Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Quick Weeknight Comfort Dinner

It happens to us all.  It's a Wednesday night, we all need to eat, and mom is tired and not feeling terribly creative.  For this reason, I keep a stash of go-to items so I can still whip up something filling, tasty and that constitutes a decent meal on the fly.

After spending some of my last week in the hospital (what an experience!) I am still dealing with a dull headache, fatigue and frustration as we try to get my meds straightened out.  So, this was one of those "call it in" nights.

Thanks to my beloved Aldi, I had cheese ravioli, jarred Alfredo sauce, regular pasta sauce, and pesto on hand. The ravioli takes a whopping 8 minutes. I warmed up the red sauce for the kid and for Neil and myself, I used the Alfredo with some pesto and extra parmesan mixed in.  I had sliced fresh mozzarella, my basil plant and made a reduction of balsamic vinegar.  Lastly, thanks to my buddies at Publix, there were garlic knots in the freezer. 

Result? It really hit the spot!  And, there's still some leftover ravioli that I can turn into a pasta salad tomorrow. I highly recommend this plan for your busy weeknights when cooking isn't really in the cards for you. I know it's not "real" cooking, but it was just the thing for a Wednesday night!  

Friday, August 30, 2019

Roasted edamame: Protein Zap in a Snap

We try to eat high protein as much as possible.  We are not those Atkins, Keto, or any other extremists, but we like lots of protein.  In the constant search for snacks and grab-n-go foods, I tried roasted edamame this week.  

For those of you who don't know, edamame are soybeans.  You can buy them frozen, either shelled or still in the pod.  You see the pods often served in Japanese restaurants as an appetizer.  The shelled ones are great in salads, or just warmed and eaten like butter beans.  But, roasting them transforms them into a nutty, crunchy snack.  Kind of like high protein popcorn. And, it's really simple.

Thaw the edamame and dry them well.  Then, toss with some olive oil, Kosher salt and pepper.  Spread them out on a pan and roast at 375.  I stirred them around every 10 minutes for about a half hour, but just keep going until they look good and roasty to you.  The longer they are in the oven, the crunchier they get.  That's it. Enjoy!

Thawed and patted dry with paper towels

Simply edamame, olive oil, salt & pepper

About a Tablespoon or so

Spread out; stir every 10 minutes

Crunchy, nutty, crispy; don't forget to add some salt while they are still hot

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Kid's at Camp; Let's Thai One On!

While my sweet girl is, and always has been, an adventurous eater, she's still a little on the mild side.  Since her father is on the Carolina Reaper side of life, I have to modify our food and he "enhances" everything with his own insane pepper oils.  Everything.

So, since the kid's at lacrosse camp, I decided to make some Pad Thai, as directed. It was spicy, rich, nutty, all the good stuff you want your Thai food to be, frankly.  

For those of you here in Columbia, you may be familiar with the amazing house dressing at our Miyo's Chinese restaurants. It is astounding and if you ask nicely, you can buy some from them.  And if you ask really nicely, your waitress might just give you some... 

So, this evening, the ol' ball-n-chain and I dined Chez Akre with some Pad Thai and a simple green salad with Miyo's dressing.  Even though Neil hates how our house will smell like fish sauce for a few days, the food was good.  Damn good.

Pad Thai cooks quickly, so it key to have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go.  What you see here is about 8 large shrimp, 4 oz. chicken in bite-sized pieces, 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, 3 chopped green onions, 1/4 cup chopped unsalted, roasted peanuts, 2 Tbs fish sauce, 3 Tbs soy sauce, 1 Tbs sugar, 2 garlic cloves minced, lime and some bean sprouts. 

Start by sauteeing your garlic in about 2-3 Tbs veg oil.  Add your chicken and shrimp and cook 'em up.  

Oh, oops, I forgot to tell you about the noodles.  Take about 4 oz. dried rice noodles and put them in boiling water.  Take off the heat and let them steep for 5 min.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Then, add them to your meats in the wok.

Add fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and red pepper flakes. Mix in well then throw in about 1 cup of bean sprouts and your chopped peanuts. When the noodles are tender, push them aside and add 1 beaten egg.  Scramble it and mix it into the Pad Thai.  Lastly, add your green onions and the juice of one lime.  

And, viola!  You have a wok full of delicious Pad Thai.  Serve right away with some raw bean sprouts sprinkled on top and with a couple wedges of lime.  I think you'll find this rivals any restaurant Pad Thai you've ever ordered.  

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Ramen for Breakfast

I'm not  much of a morning eater, even though I know that I should.  But, when your daughter wakes you up with breakfast in bed, you get up and eat.  

My 13 year old has already had a busy summer. Camp in the mountains for a week, then directly to a lacrosse tournament in Charleston, so this week she's taking a break.  Her room has been cleaned (what?!?) and rearranged, list of chores has been decided and today she decided to embark on some cooking.

So, I'm woken to a big, hot bowl of ramen this morning.  Lots and lots of ramen.  Turns out, she had used 2 packages of noodles, which is about 5 times as much as I can eat in one sitting. She cooked her noodles in chicken broth, added chopped chicken and scallions and topped it all off with a poached egg.  This was a first attempt at poaching.  So, to quote Vivian, "Gordon Ramsay would say 'What? Are you eff'ing kidding me, mate?  This egg is as hard as my Gandy's flip flops.'" I think she's being a little hard on herself.  

Saturday, March 9, 2019

I'm an Instant Pot Convert

Danger, danger, Will Robinson!

 You've probably heard people raving about the Instant Pot, right?  I have too. When I learned that it is a pressure cooker, instantly (ha, see what I did there!) I had flashbacks to my mom's old school pressure cooker from the '70s. (See the horrifying contraption pictured above.)

You remember, right? It was a huge pot with a locking lid, that little rocking doo-dad on the top of the lid that would jiggle back and forth and then, of course the WARNINGS.  "Kids, whatever you do, DO NOT TOUCH the pressure cooker.  Don't even go near the pressure cooker.  Don't even look at it."  It was so terrifying that I couldn't even tell you what mom cooked in that damn thing.  I just stayed the hell away from it.  

Then, there's the storage issue that I have.  I live in a smallish mid-century downtown house. Storage is at a premium. I have 4 crockpots (it's a long story), a rice cooker (what??), a stand mixer, a pasta attachment, stock pots, etc.  You get it.  But, all of a sudden, my beloved Ball-N-Chain asked me if I'd ever heard of the Instant Pot.  Then, more and more frequently, he brought up the Instant Pot.  Finally, it dawned on me.  The man wants an Instant Pot.


Long story short, I've joined the Instant Pot world. Man, what a crazy invention this thing is.  It's a pressure cooker, a crockpot, a saute pan, a yogurt maker, a jar sterilizer, a rice cooker and as we learned tonight, a RIB COOKER. Yes, folks, I made BBQ ribs tonight in under an hour.  An hour, that's only 60 minutes, friends. 

I can't take any credit for this recipe; I googled it.  Because of my childhood terror surrounding the pressure cooking phenomenon, I am strictly following step-by-step instructions.  I found B1G1 ribs the other day and assumed that someone could teach me how to cook them in the Instant Pot and Google doesn't disappoint.  

I made a dry rub, which I rubbed all over the meat (duh!). I used the Instant Pot trivet and coiled the racks and stood them up on their sides.  Cooked at high pressure for 20 minutes.  Yes, 20 minutes.  Now, the pot takes about 15 minutes to come up to pressure, then actual cooking time is 20.  Then, I took them out, laid them flat on a cookie sheet, brushed with sauce and broiled for about 6 minutes.  Done. 


I am amazed.  They were ridiculously tender, falling off the bone, and it was all ready in record time.  I think the beloved Ball-N-Chain is happy that we've joined this Instant Pot society. 

Served with pole beans and hush puppies.  I used a Kansas City style BBQ sauce; I cheated, not homemade this time.  

The moral of this story?  The Instant Pot is pretty darn cool.  I found out today that a friend of mine just killed her crockpot, so I'm donating one of mine.  That opens up some storage!  Anyone need a rice cooker?

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Whole Enchilada

It seems that being a mom of a middle schooler is more demanding of my time than anticipated.  I've still been cooking, of course, but finding time for pix and writing has been a challenge.  But, I'm here now, so let's talk about Mexican food.

I'm willing to bet that Mexican is the most popular cuisine in America.  Everybody loves Mexican. Chances are that you have taco shells in your cabinet, cans of refried beans in your pantry and tortillas in your fridge.  Like everybody, so do I.  It's great to have these staples on hand, especially for those hectic week nights when you can whip up some tacos in the blink of an eye.

One of our favorites is enchiladas.  The beautiful thing is that they really aren't hard to make, you can create a filling out of anything and they freeze beautifully.  While canned sauce is convenient, I'm here to tell you that it's soooooo much better if you make it yourself.  (Refried beans too, but another time!) My daughter often finds the canned enchilada sauces too spicy, so making my own solves that problem.  And it's has a few steps, but they aren't difficult and the result is so worth your while.

 Place about 8 dried guajillo peppers in a saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Then, turn off the heat and let the chiles soak for about 45 minutes.

Then, you remove the stems and split them open to remove the seeds.  The seeds need to go because since they were dried, they are hard and yucky.  You don't want hard and yucky in your sauce.

Save the soaking liquid.  It is like liquid amber.

Next, place your chiles in the blender with a cup of the soaking liquid and give them a good whirl.  You want to let it run for a minute or two so that the skins get finely ground.  Then, strain the puree, using a spoon to press on the solids to get all the chile puree that you can.  Rinse your blender with another cup of the soaking liquid, then pour it over the solids in your sieve.  Press some more, then discard the solids. 

Heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat, add 1 garlic clove, halved.  When the garlic becomes fragrant, discard. Add 1 Tbsp flour to the garlic oil and cook for about a minute.  Next, add the guajillo puree to the roux and mix well.

This is 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp cumin and 1/4 tsp of garlic powder. Add these spices, along with 1 tsp white vinegar to the sauce.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce becomes slightly thickened.  Taste it and adjust salt to your taste. That's it.  Homemade enchilada sauce.  I use this sauce for my tamales as well.  

So, why is it so great to make your own?  First, it's easy.  Second, it's inexpensive.  Dried chiles are not a pricey item and you can even find them at places like Wal-Mart, if you're willing to sacrifice your humanity and enter a Wal-Mart, that is.  The rest of the ingredients are in your kitchen right now.  And third, it simply tastes so much better than the canned product.  No added sugar or excessive salt either. Give it a try and you'll find yourself doing the macarena right in your kitchen because you are so excited and pleased with yourself!  Ole!


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