You Need a Pita

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Anything that can double as a pizza crust and a sandwich bread is a prized item in my kitchen. As one of my culinary heroes, Alton Brown, attests to, kitchen tools with multiple functions is always better. Sure, he was talking about using your garlic press for something other than pressing garlic (which is apparently a lost cause…)* but when I’m making meals, prepackaged items can be tools as well.

For example, though I originally bought these to make a portobello & feta pizza, with only two mouths to feed, I had plenty of pitas left over. Enter, homemade chicken salad. Someday I will make it again and post my recipe–it was so delicious! Cut open the pita like you would a bagel, and boom.   A pita pocket perfect for your favorite filling.

Or maybe one day you want something for lunch that isn’t a sandwich, and you create a masterpiece personal pizza! I spread some barbecue sauce (all I had–tomato sauce would work too of course!) over the pita, topped it with some sliced tomato and red onion, and then sprinkled small slices of Monterey Jack cheese. Top with some dried oregano and garlic powder, bake in oven until cheese melts and then place under broiler until golden brown.
These are my favorite moments in the kitchen; no recipes, just intuitive flavors and throwing in whatever is available. Feisty worthy food, and lots of fun too. 😉

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*As far as I can tell, there’s not many more uses for the garlic press, and most professional chefs consider it “useless.”  Though it is true that pressing garlic with a knife and then slicing it will result in essentially the same thing, I love the way my garlic press discards the skin and presses the garlic directly into the pot or pan with the appearance of the garlic you can buy already pressed in a jar.  For now, my garlic press has a permanent place in my ever expanding kitchen. 😉

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The Poor Girl’s Guide to Shrimp

I love shrimp. The whole world knows I love shrimp, and there’s even a famous fight in my family history about shrimp (me vs. my mom). Unfortunately, it isn’t the cheapest ingredient to work with. If you buy raw, shells on shrimp you can reduce the cost. I bought a bag of frozen raw shrimp with the top and bottom shells on for $17 at Kroger (cheapo grocery store in Richmond/southern Va), and was able to make 3 meals out of it, for 2 people each time. 6 meals overall, making the cost less than $3 a meal. Pretty good right? And then I found this recipe, which uses by products of the recipe as ingredients (meaning you don’t have to buy them!). This recipe is super cheap to make (minus that initial cost of shrimp) and more importantly, it’s delicious. It will make you feel like a seasoned chef too. 🙂
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Shrimp Pasta

6 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
2 lemons
5 T. olive oil
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
21-25 shrimp, deveined & butterflied
1/4 onion
3/4 lb pasta (I used bowtie)
2 T. butter (I cut this in half, using 1 T.)
salt & pepper

In a bowl, combine garlic, zest and juice of one lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Remove shells from shrimp and save, and add shrimp to bowl. Set aside to marinate.
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In small pot, add shrimp shells and onion; cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. You’ve just made a shrimp stock. 😉
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Strain into a bowl and discard shells and onion. Bring a large pot to a boil and add pasta, cooking as directed. The original recipe called for linguine, I used bowtie; you can use whatever your heart desires. Also, for 2 people I’m not sure if I used 3/4 lb, just use what you need.
Drain pasta and reserve half a cup of the pasta water. Heat a skillet over high heat. Remove shrimp from marinade, saving the marinade, and add them to the skillet. Cook until pink and caramelized, stirring regularly. Remove shrimp to a plate (try not to pop too many into your mouth) and add the marinade to the skillet. Let cook a few minutes, then add 1 cup of the shrimp stock and 1/2 cup of pasta water. Continue to cook until sauce reduces by half (took about 15 min for me).
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Add zest and juice of second lemon, butter and salt and pepper to taste. Add in shrimp and pasta and toss to coat. I find it easier to toss them together in the pasta pot.

And there you have it! Lemony, slightly spicy, and full of shrimp–who could ask for anything more? 😉

Love,
Feisty

Random Thoughts on Food

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I.  In the last 6 months, I’ve begun to notice that I will do a little dance when I’m eating delicious food.  Apparently, its something foodies do, and that’s cool because I love food.  Last night I made a Trader Joe’s panko-crusted tilapia that I sprinkled with lemon juice, redskin mashed potatoes & sauteed mushrooms and onions that I put in the oven to keep warm so long, they roasted a little too.  It was so fuckin delicious I was swaying side to side while I chewed.

II.  I have become madly in love with Pinterest, seeing it as an amazingly modern way to review the Internet.  I am on it most of the time through my work’s account, searching for interesting gardening photos, but I came across so many recipes that sounded so fuckin delicious, I created a secret board to share with my personal account.  I then grab the recipes from the secret board and re-pin them on my boards, like Yum! or Good to Know.  What I don’t like is there are some recipes that are completely made up of packaged ingredients.  Like, “Texas Trash,” where the recipe is something like a can of beans, a package of sour cream, and a bag of shredded cheese.  Or, these “Chicken Pillows,” which are a combination of chicken broth, cream cheese and croissant.  Sure, they may sound tasty, but its no wonder when you’re combining fat with fat with salt.

III. Most of my meals are centered around fresh vegetables, a process several years in the making.  I used to rely on Bertolli bags and Bob Evans microwavable sides!  Now, if I don’t have potatoes, onion, & garlic in my house, I feel like I have no food.  Those have become my staples, though when I’m feeling rich I reach for the mushrooms, squash, tomatoes, and anything else that interests me.  I’ve got a cactus pear in my fridge right now because the price was right and I’ve never had one before!  It feels good to enjoy fresh produce, to celebrate it.  Sometimes I feel guilty for still wanting sauteed vs. steamed, or enjoying macaroni & cheese as much as I do, but I shouldn’t.  I can love my fruits and vegetables at the same time I love my oils and cheeses — food is about enjoyment and life is about acceptance.

My Favorite Food: Oh Fuck Yes

It all started a mere month and a half ago; a time that now seems long, long ago because of a major difference in mindset that has occurred since.  I haven’t really breached it publicly, but I might as well.  Those who know me or have followed a number of my blog posts or Yelp reviews know that I traveled everywhere with my other half, Ryan C.  We Yelped together, partied together, and of course, ate together.  And its easier if I just say, Ryan is dead.  It was tough, but I made it through.  I can still cook so everything’s cool.

Anyway, exactly six weeks ago, I took home a huge container of leftover, Thanksgiving mashed potatoes.  It ended up being too much for even this potato princess, so I turned to the Internets for an idea on what to do with leftover mashed potatoes.  Enter: MASHED POTATO CAKES!  Mashed potatoes with a crispy crust.  Oh Fuck Yes.

Now, I’ve got you a recipe, and its what I used post Thanksgiving.  They came out delicious, and instantly became my favorite food.  Not only is it yummy, its rare; even when I make extra mashed potatoes so I’ll have leftovers, I still end up eating them.  But the other day it happened; I tore myself away from an overabundance of cheesy mashed potatoes and saved some. The next morning I was super excited to make my beloved cakes, but was momentarily deflated when I realized I didn’t have the recipe’s required 1 egg.  No bother — just like sealing your raviolis together, the egg don’t mean shit.

MASHED POTATO CAKES!!

Mashed Potato Cake 

3 c. mashed potatoes
1/2 c. grated cheese (about 2 oz.)
2 medium scallions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 c. flour
oil
salt

Now, the first time I made this recipe, I followed it to the letter.
Place all ingredients except oil & salt in bowl and stir to combine.  Line baking sheets with paper towels.

Heat oil in frying pan until shimmery.  Drop 1/3 c. of mixture into pan and press down/spread into 3-inch patty.  Cook until bottoms are golden, about 4-5 minutes.  Flip and cook until other side golden brown (another 4-5 min.).  Transfer to paper toweled baking sheet and season with salt.

Yum, delish! If you have the ingredients go at it.  But here’s the magical thing — no egg needed!
Now, the mashed potatoes I made this most recent time had a nice handful of grated cheese, which was this really smelly cheese I bought unknowingly at my favorite funky grocer, Little House Green Grocery.  It was called Jumpin’ Jack Chive, so it already had an herb and damnit I wanted my cakes already.

I don’t even know if it was necessary, but I threw in a spoonful or two of flour and mixed it in the mashed potatoes.  So basically, compared to the original recipe, I didn’t add the egg & the garlic cloves and I replaced scallions with chives. 

What is really the trick to these is using mashed potatoes on the dry side.  You want them to be a bit stiff and stick together, and the cheese helps to achieve that.  As long as you have that, you don’t need no stinkin egg!
Pan fry as directed above.  I just grabbed a spoon and plopped down 3 heaping scoopfuls, flattening them down into patties.  The mashed potatoes were a bit stickier this time maybe, but just as delicious!  Be sure you get a nice dark crust, it adds a crunch that is an awesome complement to the soft, creamy mashed potatoes inside.
Just another lovely potato dish from the potato princess!
Love,
Feisty

My Adventures with Wonton Wrappers

Ravioli

I like to cook, and part of liking to cook is wanting to know how to make everything.  I’ve previously tried making pasta before, and without a pasta press the whole process is rather trying.  Forgot to ask for one this Christmas too!  I’m finally getting on the food processor bandwagon, though, so I guess I’m just like that late bloomer, Leo, I read about in elementary school.

The news around the Internet was that wonton wrappers were great for making ravioli and so on my last mystery shop, dallying around the sections at Martin’s, I came across the little green bag of Nasoya Wonton Wraps.  Great for making wontons & ravioli!, the package boasts.  I had to try this.  Purchased a container of ricotta and figured the rest was up to me!

Now, the first time I made these, I underestimated the time it would take me to make the filling (chop & cook mushroom, onion, garlic, mix with ricotta and shredded cheese), the egg wash, and to painstakingly seal each one together.  The “easy way” I came across was to simply plop a tablespoon of filling in the middle of one wrapper, brush all sides around with egg wash, and then press another wrapper on top.
Side note: pushing all the air out without pushing out the filling is quite annoying!

Anyways, the whole process ended up taking me so long (before we had to rush off to the last Yelp Elite party of the year!), that I only had time to drizzle some olive oil and a little fresh cracked salt and pepper.  Ryan said he liked it; I thought, quite honestly, it was bland.  Also, there was too much pasta.  Eight raviolis each was way too much for me!

Well, once you open this package, you’ve got a week according to its directions.  So I figured, with some leftover ricotta mix, I would try again.  This time, I made it easy on myself, and this is what I found:

1. Fuck the egg wash, water works just as well.  Its cheaper, healthier and less messy.

2. Put less filling in the middle of each wrapper, and then fold it over itself to make a triangle ravioli.  Half the pasta!  Twice as cute.

3. The sauce definitely helped.  Olive oil, white wine, real butter, zucchini, onions, garlic, basil….whatever I had, I threw it in.  Well, I have canned tomato sauce but I can’t justify opening a whole can for 5 raviolis.

The point is, cooking is all about experimentation.  I am the first one to admit that throwing in my own idea of what goes together is scary, and the threat of ruining the whole thing by throwing in a pinch too much of anything is very real.  But as you perform tried and true recipes, over time you realize what you like and what tastes good.  And I know that thick cut zucchini slices cooked in white wine is DELICIOUS! 🙂

love,
Feisty

oh baby I wanna get with ya

This is a stuffed mushroom.  With cream cheese. Onion. Garlic. Jalapeno. Homemade bread crumbs.  It’s all easy, it’s all scrumptious, and it’s all at your fingertips!

YUM STUFFED MUSHROOMS

ingredients
8-10 oz. mushrooms
4 oz. goat cheese
1/4 c. bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
1 T. herbs (chives, basil, oregano, rosemary…)
salt & pepper

Remove stems from mushrooms and chop.  Mix stems with other ingredients except mushrooms and fill each mushroom when well combined.  Arrange on baking sheet and bake until tops are golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Now, I only had 4 mushrooms.  And I had cream cheese, not goat cheese.  Thankfully they are the same consistency so easy swap there.  I also did not have bread crumbs, but I did have the end piece of a store bought loaf of bread.* 

THIS RECIPE IS VERY FORGIVING.  Get the amount of cheese right, don’t overdo the extra ingredients and you can pile those mushrooms high if there’s too much.  (Note: Too much would definitely be better than too little)

This is what I did:

4 baby portabellas
About a 1/4 c. of cream cheese
About 1 T. of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced (teehee, I love garlic!)
Chopped onion
1 thick slice of jalapeno, chopped
handful of chopped chives
salt & pepper
red pepper flakes
and the bread crumbs…

*Toasted up the end piece until it was nice and crispy, NOT BURNT.  Burnt bread is bitter, and that’s bad! 🙂  Placed it on top of a paper towel and just attacked it, crunching it up until I could get a few big pinches of bread crumbs.  After I filled the mushrooms, I also did another nice sprinkle of bread crumbs and pepper.

I ended up cooking these longer, more like 25 minutes, because the tops weren’t looking brown to me.  I pulled them out when I could start to smell the mushroom cook (a good sign!).  I love that roasted mushroom taste.  With the ingredients I combined, these came out garlic-y with a little bit of spice, absolutely crave-worthy!  Obviously a fun recipe you can experiment with.

Best. Appetizer. EVER.

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Happy 4th of July friends!  Even if you aren’t a friend, I guess I can still wish you a happy 4th.  Today is also my brother’s birthday, so happy birthday Devster!  I don’t get to see you nearly enough but I don’t think you really care.

Whenever I depart for a vacation, I like to clean out my fridge of anything that spoils fast — bacon, vegetables, fruit, milk, etc.  Last night, I decided to create a dinner of appetizers, something I have done in the past with mixed results.  Well, NOT TODAY! (or last night…)

I made bacon wrapped potato bites, which I’ve showed you how to make here, and homemade potato chips with avocado dip.  Did I mention lip smacking, I’m-going-to-kill-you-so-I-can-have-the-rest potato chips with avocado dip???

Before you say “Oh I will just buy chips at the store,” let me stop you right there.  Do you know how impressive it is to people to say “I made this” ?  Besides the fact that you know every ingredient in your food (not just what the bag tells you), people are generally mystified at making the simplest things.  Yes, simple.  The hardest part about making potato chips is slicing the potatoes.  Hint: I am typing this with the shittiest band-aid known to Richmond on my left middle finger (Kroger brand band-aids…never again).

Now, you will need some kind of slicer.  I’m sure a grater with a slicer side would work.  If you have a mandoline slicer, I am officially jealous.  I use a garlic slicer I got for Christmas, a sort of “throwaway” gift my mom gave me (ahem, Santa).  Because of this I have to use smaller potatoes, or cut a potato so that it fits on the little garlic slicer runway.  Whatever you do, don’t just chop them.  I don’t know if they would be able to cook all the way through, and then you don’t really have potato chips.

HOMEMADE POTATO CHIPS
Slice desired amount of potato chips from potato.  I use 1 usually for 2 people.  You get a lot out of it.
Throw slices in a bowl of salt water (water + salt).  Let soak for 30 minutes, maybe?  I do other things and then come back to it later.  I’m not really sure how important this step is but I do it anyway.  Meanwhile, start heating up a pan full of vegetable oil, about half an inch deep.
Drain slices and dry completely.  Once oil is hot (it starts doing a wavy dance), start throwing in potato chips!
We did 12 at a time because they were small, so keep in mind that you want the chips to be able to freely move and not stick to each other. 
Flip them over every once in awhile so they get evenly cooked.  When they start to turn brown, scoop out with any kind of slotted spoon, or you could grab them with tongs.  I use a colander scoop, which works pretty well.  I have not tried using tongs.
Throw them onto a paper towel and blot them, if necessary.  Spread out enough to get an even coating of salt, sprinkling around the chips.

Ryan actually salted them and he did a great job.  I prefer them salty but of course that is less healthy.  Counteract your love of salty chips with this healthy, creamy, scrumptious…damnit, I wish there was more!

AVOCADO DIP
Super simple and super delicious!
2 ripe avocados (buy them at the store when they feel soft, but not squishy)
1 lime
1 medium tomato (I wanted a Roma but Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell them separately so just make sure its firm)
3 cloves of garlic
Remove skin and pit from avocados and put in bowl.  Cut lime in half and squeeze one half over avocado, mixing in and mashing until soft and creamy.
Dice tomato in small, bite-size cubes.  Mix into avocado.  Mince or garlic press the garlic into the bowl and mix in.
Finish with juice from other half of lime.

It’s seriously the best, and great for a party or a picnic.  Just tupperware the guac and throw it in the cooler.  Put the potato chips in a plastic bag and keep away from cooler.  You will see — as Ryan said when I told him to stop eating so I could take a photo, “I can’t stop.”

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