Monthly Archives: May 2009

“See Food” Diet

Eric and I spent the long weekend perfecting the art of the “See Food” Diet. When we saw food, we ate it. This proved to be most uncomfortable and unfortunate for us come Monday when we found ourselves so bloated and plugged (sorry TMI) that we were seriously questioning the  appeal of this gut busting diet trend. In fact, we found the See Food diet to be a complete and total failure and plan to avoid it from here on out. I suggest you do the same. Seriously, no good can come from it. Seriously.

See, we went out of town to the Quad Cities for a mini-getaway to celebrate our anniversary. (Three whole years! Hooray!) Usually when we go out of town I spend hours pouring over menus and reviews trying to pick the best of the best of places to eat. I go all out. This, however, takes a lot of work and a lot of planning. If you know you are having a nice dinner somewhere, you have to plan your whole day around that.  From meals, to showers, to clothes, to activities…it all revolves around that reservation. To be honest, I just didn’t feel like dealing with it. I decided we would eat when we were hungry and eat whatever sounded good. It was a vacation after all! No calorie counting allowed. (Although after this, calorie counting doesn’t sound so bad…in fact, it sounds great!)

Some of the things that we saw that looked like good eating included such gems as:

Donuts
Homemade Potato Chips
Onion Rings
Buffalo Wings
French Fries
Ice Cream
Hot Dogs
Pretzels and cheese
And, of course, cold, frosty beer.

Impressed? No? Disgusted? Yeah, me too. I need a pukey face emoticon right now. I feel obligated to mention that this is not our usual diet. Don’t you judge us! LOL. This was an isolated weekend occurrence. Hey, it happens, right? And everyone deserves it, right? I think so!

To top off our “See Food” weekend, I needed something light! I was dying for something light. I couldn’t even stand the sight of junk food. Some actual seafood sounded good – grilled shrimp sounded especially tasty. I found a grilled shrimp taco recipe that sounded quite de-“light”-ful (har-dee-har-har) so that’s what I decided to put on the ole’ barbi come Memorial Day.

Welp. It rained. Isn’t that always the way? I spent part of the day giving the grill a good scrub down and cleaning and getting it all ready for the season. Sure enough, about 4:30…the clouds roll in and the drops start falling. Boo!

On to Plan B. Plan B was keep the same recipe and cook shrimp inside on a grill pan. It actually turned out really great! YUM. Light, refreshing, cool and spicy. A great way to kick off the summer grilling season. Even if you have start off the season indoors.

Now, the original recipe calls for topping the tacos with a sour cream/mayo sauce.Yeah, that’s a no go in this house. Sour cream and mayo are by far the worst offenders in the nasty white and creamy realm I have so much trouble with. I subbed low-fat plain yogurt. For some reason, I’m okay with yogurt. Don’t ask me, I can’t explain why yogurt is okay and sour cream is not. I don’t sit around trying to figure it out either. I punched up the sauce with chopped scallion and a pinch of chipotle chili powder in addition to the cumin the recipe called for. So freakin’ good.

I made some other changes to the recipe based on what I had in the house – switched out shredded cabbage for fresh, crunchy romaine hearts. Subbed flour tortillas for corn and used an classic extra hot red salsa instead of the tomatillo salsa. All in all, an easy, fresh summer seafood meal. Can’t wait to make this again on my actual grill!

GRILLED SHRIMP TACOS WITH COOL SCALLION YOGURT SAUCE (Recipe adapted from: MyRecipes.com)

NOTE: The recipe below is for the outdoor grill. To do it indoors, preheat a grill pan over high heat. No need to skewer shrimp, just place directly in pan and grill until cooked through and opaque.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2  cup  low fat plain yogurt
  • 1  tablespoon  milk
  • 1 scallion, finely copped
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • Pinch of chipotle chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 18 jumbo shrimp, peeled
  • 2  tablespoons  butter, melted
  • 2  large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 limes, cut into quarters
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 8  6-inch corn tortillas
  • 2  to 3 cups finely shredded romaine hearts
  • Bottled salsa

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Whisk together the yogurt, milk, scallion, chili powder and a bit of salt to taste. Set aside.
  2. Skewer the shrimp. (If using wood skewers, soak them in water for 10 minutes beforehand.) In a small bowl, combine the butter and garlic. Preheat a gas grill to high; adjust to medium after 15 minutes. (If cooking over charcoal, allow the coals to burn until they are covered with gray ash.) Brush the skewered shrimp with the garlic butter. Place them on the grill with the limes. Cook about 4 minutes on each side or until the shrimp are opaque and the limes are browned. Remove from grill. Lightly salt the shrimp.
  3. Grill the tortillas for 30 seconds on each side, then place inside a paper bag to keep warm. To serve, pull the shrimp off the skewers and divide them evenly among the tortillas. Top with the lettuce, yogurt sauce, salsa, and a spritz of grilled lime.

ENJOY! 🙂

Here’s a couple pics from our “See Food” weekend, just for fun:

A Boy and His Toy. (Eric in a huge JD harvester at the John Deere Commons. I also got a 10 minute lesson on the engine of this machine. I shall spare you. Anyone who knows any engineers knows what I’m talking about! ;))

My, what a big wheel you have!

Whitey’s Ice Cream – a Q-C institution. I think Alton Brown stopped at Whitey’s when he did his Feasting on Asphalt on the Mississippi. Holy Yumminess! I wanted to get pics of us with our treats but it was raining and we had to wolf them down in the car before they melted. Trust me, delish!

America’s Pastime. Us at the QC River Bandits game. (Wow, I look all kinds of dumb in this pic. That’s what I get for doing the hold your arm out and take a pic of yourself thing. Ha.)

Is there anything better than minor league ball? I think not! Check out that view of the Mighty Mississip!

Every man’s dream come true – a 12-inch weiner. Wait…what? LOL!

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Fields Forever

For my first job out of college, I worked as a receptionist. Wow, I’ve come a long way since then. Oh, wait….hmmmm.

Okay, moving on.

Anyway, one of the my responsibilities was to water the plants on Friday afternoons. This proved to be most difficult for my fancy degree holding self. I could get the CFO a refund on his non-refundable plane ticket. I could deal with some real jerks over the phone. I mastered the ever elusive book binding machine AND unjammed the copier in a single bound, but for the life of me, I could NOT remember to water the freakin’ plants! No amount of sticky notes, to do lists or MS Outlook reminders were going to stand in the way of me forgetting water the damn plants.

You can guess what happened next – yup, the plants withered and died (much to my embarrassment and horror of others in the office – apparently one of them was some expensive tree thing? I’m not sure…) and I realized a green thumb was something I clearly didn’t have. I actually avoided any and all plants for quite sometime after that. Then we bought our house and everyone else in the neighborhood had such nice flowers on their porches in the summer. I was weed green with envy. I wanted pretty flowers too!

The first summer I tried, I kept them alive through like mid-July – then I’m not sure what happened. Maybe I went out of town for a while and left them neglected for too long. Dying plants seem to just sneak up on you. One day, they seem okay and then by the next morning…not so much.  Last year I tried again and did much better, but I wasn’t working so I did better at remembering to take care of them. I didn’t do as good with my herbs though…I think I had them in a spot that was too warm. This year, I’m going for the gold medal in gardening. I solemnly swear to keep my all my flowers and herbs alive and well for the entire season. Scouts honor. I’ll expect some kind of merit badge in recognition after all this. Thanks.

Now, lucky for me, I get a head start when it comes to some of the greenery in our yard. I’m talking about the stuff that does it’s own thing. I don’t water it, or prune it, or cover it up, or bring it in for the winter. I do absolutely nothing – I full on neglect the things – and they keep coming back. Ah, the lazy homeowner’s dream come true!

There’s my lovely lilac bush on the far western edge of our backyard:

It blooms fresh and fragrant and purple year after year with absolutely no help from me!

Then there’s these little guys:

Okay, not technically a plant. A weed. I can’t get rid of these guys even when I try so I have just decided to embrace them – Hooray for the humble dandelion! And being the kind and considerate neighbor I am, I like to share my weed wealth with everyone. Get one windy day and watch those little spores scatter. Another day or so and look they are in your yard too! Weeds for everyone! No need to thank me. Really, it was nothing. 🙂

And finally, the previous owners planted:

RHUBARB!

Actually, I didn’t even realize this was rhubarb for a while after we moved in. See, our house is on nearly an acre of land and the rhubarb patch is way out on the outskirts of the yard and, frankly, I just didn’t see much of reason to venture out that far. One of our friends pointed it out to me. I had one of those REALLY? moments that I tried to hide. Of course, I knew that I had rhubarb in my yard – this is my house after all! Duh. Now I make it point to use at least some of it each spring.

This is one resilient plant! It makes me smile that I can do absolutely nothing to cultivate the rhubarb patch and it comes back year after year yielding a delicious tart bounty that I can use to make up something totally yummy. It’s only good until about the first of July, then it starts to dry out. It’s definitely a spring/early summer treat. In fact, I think (don’t quote me, I actually have no idea what I’m talking about) when it starts to flower like in the photo above, it’s nearing the end of it’s yumminess. The stalks that are ripe and ready for picking are bright red and about a half inch to an inch across. They give very easily from the ground when picked and appear moist. The stalks that are flowering are much thicker, brittle and don’t want to give way from the ground – and thus not good eats.

Not all my stalks are flowering so I still have a little bit of time left to use it. 🙂 I think rhubarb is a bit of an aquired taste. Personally, I love it. The tartness just lends itself so well to both sweet and savory dishes. The combo of strawberry and rhubarb is a classic and by far my fave. Sweet, juicy summer strawberries and crisp, tart rhubarb – yeah, you really can’t go wrong. Now what to make with this delicious pair? Pie is played, jam and jelly is too much work – something that went together quickly but still tasted great….

Enter the Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel Muffin! A delightful sweet, spicy breakfast treat. I basically just took my blueberry muffin recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and tweaked it a tiny bit. I uped the sugar a bit to compensate for the tartness of the rhubarb and added closer to a cup of fruit rather than 3/4 of a cup to make them extra juicy and delicious. I love this muffin recipe – they are incredibly light and fluffy. So tender and moist. You could really put anything you want in them and they will be perfect every time. Gotta love a versatile recipe! 🙂

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB STREUSEL MUFFINS (Recipe adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped rhubarb, cut into quarter inch chunks
  • 1 tbs. powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1 recipe Streusel Topping (below)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Grease twelve 2.5 in muffin cups or line with paper baking cups; set aside
  2. In a small bowl, toss together chopped rhubarb and powdered sugar; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl dry ingredients. Make a well in center of flour mixture, set aside.
  4. In another bowl combine egg, milk and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in rhubarb and strawberries.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, fill each two-thirds full. Sprinkle strusel topping over the tops. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in centers comes clean. Cool for 5 minutes. Remove and serve warm.

Streusel Topping:

Combine 3 tbs. all-purpose flour, 3 tbs. brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon and 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg. Cut in 2 tbs. butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

ENJOY! 🙂

PS….just for fun, a couple more pics from my yard:

A robin’s egg and clover! 🙂

This is the view from beyond my rhubarb patch. Look closely, City Slickers, this is what country living looks like. Ooooo. Rural-ness. 😉 ::cue dueling banjos…NOW!::

Okay, that’s deceiving…we actually live in town but we’re on the far south edge and there’s not much past us. I’m a suburban girl so this is a bit different for me. I’ve pretty much only seen my neighbors out my windows my entire life. Really, the only backyard view I’m used to is that of the old lady that lived behind us shaving her husband’s neck hair on their patio. True story.

And, finally, me with a couple of rhubarb stalks. Eric insisted on taking my picture with them. Oh yeah, don’t eat rhubarb leaves – highly toxic. And ignore my yoga pant/t-shirt combo…dressing up to bake is not something I usually do. Please and thank you. 🙂

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I Give Myself Very Good Advice. . .

But I very seldom follow it. ~Alice In Wonderland

I’ve been feeling much like Alice with my cooking lately (hence the lack of blog updates in the last two weeks or so). She wanders around lost in Wonderland, sees a little bottle of a strange liquid with a tag that says “drink me” so she drinks it. She thinks about for a second. . .

“If one drinks much from a bottle marked poison, it’s almost certain to disagree with one sooner or later.”

But in the end, she drinks it. Why does she drink it, you ask? Well, because that’s what it says to do, of course! Duh. What would YOU do? Not drink it? Oh, please. You’d be curious too…just like Alice!

So how does this relate to my kitchen conquests? Let’s say I find a recipe that I’m interested in trying, but in reading over it I think of a couple things that I think may improve it. But then I get nervous. I’m not the expert, right? The person who wrote the recipe for this magazine/major website/cookbook are the experts. I should do what they say. They say “drink me,” I say “okay, get me a glass with some ice.” I give myself good advice, but I never want to follow it!

Here’s the thing though….9 times out of 10, I should. The reason I haven’t updated my blog lately is because the last few new recipes I’ve made have been mediocre at best. I can’t put something in my blog that I don’t recommend. That just defeats the purpose of blogging all together! The worst part is, those recipes would probably be in here had I just followed my gut and made the changes I thought I should make. First, I tried a pie that had a pat in the pan type of crust (a butter/flour/oat mixture pressed into a pie plate). The recipe did not call for baking it off before adding the filling and the crumb topping and baking it again. I wanted to because I thought it might by soggy if I didn’t. I ended up following the recipe and guess what….SOGGY! Still tasty, but not blogworthy. It fell apart when I tried to cut slices and put them on plates. BOO!

Then I made a baked pasta dish that was a complete and total flop and I think it would have been delightful had I just went with my gut and subbed regular marinara for a big can diced tomatoes with juice. But I didn’t…cuz I’m not smart like that. That one was so awful I could hardly eat it. Blech!

Tonight, I took a recipe that I know we love and put my own spin on it. This Chicken Marsala Pasta Toss is inspired by this recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. I had cooked chicken on hand so breading and pan frying like I usually do was out of the question. Instead I cubed the chicken, made a quick marsala pan sauce and tossed it with whole wheat rotini. The results were totally yummy!

CHICKEN MARSLA PASTA TOSS (Recipe Inspired by: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

INGREDIENTS:

  • Half a box of whole wheat rotini
  • 2 tsps olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into cubes
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram, crushed
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 2 tbs. flour
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry marsala wine

DIRECTIONS:

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside.

Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a large skillet, cook green onions and mushrooms until tender, about five minutes. Season with a pinch of salt. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add remaining olive oil to skillet and add chicken. Season with salt and pepper and add marjoram, stirring until just warmed through, about 3 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Melt butter in skillet and add flour, stirring to form a roux. Cook for one minute. Slowly add chicken broth and wine, stirring constantly. Simmer sauce until bubbly and thickened. Add chicken and veggies to the sauce and heat through. Add sauce mixture to pasta and toss to combine. Garnish with additional green onion strips, if desired.

ENJOY! 🙂

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