Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Quick and Easy Lunch

It's been roughly 8 or 9 years since I've made some of the easy and cheap meals from my childhood. I decided to break out the old recipe I came up with for Cheesy Taco Skillet today for lunch. It's much like the Hamburger Helper one but from scratch! It turned out so amazingly well and was SOOOOOO delicious!!! I had forgotten how incredibly easy it was to make as well. I figured I'd share the recipe with you all so that you can try it as well. Remember though that you should interpret the recipe as you see fit. Add things to with it a bit. I'll list some good additives to it and toppers at the bottom of the recipe.

1lbs ground beef
2 bags of boil in bag rice
1 package taco seasoning
1 cup water (use this and NOT the amount on the package as you need more sauce for the rice)
1 container Gordo's Cheese Dip
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 small can diced tomatoes drained

1. Place the 2 bags of rice in a pot and cover with water. Add a tbsp butter and follow the directions on the box (mine says to boil for 10minutes).
2. While cooking the rice place hamburger in a skillet and brown. Drain off all the fat and grease and place the ground beef back into the skillet.
3. Pour water and seasoning onto ground beef and mix together with tomatoes. (do this away from heat and leave the skilllet off the heat until the rice is done)
4. Once the rice is cooked drain it and combine with beef, tomato, and seasoning mixture. Place on low heat and until warmed throughly (roughly 5 minutes).

Once the combination is warm it's ready to eat. I then heat up the cheese dip in the microwave according to the package directions and then drizzle over the top of the meat and rice mixture. Then top with the cheddar cheese once you've place it into your bowl.

Good Toppings:
Pico De Gallo
Taco Sauce (drizzled over the top)

Another alternative is that you can put onions and green peppers in with the meat when cooking it. Then make everything else as normal. Place into a flour tortilla and top with cheese dip, lettuce, salsa/taco sauce, and cheddar. Wrap together for a quick and yummy burrito. (you can add black beans as well)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Garlic Bechamel Sauce

Here's is my simple garlic bechamel sauce recipe that I've come up with on my own.

1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp garlic
1-2 tsp black pepper (it's personal preference)
salt to taste

Pour cream into a sauce pan and place on the stove on medium heat. Place butter into pot and whisk until melted. Put the garlic, salt, and pepper into the pot and whisk. Add flour 1 tbsp at a time and whisk it vigerously in between each tbsp until sauce begins to thicken. Once it starts to thicken remove from heat and allow to cool for 2 minutes. The sauce will thicken further as it cools.

**Please remember that all measurments are close estimates to the amount I use. For the garlic you can add more or less depending on how you like garlic.

Honey Glazed Carrots

So here is my "recipe" for my honey glazed carrots. Now remember that when I use the term recipe I use it loosely for I have no set recipe I ever follow for anything. I pretty much wing it in the kitchen.

1 bag baby carrots
2 tbsp salted butter
Ginger, ground clove, cinnamon, allspice, and annise (all of these spices to taste. I think I use roughly about a 1/2tsp)
roughly 1 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350. Place carrots into a baking dish (I use a round casserole dish). Drizzle honey over the top of the carrots followed by the butter on top. Sprinkle with the spices and place into the oven. Allow the dish to bake until the carrots are soft. After about 15 minutes you can pull it out and stir in the spices as the honey will have heated enough to be fluid and the butter will have melted.

Excuse my absence

I feel terrible that I have neglected this blog the last few weeks. The holidays crept up quicker than I was anticipating and before I knew it we were on our way to FL for a green Christmas with my in-laws. I haven't forgotten about you but I just haven't had the time to sit and make an entry lately.

I've cooked up a couple of amazing dishes since my last post. I believe my last dish I made and posted about was Chicken Marsala. I've since tried my hand at (and mastered if I do say so myself) Chicken Scaloppine. It turned out so amazingly well that it's going on my list of dishes I'm making quite often. I used a Moscato wine for the sauce and I think the sweetness of the wine worked well together with the acidity of the capers and earthy tones of the mushrooms. It was quite a delight. I've also mastered the bechamel sauce quite nicely.

For Christmas dinner I took it upon myself to cook for my husbands entire family minus one. That's 14 people I had to cook for. I made Chicken Marsala which has quickly become my new favorite dish to make (I lie...I still adore my arroz con pollo). The menu was Chicken Marsala, Steamed green beans with a garlic bechamel sauce over top, and my oh so lovely honey glazed carrots with some nice yeast rolls of course! (You don't have to ask for I will not lie...the rolls were totally store bought and not made from scratch. I don't have my stand mixer so I'm not about to take it upon myself to make a bread from scratch HAHA). It was so incredibly delicious however I do think that my first one turned out better. I couldn't find the same brand of wine here so I had to go for a different brand which was sweeter so of course the dish came out a little sweeter and less earthy than the first. I also think that it might have had something to do with cooking it in such a large amount.

I'm pleased to announce that for Christmas my oh so amazingly awesome husband bought me the slicer/shredder attachment for my kitchen aid stand mixer (that was also a gift but I got to open it almost a month early hehe). I'm so incredibly excited and stoked to get home and whip out a dish using it. Slicing veggies is one of my most dreaded kitchen tasks - only second to dishes.

I can't think of anything else I've cooking new since my last entry but I'll come back if I can remember anything. My honey glazed carrots recipe will follow. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chicken Marsala

Today we had to make a trip to Blockbuster to return a movie with a scratch on it. Don't you hate that? GGGRRR. It just so happens that our local Blockbuster is right next door to our Wine Store. A rather large wine store if I might say so. Saturday's they do wine tastings and my husband LOVES wine so we went inside. I decided to look for this new Greek desert wine I tried last night called Mavrodaphne (on a side note...if you like sweet wines I highly suggest trying this one. It's absolutely delicious). I went to look at the desert wines thinking it'd be there and it wasn't. However this lovely bottle of Marsala wine for a whole whopping 5 dollars was calling to me and teasing me. So I decided to purchase said bottle. My original plan for dinner was 3 cheese tortelini with an italian sausage marinara sauce. But after purchasing said bottle of Marsala I decided I would try my hand.

After about an hour in the kitchen I have to say that not only was my stomach and taste buds pleasantly surprised but my husband was as well. It turned out amazingly well and by far was the best dish I've made to date. For sides I paired it with my creamy balsamic vinegrette pasta salad and green beans with garlic cream sauce. I realized while in the middle of making my cream sauce (which I've made on NUMEROUS occasions) that the base to my cream sauce is in fact a basic Bechamel sauce. Who'd have known? So I went to research it and's a Beschamel sauce. :)

Here's a picture of my amazing dish I made tonight

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Goals

After dinner tonight at The Castle I have been inspired to try my hand at making some new dishes. Since this is kind of my new years resolution I wanted to write it all down and set myself some goals. So here's a list of new dishes I want to try out.

Lemon Chicken Scaloppine
Chicken Marsala
Beef Burgundy
A basic Bechamel sauce (it seems easy enough but we shall see)
Boeuf Bourguignon
Ox Tail Stew

For now that's my list but I'll add to it as I go on. The Ox Tail Stew has a funny story behind it that I'm going to share with you so you don't think I'm a complete nutbag for wanting to try it.

My grandmother grew up in Maryland. Her grandmother always made Ox Tail soup for them. Back then Ox Tail was for the poor. Yet another one of those meats that was a poor mans meat that has now been turned into a delicacy. They were poor growing up and would get the scraps from the local butcher. My grandmother LOVED it. She made it for me once when I was younger. Probably at the least 10 years ago. I loved it as well but have yet to try my hand at making it myself. I always see a package of Ox Tails at the store when I'm browsing meats for inspiration but I've yet to take the plunge and pick up the package. Is it fear that keeps me from doing so? I don't think so. I think it's more of that I'm afraid to dissapoint myself and have it turn out completely wrong. Therefore letting down my grandmother in the process. Silly I know but welcome to my world.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Soup and Stew

So tonight I'm making my Vegan Vegetable Soup. It's completely vegetarian and good for even a Vegan to eat as I don't use any meat or animal biproducts in it. So it got me to remembering. I haven't gotten this lately but I've had people ask me several times what the difference between soup and stew is. Well I figured I'd make a post about it and kinda give what my definition of a soup and a stew is.

Soup - Soup is typically thin. The base of it is watery yet you don't have to use just water as the base. You can use meat stock, fruit juice, vegetable juice, or just water that's flavored with herbs and spices. It can be hot or cold. Gazpacho is an example of a cold soup and also an example of a soup that you can use fruit juice in. So in laymens need a bowl for soup. Soups are typically served as a starter to a meal as it's typically lighter than a stew.

Stew - A stew is something hearty. The base to a stew is thick. Almost like a very thick gravy. You can serve a stew on a plate as it doesn't need to be contained like soup does. Stews are usually served as a main dish because of how hearty they are. Now stews don't have to be just meat. You can make vegetable stew. But a lot of stews consists of meat. A good vegetable for a stew are potatoes as they are very starchy and heavy. Stews are typically slowly cooked for long periods of time. In like a crock pot or a stew pot. The flavor from a stew is arrived by simmering the ingredients slowly for a long time.

So that's my interpritation of the differences between soups and stews. Most people probably already know this but for those who don''ve learned something new! :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Marakesh style Vegetable Curry

So I was originally going to start this tomorrow. But I figure I'll go ahead and post now. I'll probably only be posting every other day as I typically make enough for a couple of meals and actually eat the leftovers of my food. (Hey...somethings are just better the next day!)

So for dinner tonight I cooked this amazing new style of Indian Curry. Indian curry dishes are a weakness for me. I absolutely love Curry. The way it smells while it's cooking. The explosion of flavor and heat when you eat it. It's just simply amazing.

I decided to look up new recipes for curry's because I'm bored with my basic Vegetable Korma and Beef Curry. So I got to searching and found this excitingly different style of curry sauce called Marakesh. I made it completely Vegetarian friendly. You see my husband is all about proteins! I don't mind...I'll eat just about anything. I do however have this affair with vegetables. As much as I love a good juicy porkchop or savory chicken breast or even a glazed duck breast I just can't stop thinking about vegetables. How amazing they taste and how you can do just about anything with vegetables. So since my husband is away this week I am making vegetarian dishes. So this was LOADED with veggies!!

The vegetables consisted of corn, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, italian cut green beans, onions, and peppers. The sauce was what really made this. So my typical Korma curry sauce consists of a very small list. The basic ingredients in a yellow curry sauce. Coconut milk, turmeric, curry, cumin, chili powder, salt, and red pepper flakes. This Marakesh style curry sauce called for some new and what you may think are unusual spices. It had the typical bases. Added onto those were cinnamon, ginger, and carrot juice. Yes, you read that right. Carrot juice. Of course you just blend together the carrot juice and coconut milk and slowly warm it up. Add the spices into it and whisk it well. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Just long enough for the flavors to simmer and meld together. Then just pour it over steamed veggies that are lying on a bed of rice and you have HEAVEN on a plate!! Here's a basic recipe for it. It's not precise amounts as peoples tollerances for spice differ.

1 can coconut milk
1 cup carrot juice
1 tsp Ginger & Cinnamon
1 tbsp Chili powder & Cumin
2 tbsp Curry and Turmeric

Remember that the Curry and Chili powder can be increased or decreased as you see fit according to your levels of heat resistance. Mine comes out rather spicy so watch it if you are the faint at heart.

From the beginning

So I figured I should give all of you a little background about me. I'm 25 years young and been cooking since I was 8. Everything I've learned I've taught myself. I'm far from your classically trained professional chef. I cook for the enjoyment of it. Cooking is my escape from the real world.

The real world is so full of uncertainty, hate, and foolishness. When I cook everything is opposite. Flavors meld together. The spices individually may be good but when you put them together properly they create a perfect harmony. You can rest assured that if you add basil to tomatoes the taste will be amazing. The spices flavors on their own never change. They never falter. Basil will always taste like Basil.

Cooking has always been my passion and I hope that by creating this blog I can help other people enjoy it as much as I do. Cooking can be fun and enjoyable if you make it your own. Test things out. Experiment. Play with flavors. You won't always have a winner. You will burn things sometimes. But that's all part of learning to cook. Trust me. I've burnt my share of dishes in my life time. I've also cooked things that ended up tasting awful. If this happens don't beat yourself up. Just remember that even the best of chefs have made bad dishes before and have burnt something.

So here's to a new journey! Here's to learning new things.

Bon Appetit!!