Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pre-vacation Eats

Nate and I are heading to Colorado tomorrow for 10 days, so we've been trying to clean out the fridge of the random and leftover food we have. We have some friends staying at our house to take care of the dog, but I'm not sure they want food like collard greens and leftover dry lentil things.

So for the past few days we've been eating up random things from the freezer, fridge and pantry shelves.

Sunday night, we made shish kabobs using up some veggies we had--like mushrooms, bell pepper and zucchini--and a couple chicken breasts. I made a marinade of garlic, garlic scapes we had from the CSA box, vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, rosemary and sherry. With the shish kabobs, we heated up this lentil and pea mix I bought it because it was buy one get one free at Pick 'n Save a few weeks ago (the other one we have is soy bean somethingorother).

Unfortunately, it really wasn't good. It wasn't flavorful and very dry.

At least the kabobs were good!

Then Monday night we made gnocchi with some sauce we had in the freezer. For the sauce, we sauteed the extra zucchini we had leftover and had a side salad. I love gnocchi, and even the dry, packaged stuff you get in the pasta section of the grocery store is pretty good.

Then tonight we ate up all the odds and ends in the fridge--I had half a piece of pizza and half a piece of garlic bread from lunch today, half a panini sandwich from lunch yesterday, some collard greens we had left from the CSA box, the rest of those not-so-tasty lentils (they were even worse leftover) and some chips and guacamole we had opened last night at the Brewers game. Nate had the same, but instead of the panini, he had half a sandwich with the one piece of bread we had left.

This will be my last blog post for at least 11 days or so. I hope to take lots of great pictures of tasty food we have in Colorado, and my plan is to do a blog post on our vacation eats. See ya in July!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Guest Dining Review

During Milwaukee's Downtown Dining Week, I had the chance to write a guest blog post and restaurant review for a great local website, Your Milwaukee Dining (find it on Twitter at @YourMKEDining).

Some girlfriends and I checked out Zarletti, where we feasted on salad, soup, pasta, panini, gelato and cannoli. Check out my guest review!

A Lesson in Spiciness

Nate and I took it easy Friday night, and decided to hang out at home and make burgers for dinner. The newest issue of Cooking Light features some delicious-looking burgers on the front cover. We picked the spicy poblano burgers with pickled red onions and chipotle cream. (We didn't make the pickled red onions--I'm not a big fan of anything pickled (I've always hated pickles) and we didn't want to make a big batch if neither of us liked them).

Here is the recipe for the burgers and the sauce. We followed it pretty much as it's stated, other than a few (important to note) things:
-Instead of a slice of white bread, we just used about a 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs we had.
-Instead of the sour cream it calls for for the sauce, we used plain, fat-free Greek yogurt.
-Instead of just using the 1 chipotle pepper and 2 tsp. adobo sauce it calls for, I used 3 chipotle peppers and probably 4 tsp. of sauce. Needless to say--and even though Nate and I both like spicy foods--the sauce was hot. Too hot! I had to have two glasses of milk with dinner! Next time, I'll definitely follow the recipe and add more after the fact if it's not spicy enough. And I'll also not put as huge of a dollop on top my burger!

The burgers were absolutely delicious and perfectly juicy. It may have helped that we used good, grass-fed and lean ground beef we got at Outpost.

For sides, we made sweet potatoes fries (mixed with olive oil, seasoned with curry powder, paprika, cayenne, garlic salt and powder, salt and pepper, and baked for about 20 minutes at 375) and a side salad.

Stir Fry Goodness

We got a ton of great veggies in our last CSA box, and I knew the perfect thing to make with them: spicy, peanuty stir fry with tofu.

We had some Wildtree spicy peanut sauce to use up. But there wasn't quite enough of it, so I mixed in some creamy peanut butter, soy sauce, tamari sauce and red pepper flakes.

First we cubed and browned the tofu in olive oil and a bit of jalapeno grapeseed oil with spices. That was done about 15 minutes later.

We set the tofu aside and cooked the veggies in a big skillet with a bit more oil. For the veggies, we had bok choy, sugar snap peas, pea pods, asparagus and green onion from the CSA box (plus a daikon radish which we found out we don't really like). We also had some baby corn to use up.

To serve with the veggies, we made rice noodles by boiling water and then soaking the noodles in the water for about 8 minutes.

When the veggies were tender, we added the sauce to the pan plus the noodles and tofu.

When everything came together, it was a great, delicious meal!

Taking it Easy

Once in a while, it's really nice to make something out of a box, and not worry about recipes, unique ingredients and waiting a long time to eat.

Monday night we had to run some errands, so we wanted an easy meal. I had picked up this box of mac and cheese from Outpost a while ago when it was on sale. So we finally made it Monday. It was good stuff, and with a side salad, it was a perfect, easy Monday night meal.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mexican on an Early Father's Day

My parents are going to be in Europe over the real Father's Day, so we had an early celebration this past Sunday. After a long motorcycle ride throughout southeastern Wisconsin, my parents came over (in case you haven't figured it out, or don't already know, I'm an only child) and we made them Mexican food, one of my family's favorites.

We started with homemade guacamole (the avocado was a little brown, so that's why the guac is so dark), as usual, as well as some Mrs. Renfro's salsa.

We wanted to do something a little different for the main meal, so I found a recipe for carne asada tacos. They were really good, and everyone seemed to like them. We followed the recipe exactly, except that we didn't layer the tortillas--but it probably would have been a good idea, since they torn apart pretty quickly and easily. I made the mojo sauce from scratch, but I saw a bottle of the marinade at El Rey's. I also made the pico de gallo the recipe calls for. We had that with chips to start, too. It's really, really good--and it makes a ton! I only used three of the four tomatoes it calls for, and that was more than enough.
We served the tacos with some of the leftover rice from the red curry cashew meal, spiced up with some frozen corn, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and hot sauce, as well as black beans flavored with the same spices.

To finish off the meal, we had some Mexican pineapple-flavored cookies as well as vanilla frozen yogurt with strawberries.

I'm pretty sure my dad was pleased with the meal, and on Father's Day, that's all that matters, right?

Red Curry with Cashews

I'm sure I've said it before, but I'm a sucker for anything with curry (in fact, just tonight, I picked up some mango curry chicken salad from Outpost for lunch tomorrow. Can't wait to try it!). I bought a vegetarian cookbook--Quick and Easy Tasty Vegetarian--on super sale at Border's a long time ago, and we just now got around to making a recipe from the book.

We also had some red curry paste to use up, so everything the recipe worked out well. The cookbook has a recipe for red curry paste, which I think we'll make from scratch next time. Here is the recipe:

Red Curry with Cashews
-1 cup coconut milk
-1 kaffir lime leaf (it would have taken some searching to find this, so we just squeezed a lime in the dish)
-1/4 tsp. light soy sauce
-4 baby corn cobs, halved lengthwise
-1.25 cups broccoli florets
-4.5 oz. green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
-1/4 cup cashew nuts
-15-ish basil leaves (I chopped them)
-1 tbs. chopped cilantro
-1 tbs. chopped roasted peanuts, to garnish

Put a wok or large, heavy-based skillet over a high heat. Add 3 tbs. red curry paste and stir until it gives off its aroma. Reduce heat to medium.

Add the coconut milk, kaffir lime leaf, soy sauce, baby corn, broccoli, green beans and cashews. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked, but still firm and crunchy.

Remove and discard the lime leaf and stir in the basil leaves and cilantro. Garnish with peanuts and serve immediately.

We had the curry over white basmati rice. Nate used up the rest of the coconut milk on the rice, giving it a slight coconut flavor. We, of course, added some Sriracha to everything. It was really good. I'd definitely make it again.

A Taste of the South

We based our dinner last Monday around a single item from our CSA box: collard greens. We had never cooked them before (and I think I've only tasted them once or twice), so we thought we'd make them with other proper southern food: fried (Cooking Light style) chicken and grits.

Here is the Cooking Light recipe we used for the chicken. We used all drumsticks--no breasts and thighs. We cheated a bit, since we didn't read the recipe before hand, and there was no way we were going to wait the 2 hours it suggests for chilling and letting the chicken sit. I would imagine the chicken would be better if we had done that. It was OK. I don't think we'll make it again. I guess real, fried chicken is always going to be better. We also rarely make chicken drumsticks, and I think we really prefer chicken breasts.

To make the collard greens, I sliced them very thin and sauteed them with a bit of water for about 15 minutes. Then I added some garlic powder and olive oil. I thought they were good (Nate wasn't a big fan), but I probably wouldn't go out of my way to make them again. We also had some asparagus on the side, since we got some with the CSA box. It was such a different bunch this time--very thick and purple! It turned green when it was cooked.

We made the grits from a box--just grits and water, then I added some garlic powder, salt, butter, Parmesan cheese and a bit of Frank's Red Hot. There's not much too them, but they're pretty good.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Greek Burgers + Some Extras

We're still using up the feta and tzatziki I keep mentioning, so we decided to make Greek turkey burgers Sunday night. They were pretty darn tasty, but really, to us, anything Greek is tasty!

We had about 12 oz. of ground turkey in the freezer, so we made that into two patties. Nate seasoned them with garlic, pepper, salt, fresh oregano, rosemary and thyme, and grilled them. We added some feta to the burgers while they were still on the grill, and later topped the patties with tzatziki, tomatoes, red onions and spinach. They were huge! And delicious. We had a salad on the side.

Also, two random mini posts:
On Saturday, to use up some random ingredients we had in the fridge, I made a tasty veggie pita sandwich. I split a piece of pita bread, and stuffed it with some of my homemade hummus, tomatoes, red peppers, lettuce and spinach, artichokes and emmental cheese.

Last week, I bought a Whirley Pop popcorn maker. I've been wanting one for a while, because I want to get away from making microwave popcorn. Not that we make popcorn a lot, but it's a tasty and fairly healthy snack to have.

We finally busted it out on Sunday for an afternoon snack. We made two batches since the "partial" batch only made about two handfuls. It was pretty good--a little chewy, but that may have had something to do with the kernels we bought. As a topping, we tried some seasonings (I think what we have is Parmesan ranch and another is a Spice House creation of some sort).

Guest Brunch Review

I had the opportunity to do a guest review and blog post for another local food blog, Milwaukee Brunch Reviews (find it on Twitter: @mke_brunch). It's a great blog that frequently reviews, you guessed it, brunch in the Milwaukee area.

So on Sunday, after the Miller Lite Ride for the Arts, Nate and our friends Leah and Emily went to Chez Jacques in the Fifth Ward/Walker's Point for brunch. It was a fantastic experience. Read all about it here and check out the other brunch reviews.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Greek Eggs

Since we've been getting so much fresh spinach in our CSA box, I've been trying to think of different ways to use it.

One of my favorite things to do with spinach is saute it and add it to scrambled eggs. Since we also had leftover feta and tzatziki from our souvlaki sandwiches, I thought I'd add it all together. I just sauteed the spinach in a tiny bit of water for a few minutes.
When it was done, I took the spinach out and make regular scrambled eggs, with salt, pepper and garlic powder. When they were close to being done, I added the spinach and some fresh oregano (also from the CSA box), plus the feta. After it was done, I added a dollop of tzatziki to the top.

I must say ... it was delicious! I could eat this every day.

Artichoke, Fennel and Olives over Penne

This was the second recipe we tried in Clean Foods, a cookbook I got for Christmas. The other recipe we made from the book was very good--a root vegetable soup last winter. The cookbook is divided into four sections, based on the seasons. Everything is vegan.

I picked this recipe because we had kalamata olives and arugula to use up. Unfortunately, by the time we got to making the recipe, the arugula was pretty wilted and not so good anymore, but we still used it.

The recipe was good, but it needed a little something more--some type of protein (maybe chickpeas or tofu, to keep it vegetarian) would be good. When I had the leftovers for lunch, I added a bit of hot sauce and that was pretty darn good.

Here is the recipe for Artichoke, Fennel and Olives over Penne
-1 pound penne (we used a combination of penne and rigatoni, because we wanted to use it up. I think we ended up using about 12 oz. because it's all we had--it was more than enough!)
-2 tbs. olive oil
-1 onion, diced
-2 garlic cloves, minced (Nate was in charge of cutting garlic--I'm sure he added two or three extra cloves)
-1 cup canned artichoke hearts, quartered
-1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
-1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced
-1 bunch arugula
-1 cup chopped tomatoes or canned (we used canned)
-1/4 cup chopped parsley
-1 tbs. fresh lemon juice
-salt, pepper to taste

Cook penne according to directions on package. Drain, rinse and return to pot. Drizzle with 1 tbs. olive oil and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in 2 tbs. olive oil until soft (about 3 minutes). Add artichokes, olives, fennel and arugula. Saute until heated through (about 5 minutes). Add tomatoes and saute another 2 minutes. Add parsley and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and serve over pasta.

The book says it makes four servings, but our batch--even with less pasta--make six huge servings.

Fish and Veggies

We still have a couple bags of "Up North" fish (lake perch and bluegills, mostly) in the freezer that we need to eat up. Last week, Nate found this recipe on his phone (can't remember the program he uses) and we thought it sounded good.

Turns out, it was pretty good! The veggies go really well with the fish and the small amount of breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese keep the good fish flavor present.

Here is the recipe we used. It's kind of funny that there are no measurements given, but it's nice to be able to do your own thing, too. If I remember correctly, we used 1 tomato, 1/2 green pepper and 1/2 onion. We sprinkled just a bit of regular bread crumbs on top as well as the typical, grated Parmesan cheese.

We served the fish with asparagus (courtesy of our CSA) and leftover orzo salad.

Souvlaki, Round Two

So I was going to go on and on about this great thing we make at home that reminds us of our Greek honeymoon. Then, I discovered I already wrote about it in an earlier blog post! So here is the condensed version.

Last Monday we made chicken souvlaki sandwiches with a Greek salad on the side.
Of course, we had to make a trip to the Greek grocery store on 91st and Greenfield to pick up tzatziki and fresh, imported sheep's milk feta.
We did pretty much what we did in March, but I didn't even think to marinate the chicken. We just cooked it on the stove top with herbs and spices.
As usual, the sandwiches were very good, even though they're a bit hard to eat.