Archive | August, 2012

Budget Eats: All Your Salad Base Are Belong to Us.

30 Aug

I’m going to nerd myself out a little bit and link here to explain that ridiculous post title. Enjoy. Or just shake your head with a smile on your face. (Please?)

Image

There’s a rumor going around that fresh fruits and veggies are way too expensive for the average budget chef to afford. As a result, those of us with tighter wallets are preconditioned to believe that produce is out of our proverbial price range. (How’s that for alliteration? English teacher FTW.) Huge sad, indeed.

However! There’s always a balance to strike. First, frozen veggies are frozen at the height of their freshness, resulting in a solid alternative that’s slightly friendlier to one’s budget. Second, if you balance fresh and frozen produce, as well as focus on buying what’s in season (fun fact: apples are WAY more expensive if you feel like buying them in February), you can fill out your diet with the nutrients your body needs.

Note: For some quick info about which veggies are prime during which seasons, check out this link from the wise folks at Fruit & Veggies: More Matters.

With that in mind, I was inspired to write this Budget Eats post about one of my favorite meals: A great big, veggie-laden salad. The reasoning for that title, however, is two-fold: First, this IS a wallet-friendly way to nosh upon nutritional goodness in salad form. Second, this is a “base” recipe — a simple, tasty and aesthetically pleasing salad that you can top with any sort of protein and other fixins that you choose. I’ll have recommendations and tips posted below the recipe.

Simple Salad Base — Serves 1-2. (Easily multiplied for 3, 4, or more!)

You’ll need:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 5-10 baby carrots, or 1-2 large carrots, peeled
  • 2-3 roma tomatoes, or 1 large tomato
  • 1 “wild card” veggie of your choosing (green peppers, red onion, mushrooms), sliced or diced according to your preference
  • 1/4 a head of lettuce — I recommend Bibb, Romaine or Red Leaf.
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh herbs to garnish, if desired (basil and chives are muy delicioso)

Here’s what you do:

  • Prep your cucumbers: Peel if they’re waxed. Split the cucumber in half length-wise. Cut each length into half moon shapes, about 1/4 inch thick. (You can decoratively peel these, or run a fork down the sides of a peeled cuke for extra texture.)
  • Slice carrots on the diagonal, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  • Slice tomatoes — if roma tomatoes, slice into small rounds (between 5 and 8 per tomato); if a larger tomato, cut into wedges.
  • Slice or dice additional veggies according to taste and preference. Add ALL veggies to your serving bowl, along with a sprinkling of salt, pepper & fresh herbs, if desired. Toss gently and set aside.
  • Wash lettuce leaves; dry using a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. (Wet greens + dressing = no dressing on your greens. Oil and vinegar are not friends.) Tear or chop gently into bite-size pieces. Add on TOP of your other veggies and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Image

  • When serving, toss the entire salad gently. Dress and top with additional toppings as desired. Nosh upon the veggie goodness.

Why place the lettuce on top and wait to toss? It keeps the lettuce from wilting under the weight and moisture of other veggies.

Fun toppings for Salads — Vegetarian:

  • Chick peas, crumbled feta, and Greek dressing
  • Grilled marinated tofu (see this post on tofu scrambles for tips on how to prepare the tofu), crispy wontons or Asian noodles, sliced oranges and Sesame or Ginger dressing.
  • Black beans, salsa, grilled corn, a sprinkle of cumin and chili powder, and Ranch dressing that’s been spiked with taco seasoning.
  • Ricotta Salata cheese (thicker, grate-able ricotta), vegetarian pepperoni (such as Smart Deli), pepperoncini peppers, and thick, crusty croutons.
  • Hard boiled eggs for a bacon-free cobb salad taste.

Fun Toppings for Salads — Meat Included

  • Grilled chicken, marinated with balsamic vinegar, lemon and rosemary; parmesan cheese; and a simple oil & vinegar dressing.
  • Thinly sliced grilled steak, grilled corn on the cob (sliced off the cob), and bleu cheese crumbles.
  • Canned salmon or tuna, mixed with mayo, dill & a drizzle of lemon juice to make salmon or tuna salad. (Add a few squirts of Sriracha chili sauce for extra oomph!)
  • Indian-inspired  Chicken salad — 1 diced cooked chicken breast, 1-2 tbsp mayo or Miracle Whip, chopped cashews, golden raisins, and curry powder to taste. Add sliced apples for extra crunch, and serve with grilled Naan bread.
  • Antipasto-style: cooked tortellini (spinach or cheese are great), sliced salami and prosciutto, small chunks or balls of melon, mozzarella cheese (shredded or cut into chunks), and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Serve with breadsticks and a lovely glass of Chianti.

Next time on Budget Eats (for real this time): How to make a big ol’ pot of stew, soup or chili and save / freeze individual portions. Happy eating!

Budget Eats: Scrambled Eggs Master Recipe with 3 Variations

27 Aug

You WILL make this! Scrambled Egg Fried Rice? Mmm!

One of my best friends from college is starting a new graduate program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. (Shout-out to Laura, the woman who first introduced me to the wonders of kimchi. You are amazing – miss you so much!) She and I were chatting recently about the big move – how a Minnesota girl like her was going to adapt to a slower, Southern pace of life in Tennessee.

As we were chatting, she posed a question to me and to my blog: How can a grad student – or, really, any young professional who’s just starting out on a somewhat limited budget – afford to feed herself semi-nutritious food, using some prepared items (frozen foodstuffs, canned and dried goods, etc.) and some fresh ingredients? Are there tasty, filling recipes that suit this kind of budget and lifestyle? What’s a food-loving girl to do?

Determined to rise to the challenge, I’ve started writing and testing a Budget Meals series. I’ll post meal ideas with average pricing based on my market research, including tips for stretching a dollar, basic nutrition advice (hey, a girl’s gotta get those vitamins) and ideas for multipurpose cooking. (I.e. how can I creatively twist one recipe into 3 or 4 different dishes?)

Today’s topic: Scrambled Eggs, an easy master recipe that we’ll be converting into 3 different budget meals: Egg Panini, DIY Fried Rice, and Breakfast Burritos. How yummy does that sound?

Grocery List (prices according to Peapod.com)

  • 1 dozen eggs –  $1.93
  • 1 quart skim milk – $1.49
  • 1 loaf of wheat bread – $2.50
  • 1 pkg tortillas – $2.09
  • 1 pkg sliced deli cheese – $3.59
  • 1 jar salsa – $3.00
  • Produce (tomatoes, frozen veggies, carrots, 1 bag spinach) – $8.20

Total Cost (excluding condiments, oil/butter and spices): $22.28

How doable is that? 3 meals and then some, using these ingredients in 4 different recipes listed below. Check ‘em out. Happy eating and happy shopping, my budget-friendly friends!

Scrambled Eggs Master Recipe – serves 1 (easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc.)

You’ll need:

  • 1 tsp oil or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp milk
  • Salt, pepper & spices to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • In a small bowl, lightly beat together eggs, milk & spices. I recommend garlic powder, dill, or even some cumin.

Leggo my egg-o! Heh heh heh, I kill myself.

  • Heat oil or butter in a small sauté pan over medium-ish heat (4 or 5 on your stovetop). When the oil is hot, add the beaten egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, stir egg mixture constantly, folding it over onto itself and “scrambling” the contents. Cook egg mixture this way until completely cooked through, about 1-2 minutes (Max.)

This will all happen …

… very, VERY quickly. I think about 1 minute elapsed between the previous pic and this one.

  • Use your rubber spatula to additional “chop up” or “scramble” the egg contents if any pieces are too large or chunky for your taste.

Variation One: Egg Panini – serves 1. This sandwich is a delicious way to use those scrambled eggs for lunch or dinner. Dried herbs – great to stock your budget pantry – really take this to the next level.

You’ll need:

  • 1 Master Scrambled Eggs Recipe
  • 2 slices Swiss, Cheddar or Provolone Cheese
  • 2-3 slices tomato
  • 3-5 basil leaves or baby spinach leaves (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp butter or margarine
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or basil
  • 2 slices bread (whole grain is great, but buy what you can afford)

Here’s what you do:

  • Butter both slices on one side; sprinkle the buttered slices with dried herbs. On one slice’s unbuttered side, stack one slice of cheese; basil or spinach leaves; scrambled eggs (spoon gently onto bread); tomatoes; and your final slice of cheese. Top with 2nd bread slice, buttered side out.
  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add sandwich. Cook until pan side is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip, and cook until other side is also golden brown. Remove from pan, slice along the diagonal, and serve.

Variation Two: DIY Fried Rice – This is great for using leftovers lurking in your fridge. It can also be as gourmet or as simple as you like.

This is you, adding soy sauce LIKE A BOSS.

You’ll need:

  • 1 Master Scrambled Eggs recipe
  • 1 cup cooked rice (type and grain are totally your choice)
  • ½ to 1 cup frozen or fresh veggies (I like broccoli, peas, and carrots)
  • ½ cup cooked meat (chicken, pork, beef), if desired. (Leftover pork chop or steak, perhaps?)
  • 1 tsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Additional spices to taste (salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes)

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat (7-ish on your stove dial). When hot, add the rice and frozen vegetables. (If your veggies are fresh, cook them first for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through to your liking.) Stir the mixture frequently for 3-5 minutes, or until all frozen veggies are warm and rice is heated and starting to brown.
  • Add scrambled eggs, cooked meat, and additional spices as desired. Continue stirring the fried rice frequently with rubber spatula; drizzle with 1 tbsp soy sauce, and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes. Scoop the mixture into a large bowl, and enjoy.

Variation Three: Breakfast Burritos – This is as easy as it gets. Take a tortilla; fill it with scrambled eggs, deli cheese, salsa, and anything else you feel like adding (whatever’s in the fridge). Give it a quick nuke in the microwave to melt the cheese / reheat the eggs, roll it up Chipotle-style, and you’re off!

Next time in Budget Eats, we’ll talk about making a big batch of something economical – like vegetarian or turkey chili – and storing / freezing individual portions to eat throughout the week. Nom nom nom!

Kitchen Tips: Broiler 101

26 Aug

If you’re new to your apartment kitchie – and new to baking or cooking in general – you may have noticed the “BROIL” function on your oven’s temperature dial. What does a budding chef need to know about her or his broiler?

From a post on theKitchn all about broiler use. How SWEET is this gas broiler?? Looks like a torture device. Or something used to curl celebrities’ hair.

  1. It’s HOT – when you broil anything, whether it’s a fish fillet or a grilled cheese sandwich, watch it carefully. It’s easy for food to go from “just about done” to “totally fantastic” to “oh good Lord, what’s that fossilized brown chunk on my baking pan?” when you’re not watching the broiler carefully. Often times, you can (and should) leave your oven door slightly ajar while food is under the broiler, which allows you to check for doneness frequently. No fossils!
  2. It’s FAST – If you want to broil a salmon fillet, you’re talking about 10 minutes of cooking time. If you’re broiling an open-faced sandwich, you’ll max out at 5-7 minutes before your cheese gets gooey and fabulous.
  3. It’s HEIGHT-SENSITIVE – Raise your oven rack to the position closest to your oven coils at the top. That’s the best spot for broiling, as it allows for serious direct heat.
  4.  It CAN be a budding chef’s best friend. Broiling allows for a fabulous browning / charring that adds such a great finishing touch to your dishes. If you’ve made a big tray of baked ziti, let it sit under the broiler for another 5-10 minutes, and watch that gooey cheese topping become a crispy, brown and bubbly masterpiece.

Fun things to do with your broiler:

  • Toast muffins! Split them in half — a “top” and a “bottom” — and broil for 3-5 minutes. When brown and toasty, top with peanut butter, regular butter, jams or jellies.
  • Make English Muffin Pizzas or open-faced sandwiches — if the “dough” is already cooked through, it’s easy to melt and brown the toppings (cheese, pepperoni, veggies) using your handy-dandy broiler.
  • Top an oven-safe bowl of soup with a round of French bread and oodles of cheese. Five minutes later, you have your own version of “French Onion Soup,” complete with cheesy crusty bits for nibbling. Mmm!

Image sourced from simplyrecipes.com. You, too, could have soup that looks this delicious. Nom nom nom.

  • Toast nuts or seeds for a few minutes (1-3 is probably best, and watch them carefully to make sure nothing burns) to bring out their essential oils and deepen their flavors.
  • Restore semi-stale cereal by spreading cereal grains into a single layer on a baking sheet, and broil for about a minute. The moisture will leech out of the grains (which caused them to go stale in the first place), leaving you with fresh cereal. Watch this one carefully to avoid accidental crispiness.

Here’s a recipe I whipped up recently from that mistress of all things fun and friendly in the kitchen, Rachael Ray. This dish uses cod, a basic white fish, but you can easily swap it out for haddock or tilapia. I’ve modified the directions slightly, but the essence, ingredients and method are the same. *Note*: If you’d like to reduce this recipe to a serving for one, use 2-4 slices of eggplant, a handful of cherry tomatoes, and a single-serving fish fillet (pre-packaged, or ask the fishmonger at your grocery store for help.) Happy broiling!

Why yes, dinner can always be this pretty.

Broiled Cod with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Basil – serves 4-6

You’ll need:

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 eggplant, trimmed (ends cut off) and sliced into ½ inch thick slices (peeling optional)
  • ¾ lb skinless cod fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup shredded fresh basil, or 2-3 tsp dried basil

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the broiler. In a skillet, heat 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden – watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a small bowl. Add the tomatoes to the pan, cooking on one side for 5 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or so.
  • Line a cookie sheet or baking sheet with foil. Transfer eggplant to prepared sheet in a single layer. Drizzle and brush with remaining olive oil, and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Broil, flipping once, until tender and brown (about 8-10 minutes).
  • On the baking sheet, spoon your tomatoes on top of eggplant slices. Place cod chunks on top of the mixture. Broil until the fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter; top with freshly chopped basil and precooked garlic, and serve.

Do you guys use your broilers much? Or are you more likely to be toaster oven and microwave people? Do you like cod, haddock, or other fish?

Healthyish Morning Muffins

23 Aug

I shall call thee … STUDMUFFIN. Clearly, breakfast should be sexy. Duh.

Quick: What’d you have for breakfast this morning? If you can’t remember, that probably means one of three things:

  1. After noshing on your tasty breakfast, you were abducted by aliens, and Will Smith has already wiped out your brain with that white-laser-thingy.
  2. You didn’t eat breakfast – like the History Teacher tends not to do, tsk tsk! – and were too busy being in the opposite state of a diabetic coma all day to remember, well, anything
  3. Your breakfast was probably really, really lame. Or, at least, kind of forgettable, which is just as tragic.

We’ve played around with breakfast ideas before here at GKG, and while I love me some quinoa oatmeal and basic banana muffins as much as the next not-vegan-or-vegetarian-but-still-into-health-food person, it’s time to branch out into the wide world of Health Food. Based on Better Homes & Gardens’ master banana bread recipe (which I’ve virtually memorized by now … signs I could never go low-carb? Um, yes.), these muffins are packed with extra nutritional surprises – nuts, raisins, wheat flour, and even flax seed*. Depending on how fully you pack your muffin tins, this recipe will make 14-18 muffins. Enjoy!

*Flaxseed – ground into meal for this recipe by the lovely folks at Bob’s Red Mill – has loads of health benefits. They contain excellent doses of fiber, lignans (fancy term for a type of antioxidant) and omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re not sure how you feel about flaxseed, try this recipe; you’ll barely taste that nutty flavor. If you’re feeling daring, sprinkle a tablespoon onto your morning bowl of cereal (like I do), and see how you like it.

Here’s what the package looks like, if you get lost in a health food store and find yourself in a forest of alfalfa sprouts and tempeh.

Healthyish Morning Muffins, adapted from Better Homes & Gardens – makes 14-18 muffins

*Note: Extra tips for healthy ingredients are in parentheses.

Image sourced from simplyrecipes.com. Not an exact replica, but yours will look pretty close to these beauties. NOM NOM NOM.

You’ll need:

  • 1 ½ cups white all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed meal (you can skip this if it’s too hard to find)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ cups mashed ripe banana (2-3 bananas)
  • 1 cup sugar (or ½ cup sugar and ½ cup Stevia In The Raw)
  • ½ cup cooking oil / melted butter (or applesauce)
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts or almonds
  • ¼ cup raisins or other dried fruit (cranberries or blueberries are particularly good)

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare muffin tins by spraying with Pam or greasing with oil / butter. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices, and flaxeed meal in a bowl. Leave a small well in the center.
  • In a medium bowl, combine beaten eggs, mashed banana, sugar, and oil / applesauce. Add all at once to flour mixture, stirring until just combined (should still be lumpy). Fold in walnuts and raisins. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins using a ¼ cup measuring cup or a large serving spoon.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the muffins are nicely browned. Cool in muffin tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then, remove muffins and allow them to cool completely on wire rack. Enjoy!

These are delicious when topped with butter or margarine and strawberry or blueberry jam. They’re also delicious if you split and broil them briefly (no more than five minutes), then top with peanut butter for a PB-and-banana kick.

What are your favorite breakfast baked goods? Are you guys muffin people, or are you happy with a classic bagel & shmear? Or is the best breakfast of all a simple, steaming hot bowl of … nothing?

“Food” Shopping: DC’s Hill’s Kitchen

21 Aug

As much as I love me some Target-scoping or Home Goods exploring, big box stores have their limitations. One, they tend to be low on quirks. (Fun fact: small business owners are just quirkier people.) Two, your neighborhood friendly sales rep is just as likely to hate their job (“Angst. Angst. Angst”) as they are to know the answers to your queries. And three, they’re often less aesthetically pleasing. (At least on the outside. Can’t say I envy the look of concrete blocks topped by … concrete blocks.)

Hot stuff right there. Ow-OW.

Which is why, in restaurants and in shopping, my bias is often in favor of the “little guys” – the small businesses, the locally owned joints, the places whose owners could just as easily be your second cousin or high school buddy. When it comes to kitchens, cooking and foodstuffs, these sorts of establishments tend to be fiercely local. Can’t say I mind that.

My favorite kitchen-stuffs establishment (and I say “kitchen-stuffs” specifically – this is a food-free establishment, and I’m only just beginning my tours of DC’s gourmet food shops. Review of the Cowgirl Creamery is pending – a mini-review in two terribly punny words? Holy Cow!) in the District is Hill’s Kitchen. Hill’s Kitchen (heh heh, get it? Love.) is located, not-so-surprisingly, in Capitol Hill. Specifically, it’s just across Pennsylvania from the entrance to Eastern Market, in a strip of D Street shops between 7th and 8th Streets SE. Easily accessible by Metro, Hill’s Kitchen is open Tuesday through Sunday, and their wares have served me well.

“Come on in!” said the cute & gigantic doorway.

My first purchase – after a few scouting trips, during which I spent most of my time drooling over what hey had to offer – was none other than my cast iron skillet. The salesgirl I spoke with was super-knowledgeable about the ins and outs of cast iron, instructing me in how to care for my new friend and season it properly. [She also warned me about its flesh-frying properties, which – in hindsight – I probably should have remembered better!]

Regardless, knowing that the proprietors are affectionately familiar with their wares gives me confidence in buying from them. It’s the opposite of my experience in most big box stores, which – while this frugal gal loves her some chain-store-sized discounts – can sometimes lack a human element. When Target gives you the option of scanning your own merchandise to figure out prices when no red-wearing employees are to be found, I start to feel like our devolution into cyborg-osity is only that much closer.

Or we might all just turn into Bender from “Futurama” in 100 years. Can’t say that’s a bad thing.

My second purchase, then, was a SWEET silicone cover that’s designed for the handle of – you guessed it – my cast iron skillet. In addition to devices that will save me from future scarring, they carry pretty much anything you’d want in your own midgie (or not-so-midgie) kitchie at respectable prices. Highlights include specialty honeys, oils and vinegars; an excellent array of cookbooks; every possible decorating tool for frosting a cake, cupcake or even overly-decked-out-s’more; and a great collection of cute and cheeky tea towels.

Here’s a shot of their wares from a feature on Apartmenttherapy.com. Lots to explore!

Could you find the same item for less on eBay or Amazon, or even in the hallowed fluorescent aisles of Target and Wal-Mart? Maybe, but if you shopped there, could you have a chat with your salesperson about the exciting prospect of taking the store’s own knife skills class? Nope.

Yep, that’s right – on the Hill’s Kitchen web site, they list a number of cooking and kitchen-based classes that you can take right on their property. If you check this page, you’ll see one-session courses in knife skills, farmers’ market-based menus (how fab does THAT sound?), and no-cook pasta sauces. Sounds like they’re right up this girl’s alley.

Here’s a short from one of their classes featured in a recent Washington Post story. Dig in!

So if you find yourself in the vicinity of Eastern Market and are looking for fun shopping diversions, head to D street and poke through Hill’s Kitchen. Who knows – you might find your next big culinary adventure.

Pinterest Challenge: Banana Chips

20 Aug

Alright, my cutie Pinning patooties – it’s time for another Pinterest Challenge! (Thanks again to John & Sherry at Young House Love for inspiring this series of posts – y’all are the best, even if I wish John would write a post about cooking!) After last time’s slightly-dry-but-rather-attractive Cinnamon Braid coffee cake, I thought I’d branch out a bit and try my hand at something I’d never, ever made before. You know, something exotic, like curry. Or Twinkies.

Image sourced from simplymathbakery.com. Yep, people do this. Check out Joy the Baker for an amazing-looking recipe.

And what did I find? Homemade banana chips. Here’s the original pin, posted by a high school friend of mine from an original Nuts.com image.

How good do those look?

I know, I know – “But Galley Kitchen Gal. Why bother spending potential hours of your life concocting something that you can buy in a gas station convenience store for, like, 99 cents? Isn’t there some quote from Thoreau about the value of your time and what you spend it doing? I bet he never tried to dry bananas in his cabin in the woods. Plus, dried mangoes are WAY better.”

Or maybe that’s just my internal monologue. Eh, at least she’s well-read.

Anyhoo; the little buggers just looked so darn tasty, I had to give ‘em a try.

The directions, according to the pin’s description, are pretty simple:

  • Slice a banana.

  • Dip each slice into lemon juice.
  • Spray a cookie sheet, and lay out the banana slices.

  • Bake for 2 hours at 200 degrees; then, flip the slices and bake another 1.5-2 hours.
  • Allow the chips to cool and harden; then, nosh upon their tropical goodness.

Sounds easy enough, right? After following the recipe (almost) to a T, here was my end result:

Here, chippy chippy chippy

My verdict? 2.5 out of 5 Pinterest Ps.

Check out those sick MS Paint skills. Boomskies.

Why? First – and perhaps I simply cut some too-skinny slices – the chips were a little too thin, resulting in them almost over-browning during the second half of the cooking process. Secondly, they still were a bit too chewy, even after cooling completely. It felt a bit like I was chewing some strange banana-flavored caramel, which – while tasty-ish – didn’t seem like the original objective. However, I also overzealously sprayed my cookie sheet with Pam (as my little sister would say, “Um, aggressive…”), so that could just be the cooking spray talking. Er, tasting?

Here, you can see their slightly … space-dried nature.

If I made ‘em again, I’d change the following things:

  1. Cut the slices a bit thicker; maybe ¼ an inch?
  2. VERY lightly spray the pan
  3. Make sure my oven rack is centered; I placed the baking sheet on a lower rack, and that could have influenced how they turned out.

Oh well. Off to keep pinning and patrolling the Interwebs for pretty images with matching recipes. What Pinterest successes (or miserable failures) have you all experienced lately? Any fun new pins to share?

If you’d like to follow my Pinterest food board, “Nosh,” there’s a link on the sidebar that you can click. Check it out!

From the History Teacher: Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Mom’s Cole Slaw

17 Aug

A treat for you today, my friends! The History Teacher himself is our guest blogger today. After harassing daily with the promise of lots of baked desserts as a thank you politely asking him to share his cookery knowledge, this BBQ aficionado (seriously — ask the man about barbecue sauce) agreed to share one of his best recipes. These pulled pork sandwiches (complete with a topping of light & creamy homemade cole slaw) are to-DIE-for. They do, however, require a slow-cooker or Crock Pot. Feel free to comment with questions about other equipment if you don’t have one — I’m sure he’d be happy to answer your queries. Enjoy!

Hello Galley Kitchen Gal readers,

This is the History Teacher, on special assignment and invitation from your regularly-scheduled host.  The GKG has invited me to guest-post a couple of times on a few of my own recipes.  Today’s is a personal favorite, and one that you can easily adjust to your own tastes.  I spent four years of college in the spectacular city of Richmond, VA – and there was exposed to some great southern cooking – not the least of which was Virginian-style (an easy-to-make and comparable-to style similar to Carolina-style) barbeque.

Image sourced from merchanttribe.com. RVA itself, complete with Class 4 rapids in the James River.

This is a two-part recipe: pulled pork barbeque sandwiches and coleslaw.  This was a staple at the college dining hall, local sporting events and local BBQ joints, and a homemade favorite of mine.  Most of the work should be done the night before eating and in a slow-cooker or crock-pot.

Image sourced from partyrentalcity.com. While no photograph proof of the History Teacher’s sandwiches exists, this is pretty darn close to the real thing. Except, y’know, 2-dimensional. And odorless.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Hamburger buns
  • Approximately 4 lb. pork butt or loin roast (or any boneless pork roast)
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 can beef or chicken broth
  • A bottle of your favorite barbeque sauce (I like Buz and Ned’s, Sweet Baby Rays, Sticky Fingers Carolina Sweet, Memphis Original, or Tennessee Whiskey, or Famous Dave’s Rich and Sassy, Sweet and Zesty, Apricot Bourbon, or Rich and Tangy sauces)

Image sourced from eBay.com. The GKG also likes Carolina Classic, but mustard-based sauces aren’t everyone’s favorite. Go for whatever tickles your taste buds.

Dry Rub Ingredients (adjust quantities to your personal taste):

  • 3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. liquid smoke (if available – not necessary
  • ½  tsp. crushed or ground pepper
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Dash of salt and pepper

 DIRECTIONS:

Combine all dry rub ingredients in a bowl to your taste.  (I like it a bit sweeter – if you don’t, cut some brown sugar.  If you like it spicy, add more red pepper.  If you like it with other flavors, add those spices to your preference.  If you don’t like a rub ingredient listed, cut it – it’s entirely your call.)  Rub those spices onto (and into) the pork roast and cover with a couple dashes of the vinegar.  Allow these to soak into the pork overnight.  Remove from the refrigerator and place in the crock-pot with the side(s) with the most fat down.  Add the diced onion, garlic, and broth gently to the pork (so as to not remove the spice rub) and cook in the slow-cooker or crock-pot on low for 8-10 hours. 

Image sourced from mccormick.com. And from the humble cabbage rose … SLAW. Mmm.

Cole Slaw Ingredients (adjust to your personal taste):

  • 1 (14-16 oz.) bag coleslaw mix
  • ½ to 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. Parsley flakes
  • 1-2 Tbsp. sugar (to taste)
  • 1 tsp. (White or Apple cider) Vinegar
  • Dash onion powder
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Salad oil (thick, but so sugar dissolves)
  • ½ tsp. Celery seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste

COLE SLAW DIRECTIONS:

Mix all ingredients except bagged cole slaw mix.  Adjust to your own personal taste.  (I like it a bit sweeter, so I use the full amount of sugar.  Feel free to go with a bit less, or adjust other spices as are your preferences.)  Add this dressing to the bagged cole slaw and mix.  The combined mix and dressing should feel a little dry.  Leave in the refrigerator to cool overnight.  During this time, the vinegar should draw moisture out of the vegetables in the mix, making the cole slaw creamier and more moist.  If it isn’t moist enough for you, feel free to add more dressing if you want.

 

SERVING INSTRUCTIONS:

After cooking the pork, drain the juices and reserve the liquid in a bowl [to add back to the pork later].  Pull the pork from the slow-cooker or crock-pot, and pull apart into shreds with forks until separate.

Image sourced from cityinajar.com. Shredding pork — an easy task after it’s been cooking for a while.

Then, add the pork back to the slow-cooker or crock-pot with onion/garlic-y bits.  Add some juice combined with barbeque sauce to the pork mixture to make it moist, and toss this mixture until the pork is thoroughly covered with barbeque sauce.  Keep the mixture in the slow-cooker or crock-pot on Warm until the mixture is warmed through, or store to enjoy later.

Add cole slaw (or more barbeque sauce if you want) on top of pulled pork in a hamburger bun and dig in.  For a complete DMV treat, add french fries topped with Old Bay and enjoy!

 

I hope y’all enjoy this one as much as I did on my way between classes at the University of Richmond (go Spiders!), at college football and basketball games, weekends with friends, and since then for weekend BBQs and in DC.  Cheers, Sláinte, and God bless!

-the History Teacher
Stay tuned for future posts from the History Teacher — the BBQ master will be back, no doubt. Are you guys fans of pulled pork? How about pulled chicken? Or, heck, pulled taffy? 🙂 Happy eating!

Summer Spaghetti with Sauteed Yellow Squash

16 Aug

In the spirit of Julia Child’s birthday week, here’s one of my favorite quotes from America’s “Lady of the Ladle” on approaching the stove (and the recipe book, and the kitchen table) with an open heart and soul: “Cooking is like love – it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.” Amen! (For more fun quotes, check out this post from HuffPost Food. Delightful.) Here’s a fun pair of summertime recipes in the name of that grande dame, slightly inspired by the Mediterranean region of her beloved Provençal home, La Pitchoune.

La Pitchoune itself, on a corner of Simone Beck’s property in France. Le sigh.

Sometimes, when it’s steamy and sticky outside — as ALWAYS in lovely, humid DC — and the allure of a hot stove is virtually nonexistent, you don’t want to cook a thing when dinnertime comes around. But peanut butter, cereal, or other “instant” meals (ramen, anyone?) can and do seem less than appealing. What’s a budding chef to do? How about summer spaghetti?

The “sauce” for summer spaghetti — fresh, cool, and good.

“As in, spaghetti squash? Uhhh….” you might ask. Nope, nothing of the kind. (Even though spaghetti squash is delicious; check out this lovely entry on Psych in the Kitchen about the wonders of spaghetti squash as a pasta substitute.) Instead, this is a delicious summertime supper that requires very little cooking at all; only the pasta and yellow squash see the heat of a stovetop. Based in part on a recipe from my ingenious and ever-experimental-in-the-kitchen maternal grandmother, summer spaghetti is a simple and downright tasty warm weather entree that’s sure to please, whether you cook up a plate for one or serve it to ten of your hungriest friends.

Summer Spaghetti with Sauteed Yellow Squash — Serves 4, but easily reduced by half (or a serving for one!)

For the Spaghetti, you’ll need:

  • 1 lb spaghetti (you can also use bucatini or linquini; either would be delicious!)
  • 4 large tomatoes, diced (keep seeds and skins). (Heirloom tomatoes are WONDERFUL here, but use whatever looks good to you.)
  • 1/4 cup green olives, chopped (optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried), chopped or cut into a chiffonade (see directions below)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • A dash of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup pasta water
  • Grated Parmesan and Romano cheese, plus fresh herbs for garnishing

For the squash, you’ll need:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Yellow Squash (or 2 Zucchini; they’re interchangeable in this recipe, but both are delicious!)
  • 1/2 white onion, cut into thing slices (think caramelized onions; not rings or chunks)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • chopped fresh parsley and basil for serving

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat a pot of water on the stove, covered, until boiling. Salt the water lightly for added flavor. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add your pasta and cook according to package directions.
  • While the water’s heating, dice your tomatoes and add them to whatever serving bowl you’ll use for your pasta. Add green olives, basil, garlic salt, black pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice to taste, tasting the mixture as you add each ingredient. (See what you like, and adjust seasonings accordingly.)

Clearly, the lemon juice container wanted a glamor shot. Thanks, flash button.

  • Note: To chiffonade your basil, stack the leaves. Roll your stack into a tight bundle. Then, use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to “slice” the bundle, creating little ribbons of basil. (Here’s a helpful Youtube clip if you’re confused.) So easy, and it creates a really pretty effect in your food.

Step one: Stack your leaves.

Step two: roll up the leaves. (And ZOOM WITH YOUR CAMERA!)

Step 3: Snip snip. So posh-looking.

  • While the pasta water’s heating and your pasta’s cooking, refrigerate the no-cook sauce you’ve created. Once the pasta’s finished, drain but DO NOT rinse, saving about 1/4 cup pasta water. Add the pasta to your serving bowl, along with the extra pasta water you’ve saved, mixing thoroughly. The warm pasta will instantly “cook” your sauce — Mmm! Add cheeses and extra herbs for garnishing as desired. Nom nom nom.
  • For the squash, slice the squash into 1/4 inch thick rounds. If the squash is wider at one end, simply cut those squash rounds in half, creating half-moons. Sprinkle with seasoning (salt and pepper) on the cutting board.

Getting artsy with the vegetables.

  • Heat the 1 tbsp olive oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. The onions should brown slightly, rather that “sweat” (i.e. get soft without browning.). Add the seasoned squash rounds and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring every minute or so with a wooden spoon or spatula, until squash rounds are soft and golden brown. Top with fresh herbs & a squeeze of lemon juice, and serve.

Enjoy! I’ll close with one more Julia quote, because she’s just that wonderful: “The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon Appetit.” Happy Birthday week, Julia. You were the best, ever.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Julia’s Mushrooms

14 Aug

Happy Official Birthday, Julia! Here’s a beautiful tribute to la grande dame de cuisine herself, written by Marlo Thomas on HuffPo.

For those who’ve seen “Julie and Julia,” you might remember one of Julie Powell’s (er, Amy Adams’) early revelations from “Madame Scheeld” – don’t crowd the mushrooms! What does this semi-cryptic warning mean? (Given that it sounds like advice for when the shrooms were angsty middle schoolers – if you crowd ‘em, they get rebellious and cranky, apparently.)

Julie Powell (Amy Adams), NOT crowding her mushrooms.

Julia’s revelation was simple: When you sauté or cook your mushrooms and crowd too many of them in a pan, they’ll release their liquid and end up steaming each other, rather than browning. And brown, caramelized mushrooms are your goal, rather than “sweaty” mushrooms that haven’t had the chance to fully develop their flavors.

Determined to follow suit, I whipped up this recipe for Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Julia’s Mushrooms. The History Teacher and I noshed upon its tastiness to great effect, heartily drinking our beers alongside the dish as, I imagine, Julia and Paul enjoyed their French wines with gusto in their days in la belle France. For those of us who attempt to cook somewhat “healthily,” the butter content might stop your heart altogether. However! As Julia would say, never apologize – and never compromise with what she called “that other spread,” the infernal margarine. Bon appetit!

Julia at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, with her beloved teacher, Chef Brugnard.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Julia’s Mushrooms – serves two

For the chicken breasts, you’ll need:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • A dash of poultry seasoning
  • Salt & pepper to season
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For Julia’s Mushrooms

, you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ lbs mushrooms, wash, dried and sliced. (Use basic button mushrooms)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Parsley to serve

Here’s what you do:

  • Pound the chicken breasts until they are about ½ and inch thick; to easily do this, cover both the top and bottom of each breast with plastic wrap or a paper towel. Then, use a heavy, wieldable object (an actual meat tenderizer works perfectly, but I used the bottom of a heavy jar. Be resourceful!) to pound the breast meat until it’s at the right thickness.
  • In a wide, flat bowl, combine the flour, poultry seasoning, salt & pepper; dredge the chicken breasts lightly in the flour mixture on both sides.
  • In a 10-inch flat skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat (about a 6 on your stove dial). When the oil is hot (sprinkle water droplets into the oil – if they hiss and steam up immediately, you’re ready), add the chicken breasts. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and cooked through. Set aside on a plate, lightly covered in foil.
  • Add the butter and olive oil to the pan, raising the heat to high. When the butter’s foam subsides, add the mushrooms and toss occasionally, cooking for 4-5 minutes. They will absorb the fat, then begin “squeaking” as the water (well, steam) escapes them. They’ll brown quickly at this point, so only cook them for 1-3 minutes longer, or until well-browned.
  • On a serving plate, first place your chicken breasts. Top with Julia’s mushrooms; then, sprinkle salt, pepper and dried or fresh (chopped) parsley on top.

Bon appetit! And happy birthday to an American legend.

Happy 100th, Julia Child!

13 Aug

Bon Appetit!

Julia Child, circa the 1960s.

This week — specifically August 15th, Wednesday — would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. Huzzah! In this post-“Julie and Julia” world, it seems that everyone and their mom is at least vaguely familiar with the woman behind “The French Chef,” America’s introduction to French cooking, fine food, and the joy of what Julia called “cookery” in the kitchen. This author, television host, world traveler, former OSS-operative (no, seriously) and beloved wife of Paul and friend to millions of fans worldwide is my culinary hero, and deserves a heckuva celebration for her illustrious centennial.

Happy Birthday, “Madame Scheeld!” (As the French called her.)

Julia was, more than anyone else in her time, a hero to us “budding chefs.” She herself — as detailed in her lovely memoir with Alex Prud’homme, “My Life in France” (currently residing on my Kindle) — was a budding chef during her early days in Paris with Paul, between 1948 and 1953. Determined to explore something new, frightening and altogether invigorating, Julia took to the stove, table and countertop, taking classes at Paris’ famed Le Cordon Bleu. Eventually learning enough to write her famed tome “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” with friends Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, Julia became a household name by teaching home chefs that they, too, can rise above the drudgery of microwaved this and store-bought that. Give it a try. Make it yourself. Don’t be afraid. You’ve got guts — you can do it!

So adorable. And so brave! Even with knives and chickens, bravery is a much-lauded trait.

My favorite piece of advice in “My Life in France” is when she reminds us, as chefs, to “Never Apologize.” Here’s a passage from pg. 90 of the book that, I think, illustrates this perfectly:

“I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as ‘Oh I don’t know how to cook…,’ or ‘Poor little me…,’ or ‘This may taste awful…,’ it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-proclaimed shortcomings), and make the other person think, ‘Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!’ Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed — eh bien, tant pis [oh well, too bad]! Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile … then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes.”

Take chances! Make mistakes!

How can YOU celebrate Julia’s 100th birthday this week? Try any of these fun ideas, my little budding chefs. I’ll be running a few features all week in celebration of Julia, including, perhaps, some French cookery of my own.

  • Watch “Julie and Julia,” and — inspired by Julie Powell’s quest to cook her way through “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” — whip up some boeuf bourguignon yourself!
  • Find clips of “The French Chef” on Youtube — or even just Dan Ackroyd’s hilarious parody of Julia’s cute, lilting accent and eccentric ways. The internet is a magical place, friends, where you can find pretty much anything.
  • Visit the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History (or just their web site), which is spearheading their own 100th Birthday Celebration. They formerly — and, I believe, soon-to-be permanently — housed Julia’s Cambridge, MA kitchen. I saw it in 2010, and while I didn’t leave a stick of butter behind like Julie Powell, I did my best to pay tribute to this American treasure by snapping photos like a madwoman.

From my 2010 visit — it’s back for a limited time, starting this Wednesday!

  • Try something NEW, make it for someone you love — or yourslef! — and even if it turns out to be a hot, steaming plate of holy crapola, tant pis! Never apologize!
  • Shop at a farmer’s market or outdoor market. Talk to your vendors. Get to know them and their produce. Build relationships — Julia’s biggest tip for successful food shopping is, as she called it in French, les human relations — with camaraderie and respect. See what looks good, experiment, and go for it!

Bon appetit, indeed.