|I love to talk about food, and the many different aspects of wonderful, tasty, healthy food. There are so may ways to enjoy food, and an equal amount of ways to make it and share it. Good food doesn't need much of anything to make it delicious, just a proper cooking method and minimal fuss. I have been cooking for most of my life and recently graduated from culinary school. My knowledge is extensive and I love to read about food in my spare time. Let's talk food! Let's talk cooking! Let's just talk!!|
There is a definite line between 'bad food' and food that is 'bad for you'. Mostly I am all about eliminating food that is 'bad for you' as there is no point in eating this garbage. But then again, you could cram yourself with preservatives for your whole life and save cremation costs in the end, yet why would you?? That's dumb! Once in a while, eating 'bad food' isn't such a bad thing, there is a huge amount of comfort to be found in a big juicy burger and greasy french fries dragged through thick beef gravy (ketchup is a non-essential in my food world) but it's not food you eat night and day. And this stuff should be quickly eliminated from your diet as well.
Here is a partial list of what I eschew as 'bad for you' foods. I avoid these at all costs, and you should too. The alternatives are way cheaper, better for you and far more flavorful.
canned cream soups; velveeta; pre-mixed packaged anything- like rice or pasta mixes; canned vegetables; canned pasta meals; frozen pre-cooked anything like chicken, tacos, burritos etc; frozen meatballs or pre-shaped burger patties; jello; box cake mixes; box muffin mixes; pre-mixed cookie dough squares and cookie dough rolls; any fast food anything; frozen pizza; sugar cereals; bottled cheese dips; boxed bread machine mixes; bologna and hot dogs and other preservative laden meats; frozen dinners; ramen noodles; frozen dinner-in-a-bag meals; breakfast sausages; packaged cookies; pre-made muffins; most fruit yogurts (mostly sugar); those boxed lunch things for kids; any item listing 'partially hydrogenated oils of any kind
Spring came on like a freight train this year. It wasn't a slow gradual increase towards the balmy sun of May, it was a bounding jump into the scorching heat more reminiscent of late July. There was little of the spring rains that dominate an April in Minnesota. Suddenly it was May and it was HOT and being at the lake for Memorial weekend was a weird anomaly- air and sun so hot you barely wanted to move, but water so cold it was shocking. Thankfully, nights cooled to normal for May, the one saving grace.
Summer always means lighter foods, at least in my household. We no longer fire up the dutch oven for stews and soups nor do we stock up on much meat, even if it goes on sale. However, the fish counter gets frequent visits from me and I start to get really creative on the versatility of chicken. We enjoy the soy products too from MorningStar and Boca, they are wonderful for a quick meal and fortunately I have found a source where purchases are el primo cheapo. Let's not forget vegetables and fruits!! Oh my oh my.....I get absolutely bonkers in the head at the produce section sometimes when confronted with the multitude of selections available and the freshness of summertime's bounty. I love corn on the cob, I mean, who doesn't?? Most people boil it, often too long.....really, once the water boils, it needs about 3 minutes submerged and it's fine. Another popular way to cook it is on the grill wrapped in the husks. You need to first peel back the husks and remove the silk, burned silk tastes and smells like burnt hair. Yuk! Not what I want to eat! And this method basically just steams it, and sure it's fine that way. But the best way I have found to make corn is to remove the husks and silk, rub it with oil and grill it right on the grill until the kernels are browned and carmelized. The flavor is amazing, and the kernels fall right off the cob. There is a popular product I have seen in hispanic markets that is like a liquidy cream cheese, and other than calling it 'crema' I have no idea of it's true name, but if you season it with a little chili powder and spread it on a grilled ear of corn, it's one of those taste sensations in your mouth that comes back to you in your dreams. Rich, creamy, smoky and sharp....I could eat corn like that until I burst. I need to find out the name of that stuff! Carrots and Yams are really good on the grill too. You need to slice them thick or they fall through the grate. Brush them with seasoned oil and grill slowly. The natural sugars carmelize and the flavor becomes sweet, mellow and smooth. They need no embellishments. Zucchini strips, eggplant slices, pineapple slices spread with brown sugar or apricot jam, peach halves......the sky is the limit on what can be made more heavenly by a scorching on the grill.
So now.....weather, and the topic of the day. After several weeks of warm, and alternately hot weather in MN, today opens with clouds and the promise of temps in the 60's for a few days. A good thing, our A/C can take a break and we can get reacquainted with sleeves on our shirts, maybe a sweatshirt, and of course, the blankets on the bed. But when I look at the clouds, and feel the cooler breeze, something in me wants to make soup, or beef stew, or even a rich cassoulet or possibly my famous jambalaya. Comfort foods.....and I wouldn't even say it was cold out but it is cooler than it has been of late. It's an instinctual thing, really. A biorhythm change that signals from an ancestral place within our genetic makeup. Survival in cold weather meant heavier foods, more fat to pile on for the harsh winter ahead. But this is only June, and I certainly don't want or need any extra fat. But no matter all that, when the weather chills, my internal clock makes an audible click to a different mindset regardless of what the calendar is really saying. Last nights cedar plank grilled salmon and a vegetable saute are still fresh in my mind, the salmon was so perfectly done that it was melting like butter in my mouth and the crunch of the vegetables mixed with just the right seasoning and a little asiago cheese made for a fine accompaniment all washed down with a smooth merlot. I sat savoring the aftertaste in my mouth and the last sips of my wine while my husband cleaned up the kitchen. (I adore him for many, many things, but his willingness to clean up after my cooking is among the tops on my list!) I could feel in the air last night the imminent change in the weather, and on our post-dinner walk I tossed on a long sleeve shirt to keep the evening breeze off my arms. Today might even mean jeans, I suppose. But I am not going to give in to the urge to make a hearty meal that will sit like a constant reminder in our tummies for the evening. I think I will fire up the brain cells and get the juices flowing for a lively grilled chicken quesadilla, maybe with some poblano peppers and black beans, homemade guacamole and mesclun salad. Then I will pull on my favorite sweatshirt and watch the guys clean up the kitchen. Oooohhh....I can taste the smoky, grilled tortilla, the smooth black bean puree and the crunch of the pepper, all decked out in a dollop of creamy guac peppered with fresh garlic and the tangy bite of lime. I'll dream up the chicken marinade on my way today.
Ah...life is good, isn't i
This is a yummy and easy Thai recipe. My fam loves this.
Thai Cashew Chicken
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into thin strips
1 cup dry jasmine rice
2 cups water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 small onion, quartered then sliced
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 cup unsalted cashew nuts
In a resealable plastic bag, mix the soy sauce, fish sauce, hot pepper sauce, garlic, and ginger. Place the chicken in the bag, seal, and marinate at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. In a medium saucepan, bring the jasmine rice and 2 cups water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Stir in the onion, and cook about 5 minutes, until tender. Reserving the marinade mixture, place the chicken into the skillet, and cook about 10 minutes, until browned. Stir the reserved marinade and 3/4 cup water into the skillet, and bring to a boil. Continue to cook and stir 10 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Thoroughly blend in the peanut butter. Serve over the jasmine rice with a sprinkling of cashews.
This one is good with steak, or even with MorningStar Steak Strips
Beef Curry with Peanuts and Fresh Basil
3 T. vegetable oil
2 T. red curry paste
1 lb. thinly sliced beef (flank or sirloin works well)
1 14-oz can light coconut milk
2 T. fish sauce
1 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. salt
14 c. dry roasted peanuts, chopped fine
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
Fresh Basil Sprigs
In a large saute pan over medium heat, combine oil and curry paste, stirring to mix. Cook 3-4 minutes, adjusting heat to keep it sizzling gently without spattering, while mashing and scraping pan to soften and warm. Add beef and cook 2-3 minutes, separating pieces to coat with paste and brown evenly. Stir coconut milk well to mix, and add 1 c. to pan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, adjusting heat to keep it simmering. Add remaining coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, salt and peanuts. Cook gently about 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pepper strips and stir into curry. Taste and adjust seasonings. Transfer to small bowl and garnish with basil. Serve over rice if desired.
This recipe won a runner up in a Meatless Marvels Contest, and the magazine put as the cover item for that month. Kinda cool!!
Pesto Vegetable Pizza
1 pre-made pizza crust (Boboli)
2 garlic cloves, cut in half
1/2 c. prepared pesto sauce
1 yellow pepper, cored, trimmed and sliced thin
4 roma tomatoes, seeded and sliced
1 8oz pkg sliced potabella mushrooms
3/4 c. fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese
1 c. lo-fat mozzarella cheese
Rub cut garlic cloves over crust, discard. Spread crust with pesto. Top with peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. Sprinkle with cheeses, Bake at 400 degrees until hot and bubbly, approx. 14-18 minutes.
This is a stir fry that we LOVE and I make it a lot when asparagus is inexpensive. Sometimes I don't care what the cost.....I must HAVE it!
Chicken with Asparagus Stir Fry
1 T. toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 # fresh asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
1 # chicken tenders or boneless breasts, cut into 1" pieces
2 scallions, trimmed and cut to 1"
1 shallot, minced
1 red pepper, cored seeded and cut into 1" pieces
1/2 c. snow peas, de-stringed and cut in half
2 T. minced fresh ginger
1/4 c. oyster sauce
2 T. garlic chili sauce
1/2 c. shelled salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
Heat oil in large skillet or wok over high heat. Add asparagus and red pepper, stir fry for about 4 minutes, then add snow peas and stir fry 2 minutes. Remove to bowl and keep warm. Swirl a scant 1/2 t. more of oil in pan and add chicken, allow to cook until browned on one side, then flip over and cook until you can't see any pink. Add sauces, ginger, shallot and scallions, stir to combine. Add vegetables and stir to coat. Cook about 5 -8 minutes longer or until chicken is no longer pink. Serve over rice, if desired.