Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Way to a Man's Heart DOES Include Keeping His Tummy Happy

When my husband and I first started dating he admitted that he was not that into the "food scene" and that due to a tonsil removal his taste was still a bit off. I informed him that I could be labeled a "foodie" and that I very much love to cook. So throughout our dating period he opened his mind to trying new things and even asked to take a few cooking classes together. In true cook fashion, I told him that he needed to take a knife skills course BEFORE we took any cooking classes. We did that course together, he bought a beautiful chef's knife and has been my soux chef by my side in the kitchen ever since.

There are still some foods that my husband adores and I want to make from scratch for him. One of those is mac & cheese. You may even say that my husband has a thing for mac & cheese. And by "thing" I mean if it is on the menu and he has never had it from the diner/restaurant/vendor before, he MUST try it. As much as I love to cook, I haven't made mac & cheese from scratch in like a decade. I certainly don't want to screw it up for the first time I make some for my husband so I have been tinkering with recipes when he has been out of the area for work.

Not everything I do is from scratch and I still hold Kraft boxed mac & cheese near to my heart. I enjoy it with some sriracha on top and it gives it just a bit of heat. My husband has now taking a liking to that technique as well. So knowing that I made this as my first attempt at a good recipe with some heat. It also seems like a great base for fresh cooked and crumbled bacon or shredded chicken or pulled BBQ pork or carnitas!



Jalapeno Mac & Cheese
SERVES 6 -8
1½ hours | 30 min prep
  • 1 lb noodles of your choice
  • 1/2 lb cream cheese, melted
  • 1/2 lb cheddar cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted 
  • 2 or 3 small jalapeno peppers, thinly diced or sliced (I only used two & had plenty of heat)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning
  • 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs (for topping)
  1. Cook the pasta according to its directions on the box/bag. Drain and set aside. 
  2. In a saucepan melt butter over low heat then add cream cheese and mix until smooth.
  3. Add heavy cream and whisk it in slowly.
  4. Mix in Cheese, stir until cheese is completely melted.
  5. Mix in Jalapeños, Salt, Black Pepper, Cajun Seasoning, and Flour.
  6. Continue whisking until all ingredients are completely mixed.
  7. Grease a casserole dish and layer bottom of pan with half of the cooked macaroni.
  8. Gently pour half the mixture over noodles.
  9. Add another layer of noodles and another layer of cheese mixture.
  10. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
  11. Uncover and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Recipe that is Near and Dear to My Heart: Bulgogi BBQ

I have studied martial arts for several decades. My Grand Master taught me far more than the martial art mindset and self-defense. One was cooking some of his favorite recipes including charcoal grilled bulgogi. I have so many fond memories when I cook bulgogi; sitting in his kitchen learning about his family/Japanese/Korean history while cooking, summer TaeKwonDo and Judo camps and the over 25 years I had him in my life. 

I was taught that delicious bulgogi is dependent on three main things: a good cut of beef, a delicious marinade, and the method you use to cook it. 

First, a good cut of beef always makes for delicious bulgogi: sirloin, tenderloin, or skirt steak are my usual choices. You still can make good bulgogi without these choice cuts. It’s very important to choose marbled beef. Cut the beef thinly against the grain to make it easier to chew. If you are not comfortable with a knife ask your butcher to cut the cut thinly for you.

Secondly, the marinade: the marinade in this recipe is the best that I’ve yet developed & is a variant of what I was taught by my martial arts Grand Master. As I’m constantly experimenting with recipes, I may still develop a better one but this is darn tasty. Also, if you can’t find a Korean pear, use ripe bosc pear: 1 small bosc pear for 1 pound of beef is good.

Thirdly, when we talk about the best cooking methods, grilling over charcoal will always be the best. This is because the marinade, juices and fats drip off the meat onto the coals, burn up there, and then come back to the beef in a wonderful smoke that covers the meat with flavor. You can’t beat charcoal for bulgogi.

 

 

 

 

 


Ingredients

  • 1 pound of beef tenderloin, sliced thinly into pieces ½ inch x 2 inches and ⅛ inch thick
  •  VEGETARIAN ALTERNATIVE:  You’ll need 10-12 large dried shiitake mushrooms. Add a few white mushrooms if you like them as well.
Marinade (for 1 pound of beef):
  • ½ cup of crushed pear
  • ¼ cup onion purée
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 chopped green onion
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs brown sugar (or 1 tbs of brown sugar and 1½ tbs rice syrup)
  • a pinch of ground black pepper
  • 1 tbs toasted sesame oil
  • several thin slices of carrot

Directions

  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Add the sliced beef and mix well.
  3. Keep it in the fridge and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight for a tougher cut of beef.
  4. You can grill, pan-fry, or BBQ right after marinating.
  5.  Serve with ssamjang (Korean spicy dipping sauce), rice and a delicious kimchi.
For Vegetarians:
Use the same marinade above and replace beef with mushrooms
  1. Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in warm water for several hours until they’re soft.
  2. Squeeze out any excess water and slice each mushroom thinly.
  3. Slice some white mushrooms, carrot, and onion.
  4. Mix all of it together in the marinade.
  5. Grill, pan-fry, or BBQ.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Southwest Chicken & Quinoa Mason Jar Salad

I convinced my boyfriend (now husband) that mason jar salads were a great way to plan a week's worth of healthy lunches. It took several months for him to be convinced and now he is hooked. He lives quinoa & so I decided to try a quinoa and chicken breast southwest style salad/burrito bowl to break away from his routine.

The quinoa & chicken give plenty of lean protein so you’re full until dinner. Greek yogurt serves as a healthier replacement for the sour cream found in traditional burrito bowls. Sweet potatoes and a healthy portion of bright power greens ensure you’re getting nutritious vegetables and superfood power. The whole lunch tastes really good too! If you’d like to make it vegetarian, just replace the chicken with beans. I actually meant to include black beans in my salads with the hectic weekend I completely forgot them. Our salads were delecious without but please feel free to add beans if you’d like!

Serving Size: 1 pint-sized mason jar

Ingredients

For the quinoa:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice and zest of one lime, or 2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the chicken:
2 large chicken breasts
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee

For the bacon: (optional)
2 pieces of thick cut bacon

For the sweet potatoes:
1 large sweet potato, washed, with both ends cut off
1 tablespoon residual bacon oil or coconut oil

Other ingredients:
3 cups chopped lettuce or power greens mix
5 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Instructions

For the quinoa:
Add the quinoa, water, and salt to a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. When it has reached a boil, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the quinoa is soft and fluffy.

Set the quinoa aside to cool.
When it has cooled, add the lime juice, lime zest, and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro to the rice and stir to evenly distribute the ingredients. Taste, and add more lime or cilantro as needed.

For the chicken:
Dry off both chicken breasts thoroughly with paper towels, and season both sides of each breast using the 2 teaspoons of salt.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee over medium-high heat until the oil is very hot.

Add the chicken breasts to the hot skillet, and cook for about 4 minutes on each side. Both sides should have a pretty brown sear to them.

When the chicken breasts are cooked all the way through, remove them to a cutting board to cool. Once they've cooled, cut the chicken into small chunks, about 1/2 square inch each.

For the bacon:
If you're going to add bacon to your salad, cook 2 slices of bacon as you normally would, until it is crispy enough to crumble. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon fat for the sweet potatoes.

For the sweet potatoes:
Cut up the sweet potato into tiny chunks, about 1/2 square inch each.
Heat 1 tablespoon of bacon fat (or, if you didn't use bacon, coconut oil) in your large skillet over medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the sweet potato cubes. Sear the potatoes on all sides, stirring every 3-5 minutes.

When the potatoes have all browned on the outside, turn the heat down to medium-low, cover the skillet with a lid, and cook the sweet potatoes until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool.
To assemble the salads:

When all ingredients have cooled, you can begin to assemble your burrito bowl salads. Add 1 tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt to the bottom of each pint-sized wide mouth mason jar.

Top with about 2 tablespoons of sweet potato cubes.

On top of the sweet potatoes, add 3-4 tablespoons of the cilantro lime quinoa.
Layer 1-2 tablespoons of cheese over the quinoa, a little less than half a piece of bacon over the cheese, and a layer of chicken over the bacon. (To make this vegetarian, substitute 1 can of rinsed beans for the chicken and bacon and add a layer of beans here.)

Fill the remaining space in the mason jar with greens, and sprinkle some additional chopped cilantro on top before screwing on the lid.