Back to reality.

This past week was wonderful…a blissful “vacation” getaway to the scenic destination of Land Park, just a short 5 minute drive from downtown Sacramento, but worlds away. Really. House sitting for Beth’s Aunt was truly such a gift to us…While Beth still had to work during the week, I spent my days lounging by the pool and sipping an endless supply of Ice cold Sprite (which just so happens to be my FAVORITE soda besides Sun Drop!). We ate FABULOUS Food, and watched LIVE TV for the first time in probably 2 years. We slept in a California king sized bed that was so soft and pillowy that it literally felt like you might be swallowed whole. We hot tubbed every single night, and swam in the pool on the weekends. AAAAND to top it all off I got to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics 2012, on LIVE TV…which as my mother can tell you, is my FAVORITE part of the Olympics, I LOOOOOOOVE the parade of nations!

aaaand now, we are back home. Back to our tiny but comfortable apartment, back to hulu or olympics online, back to my pathetic excuse for a stove, and back to our double bed….not even a queen size.

But alas This is a cooking blog…enough of me complaining lets get to some eats.

As I’m sure most of you have experienced coming back from vacation can be nice, that wonderful “ah back home” happens as soon as you enter the door. But coming home from vacation even if its only a week long trip like ours was, has its challenges. Mainly for me, in the area of What to make for dinner…

We arrived home sunday night after dinner, so Monday was really the first chance I had to cook anything. I opened my fridge and to my extreme disappointment, I saw….very little. My fridge contents were mostly soggy and some things had gone bad so it smelled all together unappetizing. But somehow I managed to scrape the bottom of the barrel and find the ingredients for a tasty fritatta.

Now if you have never had a Fritatta, think of it as a crustless quiche, or an unfolded Omelet. it is a simple italian dish…with endless room for creativity, and it is also VERY forgiving, it is almost impossible to screw up a fritatta.

So here is what I made…and let me just say, it was SO good.

Dilled Turkey and Potato Fritatta

1/2 Red Onion (diced Small)
1/2 Green Pepper (diced Small)
4 Baby Bella Mushrooms (sliced thin)
6-7 Slices (good) Smoked Turkey Lunch meat (bitesized pieces)
2 Small red Potatoes (peeled and sliced thin)
3 eggs
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
A splash of milk
a handful of Dill (chopped)
1/2 (or more) Shredded Cheese

1. Preheat your oven to 375 F (make sure you use an oven safe saute pan for this recipe)

2. Put a small pot of water on the stove to Par Boil the potatoes (Par Boil: To pre cook in Boiling water)

3. melt a small knob of butter in a 10′ saute pan, add onion, green pepper,  and mushrooms. Saute on high for a few minutes to brown the veggies, then turn down and cook until the veggies are soft.

4. When your water is boiling add the potatoes, and cook for about 1-2 minutes, just until the edges are soft.

5. add the potatoes and turkey to your veggie mix.

6. add your 3 eggs, sour cream, milk, dill, and shredded cheese in a bowl and mix together well.

7. once the turkey and potatoes are warmed and slightly brown, add the egg mixture. Cook on medium to high, until the edges are lighter in color, and slightly firm. Don’t worry about the middle being raw, it will cook in the oven.

8. Place in the oven, for about 20 minutes.

9. Remove from the oven, and flip onto a plate, This is easiest to do by placing a plate on top of your saute pan (like a lid) and flipping the saute pan over with the plate still on top when you remove the pan you will have a perfectly flipped fritatta.

Heres what was left of ours. 🙂 Enjoy!

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Wonderful Wednesdays Recipe! Pollo Mojo (Cuban Grilled Chicken) and sides

If you know me at all you know I am white…in fact I am about as white as they come. Despite the unfortunate lack of ethnic diversity in my heritage, I am OBSESSED with all things ethnic when it comes to food. One cuisine in particular strikes a chord in my heart, bringing back memories of adolescence spent in South Florida. That cuisine is Cuban! I am in love with cuban food, and I am convinced I could eat it every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. My mother (who is also VERY white…) is an excellent Cuban Chef. She grew up in Ft Lauderdale (which is just north of Miami for you non floridians) where she learned to love cuban food, and then she learned the cuisine while living in miami (also known as N. Cuba for you non floridians) with my dad. For as long as I can remember we have had Cuban meals cooked by my mom or dad at least a few times a month. Cuban products are very common in the local grocery stores of South and Central Florida, Mojo Creojo (marinating sauce) can be found just about anywhere as well as, fresh plantains, and guava paste. So I just naturally assumed I would find in any grocery store anywhere in the country. When I moved to California, I quickly discovered I was wrong :(. When I asked a Safeway clerk one day if they had any Mojo Creojo he looked at me like I was from mars…and promptly mispronounced it as he questioned me. Well no, Safeway does not carry Mojo, neither does Sprouts, Trader Joes, Savemart, or Grocery Outlet. So I decided I would just have to make my own…One of the key ingredients to this sauce however is Sour Orange Juice, also a product not found in Northern California. So long story short This is my adaptation based on the ingredients available to me here in California. So without Further ado…Heres the recipe

Pollo Mojo and Sides

Alright so first things first you need to get the marinade started for the chicken heres what you will need

1/2 Onion Sliced thin
3 Limes
4 Cloves of garlic Smashed (I just beat them with the side of the knife a few times…but be sure to remove the skins)
1 handful of cilantro
1/3 cup Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Alright so get the onions and garlic in a bowl or ziplock, juice the limes and then throw the pieces of juiced lime in there too.
Chop the cilantro and it to your marinade, which should be smelling AWESOME by now.

Add your chicken and then pour in your olive oil, and give everything a good mix. Make sure if your using a bowl or pan, that the chicken ends up at the bottom, resting in the juice mixture, and with the onion and garlic on top.

Now cover that and whack it in the fridge.

Next you wanna get your rice and beans going, I’m not going to go into great depths with this one because really its not possible. Just toss a can of black beans into a pot with 2 bay leaves (if your beans are slightly dry and sticky add about 1/2 – 1 cup of water to allow time for the bay leaves to flavor the sauce.) allow to just barely simmer until your ready to serve (if they get to dry at any point, just add more water. You want them to have a nice smooth syrup but not be soup.) Start your rice

Next Prep the Salsa

2 roma tomatoes Diced Small (I like roma tomatoes because to me, they taste the most like tomatoes should)
1/4 Onion diced very Small
1 handful Cilantro Minced
1/2 Lime juiced
Salt (and pepper if you like)

Mix those all up and whack it in the fridge.

On to the Tostones: Brief explanation of what those beautiful golden discs are. Tostones are a product of the Plantain in green form, they are starchy and delicious and very much like a sticky potato unless fried. When fried they become like a cross between a french fry and a corn chip. Delicious. Green Plantains can be fried in a variety of ways, thin sliced and fried to golden brown, cubed and fried like hash browns or my personal favorite (the tostones way) fried once in a very thick disk flattened and fried again to brown and crispy. Mmmmm….

So take your plantain which looks like this…(a giant green banana)

and cut the ends off, then Score the skin down 3 to 4 sides (I should have taken a picture to show you but I forgot…sorry) then peel the skin off working your fingers between the skin and the flesh down your cut marks and it should pop off.

Once you get the skin off cut them into about 1/2 inch thick pieces. Like this…

Using a Medium NON STICK Saute pan put enough oil (I use half olive oil and half vegetable oil) to cover about 1/4 of the plantains. Turn it onto High Heat. When the oil is hot enough put a tester in, the oil should bubble considerably around the sides of the plantain. Put the plantains in flat side down. Flip them after about a minute, and let them cook another minute. Then remove them from the pan. Lay them on the cutting board and allow them to cool for about 1 minute.

Using a small heavy saute pan or flat bottomed object, take 1 plantain disk and smoosh the heck out of it…ok ok not really just apply a light amount of pressure until you feel it flatten (don’t go crazy you still want them to be about 1/8th of an inch thick)

After you have them ALL smooshed! Set them aside and cover with plastic or aluminum foil to keep them slightly warm.

Last but DEFINITELY not least. Take your chicken out of the fridge!

Fire up that grill and cook em!

I used high heat to start and got some nice caramelization on the chicken then cooked them through on medium flipping about once every 2 -3 minutes (I don’t like charred chicken)

After your chicken is done fry up those tostones real quick using the same method you did for the first fry just try to get them golden brown.

Then EAT! I’m pretty sure the traditional cuban style is to just mix the beans and the rice together, but I usually mix everything together then put it on top of the tostones and eat them like little nachos…how very un-cuban of me lol.

So thats pretty much it, I know this one was a little more complicated than my previous recipes but don’t let that stop you! I promise its worth the extra trouble! and be sure to let me know if you try it! Oh and check back with me tomorrow for my menu update and budget friendly tips!

A brief overview of How to make a Menu & ~Recipe! Bruschetta Chicken

I’m going to start this post off with menu making because if I put the recipe first, most of you will probably skip the menu making and go straight to making dinner, because it was that darn good.

Why make a menu, you ask?

whats that? you didn’t ask? well thats ok I’m going to tell you anyway.

1. it keeps cost’s down…that is if you choose the right recipes and stick to your list! Menu’s provide you with an easy way to make a shopping list, just write the ingredients you will need for your dinners, add your staple items (refer to my post yesterday if you don’t know what your staples are) and bam you are done! If you choose dinners that are relatively simple you should have a short (or shortish) list and minimal extra costs!

2. It saves you from the dreaded “Ugh there is nothing to cook in this stupid fridge” feeling. I get this feeling frequently when I haven’t preplanned my week of meals. I look at my fully stocked fridge, and see a mish-moshed pile of ingredients all of which had the best intentions but none of which could be put together to make a meal. Saving you from this feeling is also saving you from the inevitable “Oh lets just eat out” Feeling that comes next, which saves you money.

Now you understand the importance of menu’s now I shall tell you how to make one, my young grasshoppers…

The First step to making a menu is Knowing Your Options:
To do this you need to make a list of things you already know how to make, whether its a handwritten list in a notebook, a box full of recipes, or a computer database, it is important to have your standby’s close at hand.

Next you need to Explore your Interests:
To do this you will need Recipes/styles of cooking/Flavors that Interest you. The interent is chocked full of great resources for budding “chefs” and adventurous cooks. Once you know what your looking for you can visit any number of sites and let your sense of cooking adventure come to life. Some websites you might want to check out are:
the Pioneer Woman Cooks – Hands down the best food blogger on the internet! She is so funny, and her recipes are so delicious!
Tastespotting – This is basically food porn
Food Gawker – This too…
Epicurious – some great recipes on here but also some questionable ones so be careful!
Jamie Oliver – LOVE jamie oliver! Great recipes and healthy as well!
All Recipe – The good the bad and the ugly seach with care!
Use these to find new recipes or new ideas for dinners.

Next you need to Find/make a chart that works for you:
I use a piece of notebook paper with the week date at the top and days of the week listed. but you can use a calendar or dry erase board…MINE usually looks like this:

Menu – 6/6 – 6/12

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Friday:

Saturday:

Sunday:

Monday:

Tuesday:

Last you need to let your creative juice flow and fill that sucker in!

I try to alternate between standby’s and new recipes, I usually make 1-2 “New” or newish recipes every week. Things I’ve either never made before or only made once or twice. I also always leave at least one day open for leftovers, so that we don’t waste food. As an added bonus it keeps me from having to cook every single night of the week, which after 3 or 4 days of work and then making dinner its nice to have a break.

Alright now that the learning is out of the way time for the fun part! Here is a delicious recipe for you all to try

Bruschetta Chicken

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Servings 2                 Prep time: 30 mins             Cook Time: 15 mins

2 Chicken Breast (I only used one but that sucker was HUGE!)
1 pint Grape or Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
6 leaves Fresh Basil
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Slice grape tomatoes into bit sized pieces (I sliced the smallish ones in half and the larger ones in quarters.

2. Chiffanod your basil leaves (refer to pictures for example)Image

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Place tomatoes and basil in a small to medium sized bowl. Add EQUAL parts Balsamic Vinegar and Olive oil to coat Tomatoes. Stir and place in the refridgerator

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3. Pound chicken breast to about 1/4 inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper and saute in a hot pan with about 1 TBL of olive oil until cooked through. Try to get as much browning as possible in the beginning then turn the heat down to low or medium to cook the chicken through, it should take 10-15 minutes.

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4. To serve spoon the Bruschetta over the chicken, I did about 3 spoonfuls of tomatoes and one spoonful of just the juice at the bottom of the bowl.

To make the bread that I served on the side, Slice french bread in 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices at an angle if you like. Slice one clove of garlic very thinly and saute in a large pan with 2 tbl olive oil on medium heat. Remove garlic slices turn the heat up to high. Add the bread and toast both sides with the garlic oil.

I Served mine with a salad and the garlic toasted bread. it was delicious!

Hope you enjoy, and write me back and let me know how yours turned out!

Amazing and EASY dinner…winner!

I made the menu for this coming week today…and while making the menu I had a brilliant idea…sparked from my desire to make an asian flavored salad that was not mandarine chicken salad AGAIN…lol so I looked back at the brain archives for my favorite chinese dishes…and found LETTUCE WRAPS! woo!!! and me being me…i figured I’d grab a quick recipe just to get an idea of what to put in them…then come up with my own recipe…much to my dismay…most (in fact ALL) of the recipes were for ground beef (what gives? no ground turkey fans in china apparently) now improvasation in the kitchen is my thing…so I figured eh I’ll just make it work.

So heres what I came up with…

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps:

(about) 1 tbs Sesame Oil (toasted)
1/2 lb Ground Turkey
1/4 to 1/2 Yellow Onion (chopped)
2 cloves Garlic (minced or pressed)
1 large knob (or about 2 tbs) Ginger (Minced)
1 can water Chestnuts (chopped or sliced)
1 good sized Carrot (grated)
2 1/2 tbs Housin Sauce
1 tbs Worschestshire (good luck spelling that…I never can obviously) sauce
1 tbs Rice Wine Vingar (seasoned or unseasoned)
a good dash of soy sauce
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Cilantro (minced) (to taste)

1. Saute onions in sesame oil until soft, add garlic and ginger and saute for about 1 or 2 mins (don’t let the garlic burn)

2. Add ground turkey and saute until ground turkey is almost cooked. Add Housin sauce, W. Sauce, Rice Vinegar, soy Sauce and Water chestnuts

3. Saute until cooked (haha) in other words till the turkey is done and the chestnuts have soaked up some of the sauce. Add carrots and Cilantro (but do not COOK) the carrots are much better raw with that crunchiness left in them.
should look something like this…

then use Large Iceberg (in my case cuz it keeps longer and is less expensive…I know I know mom it has no nutritional value…but that crunch is just sooooo good) as wraps or cups to put the meat into (aka lettuce tacos)

finished product = delicious

I’ll admit I was dubious about eating JUST this for dinner (no sides no salad no starch) but it was delicious and after about 3 lettuce wraps each both Beth and I were stuffed. We had a little leftover but not much…and as with most asian dishes it only gets better with time spent in the fridge marinating! so Heres to a great lunch tomorrow 🙂

also on a side note…I would like to add after only working at this for about 3 weeks now…and with a few work outs thrown in between almost all my pants are falling off…and my “spare tire/muffin top” is dwindling. I haven’t weighed myself because we don’t own a scale but I think we might need to invest in one to catalog this experience…anyway…hope you try this recipe out and enjoy it as much as we did!

Oh I am so bad at blogging…

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Ok ok…I know what your going to say…I suck at keeping up with this blog…and your right…I do. But I have so busy with like 12 ongoing projects that I just haven’t been keeping up…anyway…so update on this past week’s meals…

last friday I bought some beautiful kale and cabbage from a small local farmers market…I decided with this whole vegetable kick working out pretty well for us…why not kick it up a notch with fresh local produce and green stuff that is basically superfood like kale which happens to be some of the best green stuff you can eat….so anyway beth was apprehensive about the kale (she had never had it before) so I decided to ease her into it by combining it with familiar ingredients. Like pasta…lol the result? A delicious and really low fat dinner. I don’t really know what to call the dish so for now its just “italian sausage with kale over pasta” the recipe is as follows…

1 large bunch of kale (washed and roughly chopped into bite size pieces)
1 or 2 (depending on how much sausage you like) italian chicken sausage
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/2 can white beans (optional)
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
Oregano to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste

Basically I cooked the pasta (I used bowtie) and while that was boiling, took the sausage from the casing and sauteed until almost cooked then added as much kale as I could fit in the pan lol…cooked till slightly wilted. Then added the tomatoes, beans, garlic and oregano and cooked until the garlic mellowed out…about 5 mins. Then dished up the pasta and served the sauce on top with a touch of Parmesan cheese. Super delicious.

And beth is now a kale LOVER…way to go me!