Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bonus Post - The Poor Man's Latte

From time to time, I'll wander through our kitchen and notice leftover coffee sitting in the coffee pot. It's cold and probably stronger than anyone wants it to be. I hate, hate, hate pouring this coffee down the sink. I'm also not a huge fan of pouring this coffee down my gullet, either.

This is how I reconcile the situation.

Take a big coffee mug. Pour in 1/4 cup of milk and however much sugar you normally put into a cup of coffee. (Black coffee drinkers, pour the damn coffee down the sink and make a new pot.)

If all you have is skim or 1% milk, add a healthy splash of half & half or heavy cream. Microwave the mug on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds (or until the milk heats up enough that some of the fat floats to the surface in the form of foam, but not so long that it boils over and makes a mess of the microwave.)

Fill the mug the rest of the way with the old, cold coffee.

Stir and Enjoy.

Sear-Roasted Chicken Breast

When I was grocery shopping two weeks ago, I came across a large package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts that were only $1.99/lb. This was cheaper than my beloved chicken thighs. I hemmed and hawed, having avoided these pale, flavorless pieces of white meat for years and years. Then I said, screw it, they're freaking cheap.

I'm glad that I did. After two weeks, I've realized why everyone loves this culinary chameleon. I've put it on salads, of course. I've eaten these on sandwiches, in tacos, over rice, on pizza and straight out of the refrigerator. And the best part, I've cooked them almost exactly the same way every freaking time. It's so easy!
Ce n'est pas un blanc de poulet.
This is not a chicken breast. This is part of a chicken breast. Cheap-o grocery store chicken breasts are generally gigantic. Also, they tend to be lopsided, being crazy thick at one end and skinny at the other. When I got mine home, I sliced each one diagonally so each one was turned into a round, fat hunk of chicken and a thinner, flatter tail piece (shown above). If you're using these instructions to cook a fatter piece, just leave it in the oven an extra 2-4 minutes and check the center of it before gobbling it up.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

While grocery shopping last week I did what I often do, I followed my cravings. Namely, I had been thinking about a grilled chicken sandwich with bleu cheese dressing all day long. When I make a sandwich like that, I like a lot of lettuce on it. I like the cool, crisp crunch and it makes me feel healthy even on top of the bleu cheese dressing. So, without thinking things through, I grabbed a package of leaf lettuce from the produce section.

Even the small bags have a LOT of lettuce.

For days afterward, I've been eating salads...
Lots and lots of salads...
And after about 4 salads in as many days... I was feeling GREAT!
With that in mind, I decided to finally get off my butt and find ways to use the big bag of quinoa that an ex-roommate left sitting on top of our refrigerator.

(Update: I did end up finding one.)

My first step was to go to the website where my sister found our absolute favorite quinoa salad recipe. This recipe makes a TON of salad and involves a ridiculous amount of chopping. I'm not kidding, I've given myself blisters when making this over at Casey's house.

It's worth it. I could eat this stuff all day long.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Basic Frittata with Leeks and Bacon

I have a very specific memory from my mom's kitchen.  (Okay, okay, I have HUNDREDS of specific memories from my mom's kitchen... this is one of them.)  I was in my late teens or early twenties, raiding my parent's refrigerator.  It must have been just after Christmas because there was leftover shrimp from our annual Christmas shrimp cocktail. I was enamored with the idea of omelettes at the time. My mother was sitting at the kitchen table paying bills while I whipped up an omelette heavy with dill and chopped shrimp. Mom hated it when we made a mess in the kitchen, but she was also inordinately proud that all of her children were able and willing cooks..

I remember thinking that maybe, when I was rich, I would settle down and open up a little breakfast joint that served only omelettes. (Did I say "enamored"? More like "obsessed".) The problem with this little fantasy is that omelettes are kind of a pain in the ass.

Now, more than a decade later, I find myself slightly less intrigued, but still very much "in like" with the idea of the frittata. Not surprisingly, it took a recipe from Joe's cookbook to show me how freaking easy they can be. As long as you have an oven-proof skillet, that is.

Everything you've ever loved in an omelette can be produced in frittata form. Case in point, I recently succumbed to a teensy bout of nostalgia and made one with shrimp and dill.
It was quite nice.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Puffy Oven Pancake

I love breakfast. Any time of day or night, I will be overjoyed to be eating some form of breakfast foodstuffs.

(This does not include Grape Nuts. If I wanted a bowl full of rocks, I'd go get a... wait a minute. I simply do not ever want to eat a bowl full of rocks... period.)

One other breakfast item that I have some trouble with is pancakes. I love them, I really do, but I always feel like a friggin' heifer whenever I finish a plate full of the doughy gut bombs. Sure, I've tried making silver dollar pancakes. Unfortunately, as my food gets smaller and cuter, my willpower drops exponentially.

It should come as no surprise that when I saw Ina Garten on tv making these fluffy alternatives, I just had to try them out. (Literally, when the episode was over I went straight to the kitchen and made one for myself.)

But before I jump right into this, there is one small thing I'd like to share. I keep, in my refrigerator, a zesting lemon.
This is why I almost never use any other citrus zest in a recipe if I can get away with it. Once I have suitably used up the majority of the zest on this bad boy, I'll most likely scour the internet for an easy lemon pudding or something.

Also, I do not currently have a microplane (shame, shame shame.) Any time anything needs to be grated, I just mince the hell out of it. What I do have, luckily, is a really nice old-school vegetable peeler.
This is why I almost never measure the amount of zest that I use. One strip generally suits my needs just fine.

Lastly, television cooking personalities always say to just use the zest (in this case, the yellow) and not the pith (the white). Well, lookie here...
And I wasn't even trying. My vegetable peeler zested the hell out of that lemon. I could have done it with my friggin' eyes closed.

And so ends of my "crap-I-don't-have-a-microplane-screw-it-I'm-not-running-to-the-store-for-that" zesting tutorial for the day.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Shrimp Paella


I know, I know... it's been a while. But I'm back, baby.

So, I had an excellent Christmas this year. And today, I'm going to talk about my favorite presents.

First off, my sister bought me a cookbook. True to my generation, I have never owned a cookbook. (Not including the family cookbook my sister created.) I almost exclusively use the internet and television for my inspiration in the kitchen.

This is ridiculous.

As a preteen, I used to spend hours reading my mother's cookbooks like novels. It only makes sense that my collection of cookbooks SHOULD rival my collection of sci-fi/fantasy novels. The truly amazing thing about this gift is the fact that Casey didn't even read through the cookbook before purchasing it, wrapping it, and putting it under the tree.
Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking For One - by Joe Yonan

This book is a wonder. As you can see, Casey's decision was kind of a no-brainer. It is the perfect complement to my single-yet-food-centric lifestyle. Let's just say, quite a few future posts of this blog will come with the disclaimer, "this recipe was inspired by Joe's cookbook."