Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vegetable (protein optional) Soup

A few months ago I gave up on chicken stock in a box and after my first attempt at stock from scratch I started using the powdered chicken bouillon.  I'm sure it isn't good for you but it sure does taste good.  It is such a staple in my cooking of soups and Mexican rice too.  My recent switch made me try it in a vegetable soup.  I threw into my largest stock pot a huge yellow onion quartered, 4 large garlic cloves, a couple bay leaves, salt pepper, 12 cups of water, 12 tsp of chicken bouillon, 2 sliced zucchinis, 2 sliced and peeled carrots, a peeled and quartered potato and finally a whole cabbage quartered.  You can add meatballs and make Mexican Albondiga soup or throw in some chicken breats, cook them , then remove them and shred them and put them back in.  You can make a fish stew if you like or keep it vegetarian and add some Mexican or arboreal rice.  I like to serve my soup with a small squeeze of lemon or lime juice and dash of Tapatio.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My First Thanksgiving Dinner!

At the request of Ms. Stephanie, I wanted to document and celebrate cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner. I cannot take all the credit for without my mom's recipes and generous acts of answering her phone no less than 25 times, I wouldn't have survived. I can't remember exactly all the recipes - but I wrote them down and if anyone's interested, don't hesitate to ask.

My menu was: Cornish Hens, 5-Cheese Macaroni, Cornbread Stuffing, Garlic Spinach, Brown 'n' Serve Rolls, an appetizer from Trader Joes and for desert Sweet Potato Pie.

The Cornish Hens have been a tradition that my mom's had for years now. She prefers the taste and I must agree that I do too. I also love how manageable they are. Instead of handling a huge turkey, you season and bake 4-6 hens in the oven. I made 5 hens total and was really happy with the way they turned out. I just washed them, seasoned them, cut up my vegetables and threw them in one of those aluminum baking pans (you buy from the store) with some foil on top and water. After a couple of hours of checking them and spooning their sauce on top of them, they came out juicy and were really tasty.

(--A quick side note - when I unwrapped the hens to clean them and cut the fat off---I FREAKED OUT! Their little bodies gave me a sick feeling in my stomach. It was like holding a miniature body--okay not like--I was holding a miniature body and I got the weirdest feeling that made me understand why some people become vegetarian. It's one thing to see some meat on your plate but it's another thing to see a whole hen without a head sitting there and you're supposed to season it and cook it. YIKES!)

My all-time favorite Thanksgiving food which is saying a lot--for those who don't know me, you'd know I dread Thanksgiving food on the whole--is the 5-Cheese Macaroni. Damn, it's so good and it's soooo bad! Lol! I made mine with macaroni, butter, 4-cheese Mexican-style blend, Parmesan Cheese, American Cheese, Jack Cheese and milk. You have to layer it in a clear baking pan and each layer has macaroni, cheeses and butter. Once you reach the top, you sprinkle milk all over it and it sinks in between the cracks. Then you bake the macaroni until it forms a crust at the top. It's soooooo good. I was really proud of myself for succeeded at my favorite dish:)

The Cornbread Stuffing wasn't too difficult. How it tasted? Oh I wouldn't know, I HATE STUFFING! But I made it because my fiance wanted it and I'm happy I did. It's better to know how to make stuffing even if you don't like it because it is one of the staples for Thanksgiving. Anyhow, so I baked the cornbread with vegetables in it and once it cooled, I broke it into pieces and mixed it with stuffing, eggs, chicken broth and lots of sage. It turned out good, at least I think it did.

The Garlic Spinach was pretty easy, although I have to admit that I feared burning it. Spinach is one of those vegetables that doesn't take long to cook but you have to watch it or you'll burn it. This spinach is cooked with Evoo, lots of garlic, butter and when it's done, you sprinkle parmesan cheese, salt and pepper over it. Spinach is my favorite vegetable so I was pretty happy with the way this dish turned out.

The rolls were easy and I threw in this appetizer from Trader Joes that I really enjoy to kind of add something different to the menu. It's Pastry Bites with Carmelized Onions and once you pop, you cannot stop.

The Sweet Potato Pie was tricky! I bought around 5-6 yams and washed them, took the skin off, cut them into pieces and then boiled them. Once they were soft, I combined them with eggs, butter, and cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and sugar. When the mixing part came, since I don't own a whisk after about 5 minutes my arms started hurting. I kept seeing lumps in the mix so I decided to just throw it in the blender. Ha ha! It came out all creamy and stuff. I thought cool but once I put it in the pie crust to bake in the oven, I noticed it wouldn't firm up.

I frantically called my mom and sent her a picture from my phone. Don't you just love technology? She told me that normally they aren't supposed to be that creamy but to wait and see. I had to let the pies (and everything else) bake longer than instructed and I believe it's because my oven is old. Finally, they firmed up and when I took them out, they were lovely. The only downside was the fork mark I made to see if they were done when they were in the jelly phase. Even thought that mark made the pies less pretty it didn't make them less tasty! Slap some whipped cream on top and you're good to go!

I must say that those pies were eaten almost every night since Thanksgiving. We were able to eat food for 3-4 days and finally said goodbye to 1 Cornish Hen and half of the stuffing. Everything else was devoured and you know what, I am truly thankful that I was able to complete this task. Saying the prayer on Thanksgiving had so much meaning because I realized how much work goes into preparing a meal like this. Feeding those that are hungry is an act of love. And to think, moms have been doing this for years!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pozole Rojo (Red Pozole)

Not sure if it was the weather or what, but I decided to go for it and make pozole.  I have written about the store bought precooked carnitas before, from Costco, and again I have to give them props.  I saved myself a lot of time by using this product.  Without the chile the broth is still flavorful and a store ought hot sauce can be used instead.

2/3 - Del Rey Carnitas (from Costco)
1 tbsp of canola/vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions sliced
8 cups water
8 tsp chicken bouillon
1 tbsp oregano
5 smashed garlic gloves
1 large can hominy

6 dried chiles Caiformia or guajillos
1 garlic glove
1/2 a small onion
1 tsp of salt
1 cup of water

sliced cabbage
chopped onion

Take a large pot and add the oil, onions and garlic then saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Then add the water, oregano, hominy(drained and rinsed) chicken bouillon, the pork, and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile in another saucepan bring some water to a boil.  Take the dried chiles and break the stems off, shake the seeds out and discard them.  Then add the chiles to the boiling water for about 15 minutes, until the are softened.  Add the onion, garlic, chiles and water to a blender until smooth.  Pour the chile sauce through a colander and push through with a spoon.  Add it to the broth to taste, along with some salt.  Break down the pork with a large wooden spoon or tongs.  Serve hot with with your garnishes, and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cooked Ceviche

Earlier I had  posted a recipe for ceviche "cooked" in lime juice.  Recently Sergio and were pleasantly surprised by my bother-in-laws version of cooked fish ceviche. 

Bake 2-3 pieces of tilapia at 350 degrees
1 cucumber peeled, seeded and diced
1 small tomato diced
1 tbsp of finely chopped cilantro
juice from 6 limes
1/2 small yellow onion

Mix in all your chopped vegetables and herbs and stir in the lime juice.  Break up the cooked talapia with a fork and add to the mixture.  Place a few spoonfuls of the ceviche on a tostada and add some salsa and avocado wedges if you would like.  Simple, healthy and delicious!


p.s.  Thanks Clint and Sara, besos.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Salsa for Everyone

     I can't believe I haven't written about salsa, wow!  Well, growing up we had salsa as a condiment, not for dipping or snacking on.  There are so many preparations, types and uses for salsa.  There is no fast way (in my opinion) to make a really good salsa.  Also, there are so many different consistencies that you can get out of your salsa and flavors too.  I'll break this up into the three blogs with the three salsas I most commonly prepare, you will see that they are almost identical in prep but incredibly unique in taste and uses.

Hot or Mild Tomato and Jalapeño Salsa
Yield 18-32oz

The "Hot" version is hotter than the Fire Sauce at Taco Bell and the mild is about as mild or even more mild than the Taco Bell Mild Sauce.

To make Hot salsa you'll need:
10 Jalapeños
5 large tomatoes
half a white or yellow onion
1 garlic glove

To make Mild salsa you'll need :
2 Jalapeños
 4-6 large tomatoes (depending on how mild you want it)
half a white or yellow onion
1 garlic glove

     Place all the these items on a cast iron skillet or a heavy bottom pan over low heat.  Let everything char all over until the skin is falling off the tomatoes and the jalapeños are blackened, rotating them all often.  You may have to take the onion and garlic off the heat sooner than the other items.  Once the peppers are blackened place them in a plastic zip lock bag or in a bowl covered with a damp kitchen towel. 

     Place the onion and garlic in a food processor or blender.  For the tomatoes, once they've cooled, remove the skin as best you can and remove the core also before placing ONE TOMATO in the blender.  After the jalapeños have cooled down use a paper towel to help you remove the blackened skin.  Then remove the stem, slice them down the middle and remove the seeds and inner ribs.  Add ALL the jalapeños to the processor or blender, add a pinch of salt and buzz that baby until it is perfectly smooth.  This process is so that the jalapeños are completely pureed and large chunks of onion or garlic are left. 

     Next add your remaining tomatoes and blend until the mixture comes to a consistency of your liking.  I like a little texture but not too much.  I add a little extra salt because as time passes the salt gets neutralized by the acidic tomatoes.  Sergio like to eat this particular salsa with tortilla chips, but we also use it in chicken/pork tacos, for breakfast on our eggs, on steak, fish, in a soup or with beans and a tortilla.  We use about 28oz of salsa every two weeks during the summer when tomatoes are a better price.  Good luck and send me an e-mail or call me up if you have questions or problems.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Leftover Soup Risotto with Shrimp

Earlier last week I made tomato soup with an onion and tomato puree, I wrote about it in a blog called either way soup.  When I think about eating that soup I feel bored by it, because it doesn't have much texture.  Sergio adds tortilla chips to it and I think that helps but I just wanted to stop eating all together, but I hate wasting food.  I decided on Friday to use the soup to make risotto, and if it were to turn out to be not enough liquid I was going to boil some shrimp in a small amount of chicken broth and use that to finish the risotto.  That is exactly what ended up happening.  The result was a creamy tomato risotto with shrimp and topped with crunchy bacon, which could be replaced with asparagus spears or almond slivers instead.  Below is how to do it.

4 slices of bacon - cut into 2 inch pieces
1 cup of arboriol rice
3 cups leftover tomato soup
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup raw shrimp

Cook the bacon in a large skillet to render the bacon fat; meanwhile, start warming up your leftover soup in a small saucepan.  Rather than bacon you can use 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Scoop out the crispy bacon bits and set aside and add the rice, and stir for about 2-3 minutes.  Then start adding the soup one cup at a time and stirring frequently do not add another cup until the liquid has been completely absorbed.  Once you run out of soup add about one cup of chicken broth to the saucepan and wait for it to come to a simmer.  Then I add the raw, peeled and deveined shrimp to the chicken broth and cook them until they turn pink.  Take those out and set aside so they do not overcook.  If necessary use the broth used to cook the shrimp to supplement the soup for the cooking of the risotto.  Add the shrimp to combine and serve topped with the bacon bits for garnish.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Brown rice, I'm impressed

Sergio says he'll need time to adjust to it, but I think it's great.  My first batch was baked in the oven using Alton Brown's recipe and was super easy.  I've avoided making it since I've heard it can take lots of time and monitoring of the liquid levels.  If you give it a try you may like it and from what I've read, cooking brown rice the hard way is better than using instant types because since it' being double cooked you are losing some of the nutrients.  I didn't have more than a few minutes of prep and then while it actually cooked I was busy making something else.  I turned out fluffy, a little nutty and even creamy  with just the small tab of butter used in the recipe.  The rice wasn't alone in the oven , I was also cooking some chicken thighs.  I had plan for this rice and chicken, it was going to get chilled in the fridge over night and then turned in to a stir-fry the following day.  I shredded the thigh meat and threw away the skin and bones.  Then I used a crazy amount of chopped scallions, half of a red onion sliced on the bias, sliced shiitake mushrooms, peas, the brown rice, and a couple tablespoons of soy sauce.  I was inspired by a cabbage and brown rice stir-fry recipe I read about, but since I had no cabbage I modified it.  Anyhow the recipe was turned out to be 383 calories, 12g of fat, and 11g of protein for every 2 cup serving, a tiny fraction of my calorie RDI, woo hoo!  Also, the brown rice is packed with fiber so you really feel full for much longer than you do by eating white rice. 

Counting Calories

Now that I can't use the excuse of needing to study for an exam I've been back to taking care of my body again.  I'm in the home stretch of being able to say that I am in my late twenties and I really want to be a habit of exercise and eating healthy by the time I turn the big 3-0.  I got back into my morning routine of doing anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of circuit training.  I also downloaded a free app for my Droid called Calorie Counter.  It's a pain to use on home cooked meals but it normally will scan any barcode and compute your RDI.  Sergio is much more patient with the program, even going as far as adding up everything I put into a recipe and converting cups to ounces and back again in order to figure out the right serving size.  Does doing all that count towards calories lost? No.  Anyways, I really enjoy cooking and after a few weeks of this I hope to just get the hang of what 1600 calories feels like.  I think I get it now after just over a week, I was hungry!  But wow, it really works, Sergio lost 6 pounds and I dropped 3 in just 5 days, and we've kept it off so far.  This is going to seem like a lot of posts all at once but I've been procrastinating with the blog.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Go out

Last weekend was a challenge, so tonight Sergio and I decided we would go out for dinner.  This week I had lunch with my work's health benefits brokers, Faye and Ryan from Bolton Co.  I forget how it came up but we started talking about Korean food.  I decided to do a little research and see I could find a good Korean place in Monrovia, but I couldn't find one.  I did find a highly rated place on Yelp called Young-Dong Tofu Restaurant in Arcadia.  The sides were so delicious and the actual entrees, WOW!!  I thought it was a great way to start the weekend.  We ordered the BBQ Ribs and a Pork Tofu Soup, the ribs were like candy and super tender.  The soup was spicy even though we ordered the "mild" version but the flavor was creamy and delicious.  I have to be honest, the service was mediocre, but I am super picky about that (D&B really screwed me up).  Anyways, hope you all have a great weekend take it easy, cuz I am!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Big Family & Big Meals = Big Love

So, this was a really special weekend. It started on Friday when I had to take my Professional in Human Resources Exam.  I passed, but was so tired I didn't want to cook, so it was leftover pizza from the night before.  When I finally recovered Sergio and cleaned up the apartment for the arrival of his Grandfather, Mother, Uncle, and Cousin who were visiting from El Paso, TX.  They were going to come around lunch and so I made albondiga soup.  Me and Sergio really love to add Mexican style rice to our soup so I had made rice earlier in the day.  The soup had corn, cabbage, carrots, the albondigas of course all in a beef broth.

The family was happy with the soup, but the cabbage was putting everyone to sleep, oops.  They were all expected back the next morning at around 10AM.  I had cooked some pinto beans the night before and mashed them in the morning.  I also heated up some carnitas I had bought at Costco and shredded that up.  I set the panini grill up and used that to cook up eggs to order.  I've never used up an entire pack of 18  eggs in one day until today.  The family picked up and extra cousin and his girlfriend on the way to come visit us.  I made a salsa that would create a sort of machaca taste to the dish.  Everyone was happy and full, and I have to say that they probably looking forward to dinner LOL! 

Sergio and I really love watermelon, but have a tough time picking them at the grocery store.  We have tried seedless ones in the past and they have failed.  So this time we bought a seeded one, but it was too old and had that mushy texture, yucky!  Before the crowd arrived that morning, i took this sad watermelon and cut it up into chunks for something I had never tried before.  I smashed the watermelon chunks through a colander and got as much juice as possible out of it.  I added the juice of one lime, about a cup of sugar and split my mixture into two shallow Tupperwares before putting it in the freezer.  I scraped them both with a fork every 2-3 hours.  I served it in a cup with a dash of course salt, it was so tasty and refreshing!

For dinner today I made a version of the chicken noodle soup that I've blogged about before.  Over all this weekends meals were challenging only in the sense of time crunch and quantity of food needed.  I really love cooking but this visit gave me a boost of confidence in my abilities to please the palette of others. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Turkey Meat? Great Sauce!!

Ellie's Turkey Spaghetti Recipe

So I know Kassie won't care for this because she doesn't dig turkey, but the sauce used in this recipe is the bomb.   It will work for tacos and ground beef or even on a tostada with refried beans.  You have to taste the sauce as you go to make sure its not too hot for your taste or lacking salt.  I left out the carrots because I didn't end up making meatballs, I used the meatball recipe and then cooked it as a meat sauce because it's an inferno outside and I really didn't want to use my oven/broiler.  Hope you try it some time, and this recipe is Sergio approved too :-)


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pancakes from Scratch

   I know this is supposed to be a blog about fitness, exercise and good food, but this recipe did something to me.  It convinced me that I would never again buy pancake mix for as long as I live.  I hate to admit that I've lost track of how many times I've made this recipe, but it never ever fails.  I've learned too that the best way to cook them is on an electric griddle if possible.  They turn out beautiful, fluffy, golden and delicious.  This recipe is from the Food Network website courtesy of Tyler Florence.  He includes pecans and maple butter, but I have never actually used that part of the recipe.  I have used the base pancake recipe and added my own fruits.  I prefer bananas, in the pancakes, and Sergio prefers blueberries.  While he was away this week I used some left over batter and had breakfast for dinner.  We had bought strawberries fresh from the field, in Chino, and I topped my pancakes with sliced strawberries and maple syrup.  It was amazing!!   The batter keeps in the fridge, but I have never let go more than a couple of days.  I have tried freezing it, which actually lends to a consistency more similar to the first day you make it after defrosting it.  I'll try to post something a little more figure friendly next time.

Banana and Pecan Pancakes with Maple Butter

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dude, I made Risotto!

Garden Risotto

Again, I have to say that Hell's kitchen has influenced my thinking on a dish, and that is risotto.  If you've ever seen an episode, you know that Chef Gordon Ramsey will ream his chefs if they mess up the risotto.  I have never even tasted risotto or seen it on a menu, but I decided to try it when I found this recipe.  I bought some asparagus at the farmer's market and happened to have some precooked sausages in the fridge.  It took a lot of effort, in that I couldn't take my eyes off if for more than a few seconds at a time.  The consistency changed after about 20 minutes, two minutes longer than on the recipe.  Sergio gave it two thumbs up and I thought it was like indulging in something decadent and bad for you, but it's only 250 calories per serving.  My only modifications were omitting the frozen vegetables, and adding chopped garlic.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Seared Scallops with Asparagus

A while back Sergio and bought a large package of raw, frozen sea diver scallops.  These things are huge and beautiful and I totally forgot they were in the freezer.  Last weekend we made a quick stop to the grocery store and saw that the asparagus were nice and thin and for sale at a good price (around $2.50/bunch)  Anyways, I started to look up recipe ideas at and found a few that  incorporated scallops.  I've watch enough Hell's Kitchen to know that scallops need to be handled with care to get them perfectly caramelized.   The recipe a for tonight's dinner is very simple and looking back I would only do one extra step, make some white rice to put the whole party on top of.  We usually skip the starch for dinner, but we needed something to sop up the juices with, yummy!!  Okay so here is what I did with what :-)

(serves 2 poeple)

3 tblspns  extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 tspn crushed rep pepper fakes
1 bunch asparagus  - spears only (top third of stalk)
3 vine ripe tomatoes or 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut into quarters or halve respectively
half a red onion sliced
6 large sea scallops
salt and pepper

Add 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat, I wouldn't use a non-stick, and add the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Stir constantly for about 30 second, garlic can burn quickly so act fast.  Add the red onion, asparagus spears, and tomatoes heat for about 3 minutes.  The asparagus will get very bright green and should still have bite to them.  Meanwhile pat your scallops dry and season with salt and pepper.  Move your vegetables to a bowl and keep your pan on medium high, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and your scallops.  If you let your scallops come almost to room temperature they should be ready to flip after about 3-4 minutes.  They should have a golden brown color, that is all caramelized scallop goodness!  Anyways, flip them all and cook for another 2 minutes or so.  Plate your rice (optional) then the veg and finally your seared scallops. Let know how it works out for you, enjoy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chicken "noodle" Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup Link

Wow, this soup was so full of chicken flavor and it was so easy!  The time it takes to let the soup develop all its flavors is worth every minute.  I was cold yesterday morning it inspired me to make this soup.  I didn't have celery, it's something I just don't ever buy since it's not a favorite of me or Sergio.  I also only had limes on hand so I used limes instead of lemons, as the recipe calls for.  I did have shell pasta which is great because the soup gets inside them, and shells have a nostalgia of Mom's cooking for me.  Anyway, I went easy on the nutmeg and cinnamon, but I should have added more salt early on.  Other than that the recipe is a keeper, its very satisfying, and worth giving it try.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Julia Child

I have never tried a Julia Child recipe but I do remember her on KPBS in San Diego.  After the movie and novel Julie and Julia I looked for old Julia Child's TV shows and started a DVR recording of Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.  There differing opinions has me laughing out loud, they were so cute together.  Today I had to write this short blog because of a couple things she said on a show I just finished watching.  The first was in regards to the way Jacques was cooking his spinach, he sauteed it which is the only way I would do it; however, she wanted to boil the spinach to get it to be more tender and Jacques argues that you lose all the nutritional value that way.  Julia says, "no one cares about nutrition they care about taste."  Later, she was making peas and says, "how much butter you add depends on how you feel about butter."
When I started cooking one really important reason I didn't give up was because I could control what was in the food I ate.  I didn't have to smother my food in sauces, like they do in restaurants.  Her carefree attitude was funny, but there are times that I do care less about my waist and more about the taste.  Alright, back to studying!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Either way soup

Now that I'm braver and trust my instincts, in regards to cooking, I've developed soup bases that can turn either into a creamy tomato soup or flavorful chicken tortilla soup.  Since Sergio is lactose intolerant I've had to become creative and use alternative to the normal thickening agents; such as milk or heavy cream.  I use instead a couple slices of bread and my blender in order to thicken my soups.  Below are my two variations, black font applies to both recipes.

Creamy Tomato Soup                                         Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 onion, chopped                                                   1 onion, chopped  
1 tbsp olive oil                                                       1 tbsp olive oil  
1 can Hunt's Roasted                                             1 can Hunt's Roasted
Tomatoes                                                               Tomatoes      
2 slices sourdough bread                                       2 slices sourdough bread
1 qt Chicken Broth                                                1 qt Chicken Broth  
( or water and bouillon)                                         (or water and bouillon)
1 tsp pesto (for garnish)                                        2 pasilla chiles
Crushed red pepper                                               Lemon Juice
Salt                                                                        Chicken Breast chopped
Pepper                                                                   into bite size pieces
                                                                              Tortilla Chips (for garnish)

 Heat a pot over medium heat add oil and onions, crushed red pepper and add salt and pepper.  After about 5-7 minutes with some frequent stirring the onions should be translucent.  Add the onions to a blender, leaving as much of the oil in the pot as possible.  Using tongs rotate the chiles one at a time over an open flame until the chile blisters and starts to smell.  Take the stems and seeds out, and roughly crumble in to the blender.  Add the canned tomatoes, and bread then process until smooth, about 2- 3 minutes.  Return the puree to the pot and add the chicken broth or water and bouillon to the pot until it begins to boil.  Once the soup is boiling turn heat down to a simmer and add the chicken for another 10 minutes, serve with a few tortilla chips on top and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Serve the creamy tomato soup with a spoonful of pesto sauce.