Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Help me, Help you!

After fellowshipping with some of my high school friends in Memphis last week, it’s come to my attention that everyone does NOT use Google Reader (or other RSS feed readers)?!?!? Come on people now!! (smile on your brother, everybody . . . )

I’ve (subconsciously) pushed and prodded you to move towards Google Reader (here, here, and here), but now I think it’s time for a full out tutorial/explanation about the BENEFITS of using RSS Feeds!

(If you already use Google Reader, feel free to browse away . . . or catch up on all those old Seth Godin posts you “Mark as Read”)

Do you ever wonder what that icon is that looks like the North Face Logo?? It’s the RSS logo, and basically means you can add that website to a RSS feed reader.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I was going to type up some long, drawn out explanation, but I just found a really good youtube explanation here:

Another couple of neat/cool things you can do in Reader is to star and e-mail articles (I feel like I do this a lot) and check out your Trends. Here you can see which sites are most frequently updated, inactive, or obscure (click to embiggen). Thank You, 33 Blog Subscribers.

Anyways, if you find yourself checking the same sites every day, expecting an updated post (Big Girl, huh??)*, only to leave feeling sad and lonely, you might want to check this out. Srsly.

* RJOH, I love you!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cookin' with Ben, Brian, John & Roy

If you're looking for some tasty Mexican/Peruvian cusine, you should definitley check out Sabor Latino (on Greensprings). Tonight, when I was picking up some take-out for the LOML and our friends Fef & Clay, I decided to kill some time in the Tuesday Morning next door (ok, ok, i was checking to see if they had any Le Creuset on sale). And what did I happen upon in aisle 3???? LUCERO FREAKING OLIVE OIL!!

Hellz yeah, I bought a bottle!! And at $6.99 a bottle, I think it was a steal . . .

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Family

Hope you and yours have enjoyed a very Merry Christmas!! Earlier this week, we took a whirlwind two night trek to Memphris to see my fam and high school friends, and then wrapped up the last 24 hours (not that I'm counting) with my wonderful in-laws. The Mrs. an I constantly talk about how we feel blessed beyond measure, and we really do have such loving friends and family. Oh yeah, my Mom also gave me Guitar Hero: Metallica for Christmas (and nothing celebrates the birth of our Lord like "Master of Puppets" on Christmas night).

In baby news, the LOML turned 37 weeks today and you know what that means . . . "STOP THE PREGNANCY PICTS!!!" But seriously, she really does look great, and starting tomorrow, we're going on a steady diet of spicy food and long walks around the block to see if we can squeeze out a (healthy and fully developed) tax deduction before New Year's.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Me Roll You Long Time

Even though I only discovered them maybe 5 or 6 years ago (thank you, Pho Saigon), I’m a pretty big fan of Vietnamese Spring Rolls (I’ve also noticed I’m pretty fond of the phrase “pretty big fan of”). I’m not sure how “authentic” egg rolls from most (American-ized) Chinese restaurants are, but I feel somewhat-local when eating these fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls (gỏi cuốn).

Last week, Food Woolf posted some gourmet airplane food ideas, and since the recipe/idea seemed pretty easy, I thought I’d try to make some of these on my own. This was also my first experience with rice paper, and I’m really starting to appreciate living 2 minutes from the International Market.

TMF’H Spring Rolls
Rice Paper (try your local Asian market)
Pulled Pork (leftover and thawed out)
Sliced Chicken (cooked)
Napa Cabbage
Cilantro (Basil would be tasty, as well)
Bean Sprouts

I found it was easiest to pre-slice all the veggies, prep the meat, make the dipping sauce*, and have yourself a (merry) little assembly line. When everything is in place and ready for assembly, dip the rice paper in warm water for maybe 5-10 seconds then set it on a plate, and let it soak in the water for maybe 30 seconds (I mistakenly left my first piece of rice paper in for close to a minute, and it got CRAZY pliable!!). The first item you want to lay down is a piece of Napa for support. Then add your meat and other veggies, and wrap the roll up “burrito style.” Since the Rice Paper is pretty sticky (almost saran-wrap like), they’ll stay wrapped pretty tight. I ended up making 8 (some chicken, some pork) and storing them on top of damp paper towels, while finishing the others.

Peanut/Hosin Dipping Sauce
½ C Hoisin sauce
2 Tbs peanut butter
½ Tbs rice vinegar
“Dash” or two of garlic powder
1/8 tsp Sriracha (you could add more, just be warned)
(a few) Tbs warm water (to reach desired consistency)
Peanuts, chopped

Combine all ingredients, except the peanuts, and stir until you get the right consistency. In the words of Jay, this sauce “was the fire” and really easy to make. I would dip the spring rolls in the sauce, and then place a few chopped peanuts on top before each bite.

These rolls seriously were AWESOME!!!!!** Go to your kitchen and make them tonight!!!!

* Adapted from Bee Yinn Low

** The LOML will also attest how tasty they were – and preggers friendly!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's Gonna take a lot to Take me Away from You

For those of you who still care (Beuller . . . Beuller?) what other ethnic food we had two weeks ago . . . the winner was . . . NORTH AFRICAN!!

Even though I’m a HUGE foodnetwork fan, I really don’t get into the Next Foodnetwork Star. A few months ago, the LOML and I watched as Melissa d'Arabian beat out the spice smuggler, Jeffrey Saad, and after stumbling across this, I thought I’d try one of her recipes (I do want to get some harissa after watching Jeffrey’s final presentation).

One thing I’ll say before I type up the ingredients/recipes. These meatballs were a lot harder to brown and stay firm and spherical than I thought they should have (is that sentence grammatically correct?). I don’t know if I was shaking the frying pan around too much, but they tended to turn almost triangular?? Anyways, I think I saw Alton Brown bake his in a mini-muffin pan on Good Eats, and I might try that next time. Either way, I do think this would make a great meat sauce on its own, IMO.

North African Meatballs (adapted from Mellisa d’Arabian):

North African Sauce
2 Tbs olive oil
2/3 C small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ Tbs lemon juice
1 C pitted and chopped (kalamata) olives
3/4 C chicken stock
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
Pinch ground cinnamon

1 egg
3 Tbs tomato paste
3 Tbs (rough) chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1.5 TBs crystallized ginger
1.5 tsp ground cumin
Pinch ground cinnamon
1 lb ground beef
1/2 C finely ground rolled oats

To make the North African Sauce, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until soft, about 3 minutes. Next add the lemon juice and olives and cook for another minute. Stir in the stock, canned tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon, and simmer to blend flavors, about 7 minutes (I omitted the wine and just used more chicken stock).

To make the Meatballs, add the egg and tomato paste and stir until smooth (was this where my meatballs went wrong – too much tomato paste??). Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended. Stir in the ground beef and oats, season with salt and pepper, to taste (was I supposed to taste RAW MEAT???), and combine gently after each addition. Rolling with your hands, make about 20 meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter. (I have NO idea how Melissa got 32 meatballs out of this recipe, especially with .75 lb ground beef)

In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat, and brown the meatballs in batches until golden on all sides. Drain on paper towels, and after all meatballs are cooked, transfer the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and let simmer for 20 minutes.

We had this with Couscous (and some leftover apricots thrown in). There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mary, Did You Know?

Do you ever check out the “Explore” tab in Google Reader?? Today in “Popular Items,” the World’s Best Ever helped me realize I’ve been committing a major faux pas when enjoying my sushi (dumping Wasabi into your soy sauce).

(click to embiggen)

I’ll also admit, I used to put the pickled ginger on top of my sushi. I know, I know. I’m embarrassed for myself.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What puts the Ape in Apricot?

Last week was BY FAR the most ethnic week of cooking we’ve had at the TMF’H household. Monday we had Chicken & Apricot Curry and Wednesday we had . . . (you’ll have to come back – I know the suspense will be killing you).

So I’ve already told you I’ve become a Penzey’s Spices apologist. Now that we’re on the mailing list, we get their catalog every couple of months, and although most of the recipes have a 1980’s Midwestern feel to them, I still like flipping through and looking for some inspirado. And since I’m trying to find uses for the ingredients I bought in August, we went with the Chicken & Apricot Curry (or the less-impressively named Carol’s Easy Chicken Curry) for dinner. Sorry, I’m not typing up all the ingredients/instructions; you’ll have to go here for the details.

A few notes though . . . We cut this recipe in half and used boneless/skinless chicken breasts (I don’t think we missed any of the flavor). Also, I didn’t think the curry was that tart at all, and we didn’t add any additional sweeteners (the thought of aspartame in this gives me the shakes).

Did it pass the pregnant wife test?? Yes (although I don’t think she’ll be requesting it again in the next week or so). Until then, the search for ethnic ingredient use continues.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

(Clever title involving Butternut Squash)

So every year my firm has a Thanksgiving pot-luck lunch. It’s actually pretty awesome b/c you end up with around 100 side dishes and desserts, plus more gallons of sweet tea brought in than necessary. Last year I brought a butternut squash casserole, and a few weeks ago a friend of mine at work asked if it would be making a triumphant return. With that question, I knew I’d have to bring it back.

I pretty much pulled this recipe from a bunch of different sources (mostly sweet potato casserole recipes). Like I mentioned before, I ended up making this twice last week.

The first attempt was made with the squash roasted still in its skin. I wouldn’t recommend this method b/c it was pretty difficult to get all that good squash flesh out. I didn’t take a picture of my remains, but there was a lot left in the skin.

For the family version, I ended up skinning the squash first and cutting it into large chunks. Although it took some more time on the front end, I would go with this approach in the future. As you can see from these pictures, I roasted a lot of butternut squash (and I did experience some temporary Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) dermatitis – don’t be alarmed. it eventually washed off).

TMF’H Butternut Squash Casserole
Butternut Squash (a lot - you can guesstimate how much from the pictures)
1/3 C Orange Juice
2 Eggs
½ Stick Butter (melted)
¼ C Brown sugar
1 tsp Salt
a “Dash” of Cinnamon/Nutmeg*

After peeling and quartering the squash, I roasted it for about 45 min to an hour @ 425. It came out fork tender and then it went into the Kitchen Aid. First I added the melted butter and OJ, and let it mix/puree on medium speed. I could have used more OJ, but I wanted the squash to retain its butternut-iness (of course, I lose that with the delicious crumb topping to follow). I cracked two eggs into a separate bowl and took some of the hot squash mixture to temper the eggs down. Afterwards I added the egg mixture back and mixed in the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon/nutmeg. You could check the mixer every couple minutes to make sure it was mixing to your desired consistency, and after I was satisfied, it went into a greased dish. I baked it for about an hour @ 350 (here is what the office version looked like before going into the oven).

So, my office kinda got the raw end of the deal on the topping. I didn’t really look into my “crumb” topping and ended up just throwing random amounts of brown sugar, flour, oats and chopped pecans in a bowl and then sprinkling it on top before putting into the oven.

For the family version, I poked around on the internet and found this.

1 C Flour
½ C Oats (not instant)
1/3 C Brown Sugar
½ tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp Salt
1 stick Butter, cut into small pieces

Basically pulse all the ingredients in a food processor, and after the butternut squash has baked for 30 minutes, take it out and sprinkle this on top. Afterwards it looked like this, and smelled like an apple pie.

And then we had a Happy Thanksgiving.

* I know no straight man would ever use the word “dash” (or sprinkle, for that matter) when describing anything. Please forgive me.

Take this quarter, go downtown . . .

I really like toothpicks. I think this all started when I saw Uncle Buck when I was little. Remember when they were at the Bowling Alley and that guy was trying to be all cool, flipping the toothpick around in his mouth, and then it got stuck? I was really pumped when I got old enough (or my mouth grew large enough) to be able to do that. Yes, I know this really isn’t all that impressive.

Anyways, I just realized my office keeps a cup of toothpicks in the kitchen. I know I probably look like a red-neck, but I’ve been enjoying chomping on them the last few days. Man, this is an awkward shot of my nose . . .