Jun 5, 2009

Okay...maybe we're back

Where did we go? Why did we stop posting? Are we still alive?...But what if I need information on how to cook ______?

Brandy and I talked about if we wanted to keep this thing going or not for a while. Actually most of the work and talk was because I stopped working on posts. In short form of the story I was getting a lot of flak for some of the posts that I'd put up. While discourse is nice to what one writes, I don't expect that what my brain might happen to make my fingers type in should be treated as doctrine. We had critics that treated it as such....and this is just for fun...just for us...so I stopped posting. Why bother with it if it's not fun?

Well, we're back...hopefully. Keep an eye out for completely random topics, like the one that I want to do on pig's head bacon (do you really know or care how bacon is made?).

Jul 27, 2008

She: Tamale Sauce

This isn't really tamale sauce. Its more like an overall tex-mex sauce that has all my favorites: some mole, some tomato, not spicy but tangy, nice and thick...I put the kitchen sink in this. Mark brought home tamales one night for dinner, but no sauce, and I was bound and determined to make something tasty. In retrospect, the only thing I would have done differently is to add a bay leaf to the stock for some more depth, which I went ahead and added to the instructions. So check out my madness:

Part One: Take one can of tomato paste and put in the pan, and stir while cooking on low til color changes. Then add one can of chicken broth, bay leaf, 1/2 tsp cumin, pinch of cinnamon, 1 tb ancho powder, 1/2 tsp garlic salt, 2 tb smoked cherry peppers, 1/4 tsp oregano. Bring slowly to a boil, whisking to mix spices (don't skip this!), and let boil 1-2 mts.

Part Two: bring down to a simmer, and add 1 tb dark chocolate, 1 1/2 tb honey. Stir/whisk. While its simmering, grab a bowl and add 5 tb of cold water, and mix in 5 tb of flour, one at a time to make a lump-free paste. Kick the temp back to a boil and add this bit by bit.

The flour thickens the sauce, so if you don't use the sauce immediately it'll create a skin. I just added a little water when it got too thick. The only thing that might be hard to find is the smoked cherry peppers. I found them at a spice shop in Seattle, but I'm pretty sure you can get something like it from Penzy's, too. They were a great addition, and I'm hoarding the rest from Mark. Snicker.

Jul 25, 2008

She: Cous-Cous Method

When my mom told me she was buying cous-cous for meals, I promised to add this post. Mark showed me a great way to make cous-cous very fast and simply, and even better, virtually mess-free...my favorite! This method just steams the cous-cous in a ziplock baggy, which you can then chuck into the fridge inbetween meals. Get: 1 cup cous-cous, 2tsp olive oil, 1.5 cup boiling water, 1 small cucumber, 1/2 onion, small handful of mint (or basil), 1/2 tsp cyanne, 1/2 tsp salt, and fresh pepper.

Thats the most basic list of ingredients. Everything than can be cut/diced, including the mint, should be. Put the cous-cous and the oil in the baggie first. Then add all the veggies and the salt/peppers. Pour in the boiling water and seal the bag. Let it sit for a few minutes, and voila! I personally add some apple and/or roma tomato (but add those after it steams), but dried cranberries or raisins are also nice, especially with mint! This is very healthy as a side dish, and a nice alternative to something mayo-heavy like coleslaw. Best of all, besides the knife and cutting board, there's nothing else to wash. :)

Jul 9, 2008

She: Powder mixes

So, this post will be a bit different from others we've had, but it is something we've both done a lot of research on as well: protein powders. If anyone finds it handy, I'll add one on energy bars, too. As it is, I'm up to a 4 mile run 3 times a week with some more cardio/weights mixed in other days, and Mark is biking long distances to work each day as well as his own cario/weights. A few years ago I started running, and diet became more important, and like a trooper Mark jumped on the bandwagon as well, to be my support buddy in it all. Of course, for a while it was really me huffing and puffing more than running, but I digress.

One of the things we read about was the "body for life" diet. They had meal shakes and all sorts of stuff. Of course, there were a TON of carbs and some sugar in the mix too, and when I did the math found out the calories from that one shake were more than erasing the calories I burned on my best workout. I needed about 20-30 grams of protein and didn't need the added carbs or other calories, as I was still eating "normal". To check out your calorie intake, try a site like WeightLossforAll Most exercise diets are geared towards men, who need more protein and whose bodies can handle a lot more carbs without storing it as fat. We started trying protein powders, looking for high protein instead of carbs or sugars, and one other important ingredient: taste.

Now, this might not be crucial for many others, but I have the gag reflexes of a five year old choking down canned lima beans. In short, if it doesn't taste good, I just don't do it. Silly, maybe, but true. It did cut the list down to a few: Beverly's Ultimate Muscle Protein, Cytosport's EvoPro lite, and BSN's Syntha-6. Now, before I go any further, something to look at is the source of the protein: is it whey, soy, egg, or casein? Different kinds of protein get stored/burned in your body differently. Since I was running and not body building, I was looking for a blend with casein and another source: I needed a quick restore plus something that would promote muscle regrowth for longer periods of time. Bodybuilding.com has a good description of each. Also, I found a TON of information specifically for women as well as links at a great fitness blog: Causic Musings. Make sure to look in her "fitness and health and her "fitness on a budget" subcategories. Some of her diets are scary, but the girl is buff and knows what she's doing! I also must add that most of these I mix with soy milk instead of regular milk or water, too, for the quick burst of carbs soy has. SOOO, back to taste.

All three of these taste well enough for me to chug, unlike some others where you can taste the sugar or a chalkiness to them. I always get vanilla, because just about any other flavor is very artificial tasting. Once Mark accidentally picked up a cookies/cream and I had a veeeery hard time with that stuff! Beverly tastes good and has a lot of good stuff in it, except it was more difficult to mix--it didn't want to blend at all and was harder to swallow because of it. EvoPro mixed better, and was my choice for a really long time, but Syntha6 is my new favorite. It mixes very easily, and though its sweet, it isn't sugary, but more like vanilla pudding. Nice. None of these are especially cheap. But I know a lot of new vegans who wonder why they bruise easily and lose muscle tone--you still need protein! You can get a lot of it thru nuts and such, but see if a soy, whey, or other protein can help you out. If wasn't exercising, I wouldn't need the superprotein stuff, but even then, check out the actual amount of protein on the carton--about 20g in a shake is normal, and in a bar, any less than 10g a serving isn't doing you much.

Jun 21, 2008

She: Sweets of sorts

Right now I'm waiting 2 hours for one type of sweets to freeze, and for another to cool. Figured I'd spend the time by letting you know what I was up to...First, I have been eating a TON of cherries. Its cherry season here, and I have never before been so enamoured with the fruit. But after three weeks of the red stuff, some of the farmers at the market have been picking stuff that is ripe right then, so it won't last as long. We bought 4 lbs of cherries this week for just a few bucks and I was determined to do something with them. Besides pit them. that is. I made Mark do the dirty work since we couldn't find a cherry pitter. However, I just read a tip: you can use a straw to pit cherries. Yes! You take off the stem, then poke the straw thru that end, and it will push out the pit on the other side. Nifty. Anyways, I didn't want to make a cherry pie. The crust is always so heavy and not that good for you. I found a Macaroon Cherry Tart Recipe from 101cookbooks blogger. Instead of a traditional crust, it uses a lot of coconut and egg whites, so it is marginally better for you. It smells awesome, and I've had to remind Mark twice to let it actually cool!
On the other hand, I'm freezing my new rocket pops! I bought a set of three tovolo rocket pops that let you layer flavors. I've been looking at these and the pig/icecream sandwich presses they have for a long time. Of course, the real kicker was the pudding I picked up for it. I wanted that fat free, sugar free jello pudding you can get--makes it preeeetty guilt free as a treat.All day on our list of errands I would cry "pudding!" in a cosby accent. Its silly, but Mark started picking it up, too. We were walking around the grocery store barking "pudding!"...anyways. I couldn't find anything but a few boring flavors. I got bananna and chocolate, of course, but besides cheesecake or pistachio (eeeeh) there was nothing but vanilla! What is that about? What about all the funky jello from my childhood? Sigh...

Jun 17, 2008

He: Grilled Vegetable Enchiladas

What do you do with squash? Why does everyone spend all of their time trying to find ways to hide it in baked goods, cover it with cheese, disguise it as something other than what it is? The only thing that squash has really done to us is to drive us to come up with enough ways to use it before it goes bad. This is one of those really fabulous ways to use it when you have an overabundance and just can't stand the idea of just cooking it by itself.

4 lb. assorted summer squash
2 lb. spring onions with tops
2 tbsp. good olive oil (preferably a nice extra virgin)
30 corn tortillas
1 jar of Fronteraenchilada sauce
1 tbsp. dry oregano
1 tbsp. smoked chile powder (not chili powder, but a singular powder like ancho, chipotle, aleppo, pasilla)
sea salt and black pepper to taste
cheddar, jack, or some other melting cheese (if desired)

1) Cut the ends off the squash and cut into planks about 3/4" thick. Do the exact same thing with the onions bottoms (save the tops to cut like green onions at the end).
2) toss the squash and onions with the oil and a little salt and pepper (it's really hard to say how much, just aim to make them taste like squash and onions, just a little bland...if you're really unsure try a Tbsp. of salt, and 1/2 tsp of pepper).
3) Grill on a preheated grill until soft, or about 2 minutes each side. Cool completely
4) Cut all of the vegetables into a nice 1/4" dice, add the oregano, smoked chile powder, the sping onion tops (cut very, very thinly) and any additional salt and pepper if you aren't satisfied with how they taste. Here's my load of veggies all set to become filling

5) Set up your enchilada assembly station just like this picture on the left, with plastic lining your counter and enchilada sauce on top of the plastic. This is an old restaurant trick...trust me it works like a champ.
6) Add a small amount of neutral tasting oil (canola, soy, corn...something inexpensive, since it's just for frying...kinda) to a large skillet and fry the tortillas in this oil for about 5 seconds on each side.
7) Move the tortillas to the assembly station and add a small amount of the squash mixture (about 3 tbsp per tortilla), and roll up the enchiladas.
8) As you finish each one move them into a casserole pan with the seam side facing down. Also, they work best if you push them right up against one another, otherwise they will tend to unroll. These are mine all set for the oven (note, I did some without cheese for the lactose intolerant guests that I had.

9) Once you have them all in the pan, top them with additional enchilada sauce, cheese if desired and then bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
10) They are done when the cheese is melted and the house smells like enchiladas (try not to get them too brown or the tortillas will be like eating tree bark.

11) Enjoy and thank me for putting up something else healthy!

He: White Lasagna

So, the family has been not so happy with me and the blog. Well, they're not unhappy, more annoyed that we create all of this really cool food that they hear about over the phone and there is never a recipe put up that they can try and make. Well you people here's me making an attempt to communicate better and put up more things that you can make at home that could be healthy.
This is a fairly involved recipe for a white lasagna that you might find in northern Italy (please don't hold me to this, but the techniques are accurate to what would be done). I am going to try and demystify the recipe and the difficulty in the techniques as I go along. As always with my recipes, if something doesn't make sense email or comment and I will explain in different terms than what I have put up here.

Meat sauce ingredients:
1 lb. ground turkey
2 oz. unsalted butter
2 oz. white flour
1 qt. 2% milk
2 ea. bay leaves
10 ea. whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (please don't be lazy with this one, pre-ground always tastes like sawdust)
salt to taste

cheese mixture:
1 head cauliflower (finely chopped, stem, leaves, everything)
2 bunches red chard chiffonade(cut into ribbons) leaves and stems separated
1 lb. 2% cottage cheese
2 tbsp. dry oregano
2 tbsp. dry parsley (you can use fresh on the herbs, just double the amount)
1 cup grated parmiggiano reggiano
3 ea. large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil (divided into 2 tbsp. increments)
salt to taste

assembly ingredients:
1 lb. low fat mozzarella (sliced)
2 lb. lasagna noodles
sea salt to boil with the water for the noodles (1 tbsp per gallon of water)

To make the meat mix:
1) Brown the meat in a saute pan on medium heat until cooked through. Drain excess water and grease.
2) Make the bechamel by melting the butter on high heat stirring frequently until after the first foaming.
3) Immediately add the flour and whisk until evenly distributed.
4) Continue cooking on high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture smells nutty and is a pale golden brown (maybe 5 minutes). Immediately add the milk and stir to combine.
5) Add the nutmeg, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Return to a boil, then lower the heat to as low as it will go and cook for at least 5 minutes.
6) Remove from the heat and allow the spices to infuse for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and peppercorns and stir in the cooked meat.
7) Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt (it's best to err on the side of slighly bland rather than slightly salty, the cheese added later will up the salt content significantly).
8) Set aside until assembly

To make the cheese mixture:
1) Turn oven to as high as it will go.
2) Take the cut cauliflower mixture and toss with 2 tbsp of canola oil and a tbsp or two of salt, spread out on a sheetpan and roast until the florets begin to caramelize.
3) Add the remaining 2 tbsp canola oil to a saute pan set on medium high heat and add the chard stems. Cook until soft.
4) Add the chard leaves and cook until just wilted. Season to taste with salt.
5) Cool the cauliflower and chard until at least room temperature (best if they are cold before proceeding).
6) Combine the vegetables with all remaining ingredients for the cheese mixture.
7) Set aside until assembly.

To cook noodles:
1) Boil in salted water according to package instructions.
2) If you really need help with this step you should not be attempting this recipe

Assembly and final cooking:
1) Assemble in this order: noodles, cheese mixture, meat mixture, noodles, cheese mix, meat mix, noodles, cheese mix, mozzarella.
2) Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
3) Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Here's a picture of what the final pan will look like. We had another shot with just a single portion of this, but it looked disturbing cut. If you consider the ingredients that go into this dish there is a great deal of protein, only a nominal amount of fat, and a lot of fiber from all of the veggies that are in it. Outside of the healthful items that are here, this really keeps well (10 days or so, refrigerated) and reheats fabulously.