How to season a wok

I’m very good at destroying things. It’s true. I’ve had two woks in the past. I followed the directions that came with these inexpensive carbon steel pans. Both times, no matter how well I cared for them, the seasoning came off and I rusted them most of the way through.

I love a good wok. A wok is so deep that you can pile the veggies into it and then crank up the heat and get a good sear on them. I’ve been wok-less for years and it’s been a major frustration.

A few years back, Gourmet did an article on the classic $15 wok. I saved the issue because the owner of the store that was profiled had instructions on how to season a wok and the instructions made so much more sense than the usual stove top method. I bought a wok and then forgot about it. Until today. Today was the day that a wok came back into my life.

I went hunting around the Gourmet website thinking that the instructions would be there, but of course I couldn’t find them so I’ll let you know what I did:

First, gather up what you will need:

A carbon steel wok

Steel wool

Dish soap

Vegetable oil

Paper towels

An old dish towel or wash cloth that you don’t mind damaging

Aluminum foil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Your wok will have some sort of coating on the inside to keep it from rusting. Using some steel wool and dish soap, scrub the inside of the wok thoroughly to clean off this coating. Dry the wok with a dish cloth.

Now look at your wok. Does it have a wood or plastic handle? Plastic? Sorry, these instructions aren’t for you unless you can remove the handle. If you can remove the handle please do so now. If it is a wooden handle and the handle cannot be removed, wrap the handle in a wet dish cloth and wrap the cloth completely in aluminum foil.

Using a paper towel and some vegetable oil. Wipe oil all over the inside and outside of the wok. (If you like the look of the steel you can leave the outside surface unseasoned but I don’t recommend it, an unseasoned bottom was the source of my rust problems with the other woks). Put the wok in the hot oven and allow it to bake for 20 minutes. Make sure your room is well ventilated and run the range fan. This will cause smoke! After 20 minutes, remove the wok and let it cool for at least five minutes or until cool enough to handle. Using an oven mitt, grab the wok by the handle (the wok will be cool, but the handle will still be warm, be careful!) and take it to the sink. Scrub the inside of the wok with the steel wool, using hot water only, no soap. Don’t scrub enough to remove the layer of seasoning, you just want to scratch the surface up a little.

Repeat the oiling, baking cooling and scrubbing three or four more times until the wok is bronze colored. It’s now fully seasoned.

So what did I make with my newly seasoned wok? Tofu and Broccoli Stir fry from the June issue of Eating Well Magazine. Click here for the recipe, the only thing I changed was to double the garlic (I so love garlic!) and substitute honey for the sugar which I recommend. The honey made the sauce sweet but also so very flavorful. This was a delicious and easy recipe that used a lot of pantry items.

If you don’t already have a carbon steel wok, go out and get one! They are very cheap and a great addition to your kitchen. And…now you know how to properly season it! Oh and by the way… never use soap on your wok. A little kosher salt and a sponge are all you need to clean it up and keep it’s non-stick surface in great shape!

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Muir Glen Tomatoes: Product Review and a Giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by the nice folks at Muir Glen tomatoes. They offered me a free sample of their 2009 Reserve Tomatoes to review on my blog. The nice folks at Muir Glen, are really nice folks: they also offered to let me give away the same nice box of goodies to one of my lucky readers. (I’ll give you more details at the end of this post).

When I was corresponding with the representative from Muir Glen, I tried to appear really casual. You know, really savvy and cool. I let her know that by sending me and my readers freebies, she was not guaranteed a good review! Little did she know  the reality of the situation:  I use their tomatoes every time I cook (so she was almost guaranteed a good review, in fact, I was trembling with anticipation about receiving this kit!). I came across their products years ago and in my opinion, the canned tomatoes are the best on the market. They taste good. They don’t taste like the can they come in. Not only do they have tomatoes of exceptional flavor, but the tomatoes are organic which is important to me. Why? Because not only am I concerned about the pesticide residues in my food and in the environment, but tomatoes have been one of those foods that have been genetically modified quite often in the past. Although there is no proof (yet) that GMO foods are harmful to us, I have a gut feeling that I should avoid them. Certified organic foods cannot contain GMOs. After the box arrived, I started pouring through the materials included in the shipment. I learned that the high quality of the tomatoes has to do with careful handling from the farm to the can. I also learned that these tomatoes are grown in California which for me, makes them a local food (yeah!).

Now, let’s talk about the box I received in the mail. It is gorgeous! You get a wooden crate filled with goodies.

Inside the box is a packet talking about the two cans of Reserve tomatoes included within. There are also two recipe cards. Now… I was promised recipe cards and at first I was a little disappointed because I saw only two recipe cards and I didn’t yet realize what the book underneath these materials was.

It turns out that the book is a gorgeous cookbook, with all of the information about how they grow and package the tomatoes, but…it includes 50 pages of delicious sounding recipes with full color photos of the food. This is a gorgeous book, and in my opinion. it is  worth as much as the tomatoes themselves if not more. After perusing this book, I decided I would use the four cans of tomatoes to make two of the recipes from the book so that you can get an idea of what the recipes are like.

Below the books, nestled away, were the four cans of tomatoes. There were the two cans of reserve tomatoes: Yolo Red diced tomatoes and Brigade whole tomatoes. Also included were Fire Roasted tomatoes and Adobo Seasoned tomatoes.

I used the reserve tomatoes to make Braised Tuscan Chicken with Fennel and White Beans. Upon opening the cans of tomatoes, I took a taste of each. I was disappointed with my choice in recipes for a minute, because the Yolo Red tomatoes where so sweet and delicious, they would have been wonderful used in something fresher such as a bruschetta or in a salsa. (If you win my contest, take note of that). The Brigade tomatoes had good acidity and tasted like they would be perfect for this slow braise. The only surprise I had, happened when I poured the Brigade tomatoes out of the can. If memory serves me right, a 15 oz can of tomatoes usually includes about 5 or 6 tomatoes. When I poured, three perfectly gorgeous round tomatoes popped out of the can. I had to laugh, I guess they didn’t want to smash them, so they only include enough tomatoes to not get smashed in transit. Luckily, the can of diced Yolo Reds where packed full, making it so that I had plenty of tomatoes for the recipe. The braised chicken came out delicious. The sauce begged for bread to sop it up and was loaded with chunks of vegetables and beans and a hint of herbs, the tomato flavor was outstanding. The chicken was falling off the bone tender. I’ll be making this chicken dish again!

The next day, anxious to taste the Adobo seasoned tomatoes, I decided to make the vegetarian chili recipe. I tasted the tomatoes upon opening the cans. The fire roasted tomatoes are familiar to me. They have a good roasted tomato flavor with a hint of smoke from the charred tomato skins you see floating among the diced tomatoes. I tasted the Adobo Seasoned tomatoes. The flavor was strange and familiar at the same time. I had to taste again before I realized that it is a light version of the super hot adobo sauce you find in a can of chipotle with adobo sauce. It is like they added just a hint of chipotle to their tomatoes. I had a really good feeling about cooking with these!! The chili turned out to be a smash hit. I followed the recipe exactly, using the prescribed amount of jalapeno and chili powder even though I knew that half my tomatoes had a good kick already. The chili came out spicy with a hint of that good chipotle flavor. It was wonderful. I’ll be looking for the Adobo Spiced tomatoes at my grocery store, I can think of many recipes that would be improved by using them.

So… you are probably wondering how you can get a box of these tomatoes and recipes for yourself.  Please leave a comment on my blog between now and Monday December 7th. I’ll hold a random drawing and one lucky Delectable Tidbits reader will receive a Reserve kit from Muir Glen.  Unfortunately, Muir Glen can only ship the reserve kit to people in the U.S., Sorry.

If you are not the winner, you can still get a Reserve kit. Muir Glen has these Reserve kits available for $7.00 at this link. By my calculation, that price barely covers the cost of the tomatoes much less the shipping and you get a crate to recycle for storing CDs and the cookbook and… Muir Glen will donate money to the charity Chefs Collaborative each time we buy a reserve kit. They are donating $2 for every Reserve kit they sell and $1 for each person who becomes a fan on their Facebook page (My friend Kevin is laughing at me right now because I am anti-Facebook, but hey, it’s for a good cause! So stop laughing Kevin!)

So, all of my friends and lurkers, leave me a comment.  Good luck everyone!!

Decadent little turkey sandwiches

Turkey Sandwich

 I made rustic olive rolls and I made my delicious roasted turkey. You shouldn’t be surprised that I had sandwiches on my mind.

We love turkey sandwiches. There are so many good variations on the theme to be had all over, but I never seem to deviate from turkey and avocado on whole wheat when I make it at home. Last night I let my imagination go wild and the results were amazing! I just have to share!

One defining feature of a lot of restaurant sandwiches these days is Goop aka Secret Sauce aka Special Sauce . Yes kiddies, I have created GourmetGoop . You heard it right here. A special blend of the finest canola oil mayo and spices. GoumetGoop will probably make me famous one day, yes siree!

All nonsense aside, these sandwiches were smoky with a nice hint of blue cheese. Fresh tasting from the crispy lettuce, juicy tomato and creamy avocado. Chewy and flavorful from the homemade bread and turkey. Decadent and delicious. An absolute reward for some fun labor in the kitchen.

The following recipe is an approximation of ingredients used for one serving. Feel free to use more or less according to your taste:

Smoky blue cheese turkey sandwiches

Make GourmetGoop :

3 tbsp canola oil mayonnaise

3 – 4 cloves roasted garlic or raw garlic (see below)

¾ – 1 tsp smoked paprika

1 – 2 pinches cayenne powder

Generous amount of freshly ground black pepper

Use roasted garlic or if you don’t have any quick roast the garlic: Place garlic in a dry cast iron pan that has been heated over medium high heat. Turn the garlic occasionally to char on all sides for several minutes. When the garlic has softened, remove from pan, and cool. Peel the garlic and run it through a garlic press into a small bowl. Combine all of the remaining ingredients.

Assemble Sandwich:

1 rustic olive roll or substitute any chewy sandwich roll (French or ciabatta would be good)

GourmetGoop to taste

3-4 slices avocado

1 – 2 tsp crumbled blue cheese

2 – 3 generous slices of homemade roasted turkey or a generous serving of deli turkey

A thick slice of tomato

1 – 2 thinly sliced pieces of yellow or red onion

1 – 2 leaves red lettuce

Slice sandwich roll down the middle and spread both halves with GourmetGoop . On The top half of the bread, layer blue cheese then avocado then lettuce. On the bottom half of the bread, layer turkey, tomato and onions. Join the top and bottom of sandwich.

I’ll share a little secret with you…

TurkeyBreast

It’s easy to make turkey at home and it is a thousand times better than anything you can buy at the supermarket, the deli or a restaurant. Making a half turkey breast at home is a little time consuming but it is simple. When you are done, you will have the most sublime meat ready to use for sandwiches, pastas, salads… whatever your imagination desires.

Unless it is the day after Thanksgiving, most people only consume processed turkey. Even the meat served at many restaurants identified on the menu as fresh roasted turkey is probably a little processed. It doesn’t taste the same as a fresh unprocessed bird, so I am assuming they cook a boneless turkey breast. A boneless turkey breast would also be easier for their kitchens to deal with. Here are the ingredients on a popular brand of boneless turkey breast. Not too bad, but do you really need all of the salt, sugar and additives? I don’t think you do.

The following recipe can be doubled to make a full breast but since we are a small household, I usually buy a half breast which weighs on average between two and three pounds. You will purchase a bone in, skin on breast. Like chicken breasts, having the bone in and the skin on contributes fat and flavor, giving you moist flavorful meat after the slow roasting. This recipe makes enough meat so that you will have your fill of sandwiches but you can also make a turkey tetrazzini (this one is delicious), and even a salad or two. In my opinion this is a good value for such an easy task!

Now that you know my secret, I don’t want to see you buying processed turkey meat anymore! Do you hear me? Get into that kitchen and make something delicious and healthy for yourself!

Following is the recipe for my turkey breast with soy sauce au jus. I use the au jus to make a Scotch or Jack Daniels spiked pan gravy. As a bonus, the recipe for the gravy will follow (see how much I love you? Two secrets for the price of one!). A wonderful comfort food dinner I like to make is toasted whole wheat bread, topped with roasted turkey and then smothered with the alcohol spiked gravy. Serve with steamed veggies on the side to help sop up any extra gravy. Soooooo delicious!

Turkey breast with soy sauce au jus

½ all natural or organic bone in, skin on turkey breast (approx. 2 – 3 pounds)

Juice of one small lemon or ½ large lemon

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

Freshly ground black pepper

2 ½ cups water

5 – 6 tbsp soy sauce or tamari sauce or Bragg liquid aminos

3 -5 whole cloves garlic, peeled

½ onion, quartered

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Meanwhile, place the turkey in an 8” x 8” pan. I use a square Pyrex dish, but any pan than fits the turkey breast fairly snugly will do. Squeeze the lemon over the top of the breast. Sprinkle with onion powder, garlic powder and a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper. Do not salt the turkey, we’ll be using a generous amount of soy sauce in the pan juices which we’ll use to baste the turkey. This will be plenty of salt! Arrange the garlic and onions around the turkey breast. Pour the water into the pan. Add the soy sauce into the water.

Decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey breast in the oven and roast the breast for 45 minutes per pound. Let the meat cook for about a half an hour and then baste the meat with the pan juices every 15 to 20 minutes until the meat is cooked. A meat thermometer should read 170 degrees when poked into the thickest part of the meat. Check the meat near the end of the cooking time in case your oven runs hot.

After removing the roast from the oven, let the meat cool for at least five to ten minutes before cutting into it. This will ensure that the meat will slice evenly instead of crumbling.

The sliced meat can be dipped in the au jus as you slice it for very moist flavorful meat. The au jus can also be served on the side for dipping or use it all up to make the following gravy.

I started making this gravy using a fine single malt scotch. The scotch gives the gravy a nice smoky flavor. One day when I ran out of scotch, I used Jack Daniels whiskey instead. The whiskey gives the gravy more of a sweet flavor than the scotch but both are delicious in their own way.

Scotch spiked turkey gravy

All of the au jus from the above turkey recipe

1 – 3 tbsp unbleached white flour

2 – 3 splashes (too taste) single malt scotch or Jack Daniels whiskey

Transfer the au jus to a small sauce pan. If it is cold, warm the au jus up to a simmer, if it is fresh out of the oven, keep it heated on low. Whisk one tablespoon of flour into the au jus at a time until it just begins to thicken (depending on how much au jus you have you may not need all three tablespoons of flour). Continue to cook over low heat until thickened. Add a splash of scotch or whiskey at a time, tasting the gravy as you go until it reaches the consistency and flavor you like. Remove the gravy from the heat and use on the roasted turkey or for other goodies such as baked potatoes or biscuits.

Why don’t I feed myself?

HamPasta1

Lately I’ve been like an addict on a bender. Appearances are fine. To the outside world it looks like things go according to plan. The reality is that I have been like a ravenous maw consuming all in my many paths and nothing on the path I should tread.

There sits my kitchen. For the past couple of weeks I have been letting myself be lured by the siren sounds of other kitchens. Any excuse to eat at a restaurant and I’d jump out the door purse in hand. A shopping trip to get groceries revealed that putting those wholesome items away was a challenging obstacle course of takeout containers and plastic bags. I need it to stop.

I know how to cook. I really do. A cabinet in my pantry is full of cookbooks for guidance and inspiration. I read food magazines and cooking blogs like they are novels and short stories. I have a kitchen of drawers and cabinets full of pots, pans, utensils, gadgets and knick knacks. So why don’t I feed myself? I really don’t know.

Force myself to go in there. Into that room of food laid to waste. Odds and ends. Bits and pieces. Force myself to page through the books, see what is on the page, see what is in the drawers, on the shelves, on my mind.

HamPasta2

A trip to the yard for herbs. A grab in a drawer for a gadget. The cool feel of stainless steel in my hand. Oh so many questions: why is there always a bag of pasta with just an ounce or two of pasta missing? Why are there five mushrooms rolling around in the bottom of the crisper like orphans in a crowd? Is the sour cream off? What… is… that…

HamPasta3

I am not a drinker, yet I have bottles and bottles of alcohol. I try so hard to eat a healthy diet, yet there is always butter and cheese. Always, there are piles of vegetables and fruits neglected and sometimes scary lurking in the darker recesses. Sometimes there are treats such as black forest ham or cured olives reserved for tasting but living in that hazy place between snack and alchemy. Such a wealth. So ignored. For what? The new pasta place that served us mediocre food? The brewpub with the cabbage we suspect of making us ill? The breakfast place with the food that tastes of greasy meals past. It’s criminal. It needs to stop.

It stops here.

HamPasta4

Penne with Black forest ham and vegetables primavera

12 oz penne

Broccoli florets trimmed from two stalks

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp unsalted butter

5-6 mushrooms sliced

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 lemon, zested and halved to be squeezed for juice

1 medium zucchini, chopped

½ red bell pepper, diced

6 oz black forest ham, chopped

½ cup dry vermouth

1 cup low fat milk

½ cup reduced fat sour cream

1 -2 tbsp freshly grated parmesano reggiano, plus more for garnish

Freshly ground black pepper for garnish

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add penne and cook approx. 8 minutes until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander, return the pasta to the pot and set aside.

Steam broccoli for three minutes until just softened. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. Heat until butter melts and foaming subsides. Add mushrooms and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms begin to soften. Add rosemary, lemon zest, zucchini and red peppers. Continue cooking until the veggies begin to soften. Add ham and broccoli. Cook for a minute or two until the ham begins to shrink a bit. Add vermouth. Continue to cook for a minute or two until the liquid begins to evaporate. Add milk and sour cream. Stir until the sour cream becomes smooth and incorporates itself into the sauce. Be careful with the heat at this point because you don’t want the dairy to curdle. If your stove is running hot, lower the heat a bit so that it is just at a simmer. Squeeze about a teaspoon of juice into the sauce from a lemon half. Toss in the parmesan.

Remove the sprig of rosemary from the sauce and pour the sauce over the pasta. Return the pot to the heat. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes until the sauce coats the pasta and thickens a bit. Serve with extra parmesan and a little fresh ground pepper.

More 2 for 1 Pizza Madness

2or1pizzabanner
I think I have mentioned it before but I am in love, simply in love with pizza. From the time I first tasted pizza as a tiny child it has been one of my all time favorite foods. I have eaten all sorts of pizza and this week I thought I would do my take on two gourmet restaurant favorites. Barbeque chicken pizza and a ham and fig pizza.

Before we get started, I just want to give a word of encouragement for anyone who has come to today’s post interested in pizza but intimidated by making a sourdough pizza crust. Although I think this is hands down the best pizza crust, you don’t have to go there if you don’t want to. If you bake bread and have a good recipe for a white or whole grain loaf, you can flatten that into pizza crust. Before I dabbled in sourdough, I used to make a whole grain dough in my bread machine and use it for pizza. Very simple! You don’t bake bread? If you have a Trader Joes, they sell a fabulous fresh pizza dough for pennies. Most well stocked groceries have frozen pizza dough. Better yet, there are precooked crusts such as Boboli. Pita breads, lavash breads, naan or even flour tortillas (just be frugal on toppings) can all be toasted lightly and then baked as pizza crust. But if you are with me on making the best crust, read on…

After looking back at my previous blog posts (Chicken Basil Sausage Pizza and the last 2 for 1 post about Salmon and Beet Greens Pizza and Canadian Bacon and Pineapple Pizza), I realized that my crust has slightly changed. Here is the current instructions for the crust which I am now rolling on the edges. A slight roll gives the crust a bready edge. If you just roll the crust flat, it will be more cracker-like which is also quite tasty.

Multi grain pizza crust for two pizzas:

1 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)

3/4 cup sourdough starter

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 cups unbleached white flour

1 cup stone ground whole wheat flour

1/3 cup rye flour

2 teaspoons salt

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Cornmeal for dusting peel

Mix first 3 crust ingredients in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Add 2 cups unbleached white flour; stir to blend. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel. Let the sponge ferment in a warm draft-free area for about 1 1/2 hours.

Using a dough hook, mix in the stone ground whole-wheat flour, rye flour and salt at lowest setting. Increase speed slightly; knead dough 5 minutes, adding more whole wheat flour by the tablespoonfuls if the dough sticks to sides of bowl. Let dough rest 15 minutes. Knead on low 5 minutes. Scrape dough from the hook into the bowl. Remove bowl from stand. Coat a rubber spatula with nonstick spray. Slide spatula under and around dough, coating dough lightly. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise until doubled in volume, about 1-2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Flatten the dough into a rectangle and then fold it like you are folding a letter (be careful not to press too hard and deflate the dough). Divide in half. Roll each half of the dough into a ¼” thick round and transfer each round to a pizza peel or baking sheet coated in cornmeal. Roll the edges over once to create a crust. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise for at least a half hour.

An hour before making pizza, place a baking stone in your oven and preheat to 450°F.

Top the crusts with the toppings of your choice.

Bake pizza one at a time for 13 minutes each. Cool for a couple of minutes before cutting into slices.

And now for the ingredients we used this week. The lists below are in order of how they should be added to the pies:

Barbeque chicken pizza

BBQChickenPizza

This pizza is the best use for the small amount of leftovers from a homemade roasted chicken or a store bought rotisserie chicken. I removed the meat from a leftover leg and the carcass of our leftover chicken. I got around a cup or slightly more of meat which I chopped and then marinated in barbeque sauce. Both pizzas were delicious but we loved this one the best with it’s south of the border flavors. Top the pizza in this order:

Muir Glen cabernet marinara or your favorite pasta sauce (approx. 4 tbsp or more)

Chopped cilantro

4 oz mozzarella

2 oz Quattro Fromaggio four cheese blend (Italian 4 shredded cheese blend)

2 oz grated sharp white cheddar

Chopped fresh garlic (about a tablespoon)

Sliced zucchini

Red onions, sliced

Thinly sliced heirloom or beefsteak tomato

1-2 fresh jalapenos, dry roasted in a cast iron pan, peeled and diced

Sliced black olives

1 cup or more diced cooked chicken marinated in a couple of tablespoons of barbeque sauce (I used Annie’s smoky maple barbeque sauce)

Black Forest Ham and Fig Pizza

HamFigPizza

 Sautéed greens, earthy mushrooms, black forest ham and figs. It’s like a grown up version of Canadian bacon and pineapple but oh so very much more subtle and delicious!  Top the pizza in this order:

Muir Glen cabernet marinara or your favorite pasta sauce (approx. 4 tbsp or more)

Half a bunch of chard, triple washed, chopped and sautéed with garlic and olive oil

4 oz mozzarella

2 oz Quattro Fromaggio four cheese blend (Italian 4 shredded cheese blend)

Chopped fresh garlic (about a tablespoon)

Sliced red onion

½ cup sliced cremini mushrooms

½ red pepper, diced

Sliced black olives

8-10 fresh mission figs, sliced in half

9-10 deli slices of black forest ham cut in thirds

There you have it. Sophisticated pizzas that are so much better than takeout and cost so much less than takeout pizza. This makes two large pizzas so that you can eat to your heart’s content the night you make them when they are fresh and delicious and you’ll still have leftovers for breakfast (I know I’m not the only one guilty of pizza for breakfast!)

Chili and cornbread are like two peas in pod

Chili

There are some classic meals that become ingrained in your life. Foods that remind you of home. Nourishing. Good.

Years ago I found a recipe. I am pretty sure I got it out of Sunset magazine although I can‘t find it on their website now. No matter. I have made key changes that make it my recipe now. It is a Turkey chili that is made with canned ingredients, comes together in a snap and tastes like it is made from scratch and simmered all day. You can eat it plain out of the pot or garnish it with a choice of many different things. The very best additions enhance the flavors and make them brighter: sharp cheddar, fresh lime juice, cilantro.

The very best thing to round out such a meal in one bowl? Cornbread made with whole grains, not too sweet. Just the clean taste of corn with a hint of honey.

I have made this meal over and over and I never tire of it. I feel good after eating it. It is healthy, low in fat and feels like pure comfort.

ChiliCondiments

Turkey chili

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 fresh jalapeno, diced

1 lb. ground turkey breast

3 tbsp chili powder

8 oz diced green chilies

28 oz can whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes or fire roasted whole tomatoes

Two 15 oz cans of red beans (substitute kidney or pintos is unavailable), with juice

½ cup sliced black olives, drained

1/8 tsp ground cloves

Black pepper, to taste

Garnishes: Shredded sharp cheddar, chopped cilantro, lime wedges

Optional garnish: If not making cornbread, top the chili with corn chips

In a 5 quart saucepan, sauté onions and jalapeno over medium heat in olive oil until just softened. Lower heat to medium. Add Turkey. Brown the turkey until well cooked, about 20 minutes. Stir in chili powder and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add green chilies, tomatoes and their juices, beans and their juices, drained olives and cloves. If using whole tomatoes, break them up with a spoon. Simmer for 15 – 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve with garnishes.

Cornbread

Whole grain cornbread

Adapted from Williams Sonoma essentials of baking

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

2 large eggs, beaten

2 – 3 tbsp honey

1 1/3 cups buttermilk

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter for greasing skillet

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine eggs, honey, buttermilk, and oil. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined.

On the stovetop, heat a 10” cast iron skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet making sure the sides of the skillet get buttered. As soon as the butter is melted, remove the skillet from the heat. Add the batter to the skillet and put the skillet in the oven. Bake the cornbread until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This is usually about 20 minutes for me if it needs more time, add up to 5 more minutes and test again.

Juicy, delicious, mouth-watering steak

http://www.public-domain-image.com (public domain image)
 
You are what you eat eats – Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food.
 
I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t often luxuriate in a rare, juicy piece of beef. If I am going to eat something that was alive and kicking at one point, my preference usually leans toward something avian or piscine. Occasionally something porcine will grace my plate but that is the extent of the red meaty goodness I’ll usually eat. Why? I was ruined early on when I read Diet for a Small Planet by Francis Moore Lappe’. I was quite the little environmentalist and when I discovered the environmental destruction tied to cattle, I stopped centering my diet around beef. Back in those old days, beef was blamed for many health scares due to the saturated fat content it contains. Many people I know cut down on their consumption of beef and I did too.
 
If you do your homework, you find out that a lot of the bad rap that beef gets is due to how it is raised for market.  Cows evolved a double stomach in order to turn the luscious green grass that we can’t digest into wholesome available nutrients. Cows properly raised on pasture are usually not too destructive to the environment. Meat and dairy from those same cows is loaded with omega three fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids (which are good for preventing cancer). You see, the problem is that conventionally raised cows, stuck in a feedlot, are fed corn and sometimes other things. Since their double stomach is made for processing grass, grains make them ill. We have to load them with medications to make them well. The feedlots also contribute to environmental and health issues as well. The rise in the number of toxic E-coli cases we are experiencing lately are a result of our animal husbandry practices.
 
From a health and an environmental standpoint the meat, eggs and dairy of pastured animals are far better than their conventionally grown counterparts. “But pasture raised animal products are so pricey!” you say. Well, we should all be eating lower on the food chain for our health and our planet, but… that’s another rant for another day.
Steak
 
So… if you are still with me on this, and after looking at my links you still wanna have some beef: you must be thinking, “but Mimi. Grass fed beef has so much less fat, it can’t be tasty at all”. As you have gathered, I am not a steak expert, but I know that I love the intense meaty flavor of grass fed beef. Slate magazine did a taste test and here is how grass fed beef fared. For me, I have always loved how any beef tastes with this wonderful chili rub I discovered over a decade ago in Gourmet magazine. The rub both tenderizes and flavors the meat. Bon Appetit!
 
 Rub1
 
 Garlic and chili rub for barbequed beef

Adapted from Gourmet, August 1995

2 – 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
 
1 tsp kosher salt
 
2 tbsp chili powder
 
1 tsp cumin
 
½ tsp evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar
 
3 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
 
Rub2

Add chopped garlic and salt to a mortar and use a pestle to grind the garlic and salt into a paste. Don’t worry if there are still some garlic chunks but you want it ground enough to make a wet paste. If your mortar is large enough, add chili powder, cumin, sugar and Worcestershire sauce, if not transfer garlic to a bowl and mix in the preceding ingredients.

This recipe makes enough rub for two to three pounds of steak or a roast such as tri tip. Cover the meat in the rub and allow it to marinate for at least 4 hours and up to two days. Cook the meat on a barbeque to the desired doneness.

Rub3

So many recipes, so little time

CurryChickenAndEggplant

As I travel though the blogosphere, I have a tendency to bookmark recipes for future use.  Most of these bookmarks never get revisited and “my favorites” in my browser are littered with good intentions.  I also have a real world example of this horrible pack rat tendency of mine.  I am a magazine junkie and I tear up my magazines, saving recipes that look good.  I currently have two file folders bursting with clippings from years of reading and hoarding.  I don’t often weed through these folders either.

One day, as I was admiring other bloggers that are hosted on WordPress, I stumbled upon a gorgeous blog called See Beautiful.  Beth Ann is a talented photographer who moved to Japan and was chronicling her life there through her photos and her blog.  As I looked at her photos, I stumbled onto some delicious looking recipes and I bookmarked them for later.  A few months later, I actually remembered the recipes and made them.  They were so delicious that I have made them again and again.  Beth Ann has reworked her blog and it is now called Beth Ann Blog.  Click on the link to enjoy her amazing photos of Singapore!

About those recipes?  I highly recommend you make this food for dinner soon, so click on the links for Curry and Dijon Baked Chicken and Roasted vegetables with soy sauce and ginger.   Don’t be put off by the idea that an Asian style chicken recipe has Dijon mustard in it.  It is pure genius.  The sauce has a lovely sweet and spicy flavor.  I add twice the ginger and garlic to the veggies for a spicy and sweet but mellow flavor.  Round out this meal with a hot serving of plain brown rice to soak up the sauce from the chicken.  You’ll be happy you are cooking with other bloggers, just as I am.

Pure comfort food

baked-penne

I have a recipe I love for baked penne.  It is loaded with three kinds of cheeses and these ethereal chicken meatballs that you fry in olive oil until they have a brown crunchy crust.  It is wonderful and when I make it, it takes hours to prepare and I always feel vindicated to have an especially massive piece of it after such hard labor.  Since I embarked on my weight loss journey, I have been terrified to make this particular dish because I know it is loaded with fat and calories and I know that I can’t be trusted to eat a tiny portion.  In fact, I have been known to dig cold meatballs out of the casserole and pop them into my mouth at a moments notice.  Not a good thing to have in my house, no.

 

I love Italian food and I especially love all of the baked dishes.  I didn’t think I could indulge in such cheesy, saucy fare so I have seriously been depriving myself for so many months now.

 

Recently, I have expanded my usual magazine fetish due to finding out how great Cooking Light and Eating Well have become.  As a matter of fact, I can’t get enough of Cooking Light magazine.  During the holidays, I noticed a special edition Meals in Minutes issue of Cooking Light at the store and took it home.  There was a baked pasta dish included in this issue.  It sounded sort of pedestrian.  Not so special as the baked penne I love so much.  However, looking at the nutritional information, it looked like it would fit nicely into my allotted food for the day.  I decided to give it a try.  The original recipe called for spicy Italian turkey sausage, regular white pasta and full fat mozzarella.  I switched these ingredients for chicken basil sausage, whole-wheat penne and part skim mozzarella.  I used a really full flavored parmesano reggiano.  What came out of my oven last night made me want to weep.  Nothing can replace my original favorite recipe but this was so very good, so healthy and so simple to make that I am very happy indeed.

 

Baked penne with sausage

Adapted from the best of Cooking Light meals in minutes

 

1 pound whole-wheat penne rigate

1 pound chicken and basil sausage

1 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves

1 tbsp tomato paste

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp fresh ground pepper

2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes (with basil and garlic if available)

¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella

1 cup grated parmesano reggiano

Olive oil cooking spray

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and return to the pot.  Cover and set aside.

 

Remove the casings from the sausage.  Heat pan over medium heat and spray liberally with cooking spray.  Add onion, garlic and sausage.  Cook until sausage is browned.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

Add the fresh basil and sauce into cooked pasta and mix well.   Oil a 9”x13” pan.  Pour half of the pasta mixture into the prepared pan.  Top with half of the mozzarella and parmesan.  Pour the other half of the pasta mixture on top of the cheese layer and smooth with a spoon.  Top the pasta with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan.  Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly.  Makes 8 servings.

 

 

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