Saturday, September 10, 2011

Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Pasta

Ever since I tasted baba ghanoush I've wanted to make some.  Last week I got an eggplant in my produce delivery, and that was my plan.  But, as I've never made anything with eggplant before, I thought I'd try roasting it first and see how that went.  Well, by then I had an idea for a pasta dish in my head.  I admit I was influenced by the desire to try some garlic a friend picked up at a garlic festival a few weeks ago.

Eggplant mixture
    1 large eggplant
    1 med onion
    Olive oil
    1 can diced tomatoes
    Salt, pepper to taste
Garlic pasta
    4 cloves garlic; minced, pressed or crushed
    1 lb. angel hair pasta
    1-2 tbsp butter
    Salt, pepper to taste
1.  Heat oven to 425° F.  Prepare a shallow pan with non-stick spray or parchment liner. 
2.  Wash eggplant.  Cut off top stem and bottom bump.  Slice at an angle into 1/4 inch slices.  Arrange the slices on the pan--try to not overlap them.
3.  Cut top stem and bottom roots off onion.  Peel off the outer thin layers.  Slice straight across  to get 1/4 inch wide rounds.  Separate the rings and arrange over the eggplant.
4.  Liberally sprinkle dried oregano and basil over onion and eggplant.  Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil over the spices.
5.  Pour diced tomatoes over all, drizzle a bit more oil and season with salt and pepper.
6.  Roast in hot oven for 20 min.
7.  Mince garlic with a knife, press through a garlic press or crush with a mortar and pestle.
8.  Boil water with a sprinkle of salt, but only add pasta once it's to a rolling boil and only cook it as long as directions indicate.  (We used "fresh" angel hair that only needed to cook 45 seconds.  We had the water ready but didn't put pasta in until eggplant was done.)
9.  Once pasta is drained return to pot and mix in the minced/crushed garlic and butter.
10.  Serve eggplant mixture over pasta.

    Don't be turned off by the strange color of the eggplant.  It really is quite tasty.
  1. Use a big sharp knife for the eggplant.
  2. Use a garlic infused olive oil to add more flavor to the roasted eggplant.
  3. Crush garlic cloves with flat side of knife--this aids in peeling them. 
  4. Use an electric tea kettle to have boiled water ready to cook pasta.
  5. The butter in the pasta is to keep it from sticking.  You can use oil instead.
  6. Feel free to reduce the amount of oil to your taste.  The eggplant soaks it up easily so you may just want to drizzle after adding the tomatoes.
  7. I put the seasonings on before the tomatoes to make sure the eggplant got the flavor.
  8. You could also "roast" the veggies under a broiler, but keep your eye on it so they don't burn.
  9. I found the tomato wasn't enough for my taste.  I will use 2 cans next time.
  10. Add some parmesan or pecorino cheese over tomato.
  11. Baffling fact:  angel hair pasta should be cooked to a core temperature of 160° F.  No idea how you're supposed to check that.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Simple Supper: Crackers and Cheese

I had to work late tonight and the last thing I wanted to do was a) stop at the grocery and, b) prepare something for dinner.  Ok, so that's two things.  Sue me.  I'm tired and make mistakes.  The more tired I am, the longer it takes me to walk the aisles and pick up what I need.  I end up getting stuff I just want.  Here's an example:

Ham, sliced or shaved
Spreadable cheese
Olives, as exotic as you like
Wine of your choice (optional)

1. Take a cracker.
2. Spread cheese on it.
3. Cut and flatten olive into cheese.
4. Cover with a piece of ham.
5. Enjoy followed by a slurp of wine.

How I chose my ingredients:
Crackers - My sister likes crackers with lots of fiber.  She will stand and compare fiber content for way too long.  I pick a cracker by the picture of it on the box.  I like them round with seeds and grains.  If they look like cardboard they probably taste like it.  There is a reason cardboard isn't considered a food.

Ham - I don't like water-logged ham.  I'd rather go to the deli counter and have them slice it fresh.  I like honey baked and black forest.  Roasted or smoked turkey breast is also good if your like my friend Jtran who "don't do no ham".

Spreadable cheese - I'm really not a cheese snob...ok, I am.  However, today I was looking for that processed cheese in the cute foil triangles with the bit of plastic that you pull, but the goat cheese was actually on sale for less.  And I am trying to choose things with less additives and processing.  If you do get goat cheese, make sure it's the spreadable kind.

Olives - I love them--as long as they aren't spicey.  Tonight, though, my eyes were glazing over staring at the rows upon rows of olive jars.  I remembered the deli counter had some and got just a few of three different kinds: baby kalamata, green with minced garlic and green with pimento.  I got about 15 olives for just over $1.

Note: If you don't like to enhance the flavor of your food with wine, you can stop reading here.

Wine - I am currently taken with  Chardonnays, but tonight I wanted a red.  I'm trying to learn to like them because they say the antioxidants are higher.  I do avoid cabernet savignon and merlot because I find them to be too acidic.  Also, I don't like to spend more than $10 for a wine I picked up at the grocery.  Today I got a great one for $5.  It's a California Shiraz from Barefoot and according to the sticker, it's an award winning wine.  I read the description on the back and liked the flavors mentioned.  I'm glad to pronounce it a success!

Just a couple notes on red wine: don't serve it too chilled.  I took it from the shelf of an air conditioned store, so I when I got home I went ahead and served myself some.  I swirled it a bit and let it sit while I made my tray of food.  It's supposed to "aerate" or breathe. explains it like this:
By allowing wine to mix and mingle with air, the wine will typically warm up and the wine's aromas will open up, the flavor profile will soften and mellow out a bit and the overall flavor characteristics should improve.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Delightful Tabouli

If there is anything more delightful than than picking fruit moments before you use it in a meal, I don't know what it is.  Ok, maybe picking your own veggies or spices, though I would not apply said theory to meat.  I do love having a lemon tree in the yard.

A few months ago, I received a package in the mail that made me very nervous.  I was expecting a package of dresses I'd ordered online.  The box I received was very heavy and smelled of onions.  NEITHER quality is desirable in a summer dress.  Turns out my dear aunt Lisa had finally come through on her promise of sending me her favorite tabouli mix... 12 of them!  Suddenly the smell made sense and awoke my hunger.  I found a few tomatoes and a cucumber and ran outside for some lemons.  And set to work.

Bishop Brother Tabouli Recipe (from the package)

  • 1 10oz. pkg Taboli Salad Mix (or use 1/2 lb soft bulgur wheat, 1 bunch of parsley and 1 green onion, both finely chopped)
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 fresh tomatoes chopped finely
  • 1 small cucumber chopped finely (I used an English cucumber)
  • 1/3 Cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1/2 Cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper
For added taste add (2) green onions with tops finely chopped

Before chopping the above vegetables combine the 2 cups warm water and taboli salad mix together and let soak while preparing the vegetables. After all is chopped now combine all ingredients with the water and mix. Refrigerate at least four hours to allow the ingredients to chill and flavors to mix together. Will keep up to one week if properly refrigerated.

My modifications:

1. I like using English cucumbers because they are less watery, have more flavor, the skin doesn't require peeling and there are no seeds.
2. I found this recipe a bit oily. I reduced the oil to 1/4 cup and used olive oil.
3. I love lemon so I upped the juice measure to 3/4 cup.
4. Green onions are a must in my book.

My discovery: Though advertised as "vegetable cutting knife", bamboo knives are NOT the best way to cut veggies, especially tomatoes.  What should have taken me a few minutes of chopping, actually took me over half an hour.  The serrated knife is great for cutting bread, but I think I'll just keep the straight one for shmearing my bagel.

The picture above is yellowed because it's a batch that we took to the Hollywood Bowl when we went to enjoy Chris Botti's trumpeting sounds.  I forgot to take the picture while it was still daylight.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cucumber Snack

This is a quick refreshing snack that's great after surviving rush hour.

1 cucumber
1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
chili powder, optional

1.  Peel cucumber.  You may skip this step if you are fortunate enough to have an English cucumber.
2.  Slice cucumber thinly and spread out slices on a deep plate -- the bigger the better.
3.  Sprinkle slices with salt, pepper and chili to taste.
4.  Squeeze lemon halves over top making sure to cover all the slices.  Remove seeds, if necessary.
5.  Let sit for 3-5 min.
6.  Eat!  Utensils optional -- I love to use my fingers! :)

Experimental Hors D'oeuvres

Since I'm house sitting at a friend's, I went rummaging through the fridge to see what I could throw together for dinner.  This is what I found:
4 large mushrooms
1 small onion
1 slice ham
1 tube crescent roll dough
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
garlic salt
chili powder

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350° F.
2.  Wipe mushrooms clean with a towel, instead of washing them -- it's a trick I learned from Julia Child.  Cut off hard stems and dice.
3.  Heat pan over med heat.  Dice the onion. To be healthy I browned the mushrooms and onion dry.  Stir occasionally.
4.  Cut slice of ham to small squares and add to mushrooms and onions.
5.  Sprinkle with chili and garlic salt and keep stirring occasionally.
6.  Pop open the tube of crescent dough.  Roll out the dough and cut the triangles in half -- pizza cutter makes it easy.
7.  Press the smaller triangles into the mini muffin pan -- alternative: use regular sized triangles for regular muffin pan. I started with a dowel, but found it easier to do with my fingers.

8.  Spoon 1/2 teaspoon shredded mozzarella into bottom of dough "cups"

 9.  Spoon a teaspoon amount of the mushroom mixture into each cup and sprinkle some parmesan over the top.

10.  Bake for 12 min.  Crust should be golden brown.
11.  Remove from oven and let cool in pan for no more than 5 min and remove to plate to finish cooling -- if you leave them in longer the moisture will make the bottoms soggy.
12.  Plate up and serve.  Goes great with some ranch dressing on the side (but then, what doesn't?).

Things I would try differently:
1.  I think some mild sausage would be great in lieu of the ham, but then I used what I had.
2.  Use some oregano and basil seasoning instead of the chili powder.
3.  Forget reducing fat and use a teaspoon of butter to saute onions and mushrooms.  Also, add a splash of white wine.
4.  Use more cheese and mix it into mushroom mixture to melt before adding it to the dough.
5.  Forget the pre-perforated triangles.  Roll out dough with pin to be thinner and cut into 2 - 2 1/2 inch squares.  You'll get more out of it, so up the amount of ingredients.
6.  Egg-lovers -- I don't include myself among you -- feel free to scramble an egg or two to the mushroom mixture.
7.  Add a clove or two of garlic, pressed, of course.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I'm getting a new camera!  It's on its way and should arrive in my hands sometime next week.  I'm so excited at the prospect of posting recipes with my own pictures!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A New Beverage Idea

I love water.  That's what we'd always have on the table growing up, unless we had guests or it was tea time.  It's my default drink.  I was shocked the first time someone told me "I don't like water".  I thought it was quite a silly thing to say, like "I don't like air".

Everyone knows that they should drink more of it and beverage companies have capitalized on the idea by providing hundreds of varieties of water -- and I'm not sure that's an exaggeration.  Vitamin water was a really big thing for a group of my friends who thought they were being healthy, until the sodium content and unpronounceable ingredient list was pointed out to them.  (Am I the only one who reads labels?  I know I'm a brat whose friends are very forgiving.)

I found an idea in a book last year, but I finally built up the nerve to try it this week.  I soaked and cleaned some leeks. (Soaking is very important to loosen the gritty dirt that hides between the layers.)  Then I put them in a pot with a quart of water -- no salt.  I let them boil for about 20 minutes and them let them cool.  The book recommended this as a "cleanse":  drink the cooled water and eat the cooked leeks throughout the day.  The water is loaded with vitamins and minerals from the leeks -- and it doesn't taste bad!  In fact, it doesn't have much flavor at all.

A Mexican friend recommended drinking the water from cooked beans to help ease cramps and other "time of the month" ailments.  Think: high fiber, iron and protein.

Last night, my sister boiled an artichoke and as she was pouring out the water, it occurred to me that I should have asked her to save it for me.

I usually salt my veggies when I cook them, so I don't know if that taste good to drink like water.  Hm, it could probably be used as a base for a work-out drink, like to make your own gatorade, or a broth to make a soup.  Hm... so many ideas.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Simple Supper: Avocado on Toast

Yes, I say "supper".  It's very British of me... ok, midwestern, actually.  But what else would you call your evening meal that's more than a snack, but definitely less than a dinner?

This is what I had tonight:

Avocado on Toast with Ham
2 slices bread (my favorite: sprouted wheat)
1 medium avocado
1/2 lemon or 1-2 tsp lemon juice
2 slices ham

1. Toast bread.
2. Half avocado and scrape out of husk onto a plate. Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice.  Mash with a fork till juice is all mixed in and avocado looks like guacamole dip.
3. Spread avocado on sliced bread.  I like it thick, so 1 avocado doesn't last more than two slices.
4. Place ham over avocado.
5. Enjoy!

In Chile, this is a common light supper accompanied by the ubiquitous cup of black tea. Mmmmm... :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Clean Teapot

I love tea.  I don't love the tartar-like substance that accumulates at the bottom of the tea kettle, be it stove-top or electric.  Here's an easy way to remove it:

1 part vinegar
4 parts water

Boil and then rinse with hot tap water. 
Exact measurements will depend on the size of your tea pot, but you'll want it at least half-full. 
For example, I have a 1.7 liter electric kettle.  I use 1 cup vinegar to 4 cups water and boil.  If the tartar is stubborn, I either let it cool and reboil or attack the softened tartar with a brush, depending on my level of laziness. 

Another tip: When making tea, fill your kettle just with the amount of water that you need.  You'll build up tartar more slowly and waste less gas/electricity.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rice Recipes

Chilean style
2 cups rice
3 ¾ c. boiling water
2 tbsp. oil
A little bit of finely chopped onion and shredded carrot (1/4 c. total)
1 ½ tsp salt

Heat oil in pan till shimmery on  top.  Add onion and carrot and stir.  Once onion is translucent, add salt and rice.  Stir to mix veggies with rice.  Pour in water (hot).  Turn down heat very low.  Cover pan. Cook 15 min.  Turn off heat and uncover for 3-5 min before serving.  To be really authentic, use a rice mold (or cup) when serving.

Rice Cooker style
2 cups rice
4 c boiling water
1 ½ tsp salt

Put rice in cooker.  Add water and salt. Turn on cooker.  Ready when button pops up or it beeps.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chilean Chicken and Rice

This recipe is less detailed than others I’ve posted.  I got it from my Chilean mami, Cecilia.  Each cook has their own version they know by heart and adapt according to what ingredients they have available and how many hungry people they’ll be feeding. 
These are the original notes she gave me, translated to English:
Garlic, onion, green onion, carrot – finely chopped. Heat everything in a little oil until golden.  Brown skinned chicken pieces on both sides. Add water till it barely covers the chicken. Cover and simmer for ½ hour.
I didn’t even include to serve it with rice, because that’s a given.  Here’s my conversion with measurements for newbies and type A people (you know who you are).

Cecilia's Arroz con Pollo al Jugo (rice with chicken cooked in its own juices - literally)
(4 servings)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 med onion, finely chopped
2 green onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced or shredded
4 pieces of chicken, skinned
2 cups of rice, prepared according to package directions or this recipe

In a pot with a lid, heat oil till shimmery (med heat).  Add veggies and stir occasionally till onions are just past translucent.  Add chicken and brown on both sides.  Add water (I also include ¼ c white wine) to pot to barely cover chicken.  Cover pot with lid and turn down heat to a simmer.  Cook 30 minutes.  Serve over rice.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Christopher Elbow chocolates ...mmm... rosemary caramel (that's the green one)

tea and biscuits

Jane Austen inspired movies

 the Getty


eating outdoors


café helado


open-air markets

grand canyon

san francisco

my brother and sister-in-law... and nephew Doug the Pug

ironic valentines

my mom

live band at a coffee shop

 my dad

reading poetry in a meadow


english landscapes


my sister

traveling by train


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Brown Guacamole - Yuck!

I got a side of guacamole to eat with some tortilla chips.  Though it was bright green when they dropped it in the sack, by the time I sat down to enjoy it at my cubicle, all the little airpockets had started turning brown.  Fortunately, I thought to grab a few lemon wedges from the drink station when I got my fork and napkins!

So, here's the tip: squeeze some lemon juice into your guacamole to keep it from turning brown.
Ratio: 1-2 tsp lemon juice / 1 cup of avocado (guacamole)

I don't know exactly how lemon juice delays the oxidation.  It's got something to do with how the ascorbic acid from the lemon juice (or any other fresh citrus juice) interacts with the oxygen in the air.  My friend Mandy the science gal could probably explain it. 

I do know that this works on all fruits that turn brown when exposed to air -- yes, avocado is a fruit, as are tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, etc.

The lemon wedges they serve with iced tea and water come in very handy when I want to take home my guacamole without it turning brown.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Almond Chicken Asparagus

On my last visit, my dear friend Tiffany took me Blue Koi on trendy 39th St. in KC. There, I fell in love with pan-friend dumplings and this rice dish. The menu description: Fresh asparagus in harmony with sautéed chicken breast marinated in garlic mayonnaise with sun dried tomatoes. It was so good, I got home and figured out the recipe. (I was also impressed that the take home containers are compostable.) Voila!

Almond Chicken Asparagus (serves 4)
¼ c mayonnaise
4 cloves garlic
½ tsp salt
Ground pepper to taste
4 boneless chicken breasts
Small bunch of tender green asparagus (aprox 8-10 spears)
8 oz mushrooms
¼ c sun dried tomatoes (in oil or dry)
¼ - ½ c toasted slivered almonds (according to taste)
2 cups rice

The night before:
In a large bowl, add garlic cloves (mince with a knife or use a garlic press) into mayonnaise and mix with salt and pepper. Set aside. Cut chicken into 1inch pieces. Cut asparagus into 1 ½ inch. Slice mushrooms into thick slices. Make sure sun dried tomatoes are cut in strips and add to mayonnaise. Mix all together so everything is coated with mayonnaise and refrigerate overnight.

20 minute preparation:
Prepare rice according to preference. I use a rice cooker; add rice, 4 c hot water and 1 tsp salt. Button pops up when done!

Heat large pan over medium-hot heat. Add chicken mixture all at once pressing chicken pieces into the bottom of the hot pan. After a couple of minutes – once bottom of chicken is golden – stir around, turning chicken over - tongs work great for this! Cover and lower heat to medium for 2 minutes. When the white mayonnaise is gone, sprinkle almonds over top and remove from heat. Serve over rice and enjoy!

The restaurant’s version did not include mushrooms, but you should be catching on that I’m addicted to them.

The picture above is from Blue Koi’s website and, no your eyes aren’t playing tricks, that’s the shrimp version.

Mayonnaise makes a great marinade base. It's basically eggs and oil, so you don't need to add oil and it cooks up golden. Also, it coats food better than a liquid marinade and it doesn't break down food like usual acidy or vinegary marinades.

Rice cooker -If you like rice, I highly suggest you invest in a rice cooker. You don't have to get a high-end one, but make sure it's big enough for your family size.

Toast Almonds - as your pan is heating dump in the almonds and stir them around until they are golden brown.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Erin's Ramen Soup

I'm not a big fan of ramen, but I am a big fan of easy quick preparations. I don't often plan meals ahead. When I get hungry I want to eat, not watch something cook. Besides, sometimes I just crave that ramen flavor that takes me back to college days. So, I always have a couple of packets on hand.

Another couple items I like to keep on hand are mushrooms and zucchini. You can add them to just about anything.

Here's what I came up with one cold day when I was craving french fries. It's a "healthier" alternative to fries since my true craving is salt*. Also, this is a great recipe for when you have a cold. And it only takes as long as it takes to boil the water... almost.

Erin's Ramen Soup (1 adult serving, 2 kid servings)

1 pkg ramen (any flavor - I like chicken)
2 cups water
1/2 small zucchini, sliced
3 mushrooms, sliced
1 green onion, sliced
1/2 lemon or lime

  1. Boil the 2 cups of water - electric kettles are great for this.
  2. While water is heating and before opening the ramen package, crumble the noodles with a heavy mug or rolling pin. Don't crumble too small, but really, it's up to you.
  3. Empty the crumbled noodles into the biggest bowl or mug you can find. Remove the flavor packet.
  4. Throw in your sliced zuchini, mushrooms, and onion.
  5. Sprinkle the flavor packet contents on top.
  6. Squeeze juice from the lemon or lime over the top, removing any seeds or use a strainer if you're averse to the pulp.
  7. Pour boiling water over the top until noodles are covered.
  8. Cover bowl/mug with a plate for 3-5 min.
  9. Stir and enjoy!
I knew a girl in jr high that had hair like this.
Traditional (mushy) preparation (less steps, but takes longer)

  1. Boil water in saucepan.
  2. Once water boils, add noodles and all other ingredients.
  3. Cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Serve.

*Craving salt is usually an indicator that you are de-hydrated. Drink up!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Easy Way to Dry Delicates

This is my first "other stuff" post! Over lunch one day, Ling brought up a laundry frustration. One of her favorite tops has a beaded front and is "hand wash only". That's no problem. Swish it around in a tub with some gentle detergent and let soak for at least 15 min. Then rinse till water runs clear. Now here's the problem: how do you dry it? You can't stick it in the dryer. You don't have an elevated flat surface that will allow the water to drip off (and how long does that take anyway?) If you hang it up it'll stretch with the weight of the water, even if you wring it out first. I learned this easy technique for knitting.

  1. Gently squeeze out excess water from your garment. Don't wring it. I usually gather up the top and raise it up letting the water drain back into tub, sink, etc. Then, I squeeze my fists as hard as I can, slowly moving hand over hand down the garment -- it's backwards what kids do with a baseball bat.

  2. Repeat if garment is still dripping. (Note: if dripping water isn't clear, you may need to re-wash)

  3. Place a large, clean towel on the floor. Use a dark towel if rinse water wasn't clear.

  4. Spread out garment on the towel. Fold in so it only covers half the towel.

  5. Fold the towel over the garment and roll it up.

  6. Stand on the towel. Carefull, walk up and down the full length of the roll. If a lot of water soaks through, you'll want to repeat from #3 with a dry towel.

  7. Unroll and hang to dry. Toss the towel in the dryer and it's ready for use again. If the garment is still too heavy, you can drape it over a few chairs or the back of a sofa (with towel underneath).

Wow, I might have gotten way to detailed for you.

Basically, squeeze/roll/stand/unroll/hang.

One last note: I found a wool wash that doesn't require rinsing. I use it for all my delicates, including my bras. Just soak for 30 min and squeeze out the water. You can find it here:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Reinforced Mac 'n' Cheese

I love food. I love trying new things, but I can be picky and lazy. My laziness leads me to reach for whatever is convenient. My pickiness leads me to stick with the tried and true. I know, bad combination.

And so God, in his wisdom, saw it fit for me to develop more serious consequences than just getting fat. Thanks to a severe iron deficiency, my doctor's litany about "add veggies to your diet" has become a mantra. I began to look at food as fuel and nutrition as more than just fat and calories to avoid (wasn't working anyway). Turns out those leafy green things are one of your body's BFFs.

Sometimes, I challenge myself (a way to stave off the laziness) to see how many veggies I can fit into a meal without turning it into a salad. This weekend I was craving cheesy comfort food. So, this is what I came up with: TA DA!! [Applause]

Reinforced Mac 'n' Cheese (semi-lazy version)

1 pkg. mac n cheese, any brand

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

1-2 garlic cloves, pressed

1 sm bunch/handful spinach, chopped

3 oz. cooked/seasoned ground beef*

2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup milk

Cook macaroni according to package directions. In a separate pan, heat olive oil till it's shimmery. Over med-high heat, add onion and garlic. Stir around a couple time till they just begin to turn golden. Turn heat down to med. Add spinach and stir till completely wilted. Stir in ground beef and turn down heat. Beef will warm through while you prepare the mac n cheese. Once macaroni is tender -- NOT soft! -- drain and return pasta and saucepan to low heat. Add butter and stir. Once melted, stir in cheese powder packet till evenly coated. Pour in milk and stir until well mixed. If macaroni is still milky, turn up heat to med-low and stir for a minute more. Remove both pans from heat and mix in the meat mixture with the macaroni. Serve.

*Cooked/seasoned ground beef - I feel better when I don't eat a lot of meat. Many times it goes bad while sitting in the fridge. So, I came up with a brilliant plan - cook meat when I get home from store and then freeze it. Here's my recipe:

Heat skillet big enough for quantity of ground beef over med-high heat. Once meat starts sizzling, sprinkle top with cumin, oregano, garlic salt, and maybe some basil or thyme (depends on your taste). Stir and break up chunks making sure pink areas turn brown. Once brown, drain off liquid and let meat cool. Once cool store in a freezer-safe container and place in fridge. You may want to label (masking tape and sharpie) it with the date you cooked it up. I don't date stuff, but freezer burn tends to set in after 3 months or so. For the recipe above, I didn't weigh out 3 oz. I spooned out the quantity that looked a bit smaller than the size of my palm.

Other notes:

  1. I called this recipe "semi-lazy" because you start with box mac n cheese, but you do "beef" it up.

  2. Any of the ingredients are to taste. I realize that not everyone is a garlic-aholic like me. Be free to modify.

  3. I think this would be great with mushrooms, but I didn't have any.

  4. I usually skip measuring the milk and pour it slowly into pan until it "looks right". I don't like it runny.

  5. Sarah makes her own version of this recipe with tuna, peas and corn.

I may follow this post with a non-lazy version with "made from scratch" cheese sauce. I've never made the actual macaroni.

(I realize that the picture has nothing to do with anything posted. Well, it does show me and my sister Sarah with Polly. We met her at a pet store a few years ago.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chicken Tortellini Soup

Me and Sarah trying to stay dry in LA's version of a hurricane.
 What is the best thing on a rainy day when you get home from a soccer game soaked to the skin? A piping hot bowl of chicken soup. Here's what I threw together in about 30 minutes after getting home from our first LA Galaxy game. Suggestion: read through the whole thing first - I've included some tips and explanations at the end.

Erin's Rainy Day Chicken Tortellini Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
1 spring onion, sliced
5 oz mushrooms, sliced and divided in two portions
2 dashes oregano
3 dashes basil
1/2 cup white wine
4 - 6 oz. cooked chicken, shredded
1 box or 2 cans chicken broth (1 liter)
1/2 package frozen or fresh tortellini

In a large saucepan, warm oil over med heat until it's shimmery. Add garlic, spinach, onion, 1/2 the mushrooms and both spices. Sauté till spinach is wilted, onion is clear and mushrooms have shrunk to half their original size, 3-5 min. Add the wine and stir till wine is reduced by half. Add chicken, the remaining mushrooms and chicken broth. Turn up heat to med-high and stir a couple of times. Bring to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to package directions. Serve soup when tortellini is done.

So simple! Here are my extra tid-bits that you may find helpful or just annoying:
1. I skipped the garlic pressing by using a garlic infused olive oil I picked up yesterday at We Olive.
2.The spinach and spring onion are from my bi-monthly delivery of organic produce from Farm Fresh To You (mention Erin Shead referred you for $5 off your first delivery). I meant to use the kale for this recipe, but grabbed the wrong leafy green and didn't realize till it was cut and sizzling.
3. The veggies are easily substituted. I'll try this with kale instead of spinach. You can use regular onions or leeks. I even sliced up a leftover cooked carrot and tossed it in with the chicken.
4. Dividing the mushrooms in two was not planned. I sliced up half of a 5 oz package, but realized it wasn't enough once they shrunk in cooking. So, I sliced up the other half and added it with the chicken. I really liked the variety of texture that added to the soup and will probably do it on purpose next time.
5. If you've never used wine in your cooking never fear. Unless a certain type is specified in a recipe, I use a cheap white we keep in the back of the fridge for such occasions. The brand doesn't matter. Just make sure it's not sweet (aka dessert wine).
6. This was my first time to shred chicken as opposed to cutting it. I had a filet leftover from a chicken piccata lunch last week. I tore it apart with two forks. It was fun and made it look like way more chicken than I had.
7. If you don't have chicken broth on hand (I buy it on sale because it keeps forever), you can make your own broth with 4 cups of boiling water and 4 bouillon cubes (chicken).
8. I don't like chicken noodle soup because the noodles tend to be soggy. Yuck! I came across... ahem, stole... the idea for adding tortellini to soup in some magazine. I think it's brilliant! Don't know how good it will hold up for left overs.
9. I didn't list salt or pepper because the chicken, broth and tortellini are already seasoned, but I did add a couple shakes of salt to the veggies when they were sautéing. I don't like bland veggies.

Well, today was a soggy experience (like those soup noodles), but we did get to see David Beckham play "in person" and I had a moment of culinary inspiration. Win-win. ;)