Saturday, March 31, 2012

I Love You So, Cilantro!

We here in the Midwest United States have had a stupendous winter and early spring.  The temperature reminds me of May as opposed to March.  And so, my grocery shopping reflects, weather-wise, that I'm two months ahead of the game.

This morning's grocery cart was laden with all kinds of produce: cucumbers, peppers, Napa cabbage....and cilantro!  I have forgotten (but was happily reminded) how much I love the smell of fresh cilantro - grassy, earthy, happy.

And where there's cilantro, there's fresh salsa!

A recent cookbook purchase of mine is titled 365 Easy Vegetarian Recipes, and in it is a wonderful recipe for pico de gallo (translation: rooster's beak).  The above photo is that same pico de gallo.  And no, I don't normally mince my tomatoes and onions that fine...this is after about ten seconds in my food processor (I prefer a finer textured salsa for chip-dipping).

The recipe calls for the following: one tomato, one onion, two cloves/teaspoons minced garlic, 1/4 cup cilantro, and juice of one lime.  And because that's what it said, that's what I did.  However...after taste-testing, I made the following corrections: instead of juice of one lime, I included the juice of half a lime.  In the instance I don't have fresh limes on hand, I'd go with 2 tablespoons of bottled lime juice (to taste, you know).  Also, I added a pinch of garlic salt.  As usual, I ate entirely too many tortilla chips because of this stuff.

Oh well, I'll take responsibility!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sounds of Silence

I have not posted here in some time.  Why is that, you ask?  Well, it certainly isn't because I haven't been cooking, because of course, I have.

Mid-March brings the onset of soccer practice of which we have four kids who play.  Three of the kiddos practice on Mondays and Wednesday from 5:30-7:00, and the high schooler practices every day from 4:00 to 6:00.  AND, three of the kids go to an after-school theatre camp on Tues and Thurs from 3:30-6:00.

Seems like it always takes us about two weeks of juggling dinners and eating out sporadically because we establish an eating groove.  I believe that next week will be the beginning of that groove.  :)

I'm still baking my own bread (on the sourdough starter I began last fall!), and I've purchased some new cookbooks (of course!).  Sometimes I think I ought to give some away...maybe I'll post a list here and see if there are any takers!

Here's an idea I'm toying with.  Dishwasher cooking.  No, you read that right.  Cooking Food.  In the Dishwasher.  Sounds pretty crazily awesome, right?  The great thing about the Internet is the amazing wealth of information out there about this subject.  In fact, entering "dishwasher food recipes" turns up about 1.5 million hits on Google.

Recipes include:

Poached Salmon (and other fish)
Lasagna Florentine

I dunno....I'm thinking about challenging myself for the month of April.  Every week, choose one dishwasher recipe and prepare it for my family.  What do you think?

Friday, March 9, 2012

The New Path

So mote it be.

I suppose things are not quite set in stone, and can change any moment...but there's no harm in making an announcement, I reckon?

No major life happenings notwithstanding, I am enrolling in the local community college in the fall - I have been accepted to the Culinary Arts program.


What does this mean now?  My own restaurant or bakery?  Working with Anne Burrell?  Being on a Food Network television?  Using my school knowledge and degree to plan fabulous meals at home?


Thankfully, out of those I've told of my college plans, nobody has asked what I plan to do once I graduate.  I have no idea anyway right now...and that's way too far down the road anyway.  All I know right now is that school is the first step into the wide unknown.  

Take a look at this first term:

- Computer Essentials
- Safety/Sanitation
- Food Service Technology
- Culinary Skills Lab
- Food Service Lab I
- Math Principles

Not terribly exciting, but then check these later courses out:

- Cold Food Principles
- Stocks, Soups, Sauces (I hope to roux, do you?)
- Basic AND Advanced Baking
- Culinary Nutrition
- Shellfish, Poultry, Meats
- International Cuisine (Lab and Excursion)

Yeah.  I'm pretty excited.  But scared.  And nervous.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I've Got Recipes In Unorthodox Places

(To the tune of Garth Brooks's "I've Got Friends in Low Places")

...where the chocolate chips drown and the pumpkin chases...

my blues away...

I've had incredible luck with desserts in the last two days.  And no, the recipes have not come from fancy cookbooks endorsed by any Food Network personality.

Recipe #1: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Location: the side of a box of Oat Wise cereal

Oat Wise cereal?  It's likely you've never heard of Oat Wise cereal...but you probably have heard of its more popular counterpart - Life Cereal.  Who would have thought an amazing recipe for cookies lie on the side of an little known store-brand breakfast cereal?  Huh.  Well, as the late Davy Jones might have said..."I'm a believer..."

2/3 c. sugar (or substitute)
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. (or stick) butter, softened
1/3 c. peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups Oat Wise (or Life) cereal
1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat sugars, butter, and peanut butters until creamy.  Beat egg and vanilla in well.  Combine flour and baking soda and add to butter mixture.  Mix well.  Add cereal and chips, mix well.  Drop by level teaspoon (I use a cookie scoop) onto cookie sheet 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake 9 to 10 minutes until light golden brown.  Let stand a few minutes for placing on racks to cool.

I apologize for having no photos of the cookies...but honestly, I was so dang excited at how well they turned out and how well they tasted, I forgot about the camera.

Recipe #2 : Pumpkin Crunch Dessert
Location: the top of a styrofoam box of Country Daybreak farm fresh eggs

1 box yellow cake mix
1 15 oz. pureed pumpkin
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar (or substitute)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 c. butter, melted
Cool Whip, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Combine pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl or mixer.  Pour into greased pan.  Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture and top with pecans.  Drizzle melted butter over pecans.  Bake for 50-55 minutes until golden brown.  Cool fully and top with whipped cream, if desired.

Disclaimer: Neither of these recipes are on the heart- and waist-healthy side.  Everything in moderation...moderation is key.  You make three dozens cookies, eat one or two and take the rest to friends or a meeting or such.  Same with the pumpkin dessert (going to my college kids tomorrow before they take their midterm).  Without a doubt, there are healthier substitutions out there, and it's wholly possible to end up with a delicious, less-guilty product.

My advice: when you see a recipe in a most unlikely place (store-brand cereal, off-brand carton of eggs)...try it.  You might have the next heirloom cookie recipe on your hands.