Thursday, March 31, 2011

Woo hoo!

Just got my first check from Google AdSense for just over $100. After...ahem...over 2 years.

C'mon, on those ads.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pantry Alchemy: Chinese Chicken Salad

I love my Asian pantry/fridge ingredients. Soy sauce, of course. (Two kinds.) Sesame oil. As well as chile oil and peppercorn oil. Rice wine vinegar. Sambal oelek. (AKA chili-garlic sauce.) My new secret ingredient, mirin. And a variety of prepared jarred sauces like black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, and oyster sauce.

Lucky for me, there's an Asian grocery just around the corner where I can buy authentic versions of these things at quite the bargain. Along with all the other ingredients I need like bok choy, mushrooms, noodles, and tofu. I skip the chicken feet though.

So, since I'm well-stocked in this department, it's easy to come up with a flavorful dinner of Chinese chicken salad.

I baked a chicken breast at 400° for 35 minutes after basting it with soy sauce and mirin and hitting it with a little garlic pepper and freshly grated ginger. then, let it cool, chop it up and toss in the pan juices.

Meanwhile, chopped up some Napa cabbage, scallions, celery and water chestnuts. You could throw in whatever else floats your boat. Baby corn. Mandarin oranges. Red bell pepper. Cilantro. A bit of jalapeño. Go for it.

(And make sure you have some crunchy bits ready also. Crispy wonton strips. Or chow mein noodles. Or chopped peanuts.)

Make this dressing. Toss to your heart's content. Enjoy. (Translate that into your favorite Asian language.)

Asian-Style Dressing
Makes about one cup.

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon chili-ginger sauce
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of garlic pepper

Whir all ingredients together in a mini food processor to emulsify.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Herb-Yogurt Sauce

Even thought it's 50 degrees and raining today, spring is supposed to be here. Time to grill, roast some lamb, quick cook some fish for a nice supper on the deck.

This tangy herb and veggie-laden yogurt sauce would be great as a condiment for any of those dishes. And just about any kind of veggie too.

Try it and see if you don't agree

Herb-Yogurt Sauce

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

1 cup plain reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup diced plum tomato
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh oregano and/or fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic pepper (or 1/8 teaspoon each garlic powder and black pepper)

Combine all ingredients and serve.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Finally....Brown Rice I Can Eat....

I know I'm supposed to eat brown rice. Good carbs and all that. But, frankly, up until now it just tasted like little pieces of cardboard.

Not any more.

Ran across this cooking technique in Cooking Light and I'll never look back....

Flavorful Oven-Baked Brown Rice

Makes 6-8 servings.

In a baking dish, combine 1 cup brown rice with 2 1/2 cups chicken broth (I used homemade stock with great results.), 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch or two of your favorite herbs and spaces (maybe rosemary, thyme, lemon rind, garlic pepper, whatever floats your boat).

Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350° for one hour.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Paraphrasing Stephen Sondheim...We're Still Here!

Sorry we've been lax in posting lately, but we've been faithfully following our own Life Should Be Beautiful policy and enjoying the beautiful spring weather here in Texas. Accompanied by good food, delicious wine, and a cocktail or two. Hope you're taking time to enjoy the things going on around you.

To prove we're still alive, here's a photo of the perky little azalea bush that kept me, the other half, and the dogs company during last night's happy hour out on the deck.

Don't worry...plenty of recipes and tips are piling up. We'll clear the backlog...but not if it means missing out on sitting out on the deck and listening to the birds. Stay tuned.

And salud.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NOT the Cocktail of the Week

OK...I was all ready to post this lovely cocktail for you to concoct tomorrow night for St. Patrick's Day. Purty, ain't it?

You're not getting a recipe though. Because it's nasty. A combination of green creme de menthe, rum and lemon juice. (If you can put that together in proportions that taste good, please post below.)

So here's my recipe for you this year. Stick with the tried and true. A nice snifter of Irish whiskey. Or, if you must, green beer.

Just not this Kryptonite.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip

Here's a yummy hot dip to try at your next party. It was a hit at our Oscars soiree. And quite yummy with bubbly.

Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip
Makes 8 servings.

1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeño pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
8 ounces crab meat, drained, shells removed
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté red pepper in olive oil until tender. Remove to large bowl. Stir in next 9 ingredients and combine until smooth. Add crab and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread in an 8 inch pie plate or casserole dish. (I put mine in two smaller ones so I could put a freshly heated one out once we'd devoured the first.)

Bake 30 minutes at 375° until bubbly.

Serve immediately with crackers or baguette slices.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Lemon Chess Pie

We went to Luby's this weekend for lunch. (I know...not exactly healthy.) But when I got in line, I was a man on a mission. Past the congealed salad, past the fried fish and beyond the macaroni lay the dessert display. And I just KNEW there was a piece of chess pie with my name on it.

But guess what? No chess pie. No problem. I came home, searched through my trusty recipe files and found this one ripped from the pages of Southern Living. It hit the spot.

As a matter of fact, excuse me...I think there's a leftover piece in the kitchen.

Lemon Chess Pie
Makes 8-10 servings.

1 pie crust from a box of refrigerated pie crusts
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt

Fit pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under and crimp. Line pastry with aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights or dried beans.

Bake at 425° for 5 minutes. Remove weights and foil. Bake 2 more minutes or until light golden brown. Cool crust completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, whisk remaining ingredients in a bowl. Pour filling into pie crust.

Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until pie is firm. (Be careful not to let overbrown; shield edges if necessary.) Cool completely on a wire rack.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Cocktail of the Week: The Flapper

Yeah...girly name. And, yeah...the final product is a girly color. But this is a tasty high-octane drink. Mix one up next time you have a bit of bubbly open.

The Flapper
Makes one cocktail.

2 tablespoons gin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon simple syrup
Dash of grenadine
3 ounces champagne

Shake first four ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker.

Strain into a chilled champagne flute and top with champagne.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Roasted Baby Bok Choy

After a recent Sunday dim sum feast, we stopped by the Asian market to pick up a few things, including an inexpensive bagful of beautiful baby bok choy. (Love living in an ethnically diverse suburb. Other flavors like Mexican, Cambodian and even Persian are alsso right around the corner.)

Here's a simple recipe I used. The lemony mirin dressing would be great on other things as well...spinach, broccoli and asparagus jump to mind.

Roasted Baby Bok Choy
Makes 4 servings.

4 heads baby bok choy, (1 1/4 pounds), trimmed, leaves separated
4 teaspoons sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon mirin
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss bok choy, oil, garlic and salt in a roasting pan. Roast on lowest rack, stirring twice, until wilted and tender-crisp, about 6 minutes. Whisk lemon zest and juice, mirin and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle over the roasted bok choy.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Manchego with Honey Brown Butter Sauce

We all know Manchego cheese is delicious. (Don't we?) Guess what? It's even better drizzled with honey-laced butter. This was a star at our Oscars party the other night.

Manchego with Honey Brown Butter Sauce
Makes 6-8 servings.

1 stick butter
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 pound Manchego cheese wedge
Sea salt

Melt butter in small sauté pan, and cook until it turns a golden brown. Drizzle in honey and stir to incorporate. Pour over cheese wedge and sprinkle with sea salt.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Tuesday Tips: The Salty Edition

We know we're supposed to use less salt on our food...dietary guidelines and all. But what do with it then? Here are are few constructive uses.

  • Make your eggs or cream whip up faster and higher. Add a scant pinch before beating.
  • Your chicken/turkey will be moister after roasting if you rub a teaspoon or so in the cavity before popping the bird in the oven.
  • Make a solution of 1/2 cup salt to one quart of hot water to clean drains.
  • Prevent eggs from cracking their shells when boiling...add a few pinches of salt to the water.