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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tips: Cast Iron Care

+ grilled Caesar salad recipe:

Originally, I wrote "grilled Cesar Salad", and was tempted to leave it that way. Cesar, the Spanish version of Caesar, is one of my favorite names. So much so, that I've named a very proud three-legged pig totem Cesar - my roommate was kind enough to bring it back to me from Chile once upon a time. I'm not sure entirely how it works yet; I think I'll try rubbing the curly tail before my next big interview for good luck.

As you can see, despite my instincts, I chose to stick with "Caesar salad" since that is what this recipe really is. This salad is inspired almost exclusively by a similar dish I used to get every time we ate at one of our favorite cafes in college. The first time I went I got the Turkey-Bacon-Avocado (which was delicious), and I remember eating brunch there at least once. But every other date, birthday, Friday night or special occasion I ordered the grilled Caesar because - honestly - I couldn't get enough of it. Thanks to the new cast iron grill pan that found it's way into my possession Christmas morning, I can make my favorite salad at home! No college required. In retrospect, I'd like to have the college part too, but beggar's can't be choosers. Whenever I feel especially morose, or lonely in a "where-are-all-my-roommates" sort of way, I think of my grill pan and this salad.

Speaking of my grill pan, you should get one if you don't have one already. They can be a little pricey, but a lot of chain stores (Crate & Barrel or Williams-Sonoma) have reasonably priced pans starting around thirty dollars. You can also try discount stores and kitchen supply stores, too. My pan is pre-seasoned, which is ideal. But, if yours isn't, here are some tips for seasoning your pan the first time you use it.

Seasoning Cast Iron

Why: This provides a nonstick surface for the pan, as well as a natural protective layer to prevent rust.
1. Wash the pan out with warm water and a very mild detergent (bleach free). You will only do this *once* in the life of your pan.
2. Dry the pan thoroughly.
3. Spray the pan with cooking spray, or rub with a fine layer of oil or melted shortening (no butter or butter flavored shortening).
4. Preheat the oven to 350 and set the pan on the top shelf (upside down). You should place a baking sheet below, to catch rouge drippings, and bake the pan for 1 hour. Let cool completely in the oven afterwards.

If you don't own a grill, or (like me) don't trust yourself around the space ship of a gas grill out back, a grill pan is perfect. It is low maintenance, you don't even have to wash it, and it is half as likely to explode. The flavor is exceptional too, whatever you're grilling on it. But, like you, I'm new to this thing so I'm starting from the bottom. So far, I'm sticking to vegetables: zucchini, onions, lettuce. That might sound a little boring to some of you meat lovers, but I don't think my delicate kitchen psyche could stand over cooking a nice piece of meat, or worse, under cooking it. Learning what temperatures work for different ingredients is important, and discovering how long and what temperatures it takes to get good char marks will make your future meals even more impressive. Plus, who doesn't like the vegetables they give you at a habachi grill? Try this grilled Caesar salad, and then we'll talk. But before you go, check out the tips below for cleaning and caring for that new favorite kitchen utensil.

How to Care + Store your Cast Iron
How to clean:
Never put your cast iron in the dishwasher.
Never wash your pre-seasoned cast iron with soap and water.

Do "wash" your pan while it is still hot, but be careful.
Do use hot water and a soft towel or scrub brush to wipe your cast iron clean.

Always allow your cast iron to dry thoroughly. Then, rub the pan down with oil or melted shortening, and wipe with a paper towel after each use.

How to store:
Do keep the pan safe from scratches and scrapes.
Do NOT store other things in the pan - this includes the lid; which, should be stored separately.

Grilled Caesar Salad
Inspired by Clementine's, and Grilled Salad by Patio Daddio BBQ
Serves 2

1 large heart of romaine lettuce
1 tablespoon (roughly) of olive oil
garlic salt
black pepper
Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup Caesar dressing, scant

1. Preheat your grill pan to medium-high.
2. Trim the "root" of the lettuce, very slightly - you want the leaves to stay together.
3. Rub the split side of the lettuce with olive oil. Season with a little garlic salt, to taste.
4. Place the lettuce, split side down, on the grill pan. Grill for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. The lettuce will being to wilt slightly and you should have good grill marks on the lettuce.
5. Remove to a plate and season with black pepper. Use a vegetable peeler to add curls of Parmesan cheese to the salad and top with a few drizzles of dressing. Serve immediately.

"Caring for your Cast Iron Cookware". Lodge Manufactoring Company. link

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Heavy Metal Cookies

So easy a grad student could do it:

Today, is my big brother's birthday. I made him these cookies. The only catch: he is up to his eyebrows in, of all things, research in Indiana. Don't get me started on his research - I'll get all the genomes confused and you'll think he's just some slug trying to out-wit the educational system instead of the amazing mad scientist he really is. We have always been different that way: I bake cookies, and he invents rail guns and carbon diffusers and stuff. Of course, we both appreciate our respective talents. I like getting to brag about him, and he likes to eat cookies. It's a win-win.

But, today is his big day! Yesterday, I told him that I wanted to make a celebratory post in honor of his Birthday. After all, he's the only real (PhD) student in the family at the moment. He deserves a post at the very least. A hot shower, a good meal and a time card that ends at 5 o'clock would be great too, but I can only work so many miracles at a time. When I asked him what he wanted his recipe to be, his reply was simple: a heavy metal cookie. A heavy metal cookie? In essence, he wanted something intensely chocolate with metal sprinkles. Something so easy a grad student could do it. (If they had the time.) I liked the idea, so I started rummaging through the infinite archives of my favorite blogs, websites and memories to find the perfect recipe. It wasn't long before I stumbled on a recipe I have been telling myself NOT to make for months: Hello Dolly Bars. But, this time there was no denying it. They were perfect. But how to make them "heavy metal" instead of "Hello Dolly"... It was a tough order to fill, but with so many variations already on the market who is to say mine is any less innovative?

There was some bad news. The grocer down the street has had silver [metallic] pearl sprinkles for years - maybe even the same 3 bottles for years. I always talked myself out of buying them. But last night, I could feel them waiting for me. Keening for me. Begging to be baked at 350 degrees and sinking into bubbling chocolate. Well, maybe not that part... After work I went down the street to get missing items: chocolate covered espresso beans, chocolate graham crackers and those silver sprinkles. When I got there I was distressed to find out they didn't have chocolate grahams. It was a little disappointing, but I was still too excited to haul out those sprinkles I didn't care. I scoured the isle for five minutes. Not a pearl in sight, just some insipid, overly priced, red and blue sanding sugar. I was all but crushed. Of course, I could have driven down to the big chain grocery to look for more sprinkles, but I'm no grad student. I get to bed by 10pm. Plus, I knew that with my sour luck they wouldn't have them. For the first time in history, a purple unicorn would have stampeded the store, and consumed all the silver sprinkles. Trust me, weirder things have happened.

The good news is that even though my brother will be in the lab, glued to his computer, and in a student lab talking about pipettes and centrifuges until about ten o'clock today, these will bars freeze splendidly; which, means the next time he's home we can carve some out and enjoy them together. Just like his birthday happened all over again. Rock on, big brother.

Notes: What is metal to me? Something loud, that keeps me up at night. What is metal to a die-hard fan - the kind that wears his Iron Maiden t-shirt to lab discussion groups? The answer: sweet, sweet heaven. I think this variation on the classic "Hello Dolly" bar is the perfect blend of loud, aggressive insomnia (dark chocolate + espresso beans), and sweet satisfaction (coconut + buttery graham cracker). The bars are incredibly dense and sticky; which, is why they are the perfect celebratory treat. And how about that black and white color scheme? KISS anyone?

Espresso beans are pretty difficult to cut, once the cookies are in bar form. I found this out later. You can either place them in a way that you can cut clean slices between the beans OR whiz them in the food processor to break them up a little before dusting the cookies with them. Lightly greasing the sides of the pan may seem redundant, but it ensures perfect bars every time. Did I mention this recipe only calls for 3 utensils: pan, measuring cup, fork. What else could you ask for?

Heavy Metal Cookies
Inspired by / adapted from SmittenKitchen's "Hello Dolly Bars"

8 chocolate graham crackers
1 stick butter

1 cup coconut, shredded
1 cup dark/milk chocolate chips or chunks (or both)
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chocolate covered espresso beans
1/2 cup salted pecans or hazelnuts (optional)

1 small can sweetened condensed milk
silver "metallic" sprinkles

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Very lightly grease your 8x8", including the sides. Place the pan in the oven with the stick of butter, diced.
2. While the butter is melting, placed the graham crackers in a large zip lock bag, wrapped in a towel. Use a rolling pin, or a can, to crush the crackers.
3. When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the oven. Add the graham cracker crumbs and, using a fork, mix to combine in the pan. Then, press firmly with the back of the fork to create a crust.
4. Layer the coconut, chocolate, white chocolate and nuts (if using them) over the graham cracker. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cookies. Then, add the chocolate covered espresso beans.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cookies are bubbly and look melted enough to be combined. Remove the cookies from the oven, and sprinkle with your precious metallic sprinkles while the cookies are gooey and warm.
6. Cool completely and then cut into small bars. Freeze in an airtight container, if not consumed immediately.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Crust less Coconut Custard Pie

National Pie Day:

You heard me. I can't tell you what I'm more excited about: this "No Crust" Coconut Custard pie, or that tomorrow is National Peanut Butter Day... God Bless America.

Speaking of America, an auspicious day, like today, deserves a little history. Pie, which by definition is a filling (meat, cream, fruit etc) baked in a pastry crust, has been a part of the world diet since the very dawn of time. Pies, or "pyes" in Medieval England, were used in Ancient Greece and beyond to preserve spiced meat fillings. Our sweet fruit and cream pies, like the incomparable American Apple, did not begin to appear until much later. More popular, and economical, were meat pies like lamp, pork or, notoriously, magpie. By the 1700s there were still only a handful of so-called "sweet" pies. Even the famously popular Pumpkin Pie was not popularized in America until the 1800s. Pie making, however, has come a long way since then. Modern conveniences, like pre-made refrigerated crusts or canned fillings, makes it easy to enjoy a slice every night of the week; which, is a good thing since pie remains one of the homeliest, most down to earth, desserts on the books.

Bearing this in mind, the American Pie Council has designated January 23rd National Pie Day. Appropriately, they suggest to bake a pie today, and share it with friends. You might even try something new: Banofee, Kentucky Derby or Key Lime are good places to start. Or, save the date and visit the "Pie Capital of the World" April 9-10th in Celebration, Florida. [Link] I can't promise this Bandita will be going, but would I ever like to! What could be bad about enjoying the infamous "Never Ending Pie Buffet"and then a short walk to Walt Disney World, and later a two hour drive to South Beach? Did I mention South Beach? I am just itching for an excuse to go - or didn't you notice? Did I mention there will be pie too?

Notes: I love a coconut custard pie; I love coconut. This pie, however simple, falls a little short of perfection for me. I'm a snob about some things. An infinitely creamy custard filling, the kind where you don't know where it begins and ends or if you're in heaven or hell, is one of them. But, in a Tuesday-night-after-work sort of way, this pie is the bee's knees. The coconut flavor is delicate and just sweet enough to be on the cusp of decadent. Adding a few curls of fresh citrus, I used orange, really dials up the delightful, fruity quality of the pie.

The recipe was originally called "Makes Its Own Crust Coconut Pie", but that was just an exaggeration. The custard is thicken enough that, when paired with the beautifully crunchy top, you don't need a crust; however, that doesn't mean one magically appears in the bottom of your pan, either. [Disappointment] If you want to, you can easily slide a traditional crust into your pan before adding the filling, and be even more satisfied. Plainly said, this recipe gets an "A+" for easy execution, ingredients and classic flavor, but a "B" in overall Bandita satisfaction for matters of not-quite-celestial texture.

Conversion (if you need it):
Self-rising flour = 1 cup (all purpose) flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt

Crust less Coconut Custard Pie
By Betty White, from Golden Anniversary Cookbook Oriental Chapter #30

4 eggs
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1 1/2 cup coconut, shredded
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon each vanilla, rum extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
orange zest (optional), to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 10" glass pie plate.
2. Whisk the eggs lightly in a large bowl.
3. Add the remaining ingredients, in order, to the eggs. Blend all ingredients well with a whisk until thoroughly combined.
4. Pour into the greased pie plate, and baked for 45 minutes or until puffed and golden.
5. Let the pie come to room temperature, and then refrigerate it for at least an hour before serving.

Mayer, Laura. "A Brief History of Pie", Time Magazine(2008). link.
American Pie Council. "The 2011 Great American Pie Festival® Sponsored by Crisco®" link.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Broccoli and Cheddar Baked Potato

w/ creamy cheddar cheese sauce:

I have to confess: I play too much Harvest Moon. I'm addicted to the instant gratification of growing vegetables in my back yard, and then selling them via a crate outside my house while I sleep. Remember the Chive Baked Eggs post? Well, that was the just the beginning. *Sigh* Since then, I have been drooling over the new HM game that came out around Thanksgiving: "Harvest Moon Animal Parade". And fortunately for me, I was gifted a brand new copy of it for Christmas! But, looking back on the busy season, stomach flu, graduate applications and work schedules I haven't really had a chance to get very far in the game - it is decidedly more difficult than the last version. My only recipes so far: herbal tea, raspberry/blueberry marmalade and boiled egg. It's that hard.

Getting a second job (in real life), although very part time in nature, hasn't helped my gaming either. But, I do get a genuine sense of fulfillment when I'm pawing through stacks of checks, and clicking away in financial software that I could trust with my first born child. Do I feel so fulfilled growing turnips and fishing off an eternally placid coast, or wandering around in an enchanted forest blowing a magical whistle and making friends with squirrels and kittens and pandas that I will use a massively outrageous run on to describe my feelings?! Yes. Oh, do I ever. The fact is, I am equally fulfilled by both activities. The catch: only one pays me more than "200G" an hour.

If we were honest with each other, I would admit that I haven't done much cooking (in the game or in real life), and you would confess that you probably don't much care about my video game tendencies so long as I get a recipe posted. The truth is: deep down, we are both looking forward to enjoying a soft, savory baked potato wrapped in cheese sauce. Well, at least you are; I already enjoyed said cheese sauce around 9:55am. Disclaimer: it was delicious - there may have even been a tortilla chip or two involved.

Did I mention I am feeling especially herbivorous this month? Perhaps you noticed. I think, considering the recent rash of Holiday gorging, vegetables are a good thing. But, as always, if you feel the need for meat you're welcome to sprinkle on whatever you'd like: cooked ground beef, spicy pulled chicken or whatever else you like on your spuds. The truth of the matter is: you can put everything and the kitchen sink on a baked potato and still want more. Want more what you ask? The answer is simple: cheese sauce.

Notes: This sauce is a great, easy alternative to less than appetizing alternative cheeses: canned, jarred and plastic wrapped. The key to a good cheese sauce is, not surprisingly, the quality of the cheese. Fortunately, your local grocer will probably have a good selection of hard cheeses. A $5-6 wedge isn't that expensive when you consider just how inexpensive the remaining ingredients for the sauce are: butter, flour, milk. I like a good solid sharp cheddar (and not usually a white cheddar for this sort of thing), but I added the two slices of American cheese because, I think, it makes the sauce that much creamier. Plus, melting cheese in bubbling, thickened bechamel sauce (essentially what you just made) is extraordinarily rewarding; making it is easy to get carried away.

Makes enough for 4 potatoes, or about 1 - 1 1/4 cups sauce

4 baking potatoes, washed
1/2 head fresh broccoli

cheese sauce:
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk, whole is best
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 slices American cheese
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

1. Wash the potatoes, scrubbing thoroughly. Poke holes in the potatoes using a fork, then wrap them in waxed paper and microwave them using your "potato" setting.
2. Remove the woody stems from the broccoli and set the florets in a pot with an inch or so of water. Place the lid on top and set aside.
3. In another small pot, melt the butter over low heat - if the heat is too high the butter will burn. Add the flour, and then stir until the mixture is smooth and bubbly (3-4 minutes).
4. Heat the milk in the microwave until it is hot, about a minute to a minute and a half. When it's hot, add the milk to the butter mixture slowly, constantly stirring.
5. Cook the milk mixture until it is thick, stirring constantly, and begins to boil. Remove the sauce from the heat* and stir in the cheese. Season to taste.
6. Steam the broccoli, 3-4 minutes and then drain.
7. Split the potatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Top the potatoes with the broccoli and a generous spoonful of the cheese sauce. Serve warm, and refrigerate any leftover sauce**

*If your sauce got lumpy, just run it through a fine sieve and return to the pot.
**Stir the sauce generously when it reheats to remove lumps. If necessary, you can add a tablespoon or two of extra milk to thin the sauce slightly.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Make-ahead Baked Oatmeal

Bake once, eat all week for free:

Another busy, rainy, snowy week lined up here for the SPUDS area. I hate to say it, mainly because I really do enjoy winter, but I am pretty tired of being in my pajamas by seven o'clock every night. Unluckily, I'm more of a morning person so drizzly, snowy nights don't do much for my social life. That sounds pitiful. I cooked dinner with a friend, and fellow SPUDS follower, just last week - really. We made chicken with tatziki; I had forgotten just how amazingly refreshing, and reviving, it is. The only down side of our evening was when I almost killed us the gas stove - almost. But that's a post for a later date: "how - to safely use your gas stove".

What I mean to say is that I get more done in the morning, and most importantly, I live for breakfast. Since the house is usually freezing when I get up, the idea of eating a steaming bowl of oatmeal is about all that can get me out of my flannel sheets. But, cruel twist of fate, I'm ravenous by the time I get downstairs, and end up eating something faster, like cereal, and warming up with a big cup of tea, instead. Last week though, I found this recipe for "Baked Apple Oatmeal" in a cookbook called: Betty Crocker Whole Grains (2007) and was intrigued enough to try it on my day off. Once I had baked a pan, it took no time to carve out a fruit filled scoop and microwave it the next morning. The combination of fibrous oats and protein rich milk and walnuts kept me full well into lunch time.

What I love most about oatmeal, other than the price, is its versatility. In school I sometimes spooned out a bowl at the dining hall because I told myself, "you love oatmeal". Of course, oatmeal that is made with water, and kept hot in a soup tureen doesn't resemble anything other than gruel so our encounter almost always ended in disappointment. But, whole grain oats cooked with milk, a little brown sugar and chocked full of sweet apples and crunchy nuts is something entirely different. It is pretty close to being one of my favorite things to eat in the morning; eggs on toast coming in a close second. The oats will pretty much soak up anything you put them up to: chocolate chips, mashed banana, pumpkin, protein powder or even peanut butter. Don't believe me? The proof, is in the pudding... so to speak.

Notes: You can really make this with anything you have on hand. During the summer, try blueberries and almonds or even pears and raisins. At its core, this recipe is made to make your life easier, so don't go out of your way to find specific ingredients if you don't have them on hand. It is great to make on a Sunday when you've got the time, and just warm it up Monday morning for a quick start breakfast. The oatmeal should hold together for the better part of the week, but that largely depends on how fresh your milk is. Once you've made a pan, this recipe is even faster than that insipid little packet of instant oatmeal that has been sitting on your pantry shelf for the last nine months, and infinitely tastier. If you've got a sweet tooth sprinkle the finished oatmeal with a little extra brown sugar, or maple syrup. At about $2.99 a container, oatmeal is one of your most economical breakfast foods.

Cinna-Apple Oatmeal
From Betty Crocker Whole Grains, serves 8

2 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cherries etc)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch salt
2 apples, chopped
1/2 chopped nuts

yogurt to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. In a bowl mix the oats, fruit, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, milk and apples. Reserve the nuts.
3. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed by the oats. Sprinkle the nuts over the top of the oatmeal and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
4. Serve warm with yogurt or extra milk, however you like it. Refrigerate the remaining oatmeal, and enjoy at your convenience throughout the week.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tools: Ice Water

Better than sliced bread:

It was lunch time, and the refrigerator was full of leftovers. The only leftover not in attendance: chicken mole. Did I ever want some, oh about two seconds ago. I thought about it for a few minutes, wondering where it could have gone... Oh yes, I ate it. I ate it crudely wrapped in a flour tortilla, and drenched (inappropriately) in the spicy, watery salsa they give you by the gallon at "Mexican" restaurants in all 50 states. But, just in case I was mistaken, and there was a paper and aluminum take-out container smashed in the back corner of the bottom shelf, waiting to be rescued, I took the time to look around. That's when I found the hidden oasis of "fresh" vegetables forgotten on the bottom shelf.

I say forgotten because, I hate to brag, but Monday was my birthday. And here you thought I was being relentlessly lazy not posting all week; don't you feel silly? The truth of the matter is that I've been eating, and cooking all kinds of wonderful things thanks to that auspicious day of my birth. I just haven't made myself sit down to write about them all, yet. I guess now would be the perfect time...

It all started with eggs, over easy, and beautiful crispy bacon, nearly burned - that's just how I like it. Then there was a bucket of popcorn, which was (in retrospect) probably a culinary low point; half of it ended up in my purse anyway. But who doesn't like popcorn at a movie, especially a cute animated movie that makes your cheeks hurt from smiling? Later there was sushi, to make up for the aforementioned corn, with at least four types of maki: tempura sweet potato with plum sauce and toasted coconut, white tail with pickled ginger and toasted almonds, crab rolled in Old Bay (yes Old Bay) and spicy sauce. Then, there was the mole and an insipid little bed of "guacamole" salad with pink rice that I cooed over until my cheeks were sore again. Take-out just brings back so many memories! There was a cake too, and not just any cake: chocolate rum with rum buttercream. It has become sort of a tradition in our house since I moved back to buy a cake from my very favorite French bakery here. My Mom goes out of her way to choose, or request, a different cake each year. Here's a picture to really get your juices flowing. Did I say that is chocolate rum butter cream?

So, in the rush we all forgot the little cart of vegetables we had picked up the weekend before. By the time I stumbled upon them, Thursday at lunchtime, they were peckish, wilted things: three hearts of romaine and a bag of celery. Although I was disappointed not to find anymore chicken mole, the turkey burger on the top shelf was starting to look very promising. As I ran the lettuce under the faucet, darting my hands in and out of the frigid water, I couldn't help but think: "it is so convenient to have ice cold water straight from the tap!" While my fingers regained feeling, I took a moment to think of a couple other easy uses for this seasonly cold tap water. When I was done, I cut up my now revived and crispy lettuce, and had a delightful, and winter vegetable friendly, turkey taco salad (see below).

Ice Water

  1. Use it to make wilted vegetables crispy: put cleaned vegetables in a large bowl of ice water for 30 minutes, and then drain. OR Rinse the veggies in ice water (2-3 minutes) and store in the fridge in a zip-lock bag until ready for use.
  2. Use it in pie crusts: keep your ingredients as cold as possible when you're making pie crust. The colder the crust, the more manageable it will be and the flakier the final product.
  3. Use it to boil your potatoes: always start your potatoes in cold water. This allows for more even heat penetration from the exterior to the interior of the potato. Not ready to cook them? Keep your potatoes from turning brown by keeping them in ice water (not for longer than a hour).
  4. Use it to keep cooked green vegetables green: douse your blanched or steamed green beans, broccoli, snap peas, edamame etc in ice water to keep them bright green and crispy. This stops the cooking process immediately and keeps your veggies dark green.
  5. Use it to make your boiled eggs easier to peel: drain the cooking water from your boiled eggs and add them to a bowl of ice water, and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes. If necessary, drain the water and add fresh cold water. Then, peel as usual.
  6. Use it to make your Jell-O set faster: the colder the water, the faster the Jell-O will set up. If you're in a rush, add ice cubes in place of the cold water and stir vigorously.
  7. Use it to help remove stains on fabric: soak stains in ice water to keep them from spreading or setting into the fabric permanently before you throw them in the wash.

  1. Use it to steep tea: unless you have "cold brew" tea, a regular tea bag will not steep effectively in cold water. Hot water is a must here.
  2. Be afraid to make old-fashioned ice cubes: if you have an ice tray on hand, you can add fresh fruit (think raspberries, strawberries), slices of lemon or lime or fresh herbs like mint to the cubes before freezing.
Notes: This salad is really so easy, and so versatile, I hate to post it. I feel embarrassed by its simplicity. But, when I was at school it was this sort of dish, winged or reforged out of seemingly useless leftovers, that my roommates loved to watch appear, as if by magic, on our counter. Plus who doesn't hate finding a bag of tortilla chips with only crumbs to show for itself, or slicing up a grainy tomato you paid two dollars for at the local grocer in the middle of winter? With this salad, it won't ever bother you again.

Easy Turkey Taco Salad:
1 turkey, chicken or beef patty (precooked)
lettuce, 1-2 hearts
1/4 cup salsa
2 tablespoons sour cream, to serve
crushed tortilla chips, a few handfuls

1. Wash, dry and chop the lettuce. Slice your turkey (or other) burger into strips and set on top of the lettuce.
2. Sprinkle the salad with your tortilla chips and top with salsa and sour cream. Serve immediately. No dressing required!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Resolution Wontons

w/ sesame broccoli:

Resolution wontons: self-esteem, resolve and cream cheese all wrapped in a noodle pastry and baked.

Imagine your favorite Asian comfort food, your dining hall heat lamp staple, made fresh in your very own kitchen - without even the slightest chance of a grease fire (hello security deposit). Then imagine eating them warm, right off the cookie sheet, with a generous squirt of Siracha or just a dribble of soy sauce. Now, pick yourself up off the floor, and put a block of cream cheese on the counter to come to room temperature.

This recipe is incredibly simple, and tastes even better than the greasy take-out you wait forty-five minutes for on a Tuesday night. And, miracle of miracles, you don't even have to feel like a slug for eating them (in our house being called a "slug" or a "hog" is a real slap in the face). Thanks to a little olive oil, and a 400 degree oven, these wontons come out crispy, oozing with scallion infused cream cheese, and for a fraction of the fat, guilt and sour looks from your gym-addict roommate. After all, it's a new year, and that's shiny. 2011, seremos amigos.

I can't say why, but something told me wontons were the way to go this week. Furthermore, I can't say if it will happen for you, but I feel confident these cheesy wonders are full of just what you need to get your year off on the right foot. In my case, they singlehandedly completed 3 graduate applications that have been festering on my desktop and in Post-its since September. Well, with the help of last weeks stomach virus, a day off from work and a fast approaching deadline. Okay, the deadline helped a lot, but so did these Resolution wontons!

Notes: You can fold wontons any number of ways, but I like to stick with the simplest method: triangles. The more area exposed to the oven and broiler, the crispier the wonton. But, if you're in the mood to experiment try this blog for cool folding ideas and some play by play photos.

Furthermore, if your in the mood for a little extra inspiration SPUDS suggests pairing "Resolution Wontons" with IP Man (2009). An amazing film with enough kung-fu to knock your socks off.

Resolution Wontons
Inspired by Cream Cheese Wonton recipes, everywhere

8-10 fresh, all-natural wonton wrappers
4 ounces reduced fat cream-cheese
2 green onions
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
olive oil

1. Bring the wontons and cream cheese to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Finely slice the green onions, and mix with the sesame oil and cream cheese in a small bowl.
3. Keeping the wontons covered with a damp paper towel. Set one wrapper aside.
4. Fill the wrapper with 2 teaspoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture. Using your fingertip, wet all four edges of the wrapper. Fold the corners over to form a triangle, pressing the edges to seal. Repeat with remaining wontons, keeping the finished wontons covered with a damp paper towel.
5. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil lightly coat the foil with olive oil (or olive oil spray) to keep the wontons from sticking. Similarly, drizzle the wontons lightly with olive oil and rub to coat on both sides to help them brown. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes.
6. Remove the wontons from the oven and heat the broiler on low. Put the wontons under the broiler for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes; DO NOT leave them unattended! Turn and continue broiling until they are crispy and golden.

For the broccoli:

1 head broccoli
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1-2 teaspoons (low-sodium) soy sauce

1. Cut the stems from the broccoli and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Cut the broccoli into bite size pieces.
2. Put the broccoli into a sauce pan with an inch of water. Set to medium and steam for 3-4 minutes, or until it is cooked to the desired softness.
3. Drain thoroughly and serve with toasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of soy sauce.

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