Saturday, December 26, 2009

Lemon-Chicken Soup

If I could, I would pass out bowls of this delightful soup to everyone I meet. Brothy, light and lemony, it's the perfect soup for after the holidays.



Basically, it's a chicken noodle soup, minus the noodles, with the addition of lemon to zing things up a bit. I love it. I've seen several recipes like this lately - one in Cooking Light which had Orzo pasta in it -and this recipe from Southern Living which did not. I sort of did my own thing and added some noodles, but it would be just fine without.

I hope everyone survived the holidays and has a safe and happy New Years Eve.

Lemon-Chicken Soupadapted from Southern Living


Ingredients
A small batch of orzo pasta, or noodles, that you have already cooked al dente
6 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
2 large onions, chopped
5 celery ribs, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 (1-lb.) package carrots, sliced
4 teaspoons lemon zest
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Toppings: cooked barley, cooked green beans, lemon slices
Preparation
1. Bring chicken and water to cover to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer 1 hour.
2. Remove chicken, reserving liquid, and let cool 15 minutes. Shred chicken.
3. Pour reserved cooking liquid through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding solids; wipe Dutch oven clean. Add water to cooking liquid to equal 10 cups.
4. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in hot oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat 5 to 6 minutes or until tender. Add shredded chicken, cooking liquid, carrots, and next 3 ingredients along with your precooked pasta noodles. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 20 minutes or until carrots are tender. Add parsley. Serve with desired toppings.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bleeping Pie

Hi all,

The clock just turned 2:00 a.m..

I set here curled up on the sofa, watching Bridget Jones's Diary with my daughter, waiting for a pie to come out of the oven.

I am only running about twelve hours behind.

John Lennon said life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

Well, for me, life is what happened while I was making Thanksgiving plans.

Nothing went right today.

I won't bore you with the all the details.

But all is well after one trip to the emergency care clinic, two hours spent in traffic, and four trips to the nearby Walmart Neighborhood Market ... only two of those for food.

I had such high hopes.

I planned my menu in advance. I read through all my recipes and drove to several different grocery stores earlier in the week, just to get all the right ingredients.

I was making everything from scratch and we were going to have the hap, happiest Thanksgiving since Bing Crosby danced with ... well, you know the movie quote.

That was mistake number one, Over Ambition, one of the seven disastrous sins of the holidays, it'll bite you every time.

Mistake number two was refusing to accept that I was in the weeds and move on to plan B.

Mistake number three was the most abnormal looking pecan pie you have ever laid eyes on. More on that in a minute.

It all began with my son, who's a bit of a neurotic, like myself. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. He's been watching food documentaries lately: Food Inc., King Corn, Fast Food Nation ... and well, he refuses to eat anything with corn syrup, saturated fat, Yellow number 5, pesticides, hormones, or preservatives in it. Which pretty much cancels out everything except Kashi cereal and dried beans. And that doesn't make a very good Thanksgiving dinner. So this year I set out to make everything from scratch: homemade pickles, homemade chicken stock for the dressing and gravy, homemade rolls, and that most dreadful and difficult of culinary tasks, homemade pies.

Pies are hard.

Me and pie don't get along.

And it just so happens that my husbands favorite Thanksgiving dessert is Pecan Pie. And the poor guy went to bed tonight with me cursing in the kitchen, trying to bake a pecan pie. I felt like that furnace cursing dad in A Christmas Story. Tonight there is a cloud of obscenity hovering over my house, all in the name of pie.

And well, to make a long story longer, after two different tries, and a huge mess in my tiny apartment kitchen, I admitted defeat. I could not bake a pecan pie.

What to do? Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! My husband has to have his pie.

Lucky for me, he is not a picky eater and will eat any pie.

So with no makeup on and flour all over my brown suede house shoes, dazed and delirious, just before midnight, I grabbed my daughter, slipped into a coat and snuck out the door while hubby was sleeping and traipsed into a nearby Walmart Neighborhood Market and bought a bleeping Pecan Pie.

It was surreal. Like a scene from a movie. My daughter, myself, and a band of Mexicans oblivious to the holiday, strolling the lucent isles of the deserted Walmart just before midnight on Thanksgiving.We had a blast. There was something bracing and invigorating about the cold night air mixed with the fluorescent glow of Walmart that seemed to wash my worries away. Our serendipitous jaunt made it a Thanksgiving we'll never forget.

It is getting late now.

And I just took the pumpkin pie out of the oven and it looks pretty good.

Such a relief.

Must get some rest for the big day.

I never thought I would be saying this, but I am thankful for Walmart that stays open all night.

Happy Thanksgiving All!









Saturday, November 7, 2009

Getting Small

Remember that Steve Martin comedy routine from the seventies, Let's Get Small?

Well, I thought of this today as I was cleaning out my closet, ridding myself of old clothes and getting organized.

To understand where I am going with this, you must first understand where I am coming from.




About a year ago my husband lost his job due to a corporate restructure.

And after we recovered from the initial shock, something strange came over us, we began to look at it as an opportunity.

Both our kids were in college and we were ready to downsize.

So in a matter of weeks we sold our home and half its furnishings and cleaned out the attic and had a giant garage sale.

We only kept those things of greatest necessity and extreme sentimental value. Everything else was out the door. Riding lawnmower - no longer needed. My daughter's Little Tikes dollhouse - sold. A couple of rusty bicycles - gone. Those afghans Grandma crocheted back in 1970 - I think those went to Goodwill.

Downsizing forces one to edit.
We no longer have space for that formal dining room table or a ten foot Christmas tree. Also, my closet space is one-third what it used to be.

But I don't mind.
What I lost in counter tops and closet space, I gained in free time.
Oh, I do get busy sometimes and let things pile up.
So once in a while I purge.
I go through closets and drawers and clean like mad.
And when I experience a Feng Shui attack, watch out. My husband will never forgive me for tossing out that Sports Illustrated Kids magazine with the Tiger Woods card in it.

Today everything in my life is smaller than it used to be - from my home, to my wardrobe, and even my spice drawer - well, except maybe not my spice drawer.
I think getting small, or downsizing, is a good thing. It simplifies life.

In the news we hear that retail shops are not doing so well.
As a society, I don't think we've stopped shopping and spending just because of the current economic crisis. I think we are craving a less hectic, less materialistic lifestyle. We want to enjoy the important things in life like food and family.
Wouldn't it be great if let's get small could become the new slogan?

Steve was on to something.




In honor of Steve and the seventies, and because I was craving it, I made a modern day version of Rotel Dip - without the Velveeta.

I am all for living a simpler lifestyle, but I am not ready to go back to eating that stuff again.


Rotel Dip (Without the Velveeta)

1. Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan.

2. Add 1 diced onion, 1 chopped jalapeno pepper, and 1 chopped poblano pepper and cook until softened for about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of Ancho Chili Powder, a pinch of Cumin, and also a pinch of salt if you like.

3. Add 3 cloves chopped garlic and cook for another minute.

4. Next add 2 Tablespoons flour to pan and stir around and cook for a minute.

5. Then add 1 cup of milk, and cook until mixture thickens, about 4 minutes. Then plop in 1/2 cup chopped cilantro.

6. Now add whatever 16 ounces of shredded cheese you prefer. Monterey Jack is excellent! But a mixture of Monterey Jack and Cheddar is good too! Remember to add shredded cheese a little at a time - patience grasshopper - you want a smooth dip.

8. Lastly, add 1 can Rotel. Stir on low heat until mixture is melted, smooth and creamy.

Note: I used original Mild Rotel - so I added the jalapeno for a little extra heat - and this still wasn't too hot for me. So if you prefer a spicier dip, you could always use Hot Rotel tomatoes - or add more jalapenos instead.














Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Haunted Past



Halloween - Late 1960's - I'm the Witch





I grew up in a small town in the 1960's in a Wonder Years type of house, right next door to a funeral home on a tree-lined street full of old, two-story homes that were great for trick-or-treating.
 
Fred Krueger ran the local newspaper. Really. I am not kidding, his name was Fred Krueger. And every day I walked home from school, wading through ditches of fallen leaves, happy to find my mother ironing and watching Dark Shadows on TV. After school, I watched The Adams Family and The Munsters. And in the evenings we watched the Twilight Zone and Bewitched. And on Saturday nights, a special show that played old scary movies called Dimension 16 came on TV. We even had a place called the spooklight that more than once frightened the witts out of me.
 
So now you can understand my love of all things autumn and Halloween.   
 
I loved it so much, I even gave birth to the sweetest baby girl ever on Halloween.

So it's rather ironic that the sweetest baby girl ever has such a haunted past.

When my daughter was in grade school, a scary thing happened. The doctor who had been on call the night she was born and had delivered her -- was accused of murder. A very violent murder. He is in prison now. And my daughter, the sweetest angel in the world, gets a perverse thrill out of telling her friends how she was delivered on Halloween by a murderer.
True story.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Quick Autumn Supper

Isn't autumn the most glorious time of year?

The weather has been cool, the leaves are beginning to turn, and I have about a million recipes on standby, just waiting for the perfect autumn day.





I found some nice mushrooms at the farmers market and decided to make Giada's Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Sauce. And it was so easy. Just the type of meal I was craving on a cool early autumn evening.

You can use pretty much any mushrooms you like - cremini, shitake, and button - or pasta for that matter - I didn't have rigatoni on hand, so I substituted small penne.

A glass of wine, a quick green salad, some crusty bread, and you're in business.


Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Sauce
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis, 2008


1 pound rigatoni pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound assorted mushrooms, (such as cremini, shiitake and button), cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the heat to high. Add the wine and cook for 3 minutes until all the liquid evaporates. Add the stock and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the mascarpone cheese. Stir until creamy. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water, and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the mushroom mixture and the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss well to coat pasta, adding the reserved pasta water, if needed, to loosen the pasta. Garnish with the chopped chives. Serve immediately.

Note: The recipe originally called for vegetable stock, which I was out of, so substituted chicken stock instead. You could use a little more leftover cooking water from the pasta and this would work just fine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Little Things

Is there anything more wonderful than seeing a sign like this?



My daughter Kassie passed this sign on her walk to school. The giant pear tree sets in front of a beautiful, old, white Victorian home, not far from her college. And I can't think of a kinder, more pleasant act of generosity than allowing the kids to pick a pear on their way to school.



Last spring we left our barren, suburban landscape and moved to a town - a real town - with parks and sidewalks and old Victorian homes with bushes and flowers, and best of all, pear trees. I feel like I've been transported from a sterile spaceship in outer space to mother-earth in all her glory. The grass is greener, the birds are chirping, and the sky seems bluer. It's the little things, like picking a pear on a warm, late summer afternoon that make me happy.

There was a part of me, however, that felt a bit timid about picking fruit from a tree that didn't belong to me. I was worried a gnarly branch would reach out and slap me and say "Stop eating my pears!"




The nice lady who I assume owns the house, came out onto her porch while we were there and said it would be okay to come back later with a ladder and pick more fruit, as all the lower branches had already been picked clean. And the tree was loaded. It would be a shame for the pears to waste.

So you know where I am headed tomorrow. Does anyone have a good recipe for fresh pears?



Perhaps I should take the nice lady a Phyllo Pear Tart.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Balsamic Chicken

For a person who loves food and holidays, August can be a trying month.

Biding my time, waiting for summer's heat to subside, anticipating fall, I feel trapped in culinary limbo.

What to do?

When relatives sprang a surprise visit on me last weekend - relatives who mainly eat chicken - I quickly perused some of my favorite food blogs for inspiration and found Proud Italian Cook's Balsamic and Herb Grilled Chicken.





I changed the vegetables up a bit, but this was an easy dish to prepare for a crowd.

I began by marinating organic, boneless chicken breasts overnight in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic, Dijon mustard, a dash of salt and pepper - then grilled the chicken along with some fresh asparagus and finished with a squeeze of lemon.

Note: I own a bottle of aged balsamic vinegar, of which my son coyly said while drizzling over his bread, Wow, this vinegar is older than me. And he's about to finish college. Do not waste your money using this type of vinegar as a marinade. The cheaper balsamic from the grocery store works fine here, adding a nice sharpness to the marinade.

If you would like to see more inspiring and beautiful things to eat, go to http://www.prouditaliancook.blogspot.com/.

A bit of a warning however, her ricotta poundcake is weight-gainingly irresistible.

Marie, I hope you don't mind me giving you a shout out(!).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mexican Bean Soup

I have a unique fondness for beans.

I didn't always like them.

My mother, a wacky, terrible cook, never realized that beans must be washed before cooking. So I grew up with the erroneous assumption that all beans tasted like dirt. And then one day, I ate my grandmother's Pinto Beans, slow-cooked, smoky and thick, with homemade cornbread on top, and I was hooked. Thus a lifelong habit of eating beans once a week ensued.

Now to the soup. For many years, I had trouble cooking beans. I would lovingly prepare them in the crock pot, in the morning, only to arrive home in the evening to al dente soup - and this is not how beans were meant to be eaten. Beans are supposed to be soft, tender, and buttery. I tried many different things to fix the problem - longer soaking time, longer cooking time, cooking them on the stove, salt, no salt, bottled water. But nothing worked. No matter what cooking method I used, my beans were always firm and undercooked. And then one day I came across an article about the freshness of dried beans, and how most beans we buy in the supermarket are old beans - meaning that they have been hanging around for a while. Often these beans are several years old by the time we buy them. Atrocity(!). Thankfully this article saved me from a lifetime of undercooked beans, and set forth an interminable quest for, fresh, dried beans. And yes, they are out there. But one has to look for them.

I finally found Rancho Gordo beans and they are the best. His fresh Napa Valley beans cook up tender and delicious every time. You can buy them online at www.ranchogordo.com.





Recently at my local farmer's market, I hit pay dirt when I found a bag of fresh, dried Colorado Pinto Beans. I came home lugging this 10 lb. gunny sack like I'd won the lottery.

This is what I made the next day.


Mexican Bean Soup

The recipe is pretty basic. I always begin with a 'holy trinity' of some type of green pepper, onion, and garlic - along with some type of fat or oil - olive oil, a smoky piece of bacon, or some leftover ham will do. Next the spices: chili powder, dried red chile's, cumin, bay leaf, whatever your heart desires. Next, in a large dutch oven, add the presoaked beans and cover with water, or chicken stock, and cook on top of the stove until the mixture begins to bubble. Then, with the lid on, put the entire pot of beans into a 225 to 250 degree oven and cook until soft and tender. This can be anywhere from 2 to 4 hours depending on the freshness of the beans and how long you soaked them. I topped this bowl of beans with a squeeze of fresh lime, some cilantro, fresh chiles, and Cotija cheese.



The easy part of this recipe came one morning when I was in a hurry and asked myself, why am I chopping all these vegetables? So I drizzled some olive oil into the pot, threw in giant chunks of carrots, onions, and celery, heated things up a bit, added the beans and water, put the lid on, stuck it in the oven - and voila! - the best pot of beans I had eaten in a long time. And for some reason, my family really enjoyed these tasty chunks of vegetables in the soup.

This recipe is versatile. Just change the seasonings according to what type of beans you are cooking. For white beans, I like to add lots of olive oil, carrots, onion, rosemary, and celery. For black beans, or Pintos, I prefer green peppers in place of the celery. And for a mixed bean soup, freshly chopped tomatoes add a nice, bright touch. Always remember to begin with the freshest beans available, soak them overnight, cook them covered, low and slow, in the oven, and you will end up with a tender, flavorful pot of perfectly cooked beans.

One last note: many recipes call for salting beans at different times. I prefer to salt mine toward the end of the cooking process.

Please share with me some of your favorite bean recipes. I've got a lot of beans to cook here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hello Again

I have been away for a while, but haven't forgotten about my favorite pals and bloggers out there.

I hope everyone is having a safe and happy summer.

With all the fresh, ripe tomatoes and spicy peppers at the Farmer's Market today, I couldn't resist making a batch of salsa in my new Molcajete.

It's a lot of fun. And I love the flavors! But I gotta admit - I do have a newfound respect for that guy who invented the food processor. This was a little more work than I had anticipated. But well worth the effort.


Homemade Molcajete Salsa

1 Serrano Chile
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/8 of a white onion, chopped
Fresh Cilantro
1/2 lime

In an iron skillet, roast the chile and tomatoes for 7- 8 minutes or until they are soft and skin turns black.

Pell off and discard the burned skin from the tomatoes. (Note: I leave a little of the skin on, because I like that charred flavor.)

In the mortar, grind the garlic, and onion, and salt into a paste.

Add the roasted tomatoes and pepper and continue grinding until you get the consistancy you prefer.

Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro.

Note: I added a small dried, red chile to this batch and it made it extra red and spicy

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pre-Muffuletta


I was in Junior High on vacation with my parents and my younger brother and sister when I tasted my first Mufalletta. It was lunch time, we were starving, and happened upon a small restaurant with a long line of people stretching out the front door.

My mom, the adventurous one of the family, said it would be worth the wait.

I was skeptical. A sandwich? A line that long for a sandwich?

Up until then, my only reference for a good sandwich was a flimsy piece of pimento loaf slapped between two pieces of Roman Meal and some mustard. I lived a pretty contented life up until then. But that was pre-muffaletta. Once you've had a good muffaletta, there's no going back.






It all begins with the Olive Salad.

A sandwich, in theory, is made up of equally important components: bread, meat, cheese, some type of dressing - but a Muffuletta sandwich without the Olive Salad is, well, like an orchestra without it's conductor. It just won't work. This concoction of tangy, green olives and vegetables marinated in olive oil and vinegar along with oregano and garlic is what brings this sandwich to life. There's something about that vinegar taste that I crave. Like Pavlov's dog, I literally salivate whenever I take a whiff of this olive salad. Note: Some recipes call for lots of black olives or even Kalamata in this salad, but I prefer lots of plain old green olives for the most kick.

Next we have the bread, a nice round Italian to soak up all that vinegar and oil goodness.

Last but not least, we have thinly sliced, high quality, deli ham, salami, and Provolone cheese, stacked so high I could barely get my mouth around it.

And that's pretty much all there is to a Muffuletta. Sometimes I put finely shredded lettuce and thinly sliced tomato, but I didn't have any today, and the sandwich was still excellent without it, if not better. Also, I recommend making it ahead of time, wrapping it up and sticking it in the fridge to marinate a bit. That'll really gets the flavors going.

The bakery I go to was out of ciabatta bread, so I went with a French boule instead. Which was a bit too rustic for this sandwich and a bit too thick, so I scooped out some of the inner bread.

Next time, I think I'm going to try baking my own bread for this sandwich. I'll let you know how it turns out.





Monday, May 25, 2009

Smoked Tri-Tip

How was everyone's weekend?

I am here to say that smoked tri-tip is FANTASTIC(!).

If you or anyone in your family has a smoker, run to the store, buy a tri-tip, and cook one up right now. Serve it with some Jalapeno Brown Beans, Coleslaw, Corn On The Cob, and you will have one happy family.

My hubby did a great job smoking our tri-trip this weekend. I let it refrigerate overnight in a Williams Sonoma Cowboy Coffee and Spice Rub that I had bought last fall. And even though I am normally not one to use pre-made, store bought rubs (I prefer to make my own), this stuff was pretty darn good.

My only regret is that I didn't have time for a picture of this beautifully prepared beef which had a good layer of fat on it, similar to a brisket. It cooked up spicy, and tender, and juicy, and melt in your mouth delicious. And that is what we all kept saying, in a baffled but happy sort of way, while we were eating - This stuff melts in your mouth. I think there is something about the earthiness of the coffee that brings out the flavors of the meat. I will definitely make this again.

I've got a brother who is an avid outdoor cook, and I can't wait to impress him with this recipe. Also, the beans - he will like the beans - cowboy style, with bacon, and onion, and jalapeno, seasoned with cumin and chili powder. Meat and beans. That's pretty much all the guy ever eats. And he's actually pretty thin and healthy. Amazing.

What did you cook this weekend?


Smoked Tri-Tip
adapted from Williams Sonoma website

Ingredients:

1 beef tri-tip, about 2 lb.

3 Tbs. coffee and spice rub

Sea salt, to taste

Directions:
Rub the tri-tip on all sides with the coffee and spice rub. Place the meat in a sealable plastic bag, seal the bag and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.

Preheat an electric smoker to 225ºF.

Smoke the tri-tip according to the manufacturer's instructions until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 140-150ºF for medium done, 4-5 hours, or until done to your liking.

Transfer the meat to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes. Thinly slice the meat across the grain and arrange on a warmed platter. Sprinkle the meat with sea salt.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chapel Creek Winery

I had a spectacular time at a nearby wine festival this weekend.

First off, Oklahoma isn't exactly known for it's vineyards. And we don't have many historic buildings either since we've only been a state for a little over a hundred years. Also, I don't get out much. So when I experience all these things at once - beautiful scenery, wine, food, and good music - well, it's almost overwhelming.

Chapel Creek Winery is located just west of Oklahoma City near El Reno. It is part of an agricultural college, and to the best of my knowledge, the first to teach viticulture in our sate.




A beautiful church located on the property was built in 1913 by a women's group called Order of the Eastern Star and was once used as a school for orphans. Sadly, its dilapidated state prevented us from going inside, and funds are being raised to restore it. So I did my part by contributing the best way I could, and going home with some delightful White Zin in the back of my car.



There are other buildings located on the property as well.

And at first I hesitated to tell you about them, as I wanted this post to be idyllic and picturesque, like you see in the photos above. But like our weather, the architecture of Oklahoma can often be harsh and contrasting as well.

It's such a dichotomy. Directly adjacent to this majestic, old, beautiful, crumbling church, sets a foreboding structure, sound and austere, that resembles something out of a Rob Zombie movie. At least, that's what my son said when first drove up, in that laid back tone that young men have. Eerily and ironically, we later learned that the building once served as an insane asylum.




And in a nod to Hitchcock, birds have built nests beneath the eaves around the entire perimeter of the roof, thereby enhancing the buildings creepiness. The sterile, stark white exterior casts an ominous aura of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. People say it's haunted. And I believe them.




Ghosts and all, it was a spectacular day. My son performed beautifully on the classical guitar, the sky was blue, the birds were chirping, the burgers were tasty, and the wine was pleasantly smooth.



Monday, May 18, 2009

Hi All


I'm going on a business trip with my husband this weekend.
And I'm terribly excited, because as I've said before, we don't have good grocery stores here. But we will be stopping by a Whole Foods on our way home from the trip, and I am so excited. Does anyone else love grocery shopping as much as I do?

On a side note, for those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health.
It's a relief to know the real truth after all these conflicting studies we hear about.

1. The Japanese eat very little fat
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats
and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.


CONCLUSION

Eat and drink what you like.
Speaking English is apparently what kills you.







I picked up some fantastic, locally made, rye bread at the farmers market this weekend and made Reuben sandwiches for Saturday night supper.

A Reuben is a hot sandwich, and I usually prepare these in the oven, under the broiler. But this time I used the panini press instead, and I think I liked this method better. It was much easier and crispier. And my hubby and son loved them.

Since my son is allergic, and has an aversion to anything prepackaged and containing preservatives, and also because all salad dressings contain corn syrup, I went online and found this recipe from The Russian Tea Room for a Russian salad dressing to go on the sandwiches. This dressing brought back fond memories of an Iceberg lettuce salad with a wedge of tomato on it, that I used to have as a kid, in an old, art deco cafe with my grandparents. It was quite good.



Your Basic Reuben Sandwich

Rye bread
Russian Dressing
Sauerkraut
Corned Beef
Swiss Cheese

I like to toast the bread first, just to crisp it up a bit, so that way, the sandwich doesn't get soggy from all the juicy sauerkraut. Then I grill the sandwich in a skillet or a panini press, or toast it in the broiler of the oven.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Due To The Weather

I gotta confess, I think I've been in a bit of a slump lately.

I call it a slump because I can't think of a better name for it. It's not the blues, or depression, or even a midlife crisis. I'm not on Prozac or curled up in a fetal position or anything. But I did spend an entire Sunday in sloppy, gray sweatpants and a t-shirt with a stain on it, curled up in bed watching chick flicks, strung out on Coke Zero and Entenmann's Chocolate Donuts. But that's a whole other story. I'm just lacking my usual zest and energy for life. And I think it's mostly due to the weather.

With all the topics in the world, I hate to write about something so mundane as the weather. One would think, I would have more to say. But we've had an extraordinarily wet, cloudy, windy, grey, spring and it's beginning to wear on me. And funny thing is, I've often romanticized about living in rainy Seattle, or dreary London, spending long, quiet days inside cozy cafes, sipping soup, reading Voltaire. But I think I know how those people feel now. Damp and depressing.

Just like that bunch of White Asparagus I saw at the grocery store the other day, I'm beginning to grow weak and pallid. I need sunlight. I need warmth.




On the good side of things, soup season has been extended, and my son and I ate lunch at a great little place yesterday, Cheever's Cafe, housed in an old flower shop in OKC. The large, walk-in, wooden, refrigeration coolers, formerly holding rows and rows of colorful flowers, now hold wine and desserts. I loved the atmoshpere. And in deference to this unending, torrential, precipitation we are experiencing, I ordered a great big bowl of Tortilla Soup. It arrived in a large, white, shallow bowl, generously sprinkled with thinly sliced, yellow and blue corn tortilla strips. Much like a creamy tomato, but smooth, spicy, rich, and loaded with tender pieces of white chicken at the bottom. I savored it. And was tempted to lick the bowl - but that would have really embarrassed my son. It was the perfect remedy for such a grey day and I can't wait to go back to Cheever's again.

Hope your week is going good!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cinco De Mayo


Wikipedia says, Cinco De Mayo celebrates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

The way I look at it, from a culinary point of view, it was a win win situation. French or Mexican? I can go either way(!). Lord knows I've drank enough wine and eaten enough cheese to kill a rat. But I must admit, as far as my taste buds are concerned, I'm having to side with the Mexicans on this one. For there are few things I crave more than fresh Fajitas, Chicken Enchilada's, Carne Asada, Tortilla Soup, Roasted Poblano sauce, Cotija cheese, Salsa, Avocado's, and of course, Margarita's. As a matter of fact, I enjoy cooking and eating Mexican food so much that once, I considered taking a cooking class to learn more about it, but my family revolted. No more Mexican food, they said. They were burnt-out.

So you can easily imagine my thrill and excitement to be granted a special day like today, a day designated solely to the cooking and eating of Mexican food.


This year I wanted to do something different, something authentic, something fun and exciting that I had seen Rick Bayless do on Mexico: One Plate At A Time. Like roast a bunch of peppers along with some skirt steak and chicken outside on the grill, and serve it up on homemade tortilla's. But a lack of time - and torrential rainfall - put a damper on that idea. So I went with hubby's suggestion and decided to make Easy Chicken Enchilada's instead.

I don't know if you have heard, but here in Oklahoma, it is monsoon season. It has rained so much, that we are beginning to mold.

Today, in between downpours, I hurried to the store to pick up provisions, including a bottle of Rick's Frontera Tomatillo Salsa with roasted Serrano and cilantro that goes perfectly with this dish. I don't normally tout products here, but this is a good timesaver. And the fact that Rick is from OKC is kinda cool.

This dish turned out so good that is was worth traipsing through the parking lot in the pouring rain while juggling a purse, an umbrella, and two flimsy shopping bags just as my cell phone began to ring, as I was trying to reach for my keys, when a giant burst of wind came, turning my umbrella inside out, ripping it in half, forcing me to step into a puddle, ruining one shoe. And by the time I got home, I looked like I had just lost the Battle of Puebla - and on my return home to France - been given a burial at sea. It was a soggy Cinco De Mayo.


Easy Chicken Enchilada's

In a large bowl, mix 3 or 4 cups cooked, shredded, chicken breasts; 2 small cans chopped green chili's, drained; 1 heaping cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese; chopped jalapeno pepper; 1/2 cup chopped cilantro; salt, pepper; and 1/3 cup sour cream.

Fill flour tortilla's with this mixture and roll up into enchilada's and place in pan; spray tops of enchilada's with cooking spray - or brush with cooking oil - so they brown nicely. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve topped with an easy sauce made of 1 cup sour cream, and 1 cup green tomatillo salsa, mixed together.

Top with black olives, cilantro, pickled red onions, pico de gallo, and more cheese if you like.


This is by no means an authentic Mexican recipe, but it is quick and easy, and my family loves this simple sauce made of sour cream and tomatillo salsa. We enjoyed the meal so much that we almost forgot about the rain. Almost.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cooking Limbo

I don't know about you, but I'm in some kind of cooking limbo. It's been a long, wet, gray, spring, and my stomach is screaming burgers, and chicken, and vegetables from the grill. But the weather keeps saying soups, and stews, and chili. Don't get me wrong, soup is always my #1 choice for lunch, no matter what season it is. As a matter of fact, I made Cream Of Broccoli just today. More on that in a minute. But it's suppertime that I'm at odds with right now. These gray, damp, days dictate hot-and-hearty, but my appetite has rebelled, and craves something fresh-and-light instead. It's a real dilemma.

I must have looked like a loon today, as I wondered aimlessly through Supertarget, trying to find something remotely appetizing for tonight's supper, but nothing jumped out at me. Finally I settled upon what my family has come to call snack night. Where I prepare some type of dip and chip - pick up some wine, cheese, olives, good bread, and perhaps a nice peppery salami to go with it - then every one conveniently helps themselves. It's my new favorite thing to do.



For tonight's snack night, I went a little overboard. We had Rosemary bread dipped in olive oil along with balsamic vinegar; Asiago cheese; Olives; Marinated chickpea salad; Whole wheat crackers; A small crudites platter with Roasted Red Pepper dip; And last but not least, Turkey meatballs from Orangette's blog. Everything was a big hit. But it was the Roasted Red Pepper dip that my hubby and kids devoured and declared the most blogworthy. Personally, I couldn't get enough of the Chickpea Salad.


Chickpea Salad

It's difficult to give exact measurements as I don't use a recipe. I basically make a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, dry mustard, a good pinch of cumin, dried oregano, salt, pepper, and parsley.

I used canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained, along with a bit of chopped red onion and allowed it to marinate for while in order to enhance the flavor. This makes an excellent side dish, or lunch to take to work.





For the Roasted Red Pepper Dip I buy whole roasted red peppers in a jar for convenience, then chop them myself. Be sure to save some of the juice as you will need it to thin the dip out just a bit.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Roasted Red Peppers
Cream Cheese
Sour Cream
Chopped green onion
Parsley
Salt
A good pinch of red pepper flakes.

I used about half as much sour cream per amount of Cream Cheese. Mix everything together adding a bit of the marinating liquid from the roasted peppers to help thin the dip just a bit - making it the consistency you want. This dip goes great with crackers, pita bread, artisan bread, or just plain, crisp vegetables. Sorry about the photo, however, it really doesn't do the dip justice.



And last but not least, the real reason my daughter and I wake up each and every morning. Soup(!). I'm sorry that I don't have a picture to show you - as this soup disappeared before my hubby got home with the camera. This is my favorite springtime soup because it comes together so quickly. You can add shredded cheddar cheese if you like, but it's really not necessary.


Cream of Broccoli Soup

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 lbs fresh broccoli, chopped then put in a microwave safe bowl along with 1/2 inch water in bottom, cover with Saran Wrap, and cook in microwave for 2 minutes in order to steam the broccoli a bit and give it a head start in the cooking process.

1 large onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
1 carrot, julienned
salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup cream

Saute onion and garlic in butter and olive oil until translucent. Add flour, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add broccoli along with all the water in bowl. Next add carrot, salt, pepper, and chicken broth. Allow to simmer 15 minutes or until broccoli and carrots are tender. Add cream. Puree with immersion blender. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Regrets

I won't bore you with all the trivial details, but the economy and my hubby's new job have conspired to prevent me from blogging as much as I would like. We sold our home back in February and are now living temporarily in a small duplex. The PC, formerly located in a cozy office of it's own, is now squeezed into the corner of the bedroom, and my hubbies new job requires him to go to bed and wake up at ungodly hours. So I, the eternal night owl, used to blogging and browsing until the wee hours of the night, have been banished to the living room sofa with cookbooks, old paperbacks, and Frasier reruns to keep me company until the urge to sleep finally arrives, which is usually about 2 AM. Insomnia is my middle name. And don't get me wrong, I do love Frasier. And I've enjoyed the good fortune of going through dozens of old cooking magazines, ripping out enticing recipes and organizing them in an attractive box. But I miss you guys - I miss telling you about those Fajitas I made last week and the Brownies that were so good, I ate half of the pan all by myself.

Another impediment to my blogging is the fact that I no longer own a camera. My hubby stole it. He needed it for his new job. And the ironic thing is, he basically went from a blue collar job, to a white collar job with a 40% drop in pay, and a company that doesn't even supply the basic tools needed to perform the job. The boss said, "You've got a digital camera, don't ya?" "Well," hubby responded, "my wife does." So now the camera sets in a makeshift office - a dreary, former boardroom - which I envision with a long table, cheap paneling, and a dusty plant in the corner. Such are the lives of a couple of corporate restructuring refugees.

So I regret that I have no pictures to show you.

And I regret the fact that I can't show you the tasty vegetable soup that I made on a lazy, rainy, Sunday afternoon with crusty homemade Italian bread to go along with it.

And I regret that I ate half of Ina Garten's box mix brownies, which turned out even better than my own made from scratch. Damn you, Ina. Just kidding. I love Ina. I worship Ina. And besides, somebodies gotta support those poor people living in the Hampton's.

I also regret that I have an insatiable appetite for Mexican food. Thus compelling me to make way too many chicken Fajitas that were beautifully marinated in garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and olive oil, topped with Cotija cheese and pickled red onion.

And I will interminably regret the fact that I ate so much Pasta Alla Vodka for supper tonight that I had to lie down afterwards and couldn't get up to do the dishes. Look up the word ddivinity in the dictionary and you find the words Pasta Alla Vodka.

And last but not least, I regret the fact that I cannot afford a shiny new laptop and state of the art digital camera to show you these delectable dishes that I've enjoyed recently. But I wanted to let you know about them anyway - and that I am still here - cooking, eating, following your blogs and looking forward to the Farmer's Markets opening up soon.

Drop me a line to let me know what you've been up to(!).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Grey Gardens

I just found out that the documentary Grey Gardens has been made into an HBO movie starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange, airing this Saturday, April 18th. It's such a coincidence(!). I knew nothing of this movie when I mentioned this documentary in my previous post.

I look forward to seeing the movie, in such an intriguing, disturbing sort of way.

Here's a link to the HBO preview in case anyone is interested.
http://www.hbo.com/films/greygardens/

Friday, April 10, 2009

Grey Days

It's midnight. The only chance I've had to update this silly blog in weeks. I'm working full time now and my commute time has also increased. So it's official ... I'm a certified rat in the rat race.

To sum it up, I drive a small grey SUV to work on early gray mornings, down a long grey turnpike at a fast-forward pace to a large gray building in which I wind my way through a long grey maze of cubicles, where I wind up setting all day long in front of a grey computer, enduring a sordid grey, inhuman existence.

To make matters worse, as an Aquarius, I tend to retire from the world at times and become a temporary loner. I bake bread, read books, shuffle about the house in sweatshirts and old baggy pants and quite enjoy myself. I highly recommend it.



Anyone seen that documentary Grey Gardens? I really must find a new job soon. Or else, one day, you may find me dancing around on TV with a scarf on my head talking to fourteen cats.

I haven't been cooking much lately. But there have been a few special dishes. And I guess I should keep a camera nearby in the kitchen, for often by the time I get something made, the gang is so starved that we just dig in and there's never enough time for pics. Dishearteningly, I think to myself, that would have made a good pic for the blog. But life is like that. It speeds by at a grey, blur-like pace.



So sometimes I try to slow things down a bit and stop and view the colors. Which is pretty hard to do here in Oklahoma - with the smoke from the fires, the gray skies, and the tornadoes going by. Nothing much sounded good for Friday night's supper, so I made some quick appetizers and we all just snacked out.

My hubby really enjoyed this Hot Artichoke Dip. And like most things I make, I read a recipe once as a starting point, then pretty much did my own thing. So that's why it's always so difficult for me to give you a recipe, when there isn't one there really to begin with. The typing and blogging part always come easy. It's those damn pictures and recipes that challenge me. Perhaps someday my daughter will become Little Edie to my Big Edie and take over that job for me. It's a horrifyingly, funny thought.

Hot Artichoke Pepper Dip

2 cans medium Artichoke Hearts, drained and finely chopped
1 large, fresh Anaheim pepper, chopped
2-3 pickled banana peppers from a jar, chopped
1/2 large red, sweet pepper, chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 1/2 cups Mayo
Good pinch of salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Bake in 8" square baking dish in oven at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Serve with homemade Pita Chips

Pita Chips

Take one package of Pita and split each pita apart into two, thin, round Pita's if you like them really thin and crispy. Take about 1/4 cup of olive and mix in about one teaspoon of garlic salt and one teaspoon of good Spanish Paprika. Spread pita evenly on a baking sheet and brush with the olive oil mixture. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until desired crispiness.

You may have noticed in the first picture that there weren't many pita chips in the basket. That's because they were so good, we ate most of them before the dip was finished baking. I made more. But they disappeared too.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Foodie In The Middle

I live in Oklahoma City, fast food capitol of the world. We are known for having more fast-food restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the United States. On average it has been said that Oklahomans visit a fast food restaurant twenty-one times a month. And we're not just talking about poor and working class here. We're talking millionaires in Mercedes, queuing up for taco's, roast beef sandwiches (a.k.a 'botulism on a bun' by local emergency room physicians) and burgers and fries. Yes, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain, fast food rules.

In response to this, many say we should prepare nutritious meals at home. Encourage families and individuals to grocery shop and discover healthier options.

I more than anyone I know, am all for that. But there are several problems with this solution. First off, in Oklahoma, large superstores such as Walmart and Sam's dominate. There are very few options for obtaining food. Also, these chain stores are spread out - forcing people to drive long distances for basic needs such as bread and milk. And worst of all, most of what we find in such stores is more of the same mass produced, high fat, low in nutrition, corn syrup laden, convenience foods. What's a person to do?

Health experts tell us to stick to the outer parameter of the store. Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables instead of all those fattening, processed foods. But all we find there are tasteless, out of season, baseball hard, ersatz versions of fruits and vegetables. Nothing really appetizing.

It's a real dilemma.

Contrary to what some may think, I am not a health nut. I don't avoid fast food just because it's unhealthy. Actually, I avoid it because, to me, it tastes bad. I feel inhuman whenever I am forced to eat this stuff. The only thing I can choke down are fries and a coke. No meat. No unidentifiable foods. Like Michael Pollan said, "if your great grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, it probably isn't." This depresses me. The only word that comes to mind is -- Soylent Green.

I am envious of all those foodies in New York, France, California, and Seattle. It's just not fair.

My only consolation is, willing to drive, I am able to find a couple decent local restaurants, some wine, some bread, some cheese, and in the summertime, farmer's markets. I live for the farmer's markets.

But don't even get me started on the liquor laws here in Oklahoma. You cannot buy wine in a grocery store, you cannot buy wine or alcohol on Sunday's, also you cannot buy wine or alcohol after 9 PM. It is only sold in liquor stores, where I skulk in and out at 10 AM during my Saturday morning errands with a single brown paper bag tucked beneath my arm. So if it's 9:30 on a Saturday night, and your cupboards are bare, and you've got guests, or just a hankerin' for a margarita or a nice glass of Zin, you're out of luck.

Take it from me, it's no fun being a foodie in the middle.

I just wanted to put that out there.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Dysfunctional Cookie Baking Family

Cookies and I go way back. And while it's virtually impossible to recall the first cookie I ever ate, some cookies do adhere more fondly to my culinary memory than others.

One of my first cookie baking memories, oddly enough, belongs with my Grandma Helen who seldom baked anything. Grandma was very frugal and often bragged on the fact that she used only half a bag of chocolate chips in her Toll house cookies. You really don't need the whole bag, she used to say. Thrifty Grandma twirled up the remainder of the bag with an old twist tie and set it aside until she needed to bake again, which was usually the following year. Then Grandma would retrieve the old, whitened chips, and take pride in the fact that she had just saved 29 cents. Funny thing is, I rather enjoyed those plain, dry cookies that she used to bake. They were the perfect accompaniment to cherry Kool-Aid on a hot summer day.

My other cookie baking memory lies with my mother (daughter of the aforementioned grandmother) who also did not bake. I was in the fourth grade and by some erroneous lineup of the stars, my mother ... career woman/registered nurse ... became home room mom and was asked to bake two dozen sugar cookies, all in the shape of a black cat's head for the grade school Halloween party.

I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of my mom bringing the cookies and remember it vividly: black buttercream frosting with large green piped eyes and black licorice strings for whiskers. Only these are not my mothers cookies that I am remembering. These are the cookies of our talented next door neighbor, the Martha Stewart of Lincoln School. Martha's cookies were perfect, like something out of a magazine. My mothers cookies, on the other hand, looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie, all distorted and re-sewn together. Mom's cookies had red licorice strips instead of black, that were sticking straight up out of the top of the cat's head, like hair(!). When our neighbor, normally a pious, reserved woman, took one look at my mother's cookies, she burst into laughter so hard that we thought we were going to have to take her to the hospital. To this day, my poor mom is still chided for those crazy cat cookies.




So now you know the history of my dysfunctional cookie baking family and can see that I had nowhere to go -- but up. The good news is, I have broken with tradition and now bake, with the help of my daughter, a pretty decent oatmeal raisin and some pretty good chocolate chip. This latest recipe for Oatmeal Raisin has been lingering in my collection for sometime now and I wish I had tried it sooner, for these are the perfect, easy, not too soft, not too thin, Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie. I am moving this one to the top of my list.


Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 Sticks unsalted butter softened but still firm
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins

1. In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.

2. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together, then stir this into butter-egg-sugar mixture with mixer on lowest speed, scraping down sides when needed. With mixture on "stir" or lowest setting, mix in oats and raisins.

3. Form into large walnut sized balls and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until cookie edges turn golden brow, 20 minutes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Best I Can Do

To say that I am busy right now is an understatement. Life has become one long marathon and I plan on collapsing sometime around the end of this month. Until then, this quick post and this quick bean soup - literally made in a matter of minutes - is the best I can do.

I woke up with a movers hangover - headache, aching, sick to my stomach - from packing and sorting through hoards of junk all night. Why am I saving a Better Homes and Gardens from 1952? It was a dreary day, and the thought of spending eight hours in a gray cubicle, broken up by lunch in a cold, prison-gray break room, was not appealing. Soup sounded good, but I was in a hurry and on my way to work. And since we are in the process of moving, my fridge and pantry were bare. But it was either come up with something quick, or lunch at the Panda Express. So I rummaged through the fridge, found a pathetic carrot, half an onion, some wilted celery, gave 'em a quick chop, tossed them in a pan of hot olive oil, sauteed a minute while putting on some mascara, added a can of rinsed, drained northern beans, a dash of dried Italian herbs, salt, pepper, some water, and voila(!). Lunch.





I was pleasantly surprised by the aroma and freshness of this soup. Must have been the Italian herbs and the good olive oil. But I think the real key here is rinsing the beans - you don't want bean sludge in your soup.

Well, that is all I have for now.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'm Still Here

Whew. Things have been hectic lately, we finally sold our house and are in the process of moving. The buyers came several times last week and it's been a real challenge to keep things neat and tidy.

Why is it that the day I cook the most food, and have the most dirty dishes in the sink, is the day somebody inevitably comes knocking at the door?

I am tired. And to make matters worse - my hours at work have increased. So that along with packing up 27 years of junk is keeping me extra busy right now. Someday I hope to cook again. For now, I am on hiatus ... somewhat. I hope to resume cooking and some semblance of normalcy in February.

In the mean time, I am thinking about Superbowl Sunday. It's a big day to my husband. Me? I really couldn't care less, but I do like the food that comes along with sports. And here in Oklahoma, that usually means grilling. And although we've had some pretty darn cold days this year, we've also had some nice grilling days as well. So I want to tell you about this marinated flank steak recipe that I found in a Southern Living cookbook.

This is one of those meats you can throw on the grill, slice thinly, and serve on a big platter or cutting board and let everyone help themselves. I love the caramelized sweetness that the honey imparts and the tang of the cider vinegar. Don't let the ginger and the soy sauce scare you, they really do help flavor and tenderize the meat without making it too Asian. This steak goes well with most anything, even chips and guacamole, a standard here in Oklahoma. Someone in the food business once told me that the #1 day for avocado sales in America is Superbowl Sunday. I am not surprised.

I am sorry to say that I don't have a picture to show you. Like I said, I've been busy, but I am still here, and hope to begin cooking again soon in a new kitchen with a pantry and only a few minutes from not one, but TWO(!) grocery stores. I will think I've died and went to heaven.


Honey-Grilled Flank Steak
adapted from Southern Living

1 (2 pound) flank steak
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Place steak in a large heavy-duty, zip-top bag or shallow dish. Combine oil and remaining 7 ingredients; pour over steak. Seal or cover, marinate in fridge 8 hours, turning occasionally.

Remove steak from marinade, reserving marinade. Bring marinade to a boil in a small saucepan; set aside. Grill steak approximately 10 minutes on each side, basting with reserved marinade the last 5 minutes.

To serve, slice steak diagonally, across the grain.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Secret Network Mandated Prerequisite

Do you ever have moments of ADD?

I tend to bore easily and then my mind wanders and I get lost in my own thoughts. This happens a lot. For example, just the other day, right in the middle of a conversation with my daughter, I kept smiling attentively while she spoke of minor issues -like supper and boyfriends and college and the new administration - and then my brain went off and took a little walk all by itself, as it often does, ignoring the task at hand, firing random thoughts at the most inopportune time when I desperately need a coherent thought the most. It is very frustrating.


The thought process went something like this ...


Supper? Hmm ... Ina made delectable looking onion rings the other day. Those might be good. I do like Ina. Anytime a gal over the age of 40 and the size 14 can make it on TV, I'm behind her. But I do like Giada, too. Hmm ... That's sort of funny, both their names end with the letter A. And then there's Julia, the first cook I ever saw on television, who's name also ends in the letter A. Wow, that's an interesting coincidence. Pretty cool. Flash. The synapses in my brain start firing. These gals all have names ending with the letter A. Oh my, Martha suddenly burst into my brain. Her name ends with the letter A. This is weird. Oprah has her own show. But she's not a cook. And technically her name doesn't end with the letter A, but it sounds like an A. Well, my brain rationalizes, she does cook for Steadman, and she does like food a lot, so I'll include her on the list as well. Compulsively, I did a quick rundown: Ina, Nigella, Julia, Giada, Martha, Oprah ... Oh my, I almost forgot about Paula. And then there's Lidia from Lidia's Italy on PBS. I like her, too. Wow, this is weird. Coincidence? Or is this some type of secret network mandated prerequisite for having your own show? Suddenly I envisioned Julia, the goddess of all television chefs, asserting in her marbled voice: Now, anyone can cook, but in order to have your own show, you must have a name that ends with the letter A.

Finally I heard my daughter's voice echoing in the recesses of my mind: Mom, Mom, are you listening? Perhaps, I tell her, I should begin calling myself Michella.





I really enjoyed the full moon this weekend. There is something so peaceful and serene about a full moon on a cold, wintry night. I especially liked the purple color of the eastern sky at dusk.

I haven't cooked much lately - nothing new anyway. Just the same old quick meals. We've got our house on the market and things have been a bit hectic, to say the least. So I am curious, what's your go-to meal when you need to whip up supper up in a hurry? My family is tired of the same old stuff. And I gotta admit, I'm in a bit of a rut and having trouble concentrating. As you can see.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

AMFD (Acute Mexican Food Deprivation)

I am a firstborn child, and this in turn tends to make me a bit bossy.

It's not my fault. It's a scientific fact that firstborns tend to be orderly, organized, bossy, and dominant.

I heard it once on one of those morning shows and read about it in Time magazine.

I also have a couple younger siblings and an extremely tolerant husband (who happens to be the baby of five) who wholeheartedly agree with this harsh reality.

Normally I try to suppress it. But today? Today bossy is good. Because you will be happy when I exercise my authority and tell you to go out right now and buy the ingredients to make this soup and then go straight home and make it. I'm telling you, do it today(!).





I do love all food. French, German, Italian, they're all great. But my husband tells me that I must have been a Mexican in a past life for I do love Mexican food. My family tires of it sometimes. But I never do. A friend of mine once told me that when she and her husband moved to Europe for a year, the thing she missed most about home was Mexican food. She even went through withdrawals and we came up with a name for her condition: AMFD, Acute Mexican Food Deprivation. It is curable, but only by eating buckets of salsa or visiting a Ted's Escondido (a locally owned restaurant.)Consequently, this harsh reality of a life without Mexican food was more than I could bear. It has ruined all dreams I have ever had of living on the other side of the pond. A life without Mexican food is, well, unimaginable.

So now you can see why it came as no surprise to me to find that my favorite new soup is now Yucatan Chicken-Lime Soup.

I found this recipe in The Daily Soup Cookbook. And one of the things I liked best about it is that I had most of it's ingredients on hand: chicken, rice, cilantro, Mexican oregano and chipotle chili's are staples in my house.

One ingredient, however, avocado leaves, are a little more difficult to come by. Not too many avocado trees in Oklahoma. So I had to do without. But this gives me something to look forward to. First chance I get, I'm driving to a local asian market (they have just about everything) to see if I can find some avocado leaves there and then I'll be headed straight home again to try out another batch of this soup. I have never cooked with avocado leaves before, so if anyone knows what they are like, please let me know.

Another ingredient I used in place of the chopped, dried chipotle pepper, was dried chipotle granules, which I found in the spice isle at Supertarget. One whiff of this potent little gem of a spice, and you'll appreciate their fiery, smoky flavor. I always keep 'em on hand. And the bossy, big sis in me says that you should too.



This soup begins with a rich, succulent, chicken broth, surrounded with an intoxicating aroma of dried chipotle chili, and canned chipotle in adobo sauce, along with a hint of epozate and generous amounts of fresh, chopped onion, verdant bell peppers, garlic, rice, and chicken making up the body of the soup. Then topping it off with plenty of fresh lime juice, chopped green onion and cilantro. I feel obliged to warn you, however, this is an addictive soup. And, as usual, my picture doesn't do it justice. But if you like Mexican food and Tortilla Soup, I suggest you try this recipe. Just remember to go easy on the chipotle peppers, they're pretty hot.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Just For Luck

Things have been a bit hectic lately, and I am sorry to say, there has been little time for soup, and I really do feel bad about that. Some people go to the end of their days with regrets, and I only have one, and that is, I wish I had more time for soup. But I did find time to make a nice pot of black eyed peas today, just for luck.

Also, for those living in the OKC area, I was able to enjoy a tasty bowl of Enchilada Soup at the Beatnix Cafe on 13Th street between Robinson and Broadway this week. My son, whom I'd mercilessly drug along on a shopping trip - food bribery always works with him - devoured his grilled turkey sandwich with jalapeno and said it was one of the best he'd ever eaten. We stopped by in the middle of the afternoon, so it wasn't too crowded - and I suppose that is what I liked best about this little place - it's quiet, laid back atmosphere. And the art. They had great art. And great coffee mugs. Which is always a bonus in my book.

I really do hope this place does well. OKC needs more places like this. And my only regret is that I don't live closer  so I could walk there every day, for coffee and for lunch, and then mosey back home again to one of the historic mansions nearby, to my cats, and read books, and eat more soup. It would be such a glorious life(!).




I am looking forward to the new year and getting back to my regular routine of posting again. I have missed you all and want to thank everyone for stopping by and allowing me this outlet of sharing my thoughts and recipes, and want to wish everyone a Happy and Delicious New Year!

And, oh, yes, I am usually not one for New Years resolutions, but this year, I am going to take some inspiration from the Beatnix Cafe, and my goals are to listen to some good music, relax a little, hang out with my kids, and most of all, eat more soup.

Take care!