Sunday, April 29, 2007

A bit of this, a bit of that, and some promises of what is to come

Sorry friends, no time (or energy) for a full post with recipes tonight. My weekend was a standard mess of activities (happy hour, traffic school, miniature golf, Farmer's Market, work, movies, playing with Fudge, etc.). I did do plenty of cooking (and even some baking), but you'll have to wait a few days for the full account of my recent culinary adventures.

Did you notice how I slipped traffic school in there all casual like? I admit it -- I broke the law by turning left directly in front of a "No Left Turn" sign. However, I'll have you know it was my first traffic ticket *ever* !

Oh, and I also neglected to mention that most of those activities were done one-armed. Yup, my left arm is in a sling. I have a pinched nerve in my elbow and I'm under doctor's orders to wear a sling for the next few weeks while I'm doing any activity that puts pressure on my elbow. A serious (and occasionally painful) inconvience, I assure you. :(

Anyway, for tonight's post you're going to be blessed with some pictures of dishes I cooked in the past week, and a teaser for the next few posts. The pictures are below...... and the teaser?... Well, the topic of the next posts are:

My Mom's Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars


Strawberry Sorbet with Thai Purple Basil.

Do you feel sufficiently teased? :)

On to the food pics!

"Chinese Spinach" (at least that is what the label at the Farmer's Market said). Huge leaves and beautiful color. It doesn't taste much like traditional spinach, but it was wonderful in the stir fry below.

Shrimp stir fry, with snap peas, Chinese Spinach, fresh ginger, and black sesame seeds. Served with brown rice. Delish! (Except for the shrimp, which turned out cardboard-y -- I think they were freezer burnt at some point in their little shellfish lives).

Salad, with sunchokes, hearts of palm, and olives.

Can you guess what this is?

It is the chicken roasting pan my parents gave me for my birthday earlier this month!

You fill the cup in the middle with some flavorful liquid (in this case wine) and place the chicken over it to bake. The chicken gets steamed internally by the liquid as it roasts on the outside. This particular chicken was slathered in olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary and then placed on a bed of garlic, carrots, and celery. The wine flavor delicately permeated the entire bird, and the rosemary was a wonderful woodsy counterpoint. It was divine (and the homemade chicken stock made from the carcass and the roasted veggies already smells fantastic)!

That is all for now, friends. I promise the next post will be witty, charming, and contain at least one delicious recipe. At this moment, however, I'm too tired to be witty or charming, and I can hardly remember the recipe for a ham sandwich. :)

Until next time...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Something a little different

Shepard's Pie is not something I usually make ... it is heavy, and often gloppy. In the past few years I've made it precisely twice. And, each of those times I made it with ground turkey and sweet potatoes in an attempt to lighten it up a bit and jazz up the flavors. I liked it that way, but at the time I was living alone and ended up so tired of the leftovers (because it is impossible to make a small portion of Shepard's Pie) that I didn't want to make it again for another year.

However, as I mentioned in my previous post, Sunday was dreary and chilly. I wanted something hearty for dinner, and I knew I had dining companions and I wouldn't be stuck with the leftovers forever. The idea of making traditional Shepard's Pie wormed its way into my mind and wouldn't let go. One package of ground lamb and a pound of potatoes later, we were feasting on a Shepard's Pie and licking our spoons. I still don't think it is a dish to work into a monthly rotation, but it is definitely worth making when it is cold, you are hungry, and only something meaty, rich, and carby will hit the spot.

Traditional Shepard's Pie --serves lots


--1 lb potatoes, peeled, quartered and well rinsed
--2 tablespoons butter/margarine (optional)
--salt, pepper, and garlic to taste

--2 tablespoons olive oil
--2 garlic cloves, diced
--1 onion, chopped roughly
--3 carrots, chopped roughly
--3 stalks celery roughly chopped
--8 oz mushrooms, sliced
--1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen (not canned!)
--1 lb ground lamb
--splash red wine

-1 tablespoon flour

--3/4 cup stock (I used chicken)
--1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
--pinch ground nutmeg
--salt and pepper to taste


1) Boil the potatoes until tender, drain them and mash them with the butter, salt, pepper, and garlic. Set aside.

2) As the potatoes cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

3) Add the garlic, onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and green peas to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies have softened (about 15 minutes).

4) Add the ground lamb to the pan and cook for 12 -15 minutes more, breaking the lamb up with a wooden spoon. Spoon off any fat.

5) Deglaze the pan with a splash of red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up the browned bits.

6) Add the flour to the pan and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.

7) Add the stock, rosemary, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened (a few minutes).

8) Let cool a bit and then pour the meat mixture into a large baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top, allowing then to have peaks and valleys.

9) Bake until potatoes are browned and the dish is heated through (about 30 minutes).

To serve:

Serve straight from the baking dish with some light veggie side dish (we had steamed asparagus). Enjoy your hearty dinner, and be sure to invite someone over to enjoy it with you! :)

The lamb mixture before it was topped with the mashed potatoes.

Not the prettiest dish in the world, but still delicious. Open wide!

Speaking of opening wide, look at Fudge yawn. :)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I say, let them eat cake! (but not in a making fun of any peasants sort of way)

Scanning through my blog posts this morning I noticed that I've never posted a single dessert recipe. It isn't that I don't like desserts, it's just that I don't usually make them. Growing up dairy free meant that I didn't really develop a taste for super rich desserts, mostly because, well, I can't have them. I bake bread occasionally, and I've been known to make a mean pan of brownies, but I honesty don't bake very often. For dessert at home I usually have a scoop of sorbet, a glass of port, or a chunk of super dark chocolate and I call it a night. Out at restaurants, I make do with a cup of decaf, an espresso, or a bowl sorbet (if they have it).

However, it was grey and chilly in L.A. today, and I actually, for the first time in ages, felt like baking. After a quick flip through my mental rolodex of recipe ideas, I decided that carrot cake sounded particularly delicious. I also made a Shepard's Pie, but I'll save that story for the next post.

I went to the grocery store to gather my ingredients, and as I went in search of cinnamon, I wandered past the display of old 50%-off Easter candy. I noticed a pack of bratwurst and a jar of dijon mustard tucked into the stack of chocolate bunnies. I stopped and began to laugh. I could just imagine it, someone decided on bratwurst for dinner, got distracted by the chocolate bunnies, and thought, "screw it, chocolate bunny for dinner it is" and abandoned the sausage and mustard on the spot.

Giggling to myself, I found the rest of the ingredients and went home. I dug out my trusty Joy of Cooking and looked up the carrot cake recipe. A few hours later, after a few minor recipe modifications, the cake was done, and I was covered in frosting.

My cake may not be the prettiest, but it is delicious and a little different. I hope you enjoy it!

Carrot Cake, with Citrus Glaze and Cream Cheese Frosting

Below is the recipe broken into manageable chunks. I recommend making the syrup and the icing as the cake bakes and cools. Store the syrup and icing in the refrigerator if you finish them ahead of time.

For the Cake:
As the cakes cooled, Fudge the kitchen explorer sniffed around.


--1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
--1 cup sugar
--1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
--1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
--1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
--1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
--1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
--1/2 teaspoon salt
--2/3 cup vegetable oil (you can substitute applesauce for part of the oil for a lower fat cake)
--3 large eggs (you can use 6 egg whites instead, again for a lower fat cake)

--1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots
--1 cup walnuts (they taste much better if they are toasted for a few minutes in a dry frying pan before using them. Just toast them, let them cool a bit, and roughly chop. I actually use about 1 1/2 cups walnuts because I love extra-nutty cakes)
--1 cup golden raisins (optional -- I don't add them, because, well, I don't believe in raisins*)
-- 1/2 cup crushed pineapple, lightly drained (optional, I used "tidbits")
-- 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional, I didn't add it this time)


(Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees)

1) Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and salt in a large bowl.
2) In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and the oil until totally combined.

3) Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, slowly, while continuing to stir.

4) Stir into the batter the carrots, walnuts, raisins, pineapple, and coconut.

5) Scrape the batter into two greased and floured 8 x 8 inch round pans (or one greased and floured 13 x 9 inch pan) and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. ( about 30 minutes, but start checking at 25 minutes).

6) Cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then slide a thin knife around the edge of the cake and remove to cool right side up on a rack.

For the syrup:


--Pineapple juice from the can of pineapples used above (about 1/2 cup)
-- 3/4 cup orange juice
--splash of your best rum
--splash of vanilla
--1/2 cup (or more) granulated sugar


1) simmer juices, rum, and vanilla in a small pan on low heat for 45 minutes or so, stirring occasionally (until reduced and syrupy)

2) pour in some of the sugar and continue stirring over low heat, add more sugar until the mixtures is thick and shiny and the sugar is dissolved (be careful not to burn the mix). Take off the heat. I'm not sure precisely how much sugar I added, but I think it was between 1/2 and 3/4 of a cup)

For the icing:


--8 oz cream cheese (I obviously used soy cream cheese)
--5 tablespoons butter (I used dairy-free margarine)
--splash vanilla
--2 tablespoons to 1 cup powdered sugar (it is up to you how sweet you want your frosting)


1) Blend all ingredients in a food processor until icing is smooth, don't over blend or the cream cheese will get grainy.

To construct the cake:

1) smear some syrup on the first layer of the cake. Top with a thin spread of icing.

2) place the second layer of the cake atop the first layer, and smear the top of the second layer with syrup and then icing.

3) Ice the sides of the cake with the remaining icing. Drizzle any remaining syrup over the top of the cake.

First off, I have a confession to make. Unbeknownst to me, I was out of powdered sugar. Thinking to myself, "what would Al Gore do?" I decided that he wouldn't want me to drive all the way to the store just to get some powdered sugar. So, I ended up substituting Splenda in the icing recipe. I know, I know, I know...a culinary travesty. However, I did help save the planet a little bit. :)

Also, my cake's frosting is a little melty -- I am storing it in the refrigerator to keep it as firm as possible. I'm not sure if it is because I used soy cream cheese and the recipe called for dairy cream cheese or if it is because it is so warm in my kitchen right now or (most likely) because Splenda doesn't have the same structural integrity of powdered sugar, but the icing isn't perfectly setting. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I was also out of ground cloves and allspice, but I had whole cloves and allspice in my cupboard so I hand-ground them with my mortar and pestle. Sweet lord, it made such a difference. Not to sound like an insufferable foodie, but hand ground spices are fabulous. (Do I get any culinary-cred back for hand grinding my spices after admitting to using Splenda?)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Finally, I'll point out that you could leave off both the syrup and the icing if you wanted -- the cake itself is the real star here. It may have a dense crumb and a plain exterior, but it is moist, fragrant with spices, and studded with nuts. In fact the batter to this cake may be the best batter ever, though I'm not changing the blog name.
(Legal disclaimer: I do not condone the eating of raw eggs. Salmonella is scary. However, it you do decide to throw all caution to the wind as I did, you will be rewarded with some seriously tasty, spicy, sweet batter. Um, but again, I emphasize that eating raw eggs may be harmful to your health. Please return to your regularly scheduled programing.)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Let me explain. In the sense that I acknowledge that raisins exist on this planet, I do believe in them. However, in the sense that I have any desire to put them in my food, I most certainly do not believe in them.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bastard Soup

Yes indeed, folks, I just made bastard soup. And you want to know what? I don't even know who the father is. In my defense, I don't really know who the mother is either. This soup is an amalgamation of every possible asian soup I could think of, save for miso.

I was tired, kids, and hungry. I wanted something warm and comforting, quick and easy, and spicy and creamy. I poured some chicken broth in a pot, added some coconut milk, a bunch of spices, a handful of veggies, some leftover chicken, and some hot sauce. Then I added some noodles, and left the whole mess to boil. Somehow this pile of ingredients turned into something much tastier than it should have been. It was better than the sum of its parts, and perfectly hit the spot. Feel free to tweak the ingredients, I just threw in what was rattling around my refrigerator.

Asian Fusion Chicken Coconut Soup -- serves 4 or more


--8 cups chicken broth, homemade is best
--1 can light coconut milk
--1 small onion roughly diced
--4 cloves garlic diced
--2 inches lemongrass, very finely diced
--8 kaffir lime leaves, cut into very thin ribbons (chiffonade)
--1 bunch cilantro, leaves removed and diced
--8-10 basil leaves, chiffonaded
--small bunch mint leaves, finely diced
--handful of roughly chopped chinese broccoli or similar green vegetable (bok choy would also be good)
--splash soy sauce
--splash fish sauce
--1 teaspoon (or more) curry powder
--1 teaspoon diced fresh ginger
--juice of 2 limes
--rooster sauce (lots -- at least 1 tablespoon)
--3 chicken breasts, cooked (mine were leftover grilled)
--1/2 lb noodles (soba would be best, I was out of soba and had to use spaghetti)


1) Bring the stock and coconut milk to a boil

2) Add all of the other ingredients except for the noodles, and simmer for 15 minutes

3) Add the noodles, and cook until just done

To Serve:

Pour into bowls, garnish with more fresh herbs and a lime slice. Enjoy. A cold Corona is an excellent companion. :)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Just For the Halibut ... yes, I went there

This week, even more than my usual weeks, was absurdly busy.

Monday through Friday were packed full with work, happy hours, and parties, and then my parents came to visit for the weekend to help me celebrate my birthday. We ate yummy food, I opened fun presents, and Fudge was extra spoiled by his grandparents. This morning D,M, and I took them to the Farmer's Market and enjoyed seeing our usual Sunday routine through new eyes. My parents just left, but the pile of fruits, veggies, and fish that we bought stayed here in Los Angeles.

Your weekly dose of Fudge. :)

Some of the bounty from today's visit to the Farmer's Market. From the left: asparagus, green beans, mixed salad greens, summer squash, spring garlic, Chinese spinach, and sugar snap peas.

I wanted to use some of these delicious fresh veggies for dinner tonight, along with the wild halibut that we also picked up at the Farmer's Market. I decided on a variation on Nicoise Salad, with halibut instead of tuna, roasted potatoes instead of boiled potatoes, and tapanade dressing instead of whole olives.

The meal turned out fantastically -- the halibut was tender, the potatoes crunchy-edged, the tomatoes tangy, the green beans crisp, and the olive dressing perfectly salty. Everything worked together wonderfully: the lemon juice in the dressing brought out the taste of the lemon zest in the halibut from the marinade, the bitter bite of the arugula contrasted with the sweet smoothness of the potatoes, and the crunch of the green beans highlighted the soft tomatoes.

Halibut a la Nicoise -- serves 4- 6


--1/2 lb mixed salad greens
--2 lbs halibut steaks, marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon zest, and basil for approximately 4 hours
--1 lb roasted new potatoes (dice them into small chunks, toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs de provance, and bake until crispy - about 1 hour at 400 degrees)
--1 lb blanched fresh green beans (de-string them, break them in half, and boil them for about 2 minutes in heavily salted water, then spread them out to cool)
--10 basil leaves, chiffonaded
--2 large tomatoes, sliced into wedges (or 2 cups grape tomatoes)

--1 spring garlic shoot, white and green parts diced
--juice of one lemon
--4 tablespoons olive tapanade, best quality you have
-- 2 tablespoons chiffonaded fresh basil
--salt and pepper to taste
--splash of white wine or chicken stock


1) Grill the marinated halibut until just done, about 8 minutes on a medium hot grill

2) Layer the mixed greens, potatoes, tomatoes, basil, and green beans into a large salad bowl

3) Meanwhile, simmer the garlic shoot, lemon juice, tapanade, basil, salt, pepper, and wine or stock in a small sauce pan until garlic is soft (about 10 minutes).

4) Taste the dressing, adjust seasonings, and thin with extra wine or stock if needed

5) Top the salad with the halibut, break the fish into large pieces, and then pour the dressing over all. Toss to combine everything, wilt the greens, and distribute the dressing.


Capers and/or whole olives would be a good addition to this dish.

I like this salad on the light side, without a lot of extra olive oil. However, if you'd like a more decadent salad, drizzle olive oil over the entire dish. It is delicious served with a chunk of bread and a glass of wine. Enjoy!

Yummy roasted potatoes.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A (slightly embarassing) request:

My site was nominated for Best Food Blog!


Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the internet! I feel we've gotten close over the past few months, so I feel slightly less embarrassed than expected by asking you a favor... please vote for me!

I have to come completely clean here, I nominated *myself* for a food blogging award. Totally lame, right?

Here's the deal: I've been dutifully typing away at my keyboard, taking lots of pictures, and doing my best to keep my little blog fun and entertaining since January. However, I'm just not getting the readership that I hoped for. "Self," I asked, "what would be the best way to get the word out about my blog?" Lo and behold, I stumbled across the Blogger's Choice Awards, swallowed my pride (or perhaps dug up some extra pride), and nominated myself.

My theory is thus (and it is the same one that I used to rationalize voting for myself when I was running for Student Body President): If I don't believe I am worth voting for, why should you? In this case, I think I run a fine little blog, with lots of stories, good food, and fun pictures. Therefore my reasoning, (to myself), is sound -- I believe in my blog, and thus I feel justified in asking you to vote for it.

So there is my plea, if you read this blog and enjoy what I write about, please take the time to vote. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks! :)

Note: If the link above doesn't work, go to:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Plan to be spontaneous...

Tomorrow (April 11th) is my birthday (yay!)-- I turn 26 years old. (Which means that I am rapidly leaving mid-twenties and rushing headlong into late-twenties. Boo.) Exactly one year ago today I made a list of 25 things to accomplish in the next 25 years. Here they are, in no particular order:

Live in another country
grow my own tomatoes
write a book
publish the book
see a total solar eclipse
give birth
get married
eat pho in Vietnam
eat pizza in Naples, Italy
kiss the Blarney Stone
hike the Grand Canyon
white water raft the Colorado River
SCUBA the Great Barrier Reef
eat at The French Laundry
visit the pyramids in Egypt
learn to snow ski
learn to surf
visit all 50 states
visit Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Australia, Brazil, Singapore, Israel
learn to ride a horse
learn to tango, ballroom dance, and waltz
learn to speak another language, at least conversationally
buy a house
hike in a jungle, either South American or African
learn to sail

Thus far I have only done *one* of the above. I learned to snow ski last month, and, in case you were wondering, I absolutely loved it. However, one accomplished goal a year is not enough -- as you may have noticed, some of those are multi-part dreams.

Luckily, I do have plans to cross off a few of those in the next year. I have been studying Italian, though I don't speak it fluently, or even conversationally yet. I will be visiting Greece in July, and Naples, Italy in August (where I can try that famous pizza). I have a few small tomato plants that I plan on planting soon (hopefully they will live and produce tomatoes and I can claim that I "grew" them). And, I have plans to go to Mongolia in 2008 to watch the solar eclipse. It is possible, if I continue at this clip, that I actually may complete all of those goals in the allotted 25 years.

I am proud of my list, and of my plans to fulfill those goals ... though to be honest, I wish I had added something else to the list. I wish I had included, "Try something new as often as possible."

Friends, I tend to get stuck into ruts. In fact, I once was given a fortune cookie that said "plan to be spontaneous" and it was the most accurate description of my yearly New Year's resolution that I had ever read. I've already admitted that I eat the same thing for breakfast every day. I also tend to pack repeat lunches and order the same coffee drink at Starbucks. I drink the same types of wines, wear my favorite clothes over and over again, and listen to my favorite CDs on a continuous loop. I've watched a handful of movies over 50 times, just because I love them. Once I find a favorite bar or club, I often return there exclusively. It isn't that I don't want to try new things, it is just easier to stick with what I know.

However, I am adventurous in at least one area of my life on a regular basis (keep your minds out of the gutter, this isn't that kind of blog!): I am excellent at trying new foods. I love digging up new and unknown (to me) delicacies to try -- this year I tried alligator, rabbit, and every new fruit and vegetable that I found. I shy away from offal and other organs, but other than that, I'm game for most anything.

Last week, at the Farmer's Market, I ran across a vegetable that I had read about, but never tasted. Dandelion greens. They were beautiful and green, with long delicate leaves and thick veins. I bought them and brought them home to languish in the refrigerator for a few days. I finally pulled them out tonight. Here they are raw:

I cobbled together a recipe from a few cooking methods I had read about on the internet. They turned out wonderfully -- bitter and sharp, but in a good way, with garlic and sweet onions as soft counterpoints.

Be adventurous with me, and try them! :)

Dandelion Greens with Garlic and Lemon


--2 large bunches of dandelion greens, about 2 pounds
--2 cups water/chicken stock
--2 tablespoons olive oil
--2 spring garlic shoots, white and green part thinly sliced
--2 spring onion shoots, white and green part thinly sliced
--1 lemon
--salt and pepper


1) cut the tough ends off the greens and cut the leaves into 2 inch pieces. Swish the leaves in a bowl of water to rinse the sand off and allow any dirt to settle to the bottom.

2) Bring 2 cups of water/chicken stock to boil in a large pot and add the greens. Bring back to a boil and put a lid on the pot. Lower the temperature, and allow the greens to simmer for 15 minutes.

3) After the greens are added to the pot, swirl the olive oil in a frying pan over medium high head. Add the thinly sliced onions and garlic. Stir.

4) Zest the lemon over the pan of onions and garlic, and then squeeze the juice of the lemon into the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5) Turn the heat in the frying pan down to low and stir occasionally as the onions and garlic slowly soften and begin to caramelize.

6) After 15 minutes both the greens and the onion/garlic mixture will be ready. Use a slotted spoon to remove the dandelion greens from the boiling water/stock. Add the greens to the frying pan and toss to distribute the onion/garlic mixture. Turn off the heat.

To Serve:

Pile on plate, and squeeze a little extra lemon over the top if you like. I served it with mashed potatoes and carnitas.


These are bitter greens -- if you don't cook them for at least 15 minutes you will be unpleasantly surprised by the bitterness. If you cook them thoroughly, however, they are just bitter enough to keep your tastebuds dancing, but aren't painful to eat. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Simple Is As Simple Does

It's funny, this blog writing is. It changes you, changes they way you look at food, and changes how you look at words. I think before I cook now. I try and make something blog-worthy, something interesting, something colorful, something that showcases my ability to cook. I pick my phrases carefully, and try to demonstrate wit and humor and culinary skill, all at once. It is a strange feeling, this desire to impress the camera, the internet, and my (few) readers. In general, it is a good thing -- it keeps me motivated and inspired. But, other times, it makes me feel inadequate. If I don't have a new recipe, a clever title, or a funny story I feel like I have let you all down. What can I say? Us Type A personalities have a hard time not being perfect. :)

I'm trying to get over this feeling. You wouldn't be here reading if you didn't enjoy what I have to say, and I wouldn't be writing and cooking if I didn't relish it.
If, occasionally, I am exhausted or busy and I only have a simple recipe to share or a brief blurb to write, I am convinced that that is okay.

And, if we are in agreement on this, on with the (short and easy) recipes.

Basil Stuffed Pork Chops

The chops, exposing their basil filled pockets.


--lean boneless pork chops, divided into personal portions
--salt, pepper, garlic to taste
--basil leaves


1) cut a pocket into the side of each chop
2) liberally sprinkle the outside of each chop and into the pocket salt, pepper, and garlic
3) Insert basil leaves into the pocket
4) Grill on high heat to desired doneness, turning once (about 8 minutes total-- don't overcook!!!)

Spaghetti Squash with Mushroom Marinara


--1 large Spaghetti Squash
--splash olive oil
--2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
--handful of torn basil leaves
--1.5 cups leftover marinara sauce (either high quality bottled or homemade)
--4 cups mushrooms (2 cups sliced mushrooms of your choice, 2 cups whole button mushrooms)


1) Microwave or bake squash until soft (about 20 minutes in the microwave or 40 minutes in an oven on 350)
2) Heat up the olive oil, garlic, basil, marinara sauce, and mushrooms in deep saute pan. Stir occasionally and simmer until mushrooms are soft (about 20 minutes).
3) Cut open the squash and scrape the flesh out with a fork (it will separate out into strands like spaghetti -- hence the name, of course!). Pile onto plate or bowl.
4) Pour the sauce over the squash strands.

Our dinner tonight -- Lightly steamed asparagus, spaghetti squash with mushroom marinara (not meatballs!), and basil stuffed pork chops. Simple, fast, and healthy. Yum.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Fast, Cheap, and Easy (the food, not the blogger!)

Blog, honey, I'm sorry I was late coming home again. I know, I know, I know, I say that all the time. But, seriously, this is all consuming. I worked over 100 hours last week. 100 hours! Yes, indeed, that is 2.5 times a normal work week. It was awful. I'm sorry I didn't have time to make you many meals . I know we were stuck with take-out, quick and dirty spaghetti sauce, and dinners at the office. I apologize. How can I make it up to you?

I know it is already 8:30 p.m. I know I just walked in the door. How many times can I apologize? I didn't want to stay at the office until 8:00 p.m. and I certainly didn't want to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get in a few extra hours of work this morning. I'm tired and hungry too, you know.

What if I whip something up right now? Something fast and delicious...will that make it better? Excellent, fish tacos it is.

All right, then, hand me that red snapper in the refrigerator. Thanks. I'm just going to rub it with olive oil and then sprinkle it with salt, pepper, garlic, and lime juice. See, look how quickly things are coming together?

Now, let me grab the tomatoes, cilantro, cabbage, onions, and olives and start dicing them all up. There, now, this isn't taking too long.

Hmm... let's get out the hot sauce and the salsa. You know, the homemade salsa roja from the Farmer's Market. Thanks. Oh, and put the rooster sauce back. The only hot sauce I want with this meal is the green Tabasco.

Did you pre-heat the grill? You did? Awesome, well done. While we wait for the grill to get to the right temperature, let's get out the corn tortillas and the Coronas. Do you mind warming the tortillas over the stove while I put the fish in the grill basket? Thanks.

Okay, then, fish is on the grill. During the 10 minutes it takes to cook, we'll wrap up the rest of the preparation. Are the tortillas warm? Veggies finished being chopped? Hot sauces at the ready? They are? Awesome.

What are we missing? We have the fish, the condiments, the beverages...hey, speaking of drinks, hand me my Corona. Thanks. But, I still feel like we are missing something key here.

Crema! Yes, crema. Fish tacos are almost always served with some sort of creamy sauce. Sometimes it is avocado based, other times it is mostly thinned sour cream, but it is always tangy and always a cool accompaniment to the crunchy and spicy bites of the taco. Sadly, the avocados at the market were waxy and hard this week...and I'm out of soy sour cream. But I bet I can improvise a delicious sauce. Watch this:

Cilantro Crema (dairy free, of course) -- makes about 1.5 cups


-- 1 tub of soy cream cheese (I used Tofutti brand)

-- 2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (regular or low fat, or substitute sour cream)

--juice of one lime

--1/2 cup cilantro leaves

--hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste


1) blend all ingredients in a food processor until totally smooth

2) taste and adjust seasonings

To serve:

Set out bowls of chopped veggies and cheese, hot sauces, salsas, broken up pieces of cooked fish, cilantro crema, and lime slices. On the side, stack up some warmed corn tortillas. Allow everyone to build their own tacos.


The red snapper I used for this meal was actually a little "fishy" for my taste. Next time I'll try a milder white fish -- cod or halibut, perhaps.

Condiments: cilantro crema, salsa roja, cabbage, tomatoes, olives, onions, cilantro, and cheese.

Open wide!

See, I told you I could go all Rachael Ray on you and get a delicious meal on the table in 30 minutes. Don't you feel bad about being mean to me when I came in the door?