Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tikka Masala Makes Ya Holla!

I've always been intrigued by how we have to teach our kids to enjoy other cuisines, such as Mexican, Indian, Japanese, etc. But, in Mexico and India and Japan, little kids are eating that food all day long.  You can't say it's too spicy or too weird for kids, because clearly, there are kids eating it.  I guess I have to conclude that somewhere in New Delhi there is a mom trying to introduce her kids to fried chicken and biscuits.  Right?  

I love Indian food.  I admit that I am far from being an expert.  I wish I were. But, thanks to Indian friends and clients, I know a thing or two.  I own an Indian cookbook, I know where my local Indian market is, I've made Biryani and Tikka Masala from scratch.  And since I love to cook, it's fun but make no mistake, cooking Indian takes time and lots of ingredients.  Mainly spices.  Lots and lots of spices.

Recently, I was cruising the aisles at Aldi and came across a brand of Indian "simmer sauces."  I got so excited; what a great way to have some Indian on a quick weeknight schedule.  And, the little one (not so little anymore...just had a birthday!) has been expressing interest in Indian food.  I bought Korma, Jalfrezi and Tikka Masala.  

It couldn't be simpler: cube up some chicken, saute it to brown, saute onions, sweet bell peppers, peas, whatever.  I added some chopped spinach to the most recent batch to add well, spinach, and color.  

Simmering away with Tikka Masala sauce

The first couple times I made it, I worried that the sauce might be a little spicy for the Vivver.  I portioned out enough for her and added some half & half to tone it down.  However, on our most recent dinner, she tasted it ahead of time and deemed it not too spicy, so I left it alone.  And since Aldi is the bomb-diggity that it is, they also sell really awesome packaged Naan bread that just takes minutes to warm in the oven.  It's like restaurant food on a Tuesday night!  

Our chicken Tikka Masala over Basmati rice and served with garlic naan
 And, now I have an 11 year old who is a fan and can't wait to actually go out to a real Indian restaurant and sample lots of good stuff!  My work here is done.  Not really, but you get my drift.  Next up?  New Peruvian restaurant in our neighborhood.  Anyone know anything about Peruvian food?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I'm Still Here!


I am alive and well. Despite what you may have heard, I have not suffered a terrible demise. I have not fallen off a cliff or gotten trapped under a large rock.  I am, however, ridiculously embarrassed to admit that I haven't written a thing since December. I offer proof of life:  

Excuses?  Probably not any good ones, but I can tell you this...Girl Scout cookie season took over my life.  I had to serve as the "Cookie Manager" for our troop this year.  It's not really a hard job, despite what people tell you.  But it is insanely time-consuming.  My husband actually asked me how much I was getting paid for it.  Uhhh, nuthin' honey.  

Consider this your warning: I'm back.  Today I find myself in that oh-so-familiar place.  "What can I do with this damn chicken today?"  Yes, I'm in a chicken rut. Again.  I'll figure out something to do with it and will come up with more interesting topics for future posts.  Promise. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fresh Pierogies in the Neighborhood!

We were so excited to see that the European Market moved up Rosewood Drive closer to us.  I mean, I get it, where it was wasn't far, but now I can walk to it in no time flat. And, now they are right next door to another of our neighborhood faves, The Local Buzz. 

I was out tonight for some last minute boxes and wrapping paper when I noticed their "open" sign was still on.  I popped in hoping they might have Kinder eggs, being European and all.  Happy of happy days, they do!  The Vivver will be most pleased to see that Santa once again picked up a couple of these Euro-gems for her. 

Since I was alone, I took some time to browse around. I discovered all kinds of cool stuff in this little market, but one of the first things to catch my eye was that the clerk was unpacking a couple big boxes of containers of pierogies. I kind of lurked over her shoulder checking them out. Not having much experience with pierogies, I was curious but also clueless. 

Fast forward to check out.  I started chatting with the clerk and somehow the pierogies came up.  She told me that they are made fresh by the owner and that I should try them.  She recommended the ones filled with sweet cheese; those are her favorites.  I had also notice some were labeled as stuffed with kraut. Neil loves sauerkraut, so she said, "oh, you must get him some!"  So, I did.  I got them home and we dove into one of the kraut ones right out of the package.  They have caramelized onions on top; added bonus!  Then, I warmed and browned one of each type in some butter so we could sample them as intended.  OMG.  These little dumplings are so fantastic! The cheese pierogies are slightly sweet, kind of like lightly sweetened ricotta.  But, we both agreed the sauerkraut ones are our favorites. 

I've read tons of recipes over the years for pierogies but have never attempted them.  They are soft dumplings with (probably) as many types of filling as one could imagine.  The ones I bought tonight were fully cooked, so all I had to do was warm and brown them up. They were just delicious.  And, apparently, you can special order them from the market if you need a specific quantity for a party or get-together. 

The European Market is right next door to The Local Buzz at the corner of Shandon St. and Rosewood Dr.  I highly recommend you patronize both!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Mom was Right...Again!

By the time my sister and I got to high school, my mom was running a full-swing real estate business and was working a lot.  We had already begun learning to cook simply because quite often, mom got home late. My dad began to specialize in awesome stuff like Veal Oscar and his famous Kiwi Shrimp.  It was around this same time that Mom turned over the grocery shopping to us girls.

We would make the list, decide on dishes for the upcoming days and then Mom or Dad would hand us a blank check and off we'd go to the old Winn Dixie in Irmo.  Y'all remember that place?  When they built that grocery store, it was monumental.  No more trucking up Broad River Road to the old Big Star for us Irmese anymore!  The cashiers all knew us, so we never had any issues using our blank checks. And, we never abused it either. We stuck to our list, for the most part. Every now and then we'd find something that jumped out at us and we'd indulge.  But overall, we were good little shoppers.

So, here's today's lesson:  Mom told us something very important. She said, "It's ok to buy generic.  It all comes from the same factory. They just put different labels on it."  Now, we all know that sometimes there is a difference.  For instance, Aldi's brand of Cheetos just isn't worth the time of day.  Folger's coffee is crap, no matter what label you slap on it.  But for the most part, Mom is right.  Take this example that I noticed just today:

See this butter? The stick at the top is Publix brand.  The bottom one is Aldi brand.  The difference in color is because I just took the Aldi stick out of the freezer. You'll notice that the fonts look exactly alike, right?  Well, look at this:

Good ol' Plant # 55-360 packed both sticks!  See?  It IS all one big factory, just like my mom said all those years ago!  The only difference is that a pound of butter is about $2 less at Aldi than at Publix.  And, if you're one of those people who think you need to pay even more than the Publix price for something like Land O'Lakes, well...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Don't Skimp on the Shrimp

One of the perks of living in a coastal state is that fresh, wild seafood is just a car ride away. This fact does make me scratch my head, however, when I see seafood in our grocery stores from other places.  Why?  Why?  It's just two hours down the road!

One of Neil's friends is from Beaufort, SC and he and his dad are avid fishermen.  On a recent visit to Columbia, Rick brought up tons of shrimp that he'd just caught.  Beautiful, South Carolina shrimp, already bagged up in 1lb sizes for us...and getting the "friend price" is always nice as well!  The thing about shrimp is, it's just like Bubba said in Forrest Gump; you can make a million dishes out of it.  Endless possibilities.

I needed some lunch, so here's what I did about it.  Shrimp salad on a flaky croissant.  Yeah, I said it.  I made a simple salad by gently poaching the shrimp in some homemade vegetable stock.  As they cooled, I mixed some light mayo, sliced green onion, salt, pepper and dill weed.  Stir, stir, stir and there's my shrimp salad. 

It was light, fresh and hit the spot.  In a restaurant, this would likely be a $15 sandwich.  Here at my house, about $2.50.  Hmmm, I think I got the better deal.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Dad's Kiwi Shrimp

My mom began selling real estate in 1979.  Back then, agents were taught to drop everything when the phone rang, jump when a "potential" client said jump, run out the door the moment someone wanted to kick the tires of a house for sale. (By the way, in today's world, we don't operate that way.) But, back then, that was the insane teaching of the real estate schools, so I can't tell you now many times my mom would leave the dinner table to take calls or even leave to meet someone.  But, it wasn't all bad. Consequently, my dad, sister and I learned to cook because of this wacked out phenomenon. (Don't think I'm "dissing" my mom.  When I came to work with her in 1999, she is the one who taught me to make appointments with myself and my family and keep them.)

Anyway, back to the cooking.  My dad became quite the chef in the '80's. He had a fondness for veal, so he started serving up dishes to us like veal piccata, veal Oscar (my personal fave!) and veal marsala.  But, he didn't stop there.  Old school Columbians will remember the classic Greek restaurant "The Elite Epicurean" on Main St.  We went there for special occasions, proms, after the ballet, etc.  The Epicurean was THE place for lamb in Columbia.  But, they also served this crazy dish called "Shrimp, Island of Scorpios" which was shrimp in casserole with feta, tomatoes, onion and ouzo.  Dad figured it out, started making it at home and then none of us ever ordered it again because his was better. 

One day, he came across a recipe for shrimp, presumably from a magazine because it was the '80's.  We had no Internet, no Google. He is a HAM radio operator, but those guys rarely discuss cooking :-)  This is the nuttiest recipe ever and quickly became one of our family favorites. I wish I could tell you where it came from, but after all these years, there's no way for me to give credit where credit is due.  Therefore, in our family, we simply refer to it as "Dad's Kiwi Shrimp."

It's important to note:  SHALLOTS are not the same thing as SCALLIONS

Having a sous-chef who peels shrimp is a PLUS!
Sauteing proscuitto, shallot and crushed red pepper 


Shrimp, kiwi and cream going in
OMG: This is getting intense!

It's amazingly easy and everyone will think you are some kinda genius when you serve it.

2    Tbs olive oil
1.5  oz proscuitto or country ham, cut into strips
1/3  cup chopped shallot
1/2  tsp crushed red pepper
1/2  cup white wine
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2     med kiwi fruit, peeled & cubed
1    cup cream
1/4  tsp salt
1/8  tsp pepper

Heat olive oil over high heat. Saute ham, shallot and crushed red pepper about 30 seconds. Add wine & boil until reduced by half (about 2-3 minutes). 

Add shrimp, kiwi & cream.  Reduce heat to medium low and cook until shrimp turn pink. Remove them from skillet.

Boil sauce 2.5-3 minutes. Add shrimp back in, with salt and pepper. Serve over rice.
Final product!  Dad's Kiwi Shrimp

Yes, I know.  It sounds completely crazy, but you're going to have to trust me here.  It is simply divine.  The kiwi gives it a fresh, yet tangy citrus note.  Cream...oh, lovely cream.  Salty proscuitto, spicy pepper.  And SHRIMP!  I wonder who it was who discovered how delightful these wacky little creatures taste? 

So, friends, go out on a limb and try my Dad's dish. Unless you're completely out of your minds, you'll want to send me flowers. Or wine.  Or money. Your choice.  


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