Friday, December 16, 2011

One of our favorite dinners tonight - black bean soup with cheese quesadillas.  I buy mirapoux from Trader Joe's.  Mirapoux is just a fancy name for the combo of celery, onion, and carrot.  They have a plastic container with 1 cup of each vegi already diced nice and small.  Dump the whole container of vegis in a pot with some butter and add 4 cloves (or cubes of the Dorat garlic - look on my list of must haves in a kitchen) and 2 teaspoons of ground cumin.  Let it all cook and get slightly brown.  Once your pot of vegis have hit that point, but in 3 cans of black beans.  I slightly drain them and I like the low sodium version as well.  Then add in 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar, 1/2 a box of chicken stock (again low sodium), ground pepper and kosher salt. I let them all simmer on low for about10 minutes.  Then shoosh it with the hand blender until it is the consistency you like.  You can add the rest of the box of stock if you want.
See the cubes of garlic in there?
It is good when you start to see the brown stuff on the bottom of the pan.  Once you add the beans, all this good caramelized stuff comes off the bottom and into the soup.
Shoosh with your hand blender.
Our kids like to add some cheese to the soup also.  Then make sure to dip the quesadilla into the soup.  YUMMY!!
The quesadillas are easy.  Our son made these. I like the fat free tortillas (be careful here.....these can be loaded with fat if you can't find the fat free ones.).  Just put a tortilla in a non-stick pan on medium heat.  Put finely shredded cheese on the tortilla, put the other one on top and put a lid on the pan - to trap the heat.  It doesn't take long to get gooey and yummy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sorry it has been a few days since I have written.  I had a colonoscopy. Let's just talk for a moment about certain tests everyone should be doing.  In this day and age there are so many tests available to people to find certain diseases early enough to treat and survive. Sure the tests may not be comfortable, but please, for your family and friends, don't put them off.  Just do them.  It's better to do them now than hear your doctor say later "if only we caught it sooner." my soapbox I go.....

Tonight I made sushi.  I don't usually make it with raw fish at home.  I bought crab sticks, avocado, and green onions. I always have sushi rice, nori (seaweed sheets), soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and masago (orange fish eggs) at home.  You can find all of these at oriental grocery stores. Or everything, but the masago, can usually be found a the grocery store these days.

I have a rice maker also.  I just saw one at Bed Bath and Beyond for $20.  It is fine for this use.  I like it because it is only 5 cups large and a nonstick bowl.

When making the sushi rice, you need an equal amount of rice to water.  Cook it for as long as your cooker says to cook the rice.  Once it is done, the rice needs to cool off.  This time of the year, I just put it outside for about 10 minutes.  Put some rice wine vinegar in the rice and stir it around.

Put the nori on the rolling mat, spread a thin layer on rice on the bottom 1/2 of the sheet.  Put your ingredients on the rice.  Roll it tightly using the mat.

Everyone in my family likes different combos.  My husband likes green onion (a lot) with little rice, a lot of protein (crab stick), masago and some avocado.  That's the beauty of making your own sushi.  You can customize your rolls.  You can minimize the amount of rice and increase the amount of protein - to make it healthier.  And not to mention how crazy cheap it is to make it yourself.  It is fun to have people over and put out all kinds of ingredients and let everyone choose and roll their own sushi.  When we were in Madison we showed our friends there how to make it.  They were shocked how easy and yummy it was.  You can put anything in it....carrots, chicken, cucumber, tofu, even raw fish if you know a very reputable place to buy it.
My husband's roll (this is 2 rolls). See the huge amount of crab and green onion?  So good!!
I made a special dessert.  I don't usually have anything for dessert - trying to keep things as healthy as possible around here. at the grocery store I saw peppermint and caramel flavored whipped creams and thought it would be delicious to have a coffee bar.  I have different flavors of sugar free caramel and kaluha syrups as well as sugar free chocolate sauce always at home.  I also always have fat free half and half cream at home.  I put everything out with the whipped cream and let everyone make their own combos with a fresh pot of decaf I made.  YUM!!! What a treat this was.....

Monday, December 12, 2011

I made ribs and roasted asparagus for dinner tonight.  To make the ribs, I boil them in water. In the 10 cups of water I put 2 tablespoons of poultry seasoning, 2 tablespoons minced garlic and 2 tablespoons of whole peppercorns.  I put the ribs into the water and let it boil for 1 hour.  When I take them out of the water, I like to let all the water drain off of the ribs.  See how they are coated with the poultry seasoning and garlic?  You need to make sure there aren't any peppercorns still on the ribs.  Those would not be good to bite into.

When this is done, I put them on the grill with sauce on them.  I like Lum Taylor's BBQ sauce.  It is spicy with slight sweetness.  This is just to crust them up a bit.  SO good!!!  If you are making them for a large group of people, you can boil them ahead of time and reheat them on the grill later.

When I make asparagus, I like to buy the thinner stalks.  They also need to be firm and light ends. I put them in a glass with a bit of water in it when I bring them home. I then put them in the fridge to store them up to 1 day after buying it.  To roast it, I set the over at 425 degrees.  I put a bit of oil in a roasting pan and put some very good balsamic vinegar over it.  Toss the asparagus in the oil and vinegar mix and put it in the oven.  After 15 minutes, I toss them around and let them cook a bit longer.  Before I serve them, I grind sea salt over them.  They are SO good.  Somewhat dehydrated and coated with caramelized vinegar.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

We went to Chinatown today and had dim sum.  It is always delicious.  We like to go go to the Phoenix (2131 S Archer Ave, Chicago).  For Saturdays and Sundays, there are women who go around the restaurant with carts and show you what is on each cart.  Other day you can order the dim sum from a menu and the choices are much fewer.  You let them know if you want what they have on their cart. There could be as many as 60 dishes going around on these carts. They then, on your bill, put a tick mark into the category that your dish fits in. The dishes are divided by small, medium, large and extra large.  Your final tab then is the sum of all the dishes you were served from the carts.
Here is one of the carts with various dishes on it.

Shrimp crepe or I have also seen this called shrimp fun, medium dish. It is a soft dough with shrimp inside.  They pour a sauce over it before they put it onto your table.  The sauce is soy sauce based yet with a slight sweetness.

Baby octopus with curry sauce, extra large dish.  This was just ok.  The octopus is very tender, but I didn't think it had a very curry taste to it.

Pork shu mai (top) and Ha Gao (shrimp dumplings), both medium dishes.  I love both of these.  The pork shu mai  is made of a pork stuffing with, I think, water chestnuts and mushrooms.  I am not sure what the yellow is that wraps it.  Maybe thin wrap of egg?  And below it is shrimp dumplings.  Inside is a stuffing of chopped shrimp.  It holds together when it wrapper is off of it.  I think there must be some egg holding it together.  The wrapper is similar to the shrimp fun, but firmer.  There is not much flavor to the wrapper, just to the shrimp.

Pot stickers, medium dish....similar to what I made from Trader Joe's, but fresher.

This is steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce.  This is considered a small dish. These have little nubs of bones and is one of my husband's favorite dishes.  He loves to suck off all the  bits of meat.

This is a treat....sweet tofu.  Not sure what category (size) this dish fits into - such a treat it doesn't matter.  On the left is a simple syrup (sugar water) and the right bowl is warm, silken tofu.  They make is fresh and it only available on Saturdays and Sundays. The texture of the tofu is a mixture of pudding and egg whites.  You spoon the tofu into a bowl and then pour just a bit of the sugar syrup on it. Sounds gross but I love it!!

This is from the window of Phoenix.  You can see the whole city.  

This is one of the main streets.  Along this street is all kinds of stores that sell food and junk.

Last night we went to dinner with another couple that we haven't been out with for awhile.  We went to Wildfire.  Great restaurant....always great service and usually good food.  We all shared a Wildfire chopped salad.  That is always good....and we got it with everything on the side, so we each could put on our salad whatever we liked (you know I like that).  Their salad dressing is great.  I should buy some at work.  It is strong enough that you don't need much.

I ordered their "stuffed" burger - horseradish sauce with white cheddar over it.  "Don't see the cheddar" you are neither and I was there.  I should have sent it back, but I didn't.  My fault.I didn't think it was worth what I paid....and that drives me crazy.  I asked for it with no bun and didn't want a starch for a side, so ordered mushrooms.  I was shocked to find out the mushrooms were $5.  I was told they would be more money (at least she said that.  I HATE when you make a change to your order and they don't tell you there will be a charge for it), but $5 for mushrooms was a bit much.  I do like their coleslaw and I ate mine and Debbie's slaw (see the empty ramekin on my plate already!). Yum!

There seems to be this growing trend of burger places.  I am sure you have noticed this too - Smashburger, Five Guys, Tom and Eddies - just to name a few. What gets me is what they charge for a burger.  Yes their burgers are better than McDonald's,with better meat for sure - but to spend over $10 on a burger seems crazy to me.  But it is worth it??  It might just be. Comment on it and let me know.