Refresh Yourself and Your Side Dish

Vegetables can be boring. Especially raw vegetables.

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We all should eat more, so here is a recipe to help with that. This single serving recipe is perfect for a snack or a side dish. Pair it with grilled chicken and you have a tasty light lunch. I use cucumbers and onions in mine, but you could easily add your favorites. Tomatoes or peppers would be excellent additions. It makes veggies a little more appealing by adding some extra flavor and cheese. Because everyone loves cheese.

If you say you don’t, I don’t believe you.

Cucumber, Onion and Mozzarella Salad

1/3 cucumber
1/2 small onion
1 Mozzarella String Cheese
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried dill or mint
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut up all of your vegetables and cheese into thin slices. I scoop the seeds out of my cucumber so the salad doesn’t get too watery. Put all of the veggies in a tupperware container or bowl.

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2. Sprinkle the rest of the ingredients over the vegetables and cheese and mix it all around. I put mine in a tupperware container so I could shake it around and save myself dirtying a spoon. Go ahead and let the mixture hang out in the fridge for at least an hour.

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3. Take it out and enjoy! This is also a great recipe for summertime potlucks.

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What am I eating for lunch?

I am so glad you asked!

I’m eating leftovers. Good news is, leftovers don’t have to be lame bits of food that are warmed in the microwave. In fact, leftovers can be super exciting and delicious. Anti-lame.

Grilled Fish Tacos

I’ve been hearing about fish tacos for awhile, but have been afraid of them. They plain ol’ freaked me out. I then realized that my view of tacos was very narrow and I should test it out. I found this great recipe for an easy fish taco on the Cacique Brand website, and happened to have everything for them except for the fancy crema sauce. I think they turned out great without it, so use some sour cream or plain greek yogurt instead.

The tacos had a perfect spice to them then the cool crunchiness of the cabbage hits you and it is perfection. Even my boyfriend said it tasted like it came from a restaurant.

*Hint- make this for company. They will be impressed.

I made a side of Mexican rice because what’s the point of having tacos without rice? I hadn’t actually made Mexican rice before, so I whipped one up.

Mexican Rice

1 cup white rice, dry

1/2 can of diced tomatoes with green chili, drained

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

2 cups chicken broth

This is exactly like making regular plain rice, but you just add some tasty stuff.

1. Add the dry rice, chili powder, cumin, minced garlic, tomatoes and green chili all together and mix it all around.

If you are making it on the stove top cook the rice mixture with a little bit of oil until the spices become fragrant, 2 or 3 minutes. (I made mine in my rice cooker, so I skipped this step and pressed the ‘cook’ button. Also, if you cook rice a lot, invest in a rice cooker. It will change your life forever.)

2. Add your chicken stock, bring to a boil, then down to a simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all of the liquid has been absorbed.

I served this on the side of my tacos with some shredded cabbage and diced tomatoes. I had plenty of cabbage, rice and tomatoes left over, as well as one fish fillet. Anyway…

Back to lunch!

I took all of my ingredients and added mozzarella cheese to the mix. Then I made some rockin’ quesadillas.

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I stuffed my tortillas with the leftover rice, fish, and mozzarella cheese and cooked them on the stove top with a little oil.

I made a slaw out of the leftover cabbage and tomatoes. The dressing for the slaw was a simple vinaigrette of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, cilantro and a little bit of lime juice. It was every bit as good as last night’s supper.

Lesson learned: leftovers lunch is awesome.

Get creative!

 

 

Wabbit Season!

Nearing the end of my third semester, I have made my favorite dish to date.

Rabbit in a rich mustard sauce with potatoes and homemade pasta Alfredo.

You may have noticed that the pasta is black. This is 100% on purpose!

I actually used squid ink mixed in with the dough. The ink stains everything, and wearing a white chef’s coat is very dangerous, but I am very glad that I took the risk. I used such a small amount that it did not affect the taste of the pasta, just made it look really cool. The Alfredo also has sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and basil it. So good!

This was the first time I ever ate rabbit, and I thought it was delicious. It kind of tasted like dark meat chicken. I would eat it again, although I love bunnies a lot. They are so darn cute!

This weekend I will be going on an adventure to Kansas City, Mo, to search for apartments and a restaurant for my externship at the end of the school year! It will be a busy weekend, but one that I am looking forward to. I have one particular place in mind called The Farmhouse. It is in Downtown KC, and uses local ingredients to create inventive menus of American/French cuisine. I was lucky enough to win a $25 gift certificate for being their 3,000th friend on Facebook, so I can afford to try it out!

(p.s. If you did not catch the Looney Tunes reference, I feel sorry for you.)

Riding the fence

I am on the fence about veal.

It was once a cute calf, but now it is Blanquette de veau.

Blanquette de Veau

It is a moral dilemma, much like the killing of the lobster. Cooking veal, something I just had to do.

I fed most of it to our chef.

The escalope was very fun to make, though. The veal was boiled for almost 2 hours, until fork tender. It kept warm in a veal veloute sauce with carrots, pearl onions, and mushrooms. It was served in a puff pastry shell.

Escalope de veau is not as interesting, much like a chicken fried steak, served with potato balls (of course, that is not the Frenchified version of the word). The garnish of lemon, anchovy, parsley and olive is pretty cute though!

Escalope de veau

 

Want to see a fun dish?

Sole de poppiette! Isn’t that little crayfish adorable? Chef made him do that for me. Such a show off.

Poppiette de Sole

Roast.

It’s been very busy in Food Land! Last week was the end of the semester, so it was filled with written tests, presentations and practical exams. The last two dishes I worked on in Foundations 2 was Salade Bretonne and Salade de’ Pinards.

Salade Bretonne

I must admit that Salad Bretonne is not my favorite. It is a cold seafood and white bean salad with shrimp, mussels  navy beans, cauliflower and tomato. It is just a strange combination  The shrimp were mighty delicious, however.

Salade de’ Pinards

Salade de’ Pinards may not sound appetizing, but it is mouthwatering. Poached egg, bacon, croutons and – chicken livers!

I know, I know. Chicken livers. No one seems to like livers mostly because of their rubbery texture after being cooked for too long. For this salad the livers cook for 3 minutes, 4 minutes tops, and the livers were nice and juicy and soft. Not rubbery in the slightest.

This week is a whole new ball game and we are making entire menus instead of individual dishes. Yesterday we made Roast Chicken with jus, grandmere garniture ( which is bacon, mushrooms, pearl onions and potatoes- super yum!), and mashed potatoes.

Now, I’ve been lucky in the kitchen so far, no major catastrophes and those that could have been, were narrowly avoided.

Yesterday was not the case.

The roast chicken begins in a hot hot oven to brown the skin. A classmate and I were sharing an oven, which we had preheated, and after checking on our chicken a couple of times we realized our chicken was doing absolutely nothing. Slightly annoyed, we moved them to another oven. Finally, the chicken was browning a little bit, but still not to the degree it should have been. We called our chef over and again, he told us the stove appeared to be broken. At this point we had wasted 30 minutes due to oven hopping so we were both getting flustered. Luckily, we found an empty oven that was piping hot and both of our chickens turned out beautifully. Unfortunately, some crazy woman took all of my chicken and ate 1/2 of my plate before I got to take a picture!

That crazy lady may have been me.

Moral of the story: always check your oven. Then, check it twice.

And to be safe, check it a third time. For your own sanity.

Enjoy your beautiful Fall week everyone!

Eat More Potatoes

Pommes Duchess

Happy Potato Day!

It may not be a national holiday, but it certainly was at school today. We made potatoes in five different ways. All delicious, but the best had to be the mashed potatoes or Pommes Puree. Mashed potatoes are mouth watering to begin with but once you add a few ounces of butter and almost 2 cups of cream, they becoming irresistible. That may be why I ate almost the entire pan by myself during class.

It was my most favorite breakfast yet!

Yours Truly and Pommes Frites

The Pommes Frites (french fries) were not bad either.

Pommes Duchess

The Pommes Duchess had to be the most beautiful out of all the dishes. Creamy mashed potatoes piped out and glazed with an eggwash, and then baked in an oven made these pillowy mounds perfect for any Duchess.

Gratin Dauphinois

Though Gratin Dauphinois does not win the beauty contest, it has the flavor to kick any of these dishes butts. Thinly sliced potato with cream, butter, and topped with bubbly Gruyere cheese- you can’t go wrong!

Steaming Pommes Boulangere

Pommes Boulangere is a simple dish of thick slices of potatoes and onion, briefly sauteed in butter, then baked in an oven with chicken stock until tender. It is yummy, but is hard to stand up to the flavor of the other creamy and cheesy companions.

Culinary Foundations Kitchen

I love going to school.

Costume Update!

I have finished the wings for my parrot costume!

Parrot Wings

They may look kind of small, but I have short stubby arms, so just 2 lengths of felt fit them perfectly.

I also finished the beau’s Jafar hat! With my first attempt of making a felt hat- I am very pleased. I stitched up the sides with black embroidery thread and used two smaller side panels of felt to make the hat large enough. I had trouble finding a large center stone for the base of the feather, so I grouped multiple gems together instead. It looks kind of like a flower, which I was not going for at all. However, if I do find a large gem, I will be ripping those smaller ones off in a second.

Jafar Hat

The next pieces for these costumes are a red feather necklace for the parrot, which I will be doing a tutorial on in my next post, and a snake scepter out of polymer clay.

Enjoy and stay tuned!

The Early Bird

Halloween is slowly, but steadily, approaching and I refused to let it sneak up on me again this year! You can only pull of a bed sheet toga so many times before you become predictable.

This year I am going to be a parrot. Yes, a parrot. I will be creating this entire costume myself, as well!

Looks like fun, right?

The felt will be for the feathers and the glittery foam will be for a mask (beak). I also have some feathers, red t-shirt and ribbon there. I am still working out the details in my head, but construction should begin sooner rather than later. Why so soon? I am a lucky girl, lucky enough to have a certain boyfriend of mine to be Jafar for a matching costume set!

I will be making him a hat and a snake scepter after I finish my Iago costume.

Class has moved quickly from sauces to soups to vegetables and now tomorrow we will be making fettuccine alfredo! It is hard to believe that there are only two more weeks left of this semester. Everything moves so quickly it is hard to take the time to appreciate how much I’ve learned along the way, especially between full time work and full time school. A girl has got to sleep!

Why don’t I just leave some of these food pictures here for you to enjoy?

Lentil Salad with Vinaigrette

Pasta e’Fagioli

Braised Lettuce Rolls stuffed with bacon and breadcrumbs

Breakfast of Champions

I did it.

I killed the lobster.

‘It’ was a he, and quite feisty. One thing I did not realize about lobsters, is that they have sharp spines on their claws. So, don’t worry, he got some payback in before it was all said and done.

Fun fact about lobsters: Did you know that once lobsters are out of water, their meat begins to liquefy? Thus, the importance of getting fresh lobster? It’s crazy.

This morning we made a Lobster Bisque with my spiney little buddy. A bisque can only be technically called a ‘bisque’ if it has shellfish in it, so if you find something like a tomato bisque or a roasted squash bisque it is really only a tomato soup or a squash soup that needed some fancy words to make it more appetizing or… exciting. It is a pretty word, though. Bisque.

The prettiest thing made was the Bouillabaisse, or a fish stew. It doesn’t really matter what kind of a fish is in it, as long as there is a multitude of fish, it can be made into a Bouillabaisse.

Bouillabaisse

This particular bouillabaisse had a crawfish, shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops and salmon. I ate it for breakfast.

Verdict? Delicious!

Boston Clam Chowder was another soup made and it is super simple. So simple that even you could do it!

You can do it because I am going to give you the recipe. Right now.

Boston Clam Chowder

2 tbs butter
1/4 th onion, diced
1 thick slice bacon, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup flour (roughly)
1/2 russet potato, cut to a small dice and store in enough water to cover them
1/2 cup chopped clams
1 cup clam juice
1 1/2 cup water or stock
1/2 cup white wine
Tabasco
1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Melt butter in a sauce pot, add onions with some salt until onions are tender

2. Add bacon, cook until it has firmed up. Sprinkle the flour over the bacon and onions until it looks like freshly fallen snow (this is technically called singer). This will thicken, and you want your onions and bacon to be kind of gluey. If you happened to add too much flour, just melt in a little more butter. Cook this for a few minutes.

3. Add clam juice, water or stock, and white wine. Bring to a boil. If you do not have white wine, don’t freak out. It is mostly optional. If it looks like there isn’t enough liquid, add some more. This is cooking, improvisation is good.

4. Once at a boil, add clams and potatoes with the water it was stored in. Bring to a simmer.

5. Add drops of Tabasco to taste. You don’t want add so much that you taste it right away, but you’ll want to feel it at the back of your throat as you swallow it. Just a hint.

6. Add cream and simmer your soup until the potatoes are done. If the potatoes are done, your soup is done. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Is the soup not as thick as you want it? You will have to make a slurry.

A slurry is a tablespoon or so of cornstarch with enough water added to make it pourable. Don’t add a ton of water, just a little at a time. To add the slurry, make sure your soup is boiling and pour in a little at a time as you stir. It should thicken up right away. If your soup is not boiling as you add it in- it will not thicken, but will only thicken as it boils. You may not need all of the slurry that you make! Use just enough to make it as thick as you would like. A slurry is better than flour to quickly thicken a sauce or a soup because it doesn’t have that nasty raw flour flavor.

Enjoy!

The Beanstalk

It is finals week at culinary school and we only have class Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Each day is filled with its own challenges, it’s own finals. Monday was a comprehensive final over Foundations I. Today, a Nutrition test and a deep cleaning of the kitchen. Tomorrow is the big day. The beanstalk I will have to climb. It includes a test over herbs and spices, a kitchen equipment identification test, a mayonnaise practical, and the final knife cut practical. It’s daunting, but doable. At least that is what I’m told.

For breakfast this morning I had a Caribbean feast courtesy of the buffet and catering class. Some new things were a part of the spread and I couldn’t wait to give them a try. I had red snapper ceviche, which is fish that is “cooked” by soaking the protein in an acid. So, ultimately, it is raw and mighty tasty. Hearts of palm salad with a sweet tabasco vinaigrette was interesting. Hearts of palm is exactly as worded, the heart of a palm tree. It is sweet and fibrous while still being soft, like a disk of meaty banana. Plantain chips and black bean hummus, curried corn pudding, and key lime mousse were ultimately my three favorites.

I also tried one delicacy that was not part of the buffet, but something my Chef presented to us: cow stomach (otherwise known as tripe). It was prepared in a stew with carrots and herbs. After witnessing the reactions of my classmates, I chose a piece on the smaller side, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was a little chewy yet tender, like spongy honeycomb. The flavor was the most unique thing. It was a little gamey mixed in with another flavor all it’s own, a flavor I couldn’t quite place. A flavor I shall simply call: cow stomach.

As mentioned before, I have a knife practical tomorrow. These aren’t anything like Rachel Ray’s leisurely knife cuts, no, no, these are hardcore geometric feats that you must crank out in 45 minutes.

(from left) small onion dice, Allumette of potato, carrot tourne, medium potato dice

 

I knew I needed the practiced, so I cranked some out this morning after class. The only cut I am missing is a concasse of tomato. You must boil the tomato for a second, get the skin off, separate the seeds from the flesh, then dice both of them separately.

You may be wondering how one is graded on something like this? Well, there is a nifty gadget that is traditionally used to spread tile plaster, but has been adopted by newbie knife cutters all over. The notches on the edge represent different measurements that our cuts are shoved into like a foodie puzzle board.

The Allumette potato measuring 1/8th x 1/8th inch

Now, that fancy football shaped carrot is not the easiest thing to cut. It is called a tourne and it must have 7 even sides and be 2 inches long. I was quite happy with this one, I only hope I can do as well under the pressure of tomorrow.

The goal is to achieve 7 even, well-defined facets

With all of this stress, I was in the mood for some homey deliciousness. I happened to have white beans and ham in my fridge, so I came up with this recipe for you all to try.

Pinkies Up Pork and Beans

Yields 4, 1 cup portions

1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2cups navy beans, hydrated
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup diced ham
3 strips of bacon

For the Vinaigrette
1 Tbs dijon mustard
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar (or whatever you have stowed away)
6 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Begin with the vinaigrette. Whisk together the mustard and vinegar, then slowly drizzle in the oil as you continuously whisk. Season with salt and pepper and parsley. Set aside.

2. Cut your bacon into small chunks and brown in a large skillet. Once browned, set aside and saute the onion and garlic until the onion in the bacon fat until the onion has become transparent. If there is not enough bacon fat or you wish to go the vegetarian route and not use bacon, just use olive oil.

3. Add in the diced ham and cook until it has heated though and it has had a chance to brown.

4. Add the hydrated beans and give it a good stir. Pour in about a half cup of the chicken stock and cover. Keep your eye on it and add a little liquid at a time until the beans are cooked to your liking. Now, I made mine from dried beans which I hydrated overnight, you are free to used the canned beans. Keep in mind that it probably will not need to cook as long in the skillet.

5. Once the beans are done cooking, pour the skillet mixture directly onto your vinaigrette and toss it all together.

Voila! Homey comfort in a bowl. I think spinach would be an excellent addition to this, but I just did not have any on hand.

Pinkies Up Pork and Beans

 

Thank you all for sticking around for this long post. Enjoy your week!