Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chicken Fajitas

I had all the intentions of making some classic steak fajitas. Bell peppers were on sale at Winn-Dixie, I was going to be in the area of Mi Pueblo, so I could pick up some flank or skirt steak for CHEAP, and I had some tortillas I needed to use up. 

Instead, after a hectic day where numerous plans changed, I never got to the store, had nothing thawed out for dinner, and was STARVING to boot. After a quick glance through the kitchen, I realized that I could make CHICKEN fajitas, since I already had peppers and tortillas, and had just bought a package of chicken tenderloin strips as well. 

This version of chicken fajitas is PERFECT if you don't want to grill the chicken in the traditional method, either on a grill or on the stovetop. Simply toss everything together with a simple seasoning mix, bake it in the oven, and that's it! It's incredibly easy, delicious, and affordable to prepare! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Broccoli Mac & Cheese

Macaroni & cheese is a classic, comforting side dish. Whether it's bakedsaucy or full of bacon and ranch goodness, it's pretty hard to beat that winning combination of pasta and cheese. I love mac & cheese, but I refuse to buy "the blue box" whenever the craving hits. 

As delicious as mac & cheese is, it isn't the healthiest dish. So, this version incorporates some broccoli, which adds fiber and makes this dish ALMOST like a casserole. In the time it takes to boil the noodles and broccoli, you'll make a quick roux and creamy béchamel/Mornay sauce (Béchamel = a roux of flour and butter cooked in milk, Mornay = béchamel but with cheese). Sounds fancy, but it's super easy - just watch your heat and stir frequently - I use a flat whisk!

This mac & cheese is light and creamy, not heavy and cheesy. Feel free to eat it on it's own (just skip the baking part), or baked with a crusty bread crumb topping - also, feel free to double this recipe if necessary. I only wanted to make enough for a few side dish servings, so I halved the original recipe. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Snow Crab Legs

Recently, I scored some AWESOME snow crab legs on sale at Winn-Dixie for a whopping $5.99 per pound. This is an INCREDIBLY good deal, considering we pay market price ($18 per pound) for snow crab legs at our favorite Cajun restaurant, Crazy Cajun's Boiling Pot

Snow crab is pretty much always sold frozen, unless you live somewhere like Alaska. The crab is cooked, then flash-frozen, so all you have to do is reheat it. Luckily, it's SUPER easy to cook snow crab - you don't even have to thaw them!

You can actually cook snow crab MANY different ways - you can boil them, steam them, bake them or even microwave them!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Korean Pickled Jalapenos

If you're a regular reader, you know already about my insatiable love for Korean food. It's an ironic love, since I've never really been a fan of spicy food before, but there's something about Korean food that just WORKS. Maybe it's the spiciness combined with the heavy doses of garlic and sweetness that Korean food is known for. 

Obviously I love Korean food enough that I devoted an entire week to banchan (side dishes) alone. From shigemchi muchimkkakdugi, and sukju namul muchim, to pyogo bohsotkong jjang and pajeon, I love it ALL. And, who could forget about kimchi? Whether fermented in the traditional way or made quickly overnight, the heat and flavor are a perfect combination.

Most Korean side dishes are vegetarian, and easily made vegan, which gives a LOT of options to folks who decline to eat meat or animal products. This recipe, for a pickled jalapeno pepper, is no different. The recipe itself is vegetarian, but a simple substitution of tamari for soy sauce makes this recipe vegan. I cannot vouch for Sprite or 7Up, but *can* let you know that Sierra Mist is all-natural AND vegan-friendly. 

These peppers are ADDICTIVE. They're sweet, but also salty, with all of the spiciness expected from jalapenos. They aren't just for eating alone or atop a bowl of steaming rice - try these atop any noodle dish, in sandwiches, or even with BBQ. They key is patience - you really DO want to give these guys a few days to pickle and REALLY develop those flavors. The heat of the jalapenoes will mellow out, and all of the great Asian flavors will combine beautifully. 

My favorite use of these peppers? As a pizza topping! 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Beanee Weenee

Oh, Beanee Weenee. Every kid I know remembers growing up with these, whether they were served at home, or in the cafeteria at school. Those sweet and smoky beans, that brown gravy, and the little cut-up hot dogs? Takes me back, man. I know it's nothing special, just beans and franks ("How'd you get the beans above the frank?"), but OH THE NOSTALGIC FEELS. 

I had a "trashy foods" craving a few weeks ago, and, in the middle of Winn-Dixie, decided to buy a can of both Beanee Weenee and Spaghetti-O's. SO MUCH DISAPPOINT. The Spaghetti-Os, previously owned by Franco-American and bought out by Campbell's, were AWFUL. The "sauce" was runny, tinny and had a distinctly chemical flavor. The meatballs were chewy and gristly and just all-around horrible. These were NOT the Spaghetti-Os of my childhood. The Beanee Weenee, though? Not bad at all. A little sweeter than I remember, and the can sure was tiny, but still every bit as good as I remember. And DEFINITELY better than those infernal Spaghetti-NOs (typo and it stays). 

Of course, somehow I felt a little trashy actually BUYING the Beanee Weenee, especially being a grown-ass adult with no child in the shopping cart. So, I decided to try my hand and making my own. After consulting a few online recipes and going through some trial and error, I came up with a homemade version. It does take a LITTLE longer to prepare then the canned version, but not MUCH longer! Plus, the taste is worth it!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hambaagu ハンバーグ (Japanese "Hamburgers")

In Japanese cuisine, most meals fall into one of two primary categories - washoku (和食), and yōshoku (洋食), which literally translates into "traditional food" and "western food". 

Yōshoku dishes include tonkatsukorokke, and curry rice, all popular in Japan, ESPECIALLY in bento box lunches. One of THE most well-loved yōshoku dishes of all is the "hambaagu", which is the Japanese version of the ever-popular hamburger. 

Unlike the traditional hamburger, though, the hambaagu is served without a bun, and is ALMOST like a meatloaf or Salisbury steak. The "patties" are thick, cooked in a rich sauce, usually a Tonkatsu sauce mixture, and served alongside Japanese sticky rice and maybe some shredded cabbage or kofukiimo (こふきいも), salty/sweet boiled potatoes.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Kofukiimo (こふきいも), Japanese Salty-Sweet Potatoes

This is one of THE easiest recipes ever - it's a different (and delicious!) way to prepare potatoes instead of the same old mashed or roasted potatoes. Best of all, it's super quick and easy! The soy sauce lends saltiness, the sugar a bit of sweetness, and the butter brings everything together wonderfully, giving the potatoes a perfect texture. 

I like to make these as a side dish with "American" meals like meatloaf, or Japanese yōshoku meals like korokke or tonkatsu. Try them with your next "meat & potatoes" meal! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ginger Scallion Noodles (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Though I'm a Southern girl, I'm still Asian as well. So, I don't always crave things like country-fried steak or cornbread when I'm wanting comfort food. Sometimes I just want a big steaming bowl of Japanese sticky rice, sometimes topped with furikake or served with a few slices of takuan. Most often, though, I'll crave noodles. Thick, chewy udon noodles, cool & refreshing zaru-soba, or pan-fried yakisoba, sometimes with little cut up hot dogs in it. 

Now, though, I crave ginger-scallion noodles. They're a bit spicy and FULL of flavor, and, best of all, REALLY easy to make.

This dish is a quick and easy way to give in to my occasional noodle cravings. Usually I use Chinese chukamen noodles, but you can also use a brick or two of instant ramen (yes, the 10/$1 kind). Just toss out the seasoning packet, since the seasoning you'll be making is FAR better (and much less salty)!

This recipe is completely vegetarian, and easily made vegan - I've made notes where applicable in the ingredient list. Full of bold, exotic flavors, this dish comes together in a few minutes, with minimal amount of work, and is definitely satisfying. However, these aren't meant to be a dead ringer for David Chang's immensely popular Momofuku Ginger Scallion Noodles, but they're still incredibly tasty!

Feel free to top the noodles with some cooked meat (leftover chicken, steak or pork roast works great) or tofu for a more substantial meal. Perfect with a little side dish of quick kimchi

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Black & White Cupcakes

Cupcakes were THE "It Food" a few years ago. They were basically the "new" bacon, only to now be replaced by food truck fare as the hip new scene in food. You couldn't flip through the channels without finding a show all about cupcakes; reality shows featuring cupcake-baking competitions, travel-esque shows letting us all know where to get THE best cupcakes, basically, every cupcake-based show possible without actually showing us HOW to make cupcakes...

Since, you know, neither Food Network nor Cooking Channel actually feature many shows that actually TEACH us how to cook anything...

Anyway, I have been SO burnt-out on cupcakes. Or so I thought until Hostess went under, taking their delicious chocolate cupcakes (you know, the ones with that little squiggle of white icing on top) with them. But, I stumbled across this recipe, from none other than the illustrious testicle-aficionado Andrew Zimmern, who I greatly admire and respect. 

This recipe is pretty simple. Even if you aren't a "baker", this are incredibly easy and quick to prepare. No ridiculous icing, piped in that perfect cartoon dog-poop fashion, no crazy offbeat ingredients, and no pretentiousness whatsoever. Just a chocolately, fudgy cupcake, filled with a simple sweetened cream cheese mixture. The inside is moist and cakey, while the top has that *slight* bit of muffiny crunch. I think these will make the PERFECT Valentine's Day treat!

Zesty Italian Dressing Mix

Recently, I posted my recipe for homemade Ranch dressing mix, and was asked if I had a recipe for Italian dressing mix, specifically the kind made by Good Seasons. Both these dressing mixes are an integral part of my favorite pot roast recipe, so I knew I needed to post this one! 

As with the Ranch mix, making this dry seasoning myself saves me a TON of money, plus I can have fresh Italian dressing for my salads whenever I want! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quick Kimchi (Vegetarian/Vegan)

One of my absolute favorite cookbooks is Jaden Hair's "Steamy Kitchen Cookbook". I've made numerous recipes from this book, as well as Jaden's great website, Steamy Kitchen. When I found out she had a new cookbook releasing, I immediately went to Amazon and bought it. 

One great recipe from this new cookbook is for a quick kimchi. Instead of fermenting for days on end like my traditional baechu kimchi, this kimchi is ready to eat in under a day. Bonus - it won't smell strong (since it isn't fermented), which is great if you share a fridge or home with someone who isn't as fond of kimchi. Jen Yu of Use Real Butter shared this recipe, and it's one of MANY great recipes in the book.

I still love my traditional kimchi, since the flavors are stronger and more developed thanks to the fermentation process, but I LOVE that this quick recipe can give me that kimchi "fix" when needed, and without all of the "olfactory assault". I was able to put everything together one night in only a few minutes, and enjoy kimchi the very next day! 

In addition, much like my recipe, this version doesn't contain any fish sauce, so it's completely vegetarian/vegan! Feel free to adjust the amount of garlic & sambal oelek according to how pungent/spicy you like your kimchi! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chocolate Mochi Cake (Gluten-Free!)

Spending summers in Japan while growing up, I would eat mochi after mochi after mochi. I didn't care if they were sweetened or plain; I loved the gooey, sticky texture SO much. Even now, as an adult, as summer approaches, I always have to make myself some kuzumochi

As I've mentioned before, mochi are Japanese rice cakes, traditionally made from pounding glutinous (sticky) Japanese rice into a cake. Nowadays, most people make mochi by simply mixing sweet rice flour with water. This sweet rice flour, known as "Mochiko", is glutinous, but is gluten-free. In fact, rice flour is often used as a substitute for wheat flour (which, of course, DOES contain gluten). 

Confusing, huh?

Rice flour is also often used as a thickening agent as well. Nowadays, rice flour is used in place of wheat flour in cakes, known as mochi cakes, which have a dense, chewy texture, much like a fudgy brownie. In addition to the awesome texture, mochi cakes are REALLY easy to prepare. This recipe, for a chocolate mochi cake, is like a brownie elevated to a whole new level. No frosting whatsoever is needed, and it comes together in minutes!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Patty Melt Sandwiches

For YEARS, I ate at Waffle House and NEVER strayed from the breakfast menu. I'd always get a sausage, egg & cheese sandwich, with a side of hash browns or, occasionally, a pecan waffle. Finally, I decided to branch out a little bit, and, not wanting a burger, but still feeling "sandwich-y", opted on "Lib's Patty Melt". It was simple and delicious; a griddle-cooked hamburger patty, served on white toast and sandwiched between melty, gooey cheese and a healthy scoop of caramelized onions. It's now known as the "Texas Angus Patty Melt" and is served on Texas Toast, and with Angus beef. Steak 'N Shake has a pretty damn fine patty melt as well, too. 

Traditionally, a patty melt is served on rye bread, though sourdough is pretty common as well. The cheese is usually Swiss cheese, and the caramelized onions are a MUST. The entire sandwich is then grilled in butter, making the patty melt basically a hamburger/grilled cheese hybrid. 

If you don't like rye bread, feel free to use sourdough. The key is to use a chewy and dense bread, and white rye fits that bill perfectly. The Swiss cheese has a great mild flavor, but adding American cheese seriously turns up the melty factor. For the onions, anything will do (well, except red onions), but I like to go with a sweet yellow onion, or, occasionally, the classic Southern Vidalia. Most importantly, the meat needs to have a good amount of fat, since fat equals flavor. Ground chuck works GREAT - it's very reasonably priced and has a great fat percentage without being TOO fatty, which allows for a great crusty sear without shrinking up too much. 

One of the secrets to this sandwich? Cooking the onions AFTER you cook the patties; the onions will absorb all of the great pan flavors from the beef, and will cook MUCH more quickly as well. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hot Corn Dip

Well, another Super Bowl is now behind us. The game ended up being a nailbiter (power outage and all), the halftime show was as expected (seriously, we all KNEW there would be a Destiny's Child reunion), and the commercials were a total disappointment. Thank goodness I had some great snacks, though! 

I first saw this recipe on some TV show a while back. I was flipping channels, recognized Trisha Yearwood (aka Mrs. Garth Brooks), and watched the last few minutes of her segment. She was talking about her new cookbook, and this was the recipe featured. 

I'm not a huge fan of country music (I LOVE the old stuff, though!), but now I'm definitely a fan of Trisha's cooking. I didn't have her cookbook, but then learned that she had a show on Food Network called Trisha's Southern Kitchen, which also featured her hot corn dip. Now, her recipe is intended to feed a crowd of 12 people, so I elected to halve the recipe. Honestly, I kind of wish I hadn't halved the recipe, solely because I easily could have eaten more dip. It's THAT good.

Y'all. Y'ALL. This may be one of the most insanely tasty dips I've ever had in my life. It's stupidly simply, ugly to look at, and absurdly delicious. Out of all of the ridiculous dips I've made over the years (and I have made quite a few), this one might just be the best.

It doesn't even make sense. CORN? With CHEESE? But it works. OH MAN DOES IT WORK. Also, since this is a totally meatless dish (you won't miss the meat, I promise!), it's perfect for vegetarians. Not only is this dip super easy to make (can you dump a bunch of stuff in a pan and toss it in the oven?). but it's CHEAP, too. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Loaded Baked Potato Dip

Who DOESN'T love loaded baked potatoes? They're honestly one of the BEST things about eating at a steakhouse (besides a good steak, obviously), and so well-loved that we even have SOUPS based on them. 

Really, though, loaded baked potatoes are a diet killer. Tons of high-GI carbs and starch, not to mention all of those toppings! The toppings are honestly the best part, though - the spud is really just a vehicle for all of that goodness, right? 

This dip takes the best part of a loaded baked potato, and makes it easy to enjoy. There are no potatoes at all in this (that's what the chips are for!), and this recipe is incredibly quick and easy. You can even use pre-cooked bacon (I don't, though) and bagged shredded cheese if you need to save even more time.