Friday, April 30, 2010

Jay's Special Seasoned Fries

My thrifty and health conscious sides both love these fries. Even though these might require a bit more work than stopping by a McDonalds or opening up a bag of pre-fried, frozen, bake-able fries, these are way tastier, cost less, and you actually know they're made of real ingredients. High five to that!

Jay and I seem to go through food craze phases. At one point I think we had these fries 6 times in a total of 12 days. Granted, we varied the slicing style of the potatoes, and the seasoning may have been slightly different, but generally we couldn't deny that we were a bit smitten with our spuds. Our frequent consumption of these babies has made us experts in their execution... at least we seem to think we're experts. Generally, I will be the designated slicer, while he's the head spicer; together we make one dynamic duo.

We've also perfected the greasing and baking aspects of making these fries. For easy clean-up, we like to line our baking pan with aluminum foil. To prevent your fries from sticking to it, generously spray it with olive oil spray. I prefer the spray over regular olive oil because I feel like it provides more assurance that it has indeed fully covered the entire surface. If I've sliced the fries wedge shaped, I've found that placing the fries skin-side-down really helps the potato flesh (non-skin sides) cook to perfection.

And the key to making yourself a plate of crunchy fries with soft centers? Low and slow. These zesty fries have to be romanced.
The Stuff:
  • baking pan
  • aluminum foil
  • olive oil cooking spray
The Edibles:
  • potatoes (any kind will do, but I'm partial to Yukon Golds and sweet potatoes)
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • onion salt
  • dried chives
  • pepper
  • salt (if desired)
  • additional options: oregano, coriander, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, nutmeg... feel free to experiment!
The Making:
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking pan with a sheet of aluminum foil. Generously cover with with olive oil non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Slice potatoes to your hearts contents. Rounds, wedges, thick, thin, the options are endless! Line potatoes on foiled, sprayed pan and lightly spray with more of the olive oil spray.
  3. Now for the zesting! Sprinkle the spices over the potatoes. With most spices I am pretty heavy-handed, but I cautiously add those with salt incorporated, as more salt can aways be added later.
  4. Place in the oven and bake 30-45 minutes, or until the tops of the fries are brown and crispy. If desired, you can flip them halfway through, although I never do!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Luke's Cookies

My brother (fondly referred to as "bro-bro") likes my baking. I might go so far as to say that he loves my baking. Cookies, muffins, he devours them all. And as an athletic 6'4ish" the boy can eat. And too often, I, like my mom, fall prey to the boy's pleads for us to cook for him. He's just too endearing. Even though I sometimes get irritated with his assuming nature, as in he presumes both my mom and I are going to whip him up a grilled cheese sandwich because we have absolutely nothing better to do, Luke always expresses sincere appreciation for our efforts, making the task all the more worthwhile.

Luke's love for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, yet health-conscious appetite (an athlete has to be properly fueled) were the inspiration for my experimentation with a family classic. I wanted to power up these cookies and pack them with health-promoting ingredients so that my bro-bro could enjoy these without worrying that they would weigh him down on his next run. Adding oat bran and flax add fiber and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and the extra protein from the wheat germ and powder really amp up the staying power (satiation), which is something you may not find too often in a cookie. The addition of pudding to these cookies really keeps them moist without a greasy residue. The convenience of a ready-made oatmeal cookie mix lessens the burden on the baker. Outside they may be crisp, but the inside will be soft. Be sure to store in the fridge in an airtight container, because the extra moisture will make them super prone to molding if left on the counter. An insider tip for baking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies: pull them out of the oven early, when they don't appear fully done. They will continue to cook once removed, but an early departure from the oven will yield a softer cookie.

Oh, and I don't have an electric mixer. So it is totally acceptable (and feasible) to mix the cookie dough with a simple fork. But only if you lick it when you're done.
The Stuff:
  • 2 sizable mixing bowls
  • 1 baking pan
  • parchment paper
The Edibles:
  • oatmeal cookie mix (I used a Betty Crocker mix, but I think I will make my own next time)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 rounded T. protein powder (I use MLO Vegetable Protein)
  • 1 & 2/3 T. wheat germ
  • 1/4 c. oat bran
  • 2 T. flax seed
  • hearty sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 2 pudding cups (I used reduced-sugar vanilla pudding cups)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 c. walnuts
  • 1/4 c. chocolate chips
The Making:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a rather large mixing bowl stir together the dry ingredients (cookie mix through flax seed until well-combined.
  3. In another large mixing bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (water through egg whites). Bit by bit (mayhaps 1/4 cup by 1/4 cup) pour dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients. Stir until well-combined. The dough may be thick.
  4. Add the walnuts and chocolate chips, and give 'er a quick stir until fully incorporated.
  5. Drop by spoonful onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes or so, until the cookies appear "undone".

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bulgogi a la Momo (Marinated Flank Steak)

I can't help but get a little emotional every time I smell the marinade of this steak. This is one of those meals that evokes a rainbow of emotions within me; I feel a sense of loss for the fact that I no longer live at home, under the protection of my mama bird's wing, while I also feel a bit of joy, knowing that she's here with me, as I cook (and only a phone call away). My pride swells knowing that I can make this meal (almost) as well as she can (because let's be honest, moms are always better than us at cooking, right?), but I almost always feel a bit of remorse, like I'm an imposter standing in for my Mom because she's the one who should be creating this masterpeice. It's likely I'm being overanalytical, and hyper-sensitized by a simple steak, but smells have a way of connecting with memories that make them quite powerful.

I've been trying to limit (while allow) red meat in my diet. I try to have it once a week because I know it is a good (if not great) source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, but for health reasons I'd rather obtain these vital dietary neccessities through alternate food sources such as soy beans, spinach, bran, and nuts. Nevertheless, variety is the spice of life, and sometimes I crave a good olfactory trip down memory lane, if not to be closer to my mom.

Even though it's ridiculously easy to make, you can easily fool anyone you're cooking for that you really slaved in the kitchen pulling this one together--it's that good. I've found that referring to it as "Korean Barbeque Steak," as it is sometimes called, causes less upper-lip-raising (as in, "WHAT are you going to be serving??!?!"). Nevertheless, sometime the adverse reactions are funny and "Bowl-gog-E" is fun to say!

And for those vegetarians out there, it's likely that the marinade would make for a yummy tofu, tempeh, or seitan "steak"!

I like to serve this with my quinoa pilaf and fresh asparagus grilled (or broiled). I'll cover the asparagus in a mixture of: 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon miran (sweet rice vinegar), 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, 1 clove garlic (or garlic salt), and a sprinkle of ginger.

Yields 4 servings (serving size: 3 ounces)
The Edibles:
  • 1 pound top sirloin steak, trimmed
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 6 T. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 T. mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 2 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger (I always used powdered ginger and it always turns out magnificently)
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced (I've used fresh, dried, jarred, or powdered... all will work)
  • 3 fresh scallions, whites and green cut into about 1/4 inch slices (I've actually used dried chives when I realized I had totally blanked on picking up scallions at the store... even though they're technically not the same, it still turned out delicious!)
The Making:
  1. Combine sugar (or sugar substitute), and next 6 ingredients (sugar through scallions) in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal and shake up until well mixed. Drop in the steak (gently, now) and marinate in refrigerator for at least an hour, turning bag occasionally. I've found that longer marinatation times yield exponentially better, more flavorful steaks. So if you can, plan ahead. Easier said than done, right?
  2. Once your steak has marinated to its (and your) heart's desire, prepare your grill (a.k.a. turn on that bad boy), or preheat broiler.
  3. Carefully remove beef from bag, reserving the marinade. Place beef on hot grill or under a preheated broiler. Your cooking time will depend on the steak's thickness, so keep a careful eye on your beef. For a steak that was about 1/2 inch thick that I placed under the broiler (no need to flip it), I cooked it about 8 minutes. I think these are best cooked to medium or medium-well, and that timing made them perfect! If grilling, cook the steaks for about 4 minutes per side, again until desired level of doneness.
  4. While the steak cooks, pour the marinade into a small saucepan and cook over medium to medium high heat, until it comes to a rolling, slow boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low. I usually boil it for about 5 minutes to make sure anything and everything that isn't supposed to be in your food is killed off. :-)
Estimated Nutritional Information:

Calories: 208 (33% from fat)
Fat: 7.6g (sat 2.7g,mono 3.2g,poly 0.7g)
Protein: 26.1g
Carbohydrate: 6.4g
Fiber: 0.2g
Cholesterol: 76mg
Iron: 3.1mg
Sodium: 457mg
Calcium: 19mg

Balsamic Tempeh

This dish really packs in the flavor. I'm a big fan of a tasty balsamic reduction, and this is just right. One cooking method I looked to for inspiration recommended a longer marinating time, and I don't doubt that in improving the flavor of this dish.

I recently re-adventured into the world of tempeh. Up until recently I've avoided it at all costs, as I have found that all things bean have caused me extreme stomach pains. (Sorry if that's too much information, but really, that might explain the lack of bean-age on this site.) In researching tempeh I found that the pre-fermenting of this high-protein non-animal source makes it easy on digestion and ideal for people with IBS-like symptoms. Holla! I'm glad to have re-discovered this vegetarian treat because I really enjoy tempeh and its lightly nutty texture. This dish could be paired beautifully with polenta or a nice quinoa pilaf for a complete meal.

I chose to enjoy this dish as a salad colored with sautéed onions and thinly sliced carrot sticks, crisp red pepper, toasted almonds, chopped dates, feta, and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette. A simple yet complex combination of sweetness complimented by a vinegary bite, a chewy mouthful with a bit of crunch, this salad quickly brought me to my knees. I was in love.

The Edibles:
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
  • 1 T. dijon mustard
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • light shake of onion salt
  • generous shake of dried oregano
  • generous shake of dried basil (fresh would be marvelous if you have some on hand)
  • generous shake of garlic powder (or one clove of fresh, pressed/minced garlic)
  • fresh ground pepper (as much as you like)
  • 1 package tempeh, cut into 1 inch by 1 inch chunks
The Making:
  1. In a shallow bowl or large plastic bag mix all ingredients together up through the fresh ground pepper. Add the tempeh and stir around (or shake the bag) until the tempeh appears well covered with the sauce.
  2. Marinade anywhere between 1 hour to overnight.
  3. Heat a medium saute pan on medium. Spray with olive oil spray and once it's heated, empty tempeh and sauce into the pan. You can test the pan's readiness by dropping/dipping a piece of bread into the oil and see if it sizzles--I saw it on a cooking show once and it's a tried-and-true method!
  4. Let the tempeh cook and the sauce reduce for 3-5 minutes. Turn the tempeh over (yes, each piece individually) after this time, and let it cook for another 2 minutes or so. After this time, the sauce will become quite thick and may be almost non-existent. It will stick to the tempeh, so stir it gently so as to ensure it's fully covered. I chose to cook the tempeh for a minute or two longer so as to really brown the edges.
  5. Once sauced and browned, your tempeh is ready for devouring!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Half-Mashed Soup

Also called "Carrot O's" and "Bugs Bunny Soup" (sorry Warner Brothers, I know you probably have some trademark on that name, meaning I owe you $0.10 every time someone sees this post), this soup is really just a mash of veggies all squashed together. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and you have yourself an economical (I refuse to refer to it as "cheap" because it hardly tastes so), heaping pile of warm vegetable-laden goodness.

I'm serious though when I say "a little bit of this, a little bit of that," because (as you'll see) my measurements are almost scientific. (Note the sarcasm.) I'm a big fan of intuitive cooking, and with soups there's no better, more forgivable dish that will allow you some leeway in your spices. I should note, though, that I promote tasting often and starting off easy with anything (especially those spices that have added salt). The last thing you want is something resembling a salt brick. It may be good for horses, but for us, well, not so much.

Typically I'll add some elbow-type pasta to any soup I make, but I went into making this dish knowing that I had a ginormous loaf of Asiago-Pesto bread (be jealous, Allison) ready to be toasted and dipped as an accompaniment. (Thank you, Momo!) I do recommend finding yourself a tasty, hearty bread to compliment this dish. A simple wheat bread sprayed with olive oil spray, sprinkled with garlic powder, topped with Parmesan and/or Romano and broiled for a minute would be quite lovely.

The Stuff:
  • large stock pot
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • blender

The Edibles:
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1-16 oz bag of frozen cauliflower
  • 16 oz. chicken broth (vegetable broth could most definitely be used)
  • 1/2 of a 16 oz. bag of frozen sliced carrots
  • 2 bay leaves
  • light shake of onion salt
  • light shake of chili powder
  • light shake of bacon salt (it's vegetarian... ha! of course, this addition is only if you are an eclectic spice collector like me)
  • generous shake of dried oregano
  • generous shake of dried thyme
  • generous shake of coriander
  • generous shake of garlic powder
  • generous amount of fresh ground pepper
  • 1 large can of chicken (see the Making for vegetarian suggestions)
  • 1 cup frozen spinach (or about 2 cups fresh)
The Making:
  1. Spray a large stock pan with cooking spray and turn stove to medium-low. Place garlic in the pot and listen to it. Once it starts yelling at you (some might call it "sizzling"), dump the diced onion into the pot and turn the stove up to medium. After 2 minutes, add the cauliflower and the 4 fresh diced carrots. Let the veggie mixture cook an additional 5 minutes.
  2. Pour broth in pot and turn the temperature up to high. Add the spices and bay leaves at this time. Once the pot begins to boil, let it cook for 5 to 10 minutes longer, until the vegetables are looking loose. At this point, it's a treasure hunt as you try to find and remove the 2 bay leaves.
  3. Turn the stove off and dump 2 cups ice cubes into the pot. Stir the mixture to melt the cubes and cool the soup. Once cool, place 2/3 of the soup into a blender (or as much as it takes to fill your blender halfway). See? It's half-mashed!
  4. Place frozen (thawed) carrots in the blender with the soup. Puree until it resembles delicious baby food, and then return it to the pot and combine with the non-blended mix.
  5. Turn stove on once again to medium-low. Add contents of the strained can of chicken (tofu or cannelloni beans would work beautifully as a vegetarian substitute). Also add the frozen spinach (no need to thaw, it'll do that in the hot tub o' veg you have going on).
  6. Let the soup cook and re-warm for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.