Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What's in the Fridge?

Ever try to decide what to do for dinner only to look in the fridge and think, "How in the world am I going to make a meal out of this random assortment of stuff???" That's what we do most every night! Here's one perfect example.

We were getting hungry and no one had enough of anything to make a whole meal, so we decided to combine what each of us had to contribute to a meal. What did we have? Well, some collared greens, butter nut squash, and jasmine rice. One of our members doesn't handle the gluten of the white rice so well, so she went with some quinoa instead. We decided to make a quick trip to the local market for a protein of some kind, which was decided to be salmon steaks. mmm! Believe it or not, one can make a well-rounded meal by having a simple collection of one-item foods.

1. Cook rice according to packaging. This is the easiest to cook first as you just stick it in the
rice cooker or sit it on the burner and leave it alone for 15-25 minutes.
2. I believe we had bought already chopped butternut squash, so it was easy to cook up. Stick in a frying pan with some oil or partly boil in water (I believe we used water in a frying pan). Add some salt to bring out the flavors and saute until very soft, at least 25 minutes.
3. Boil up the collared greens until limp; thoroughly dry and saute with some garlic powder and salt for extra taste.
4. We seasoned the salmon with some basic Italian spices (oregano, rosemary, thyme) and added a pinch of red pepper for some spice! Bake in a deep baking pan for 15-25 minutes, depending on how thick your salmon is. It took ours a good 30 minutes; they were some thick steaks! Test with a fork to see if it flakes easily; then you know it's done.

Pile onto your plates and enjoy! The spice of the red peppers, saltiness of the collared greens, and butteriness of the squash were brought together well with the blandness of the white rice.

Lesson of this day's meal: Be adventurous!
The beauty of cooking is that it is not an exact science but rather an art form that is to be tested and perfected! Combine different seasonings; throw together strange combinations; how else will you learn the perfect way to make a favorite meal?! Till next time, lovelies....

Challah French Toast

When I was growing up, my mom's french toast was the be-all-end-all of french toasts. When I was a bit older, she started making it for my friends and my brother's friends at our lake house in the mornings after our long nights up. It became one of those meals that was just EXPECTED when you stayed with us. Though I tried today to make it just like my mom, I'm still trying to get the kinks worked out. But here's what I came up with:

1. My mom uses french loaf, but being in Jew New York, Challah is available at every corner grocery. The traditional bread cooked for the Jewish Sabbath, Challah (pronounce ha-lah or kha-lah) bread is excellent when used for french toast. I bought whole wheat holiday Challah from West Side Market. Holiday Challah is different because rather than being braided, it is in a round loaf. SO. I cut the Challah in half length wise and cut it into 1" slices. Let it sit out overnight to get a bit stale to soak up the batter you'll make the next day.

2. For your mixture, combine and whisk
-- 2 eggs
-- 1/2 C milk (we used unsweetened almond milk because 2 of us can't handle dairy)
-- 1/2 C orange juice (Allie had fresh oranges, so we hand squoze squeezed it
-- 1 tsp ground nutmeg (I was actually eyeballing all these ingredients...)
-- 1 tsp cinnamon
-- 1 tsp vanilla

3. Evenly coat as much bread as you can, making sure not to leave it in too long. I don't like over-saturated french toast, but it has to reach the inside for sure. Before you cook it up in the pan, preheat your oven to 400ยบ. Spray your non-stick pan with some Pam, just to be safe. Cook each piece until it's as brown or black as you want, but don't cook it all the way through. Take each piece off, and put onto a cookie sheet.

4. Finish cooking the french toast in the oven. It will not brown the surface any more, but will make sure to cook the egg mixture that's still inside the bread. Keep the cookie sheet in the oven for 10 minutes or less.

Et viola!

I personally like to do a lot of things to my FT. Powdered sugar, syrup, butter, what ever you want. What do you add to yours? Peanut butter and strawberry preserves maybe?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stir-fry for the Timid

Dee here, with simple instructions on how to make your own
better than take-out at-home stir-fry. Usually, when a n00b young chef takes upon themselves the task of making this meal, a stir-fry mix is purchased from the store. Before you do, STOP! To the individual trying to stay away from scary amounts of sodium and MSG, this is suicide. However, combining the brains of four Master's students, I present to you a healthy, and surprisingly SIMPLE way to make your own stir-fry at home.

1. Prepare your protein. Chicken, steak, and shrimp take time to cook, and adding raw meat to your perfectly cooked veggies will only result in upchuck. I suggest using a healthy oil like olive, but you can go traditionally asian and use peanut. Season with something like garlic or onion powder.

2. We boiled the green beans ahead of time, mostly because I was afraid they would not cook before all the rest of the vegetables. In this pre-cook phase, we also sauteed the mushrooms.

3. Make your sauce mix. Mix 1/2 C low sodium soy sauce with 1/2 C orange juice and 3 TBSP corn starch. Someone asked me if using flour would achieve the same results, to which I replied, "why, have you completely sworn off corn products? Suck it up and use the corn starch." Whisk (singing, Just beat it!). Set aside.

4. Slowly add your veggies, what ever they may be, and sautee with more oil if needed. Once they are looking slightly cooked, slowly start to add your sauce mixture, adding in any spices you want. Right before it "looks done," add in your protein. We used tofu, and even if you get extra tough tofu, the stuff falls apart, so you have to be gentle. The protein will suck in the sauce that should be thickening up nicely.

Of course you can change any spices, oils, proteins or vegetables that are not to your taste, but the secret is the corn starch. Wok on, kiddos!

A Twist on Stuffed Peppers

One night last week we had a hankering for stuffed peppers. Upon checking the fridge, we realized we had many half-used peppers but not one whole pepper. We still really wanted to make stuffed peppers but didn't want to spend the money on buying more peppers when we had plenty to make an inside-out stuffed pepper recipe.

How does a kosher, vegetarian, low gluten household do this, do you suppose? Replace ground beef with the appropriate soy product and replace the rice with black quinoa!
  1. Saute peppers, onions; add salt and pepper to taste. We also added some yellow squash, just for some extra flavors!
  2. Cook up quinoa according to package (or if you are en expert, however you may wish to cook it!)
  3. Add ground soy product to peppers and onions; add some cinnamon for an interesting little spice; and one can of tomato sauce.
  4. Once quinoa has cooked fully (those little sprouts that pop out when it's ready are so cute), add to the pepper/soy mixture.
  5. Allow to simmer and soak up the tomato sauce a little bit.
VOILA! A delicious and scrumptious meal of inside-out stuffed peppers - vegetarian, gluten-free style!