoons Hot Chili Oil or sriacha etc
  • 4 Tablespoons Canola Oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Hot Water add last to help dissolve everything together
  • 4 whole Green Onions, Sliced Thin optional garnish
Preparation Instructions
Whisk all ingredients (except noodles and green onions) together in a bowl. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed.
Pour sauce over warm noodles and toss to coat.
Sprinkle with green onions or roasted sesame seeds and toss.
Serve in a bowl with chopsticks. (Yes, mike you can use a fork!)

This makes a great side dish, or veggie dish, or lunch, fresh or packed. YUM.  I just made these for my lunch today and it was so yummy.  The whole thing takes as long as it takes to cook the noodles, plus maybe 30 seconds to toss and serve.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

No Knead Bread

You know what makes your whole house/apartment smell like heaven?
Fresh baked bread. You know what is generally a pain to make? Fresh baked bread.
So, why bother? Well, because this version is so easy you can't mess it up. (No, Mike. Not even you.) It requires a total of 5-7 minutes of prep time, and a day of advance thinking.
You will also need a study pot of some kind-- a stock pot, a deep pan, something oven safe up to temperatures of 450. People say dutch ovens work amazingly, but if you're reading this blog and can afford a dutch oven I think you're in the wrong place. I would go with the biggest, heaviest metal pot in your kitchen, provided it fits inside your oven.
You will also need a kitchen towel (yes really), flour, water, salt and yeast.
I claim absolutely no credit for this recipe, which seems to have found a lot of popularity after it was published in the New York Times in 2006... I'll paste below with my notes, and link you to the original story at the end.

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (I sometimes use 1 cup whole wheat, 2 cups white flour. More than this and the loaf doesn't rise well. You can compensate by adding a bit more yeast but this is a dangerous game for an inexperienced baker! Baking is not cooking. Cooking is an art. Baking is a science. Chemistry, specifically.)
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (or a heaping 1/4 tsp of dry active yeast, activated*)
1¼ teaspoons salt

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water (I use 1/8 of a cup of hot water and a bit of sugar to activate the yeast, then use 1 1/2 cups for this part) , and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature. This means don't put it in the fridge. Maybe put it over the dishwasher if you have one, since the gentle warmth helps it rise.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes. You can do this. I know you can!

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. This is very important to give the loaf it's amazing all over crustiness. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Seriously, be careful. I grabbed such a 450 degree pot with a bare hand, and it left quite a mark! 450 degrees is much warmer than your flesh would ever like to be. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. In fact, the messier it is, the more likely your guests will gush over it's handmade quality, or it's "rustic" appearance. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

*To activate yeast: turn your sink on as hot as it goes. Let it run to warm up if it isn't hot. Measure out about an 1/8 of a cup of this hot water. Add it to a small bowl with your yeast and a little bit of sugar. Stir, and let stand for at least 5-10 minutes. When your yeast is ready to go, it'll be frothy. Scrape it into your main bowl with a spatula and let those yeasties do their work. 

This recipe is so easy, and makes a magnificent 1lb loaf of bread with a great crust. And you can actually find blog posts where a 4-year old makes this (minus the oven part). Here is the NYT article, and here is the little kid. 

Friday, February 5, 2010


A basic sauce has 4 parts:

(thickener-- optional. Cornstarch, masa, flour, or heat are typical thickeners.)

These parts can take lots of forms based on culture and what you have on hand. But for example, a nice italian sauce might use olive oil, tomatos/tomato juice (i.e. from a can of tomatoes), and basil and garlic. Basically, heat some oil. throw in the spices. Add the liquid, stir, reduce heat to get everything warm and bubbly. Let the desired amount of liquid cook off, or add a little cornstarch to thicken things up.

Another version: a little oil, some onions, herbs and garlic sauteed. Add white wine to deglaze the pan (see below! you can do it.) let it simmer. Add lemon, or reduce the heat and add cream (or whole milk-- not less than that, though, the fat keeps it from curdling too fast). Throw in a little pepper, and toss over pasta. Instant homemade wine sauce.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Potato Soup

So, with the upcoming SNOWPOCALYSE 2.0 hitting Maryland soon, I figured it'd be a great time for some hearty, creamy potato soup! Yummmm. Bacon always makes a great topper, and so do cheddar cheese and fresh green onions if you've got 'em. 

8 cups diced potatoes (I add as many as I have. It's a lot of potato, but that's the point.)
3 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup chopped onion (more if you want!)
3 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth, divided
4 cups half-and-half cream (you can use whole milk if you prefer, or if you run out, add milk to make up the difference)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cubes chicken bouillon (this sounds redundant. But it's not. BUT it does mean you do not need to add salt.)
ground black pepper. lots of it. and white pepper if you have it. lots of that too.

In a large pot, bring potatoes, celery, carrot and onion to a boil in 2 cups of broth, or as much as you need until the veggies are covered. Cook until potatoes are tender, 15 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid. Leave the veggies out in a bowl nearby, and put the liquid back into the pot.
Combine reserved broth and half-and-half in pot. In a bowl, combine melted butter and flour. Stir into half-and-half mixture over medium heat. Stir until thickened. Stir in reserved vegetables, remaining broth, bouillon and pepper. Add some more pepper. If you want, add the bacon. Heat through and serve.

As an afterthought: if you're cooking up some bacon either to throw into the soup or to put on top, I reccomend cooking it while the veggies are cooking. That way, you can use the bacon grease in place of some of the butter, which gives the soup a much richer flavor without losing the buttery goodness of it. I cooked up 3 strips of bacon, which left me ~1 tbsp of grease. So I used that and a sparing 5 tbsp of nice melty butter.
Also, when you blend the butter (or butter and bacon fat) into the flour, you're making a roux, which is a very useful way to thicken plenty of things. It's 1 part solid to one part liquid, basically-- you can make them with (usually) flour and a liquid/fat, like melted butter or milk. 

My Spice Rack (part 1)

I love spices. Mm.
Here's some stuff in my spice rack, and what I use it for.
  • Cumin-- I put it in everything western, southwestern, Mexican, etc. It also makes a great corn topping-- cut a fresh lime into wedges, brush the limes over an ear of hot corn, then sprinkle with cumin. Unbelievably delicious. 
  • Chile powder. Hot. Delicious. 
  • Red pepper flakes-- for an Italian kick. Great to throw into hot olive oil for a quick sizzle with onions and garlic.
  • Curry powder-- adds a nice warmth to any savory dish. I love it in lentils, and it's the secret ingredient in my lentil soup.
  • Cinnamon-- good for sweet things, but also adds a nice brightness to any savory dish. Often adds a great sweetness to anything you put curry powder into. 
  • White pepper-- a nice contrast to normal black pepper. Can be expensive, but I found it really cheap at my local Asian supermarket.
  • Ginger-- for my favorite cookies, and Asian dishes of many varieties.
  • basic Italian mix-- everything from pizza to homemade tomato sauce needs its basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, etc blend.
  • Bay leaves-- good for flavoring soups, stews, and other thick and hearty dishes. They're not poisonous as commonly thought, but they do not feel good if you bite into one. They don't get soft no matter how long you boil them, so don't eat them. Very not worth it.
  • Rosemary-- very distinctive flavor. I associated it with spring. Complemented nicely by fresh spring veggies, a light butter or olive oil sauce, and a little salt.
  • Turmeric: the miracle spice, according to nutritionists. It's supposed to be absurdly good for you but I'm not sure how much you have to eat to get the benefits. It's used mostly in Indian and related cuisines. Wikipedia's take here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cutting Onions

I HATE cutting onions. Every onion I've ever cut has made me cry. But I love eating them.... what's a girl to do?!

(My solution: ask my parents for the Vidalia for Christmas. I'll post a photo of it someday, I'm a little bit in love...[warning: video plays with sound automatically])

If you're not into that, and I understand, it's cool.
  • WikiHow has a not-useful list of ways to not cry while cutting onions (except for the part about the sharp knife. That is true, and another reason to invest in good knives.)
  • Some advice from the folks at Reluctant Gourmet.
  • And this is my favorite way!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cajun Chicken Pasta

So, I attempted this last night. It turned out well, and it was easy too! As I've said before, she has my favorite cooking blog.

I didn't buy the Cajun Blend (why spend $6 when you may well have all the stuff already?) You can find various versions of the blend online, but at heart you need:
  • cayenne pepper
  • garlic (can be fresh, as in the recipe)
  • paprika
  • thyme
  • salt
  • black pepper
You can also add garlic powder, onion flakes, chili powder (reccomended), white pepper, or allspice.
Basically, you want equal parts of all of them, with perhaps more cayenne pepper for spice, and less allspice (that stuff is strong!!). If you end up making a blend in a bowl and have too much, you can save it in a sealed jar. I just eyeballed it, and added to taste.

Other notes for this recipe: as directed it served 4 people for dinner, and we were fairly hungry. It would not, however, feed 4 hungry athletes. Halved, it would make a good dinner + lunch leftovers portion. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Things My Kitchen Is Never Without

Ok, maybe not never. But some basic things I attempt to always have on hand:

  • olive oil
  • butter
  • salt/pepper/some kind of spice
  • hot sauce
  • wine (even, or especially, cheap-o cooking wine) 
  • canned tomatoes
  • rice, lentils, pasta, etc-- whatever your favorite starches happen to be
  • onion
  • green pepper (my favorite veggie. I put it in almost everything. Substitute other stuff at will) 
  • milk
  • chicken broth, or boullion 
With just this stuff, or not even all of it, I can feed myself (not that well, but still) for almost a week. See, for example, finals week. 

I also love to keep these "luxuries" on hand:
  • frozen dumplings
  • jars of pasta sauce
  • frozen stir-fry veggies
  • jiffy mix-- both cornbread and blueberry. great for impressing someone with 'homemade' muffins or cornbread in under 30 minutes. 
  • cheese, tortillas and salsa-- the perfect microwave quesadilla lunch in 30 seconds
  • frozen meat, meatballs, etc
  • different kinds of hot sauce (at last count, i had 4 or 5 kinds of bottled hot sauce...)