12.31.2009

Kale, Nice and Crispy

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Here's the thing about kale. I buy it, I use some of it, then I don't know what to do with the rest. I don't really like it steamed. It's great in soups. I used it for my vegetable soup (below), but the bundle is so dense, there's always some left over.

Well, here's what I'm going to do with my leftover kale from now on. Kale chips. I've read about roasting kale several times in the last month, and I finally did it. The whole process takes about 20 minutes, and it's a tasty and interesting snack. Good for you too.

Kale Crips
kale leaves, washed, and torn into bite-size pieces (remove any of the tougher veins and stems)
olive oil
salt

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and DRY kale very well.
2) Lightly coat with olive oil. Bake for about 10-15 minutes.
3) Remove from oven and salt.

Vegetable and Turkey Sausage Soup

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If you're thinking, hey, this soup looks familiar! Just like that other vegetable soup. Well, you are right. But I like vegetable soups, and although it shares a few common ingredients, it has some other nice additions, particularly the black eyed peas. I love beans in soup and this one has kidney beans as well as the black eyed peas.

I also used leeks, more zucchini (two types) and a spicy turkey sausage in this one. I really liked the flavor from the sausage. Our local Henry's Market makes their sausages in-house, and the few I've tasted so far have been delicious.

So basically, you can follow the same recipe as before and add the veggies you like, adjusting the stock/water and seasoning. The soup is hearty and very filling. I can't wait to have more tomorrow and say something clever like, "this soup is old, it's from last year!"

12.30.2009

Why I Can't Have Cable

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I always blame the husband on the fact that we don't have cable. He hates TV, and he hates me watching TV, which I love doing after work. But the truth is, the wiring at our place is strange. And unless I want the ugly cable wire running along my walls and ceilings, or am willing to rearrange all of my furniture, I'm just going to have to watch PBS. Forever. Which, might not be so bad. Because it appears I don't know how to handle cable. It puts dreams of a better life in my head, and makes me want to move to Europe.

On Christmas Day, I watched about 15 minutes of House Hunters International at my brother-in-law's house. And that's all it took for me to want to move to the French countryside. Why France? No reason, except that was the country featured in that particular episoded. The motivation? You can buy a house there for $500K or you can buy a house in Southern California (the areas we are actually willling to live in) for that amount. Rolling hills, french bread, cheese or LA traffic? After 15 minutes, I wanted out. I did some math in my head, decided if we sold our condo, and saved for another year, we can probably do this. I was already decorating my kitchen there, feeding my chickens, and deciding what type of plants I wanted in my vegetable garden.

My brother-in-law reminded me I would have to work in France. Lame I know, it seems I will never realize my housewife fantasies. But I'd be willing to work. However, it appears I have to convince the French government that my occupation would be a great asset to the country, something no one else can do as well as me. Hmmm. I throw good dinner parties, would that count? I knit a decent scarf. . . I've got nothing. That's what it comes down to. Nothing to offer France.

So now all I have is the dream of buying my 200 year-old house, full of charm and character, with a garden and chicken coup, in the French countryside. Thanks a lot, cable, for killing a dream I didn't even know I had.

12.29.2009

Simple Soups: Noodle-Cabbage and Potato-Leek

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After some decadent meals over the holidays, the last few days have been more peasant-like, with lots of simple soups.

I had some Japanese noodles in my fridge, so on Sunday, I made a simple noodle soup, with napa cabbage, slices of filet mignon in a vegetable broth, topped with sriracha sauce. I kind of made this up as I went, so there's not much of recipe for this one.

Then on Monday, the husband and I tried a Julia Child recipe, her potato leek soup. Very simple. Surprisingly so. And even though I liked it, I felt that it could have been even better with some thyme or garlic.

Julia Child's Potato Leek Soup
3 tbsp of butter
3 tbsp of flour
3-4 cups of diced peeled potatoes (1 lb.)

3 cups thinly sliced leeks, including the tender greens
2 quarts hot water
1 tbsp salt, pepper to taste
6 tbsp heavy cream
3 tbsp minced chives or parsley

1) Melt butter, stir in leeks, cook for 5 minutes. Add flour and stir for 2 minutes, cooking it without browning it.
2) Gradually beat in one cup of water, then add the remaining water, salt and pepper, and potatoes.
3) Bring to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes or so, partially covered.
4) Mash vegetables, add cream, simmer for a couple more minutes, adjust seasoning, and sprinkle pasley or chives.

Roasted Brussle Sprouts

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If you don't like brussle sprouts, then you haven't had them prepared correctly. Or maybe you have, and you still don't like them, and in that case I probably can't be your friend. Because brussle sprouts are delicious.

Roasted Brussle Sprouts
Brussle sprouts, trimmed and cut in half (however many you'd like)
olive oil
kosher salt
pepper

1) Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat sprouts in oil and season. Roast on a baking sheet for 30-40 minutes, turning them over half-way through.

12.28.2009

Rabbit and Poussin for Christmas Eve

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This post is really not for the vegetarians. There's a lot of cute, little animals that were butchered to make this delicious meal. And I had to do some of the butchering. If you're wondering what is a Poussin, let me tell you. A young chicken, usually under 28 days old. You can't typically find them around town, unless you go to specialty stores. Same goes for the rabbit. We took a trip to Harmony Farms to purchase our meats.
In the morning, my husband baked some beautiful breads for our our dinner that night, and Christmas dinner. As you can see, they were impressive looking.

I got to work on my cold bean appetizer, previously mentioned here. This time I did start with dry beans, and made sure not to forget the tomato sauce and herb stems.

I also tried a fennel recipe. I haven't done much cooking with fennel, and was a little unsure about what cooked fennel tasted like, but since the recipe involved cream and cheese, I didn't think I could go wrong. This was one of those recipes that actually looked interesting in my Rachel Ray Magazine, so I went for it. And everyone liked it. Here it is.


The real star of the meal for me was the rabbit. I really enjoy rabbit. And if it's available, I will usually order it at fancy restaurants. But I've never cooked rabbit. Or cut one up. At the market, my husband insisted we buy the whole rabbit, but as I started preparing the meal, he took off for a few hours and I was left alone. Alone with a whole rabbit. It scared me. But after watching a few tutorials online, I was able to get my eight pieces, and I only cut myself once!

The rabbit is cooked stove top with mustard and wine, then topped off with a creamy blue cheese sauce.

There were also the three little chickens. Which I washed and stuffed with herbs and lemon, added butter and cognac, and baked for about 45 minutes.



On the side we also had wild rice, and salad with butter lettuce, beets, and blue cheese.

Rabbit in Blue Cheese and Mustard Sauce
(I found this recipe online, but made several adjustments. It called for a lot more dry herbs, which looked like way too much for me, and cooking the rabbit in the slow cooker, which didn't appeal to me.)

1 rabbit (2 1/2 - 3 lbs), cut up
1 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp dry savory
salt and pepper
3 tbsp of white wine
1/4 cup of dijon mustard
1 tsp of cornstarch
1/3 cup of whipping cream
1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese
olive oil
butter

1) Rinse and dry rabbit. Season with salt, pepper and the dry herbs. Heat butter and olive oil in pan and brown rabbit for seveal minutes on each side.
2) Combine mustard and wine, and pour over rabbit. Cover and cook for about 1 hour or so, turning rabbit over half way through.
3) Remove rabbit from pan, and keep warm. Add cornstarch and whipping cream to the pan's juices. Cook for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat, and add crumbled blue cheese. Stir and pour sauce over rabbit.

Thyme-Roasted Poussin
I basically copied this recipe from here, without any adjustments. And they were tasty.

Four 12- to 14-ounce poussins
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, quartered
12 large sprigs of thyme
12 sprigs of marjoram
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons Cognac

1) Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
2) Rinse the poussins and season the cavities with salt and pepper. Rub each with 1/4 teaspoon olive oil. Fill each cavity with a lemon wedge, 2 sprigs each of thyme and marjoram, and 1 crushed garlic clove.
3) Loosen the skin from the breast of each poussin. Slide a sprig each of thyme and marjoram between the skin and the breast. Spoon the Cognac (1/2 tablespoon per bird) into the breast pockets of each poussin. Truss with kitchen string.
4) On a roasting rack set in a roasting pan, roast for 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a fork.

12.27.2009

The Eve of Christmas Eve: Tamales with Friends

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Family is great, really. But before family time begun this holiday season, we wanted to spend time with friends. Since I had plenty of tamales on hand, this was a simple meal to put together. The husband made some delicious tomatillo salsa. I made guacamole, a salad and the dressing. And we bought apple turnovers and tacos de crema.
There were plenty of presents: snuggies for all, booze, booze cozies, tea cups and even nasal spray.
But I think I made out with the greatest gift of all - a Mad Men nightlight.

12.20.2009

Bacon Shrimp with Fancy Couscous and Chard

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The plan was for me to make polenta. I never have before. Well, I have bought the log, and pan fried or baked the already solid polenta, but I've never made the creamy type. And I was finally ready. Ready and excited. Then, I opened the package. And there were bugs. So, polenta went in the trash and couscous saved the day. Thanks for being bug free couscous!

We had nice, fancy and overpriced bacon for breakfast. With four slices left over, I decided to add this bacon to my jumbo shrimp. And it was delicious. On the side I also made red chard with some left over butter beans, in wine. Now I prefer my chard with balsamic vinegar, but the husband is not the biggest fan, so I tried the wine deal. I didn't care for it. But he really liked it. How we ever get along, I do not know.



Bacon Shrimp
Serves up to 4
1 lb of jumbo shrimp, shells on
4 slices of thick bacon (already cooked), chopped
2 garlic cloved, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped fine
handful of parsley
juice of half a lemon
1 tbs of butter
olive oil
salt and pepper

1) Heat pan, add butter and olive oil. Cook shallot and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add bacon.
2) Add shrimp and more olive oil if needed. Season and cook until shrimp are pink.
3) Squeeze lemon, add parsley and serve.

Couscous with Sundried Tomatoes and Herbs
1 cup of whole wheat couscous, cook according to directions on package
Add chopped sundried tomatoes, however many you like
Once couscous is done, add a handful of herbs, I used parsley and basil. Fluff with fork. Eat.

Red Chard and Beans, in Red Wine
Serves 3 to 4
1 bunch of red chard, trimmed and chopped
1/2 can of butter beans
1 small shallot, chopped fine
2 garlic cloved, chopped
2 tbsps of red wine
olive oil
salt and pepper

1) Heat olive oil in pan. Add shallot and garlic, cook for a few minutes. Add beans. Cook for a few more minutes and add the stalks of the chard.
2) After cooking the stalks for 3 or so minutes, add the chard leaves, season, add wine, and cover and simmer for 7 or some minutes, stirring occasionally.
3) Uncover, cook for a minute or so, and serve.

The Begining of Salads, Sigh. . .

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The other night, as I was taking a photo of our dinner, the salad above, my husband says, "You're going to blog about salads?" Yes. Yes, I am. Because after Christmas, I have vowed to eat salad at least three times a week in order to get rid of some of this chunk.

One of my favorite salads is the one above. Simple, and almost filling. I use two or three types of lettuce, marinated artichokes, beets (canned or over roasted if you have the time), and giant butter beans. The best part is instead of using the bad for you store dressing or making a quick one myself, when using marinated artichokes, I use the olive oil they came in as my dressing. It's full of flavor and easy. You can add some mustard to it to spice it up as well.

So, I hope you're all ready for lots of quick, easy salads. I'm not.

12.16.2009

Tree Decorating and Steak Dinner

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I love to decorate the tree. I'm really good at it. Especially putting up the lights. That's the part that takes talent.

Anyway, to go along with tree night, I decided we should have some steak and potatoes. I had some Omaha Steaks filet mignon in my freezer. I took the meat out, and picked up some groceries, and that was the extent of my involvement with dinner. The husband did the rest. And it was delicious. Almost as good as my tree.

Tamale Leftovers Become Burritos

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After tamale making night, we had some meat filling leftover, so the husband and I made some mini burritos. I made some beans to go inside as well.

With the beef.

And the chicken.

And we had desserts from the Mexican store after dinner.

Birthday Lobster and Ahi Salad

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The husband had a birthday in early December. And for his birthday dinner he requested lobster, and a salad. I decided to pick up some tuna sashimi to top over our salad. And I made a nice honey/wasabi vinaigrette to go over it. The meal was quick and simple. But it sure looked fancy.

Broiled Lobster
Two 4 oz lobster tails
Butter
Freshly grated ginger
1/2 garlic clove, minced
salt

1. Preheat your broiler to 500 degrees.
2. Cut the lobster tails down the middle.
3. Heat up butter. Add ginger and garlic. Brush mixture over lobster and season with salt.
4. Broil for 8-10 minutes, brushing with additional butter if necessary.

Yang Chow Take Out

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My friend calls Yang Chow not real Chinese food. I guess it's because not enough Chinese eat there or something. There are two locations that I've been to, Chinatown and Pasadena. I like this place, especially since the Pasadena location is on my way home. And celebrities go there. I've never seen any there, but their pictures hang on the walls of the place. Last time I was there waiting to pick up my food, I noticed Ron Howard was even on the wall.

This place has a delcious dish called Slippery Shrimp. Yum. But it's not a take-out dish; the sauce and shrimpt don't travel well. So last week, I had some hot and sour soup, and tried their Shanghai-style noodles with pork and spinach. I really like the texture of these noodles, a new favorite.

12.15.2009

Tamale Making Time

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So I've been bugging my friend to teach me how to make tamales for some time now. But she has all these strange hang ups about when and where and how to make them. Finally, I was told Christmas time is tamale time and we can make them in December. So, last Friday, both of us got off work early, and got to it.

Now, there's no recipe here. I get too tired thinking back to that that day to write about it in any detail. So I'm going to let the pictures do the talking, and summarize the lessons learned.

Roasted tomatillo sauce for the chicken tamales.

Red chile sauce for beef.




Chickens!

Beef with sauce.

Carrots, cheese and pickled jalapenos went into the chicken tamales.



Phew! Just looking at those pictures brough back memories of doing dishes for two hours. Here's what I would never do again:
  • Make tamales starting at 2 pm
  • Use a steamer that's too big
  • Use so many dishes
  • Make tamales with my friend. This can cause some major friendship problems, especially if you're too alike and have different cooking styles. We couldn't even agree on whether to add the tomatillo sauce to the shredded chicken, so I made my own, with the sauce. And I have confirmation the sauce makes all the difference.
Here's what I would do:
  • Plan better
  • Soak and clean the corn husks the day before
  • Boil all the meat the day before
  • Make the sauces the day before
  • Buy enough masa
I'm thinking of making some tamales in late Spring, who's in?