Thursday, March 29, 2012

If Yan Can Cook...

So Can You.  One of my all time favorite cooking shows. For those of you who aren't familiar with my friend Yan, let me fill you in. 
Growing up my parents opted for us to not own a television for the better part of my childhood.  And by that I mean, our set went out and they just didn't buy another one until I was in 7th grade.  (Yes, I know, it is a miracle that I can function in society.)  However, that year Nintendo was wildly popular and I was in Middle School so it was time to give in. I think my parents realized the whole not having television in our house thing was starting to backfire a bit because my brothers were increasingly becoming mesmerized by television any time they had a chance to watch a show. It was like time stopped. They totally disengaged from their surroundings and were in a trance. So for Christmas we each got a TV. Which meant, I got my own and they had to share. Life is so unfair. Anyway, they didn't care much because they also got a Nintendo and that seemed to justify the sharing.  I was at the age where Saturday morning cartoons had lost the ability to hold my interest, and in fact I am pretty sure I never woke early enough to catch them anyway.  Most Saturdays were lazy, catch-up type days around our house.  Enter public television.  Yes, at age 12 I was watching KERA religiously.  I loved the cooking shows. Julia Child with her, "Bon Appetite", Martin Yan and "If Yan Can Cook, So Can You" and Justin Wilson's, "How ya'll are?" all became engraved in my memories from this time in my life.  I still love a day of nothing but cooking shows or cookbook reading.  I don't even try to explain it, it just is what it is.
So one of the things I loved about Yan was he really made me think "I could too".  His crazy good knife skills were a little scary to me (perhaps that was because there had been one too many knife injuries in our household requiring an ER visit) but getting into the kitchen, opening a cookbook and thinking I could make anything in it seemed to boost my cooking interest and confidence; if for no other reason than me just thinking that I could.  I don't remember my mom teaching me how to cook per say but she always gave me permission to "play" in the kitchen.  As a matter of fact, I remember a day she came home and said, "You made that? I don't even make that."  She was pointing to a 3-layer cake covered in seafoam frosting.  That's the kind of frosting made by beating egg whites then cooking them by slowly pouring boiling syrup into the whites while you continue to beat them into a foamy, sticky cloud.  I can't imagine the panic she must have felt knowing what disaster/injury could have been found instead of the beautifully frosted cake before her.  But she hid her panic and just went on and on about the cake.  No one told me that seafoam frosting was difficult to make.  It just looked really pretty and impressive.  I guess I was right.
My point to all of this is, You Can Cook.  Pick up a cookbook and find something you never would even consider trying to make and then set out to overcome your cooking fears.  Turn on Food Network and soak in some tricks used by famous chefs to navigate the kitchen then try them out for yourself.
(I personally wouldn't start with knife skills but to each his own.) It might take a little practice and a little time to become comfortable in the kitchen but that's ok.  And sure you may scrape off some burned parts, add some salt after the fact or simply utter the words, "I won't try that again".  But I have faith in you.  You can cook.  And who knows, you may even start to like it.
So today I am sharing a recipe that my aunt shared with me.  It is for a soup that will make you feel a little
chef-like having served it.  There is just something rewarding about totally deconstructing a raw food and then making something wonderfully yummy from it that makes you want to pat yourself on the back.  And this soup is sure to earn you such reward.  It would be a perfect first course for upcoming Passover/Easter/Spring meals.  I hope you give it a try and take some time to enjoy making it.  And remember, "If Yan Can Cook, So Can You."

Moroccan Carrot Soup

2 tbs butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 pound raw carrots, diced/chopped 1/2 inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbs honey
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion;saute 2 minutes.  Mix in carrots.  Add broth; bring to boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes
Remove soup from heat.  Puree in batches in blender until smooth.  Return to same pan.  Whisk in honey, lemon juice and spices.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls.  Place a dollop of yogurt in the center of bowl and serve.

*Remember organic ingredients are best
** If you are short on time or hate chopping, buy frozen chopped onion and pre-sliced carrot chips to speed up the prep time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tex-Mex Chicken Quinoa

Ok, so today I am back with another quinoa recipe of sorts.  It is more of a dump this, dump that, mix, bake and serve type of recipe.  I have found this blogging recipes thing is kinda hard for a person who very rarely cooks with a recipe and never makes a dish the same way twice.  Hmm, maybe I should have thought this blog thru a little better before I started?  Too late for hindsight. Instead of beating myself up about presenting this to you in proper "recipe" format, I am just going to throw it out there.  Trust me, this dish is easy to make and tastes great.  How you get to that point doesn't really matter, does it?  We are going to pretend, at least for now, it doesn't. Enjoy!

Tex-Mex Chicken Quinoa

cooked chicken breast meat chunked or shredded- enough to feed your crew
cooked quinoa- more or less depending on your carb intake. I usually use 1 cup per 3 ck breasts
canned tomatoes- undrained, mexican recipe. I use one can for the ratio above but add if you need
shredded cheddar cheese- some to mix in and some to put on top
chipotle seasoning-I love Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle (season to taste)
1/3 block softened cream cheese or several The Laughing Cow Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle wedges (see below)
chopped fresh cilantro

Mix all the ingredients together, pour into a glass Pyrex that has been sprayed with non-stick spray, top with extra cheddar and bake at 350* until cheese is melted.  Serve with tex-mex condiments.

Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle for a Cheese Lover's Diet

I love to use these wedges in place of cream cheese.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Breaking The Rules

So I am one of those rule followers.  I abide by the law, play by the rules, walk the straight and narrow.  I even create my own rules.  I tend to like the word "guideline".  I keep out of trouble and for the most part, I  "mind my own beeswax".  (I love that saying.) But today I am breaking the rules.  Throwing caution to the wind.  Playing with fire and I don't care who knows it.  I am posting 2 recipes.  One contains WHITE FLOUR and the other is chock-full of SUGAR.  I know, I know.  But what can I say?  Some rules are just meant to be broken.

First of all, let me tell you a little of my medical history and how I came to the place I am today.  I began eating a low carb diet about 9 years ago.  I had been fighting "unexplained" hypertension for a few years and was at an all time low as far as my health was concerned and at an all time high on the scale.  I was 26, miserable, fat, tired and sick.  After years of suffering I had decided to become my own advocate and find a doctor who might actually do something other than add to my 7-pill-a-day regimen.  I began the Atkins diet at the advice of an amazing nephrologist who specialized in hypertension.  In order to lose the pounds I had gained from all the meds I had been taking to control my blood pressure and to deal with the life I had created and become trapped in; he suggested that the first step was to get my weight under control by cutting carbs.  Honestly I was shocked that a doctor, let alone a kidney specialist, would recommend the Atkins diet when there was so much hype in the media about how hard it was on the kidneys and frankly "unhealthy".  Not to mention the fact that he was the first doctor who even cared enough to question me about my diet and exactly what I ate on a daily basis. Shocked, but trusting his advice I began cutting carbs and exercising more frequently.  Within the year, I had lost 60 pounds and I was down to 1 medication.  I still see that doctor regularly and credit him with saving me in so many ways.  I have continued to eat an "Atkins-type" diet and am happy to say, I am completely off medication.  My weight still fluctuates and I have to really be careful with carbs due to PCOS, a hormonal imbalance that tends to make my body store them regardless of my exercise level but it also explained so many of my other health issues that its diagnosis was welcomed. During that time in my life I also had developed some pretty severe gastrointestinal issues.  One of the discoveries I made when I stopped eating bread, pasta and cereal was that my digestive problems resolved.  Yet I made another discovery when I started adding whole grains, specifically whole wheat, back into my diet ALL those digestive issues returned.  Like, within days.  Some even within hours. That's when I began eating a gluten-free diet.  I learned I have an intolerance to wheat gluten.  I can eat a little flour on occasion, pop a few Gas-X and deal with the pain if I find that I really "need" a bite of pasta or some little pastry that is calling my name. But for the most part, sugar and flour are no friends of mine and they just aren't worth the havoc they wreak in my body.

HOWEVER, there are times I break the rules.  The 2 recipes I am sharing today in fact break the rules/guidelines I set for myself.  I am sharing them with you because they still have their good points and I know not everyone follows "my rules".  (My family is snickering to themselves right about now.)
I hope you enjoy the recipes and I also hope that sharing my struggles can be a help or give hope to someone else with a similar story.  Everyday I find a little more peace with my body.  I live in a house that is full of love and have a heart that is content.  I seek help when I need it.  Make better choices when I know better.  Remain mindful of my past without dwelling in it and give myself the freedom to start over everyday...regardless of the rules.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did make this.
 Here it is my friends.  Below is the link to the "gluten-free goddess" blogspot where I found Nirvana. Or pretty close.  But I have to say, this cake should come with a warning.  Technically it doesn't have one so I am providing one a gratis because I want you to keep following my blog and love the food I love.  So here it is- 
WARNING: Don't eat too much of this cake. 
Meaning, eat a slice and stop.  It is super rich and while it tastes so good that it leaves you wanting more, don't do it. Back away from the cake, put the fork down and save yourself.  Like I said, it doesn't come with a warning so I am passing this bit of knowledge on to you.  Feel fortunate. And ENJOY!

Roast Beef 101

Or maybe the title should be "Roast Beef 102", as I am not really a roast beef aficionado?  I found when I first started making roast that it was much easier to make a bad roast than I thought.  I have since perfected my roast recipe and eliminated many of the typical roast ingredients. No bags, packets or cans.  No fancy pans or cooking methods.  Just a simple recipe yielding a simple meal. 
* This recipe contains a small amount of white flour.  It can be omitted but it makes a much better "gravy" with it.

List of ingredients:

Eye of Round Roast cut - pick a roast with a modest amount of fat down the side. This cut is tender if cooked properly but can become tough and dry, especially if all the fat is trimmed.

1/2 cup organic all-purpose flour

salt and pepper grinders

1/2 cup minced dried onion


veggies for roast- I used red potatoes and carrots

Heat a 6qt pot on high heat to sear meat while prepping roast.  Dry the roast with paper towels and place on cookie sheet.  Pierce roast with knife on all sides.  Cover roast with liberal amounts of salt and pepper.  Rub spices into meat.  Sprinkle flour on roast and rub until entire roast is covered.  Dust off any excess.  You may need more or less flour depending on size of roast.  Next sear the roast fat side down first, then rotating until all sides are brown.  Once roast is seared on all sides, place the roast fat side up in the center of the pan.  Pour water over roast until it is 1/2 covered.  Bring water to a boil then turn heat to low and cover.  Simmer until tender.  For an average size roast, about 3 hours.  Check roast periodically.  Make sure water level doesn't drop.  If so, add more water.  About an hour into cooking add the onion to the pan, flip the roast and recover.  Add your veggies the last 30 mins of cooking.  If there is not enough room in your pot for all the veg and meat, remove the roast, let it rest in the oven and cook veggies in the roast gravy.  When veggies are fork tender, slice the roast  and return it to the pan.  Spoon the gravy over the meat to moisten the roast and serve at once.  

*The key to this roast is the sear.  Make sure you render the fat first so that the roast doesn't stick to the pan when you sear the other sides. You can also sear the meat on the stovetop and then finish cooking it in the Crock-pot.  It is not the preferred method but it does work if you need to make it that way.

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The Best Brussels Sprouts Ever

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Flourless Chocolate Cake Gluten-free

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