Thursday, July 28, 2011

A salad here, a salad there

It's the summer, it's hot, you barely make it home on time for the latest episode of "So You Think You Can Dance" so what do you do??? Nuke some leftovers. Radiation waves aside, this is an ideal way to make sure the family is fed, while you keep your sanity and the pots & pans stay under the kitchen counter, where they belong. However, this doesn't mean that you can't whip up a fast and fantastic tasting salad on the side of your meal. So, see? You ARE superwoman (or man). You made dinner tonight. Enjoy!

Easy Peasy Potato Salad
~3 lbs red potatoes, large diced
chopped red onion, to taste
chopped red pepper, to taste
chopped green pepper, to taste
green olives, chopped, to taste
~7oz Hellmans real mayo

Throw potatoes in water and boil. The size of the potatoes matter because it affects how long it takes the heat to penetrate, so you want to jab at the potatoes with a fork every 15 minutes or so. Once you feel that they are soft enough, drain them and throw them right back into the pot. While potatoes are still hot, add all of your ingredients. Mix. Feel free to add some salt if you feel that it's not salty enough.
*While I'm aware that many potato salads have egg in them, I am not a fan of the egg in food products. I follow an I-don't-see-it-so-it's-okay policy. If I see it in my Chinese food OR potato salad- I'm not a happy camper! But feel free to add a hard-boiled egg or two to this dish. If you're one of those people. :)

Another one of my favorites that I have had a couple of times. It is light and delicious. 

Cabbage Salad
cabbage, chopped & sliced
avocado, sliced
tomato, sliced
red pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, shaved 
lime juice, fresh (1-2 limes)
chopped cilantro, if you have it on hand

Add salad ingredients together and pour lime juice on top. 

Major shout-out to Andrea, the newlywed, whom I hope tries out some of these recipes so that her man is happy. Thanks for reading my blog!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Acosta's arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas)

I think everyone can tell by now that I like to eat. I enjoy lingering over dinner and some stimulating conversation...I enjoy cooking a meal with a loved one and most of all- I like getting the credit for it.  ;)
So, enjoy a little Puerto Rican cookery tonight. Trust me, it'll be worth the credit you get for it!

Arroz con gandules (a la my friend who was gracious enough to share her recipe with me...and you)

sofrito (about a fistful)
1/4c canola or other vegetable oil
1/2 can tomato paste (~3 oz)
1/2 can tomato sauce (~7.5oz)
1/2t onion powder
1T garlic powder
2t ground cumin
1t adobo
3/4t sea salt
3/4t dried oregano leaves*
1/2t ground oregano
15oz can green pigeon peas
4c extra long grain white rice
crushed red pepper (optional)
3c water
*just add more ground oregano if you don't have dried oregano leaves

Add oil to medium or large sized sauce pan. Add sofrito and stir at medium-hi heat. Add tomato paste and tomato sauce and stir well. Toss in cumin, adobo, onion and garlic powders, salt, oregano and pigeon peas. Stir in the cups of uncooked rice and then add the water. Raise heat to high and allow water to boil. You want to make sure a lot of the water evaporates before we cover this. Continue to boil, maybe 20 minutes. If you have a bunch of cilantro leftover from your freshly made sofrito, now is the time to throw it in. Once you notice much of the water has evaporated cover with aluminum foil and saucepan cover, lower heat and allow to simmer, another 20-30 minutes or so.

Homemade Sofrito
bunch of cilantro
red pepper, diced
green pepper, diced
onion, diced
garlic, chopped
olive oil

Add all ingredients to your blender (oil last) and pulse a couple of times. The more cilantro you add, the greener it will be (and taste!)

WIDTW (or what I did this weekend)

Sweet corn gelato!

Please please please make this recipe. We didn't even wait to pour this mixture into the ice cream maker, but spoonful after spoonful made its way to our mouths...with many happy exclamations!

Mario Batali's Sweet Corn gelato

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lamb Chops w/Herbed Butter & Cherry Shallot Sauce

I'm not gonna lie, I was never a huge fan of lamb. Maybe it's because when I think of lamb I think of cute, fuzzy little animals. I feel the same way about venison (deer). I can't wrap my brain around eating an animal that cute. But thanks to a class I took at ICE (The Institute of Culinary Education) that taught me how to properly prepare the meat, and some ways to make it very flavorful, I've enjoyed making it (and eating it!)

Herbed Butter
1 stick butter, softened
1t chopped rosemary
1t chopped parsley
1T minced shallots
1/4t salt
1/2t pepper

In a small bowl combine all ingredients.
Cut a piece of parchment paper into a long rectangle. Place the butter on the paper and roll into a tight cylinder. Twist the ends of the paper. Refrigerate until firm.
Sauteed Lamb Chops
6 servings
~12 lamb chops, fat removed from the ribs 
Season lamb chops with salt and pepper. Brush a large skillet or grill pan with canola or vegetable oil over high heat. Make sure the pan is very hot. Add the chops, making sure not to crowd them. Sear the chops on both sides, 2 minutes per side, then reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook to the desired degree of doneness (turn once.) Since this household likes their meat well done, it took about 10 minutes. Remove the lamb to a platter and place a coin-shaped piece of herbed butter and watch as it melts into the lamb. Enjoyable just like this!
But if you're like me and you want layer upon layer of flavor (meanwhile back at the ranch)--

Cherry-Shallot Sauce
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1c cherry preserves
1/3c pomegranate juice
2T olive oil 
salt & pepper

In a medium saucepan over high heat add the shallots and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and cook until golden. Add the pomegranate juice and stir, mixing well. Add the cherry preserves and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer and cook until thick. Taste and feel free to add more salt according to your preference. 

Pour some sauce all over your lamb chops and dig in. You'll thank me later. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

I know the combo sounds weird but I'm on day 2 of this salad, and let me tell you something- it is divine! I never would have thought to pair the two, but for years I've been hearing about this salad, so I decided to mix the two and see how I feel post-consumption. Result? Well, like I said, it's day 2 and I want it again! Will probably make some tomorrow as well. The spinach has this nice peppery taste to it and the strawberries are so sweet. I also made a delicious dressing, that is the perfect mixture of sweetness and acidity. Try it out and let me know much you loved it.

1 package of baby spinach
1 pint of strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/3c sliced almonds, toasted (I used almonds because that's what I had on hand, but feel free to use pecans, walnuts, any nut!)

for the dressing:
2T white wine vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4c sugar
1T vegetable oil
Toss all salad ingredients together. In another bowl, whisk together white wine vinegar, lemon juice and sugar. Add oil slowly and whisk rapidly. You can make this ahead and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Bon appetit!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ah Dessert...

There are many times when I think I'm actually superwoman. I can work, cook, clean, work some more, answer everyone's questions, and smile throughout. All in one day. I'm so happy when I've actually accomplished everything on my list, but man, am I bone tired! We decided to invite my grandparents over for dinner since that hasn't happened in a while, and while we're at it, my brother and sister-in-law who were both leaving for Europe tonight (they are somewhere in the sky right now, hopefully wearing their seat belts!!!)...I made a lovely meal, and 59 plates, bowls, and serving platters later, am blogging about it. Because it was an awesome meal. And if you're looking for something to cook over the weekend, look no further. But because I'm tired (read: lazy) I'm only going to post the dessert I made tonight. The rest will be up (hopefully) tomorrow and Friday.

On tonight's menu: lamb chops with herbed butter (thanks ICE) with a cherry shallot sauce. Baked garlic fries. Gratineed tomatoes. Spinach and strawberry salad. Add lovely, decadent peaches with a delicious yogurt sauce and you'll need to loosen that belt. Relatively healthy but tastes like a glass of peach iced tea on a hot day in the South. Enjoy!

Baked peaches with vanilla-yogurt sauce
4 firm, ripe peaches, halved & pitted
1T vanilla extract (if you have a vanilla bean, great! use the seeds and reduce amount of vanilla extract to 1/2t)
5T dark brown sugar, divided
1c plain greek yogurt, 2% or full fat (I used the 2% but sometimes you just want to cheat)
a dash of salt: sea salt

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl mix together: 1/2 of the vanilla extract, yogurt, 2T brown sugar and dash of salt. Refrigerate until use.
In another bowl mix together remaining vanilla extract and remaining brown sugar. Stir. Add peaches to lightly coat. reserve sugar mixture for later use.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place peaches, cut side down on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove, turn over and drizzle cavities with the remaining sugar. Bake for another 10 minutes, or until they are tender. Remove from baking sheet and top with yogurt and remaining juices.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Congrats to the winner...

Of the "follower" contest. MANY of you signed on to receive emails whenever I post something new, so thank you so much for that, but the contest only applied to those "following" the blog (see middle right hand corner for example). I'd like to thank you all for spending even a minute of your time to view something I've been wanting to do for a long time! And something I enjoy immensely! So without further ado (horns blowing, confetti in the air) congratulations Michael W! Will be mailing out your $50 Amazon gift card today!

Save a little today

Following in the footsteps of living social and groupon, take a look at Saveology! Today's deal of the day (which I will take advantage of, because I love Dunkin Donuts iced tea):

Dunkin Donuts coupon

And stay tuned, I will announce the winner of the $50 amazon gift card later on today!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Follow Lickthebeater

 "Join this site" as a "follower" to follow my food blog and be automatically entered to win a $50 gift card from Winner will be chosen on July 18th. Thanks for your support.

A Greek Feast

I love Mediterranean food. It's crazy how much I enjoy fish now because when I was younger I definitely was not a fan. I didn't even have seafood until I was 16! My favorite meal: branzino with lemon potatoes and a greek salad. They serve this meal at my favorite restaurant: Taverna Kyclades. I could eat here every day. No, really. Every one of my friends will let you know that if we make plans to go out to dinner, and you let me choose the place--- it will be: kick the ladies (inside joke). I attempted to make the meal myself, or my interpretation/variation of these 3 dishes. I so hope you make them at home because this was simply DELICIOUS. 

I started out with the lemon potatoes because these take about an hour in the oven. 

Ingredient List:                                                       
1c water
1/3 c olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried rosemary
2 cubes chicken bouillon
black pepper
6 potatoes, peeled & quartered (or sliced)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add all of the ingredients above, minus the potatoes into a bowl and mix. Put to the side. Peel and quarter potatoes and arrange them evenly in the bottom of a medium sized baking dish. Pour the olive oil mixture over potatoes. 
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour, turning occasionally. You can remove the foil the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Yield: 4 servings. 
While the potatoes are in the oven, prepare your branzino. Branzino is a European sea bass. It's a white fish that is low in fat but high in taste. 

Ingredient List:
4- 1lb. whole branzino, scaled & gutted, heads & tails removed
4 thyme sprigs
4 bay leaves
2 lemons, 1 thinly sliced & 1 cut in wedges
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
finely chopped parsley, for serving
Light a grill  or preheat a grill pan. Season fish cavities with salt and pepper. Stuff each cavity with a thyme sprig and a bay leaf and 2 lemon slices. Rub the outside of the fish with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. 
Grill the branzino over high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp and just cooked thru (about 7 minutes on each side). 
Sprinkle some parsley on top and serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings. 
While the fish is on the grill, start preparing your Greek salad.

Ingredient List:
1 head romaine lettuce (not typically in Greek salad, but Taverna usually adds it, and I so enjoy it)
1-2 tomatoes, heirloom or any large red tomato, wedges
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced crosswise
1/2 c pitted kalamata olives
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
feta cheese (however much you like; in this household, more feta, mo' betta ;)
1 T chopped fresh parsley
3T red wine vinegar
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
*usually, Greek salads have green peppers (pepperocini) in them; but I couldn't find any, so I omitted them. Feel free to subtract what you don't like/don't have!

Begin making the dressing first. Add red wine vinegar in bowl along with the parsley. Slowly add the olive oil in thin streams while whisking, thus emulsifying the dressing. Set aside. Begin assembling salad. Add dressing and sprinkle the chopped parsley on top. Try not to drool and resist eating the whole thing. I barely did. 

What did we have for dessert you ask? I had a lot of blackberries, strawberries and blueberries in my fridge, and I knew we wouldn't eat them all, and was reluctant to throw them out, so I used the strawberry sorbet recipe and made multi-berry sorbet! It was refreshing after this meal. 

What do you think?

It's free Slurpee Day at 7-Eleven

'Nuff said.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Back to school deals

There are so many great deals out there this week. I've spent about $10 total at Staples, CVS and Target and bought about 5 bags worth of school supplies. Staples in particular has some really great deals, especially if you're a teacher. You can buy products for 1 cent! Everything is on sale: crayons, notebooks, glue...Here's what I got:

I took The Thrifty Mama's challenge and plan on donating the supplies to Toys for Tots. Check out her link here: Back To School?

Happy shopping!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

National Sugar Cookie Day

Today is national sugar cookie day so what better way to spend the day than to bake some sugar cookies! The great thing about sugar cookies is that you can make them so quickly, and they're gone just as quickly! They're a prefect treat, and easy to make, so it's great to get the kids involved.

Ingredient List:
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2c white sugar
2 3/4c flour
1 c butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in egg and vanilla extract. Blend in the dry ingredients a little at a time. Roll teaspoonfuls of dough into small balls, and place them on ungreased cookie sheets.
We enjoy chocolate in almost everything, so I've used some chocolate chips in the sugar cookie mix. You can also use peanut butter cups, cherries, you name it!

Bake 8-10 minutes. Let them stand on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then remove them to cool on wire racks.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Strawberry Sorbet

Today was a good day. Any day where you get to eat ice cream is a good day. Sorbet is the same. A friend of mine sent me a food link to a strawberry shortcake ice cream sandwich. While I stood salivating over my laptop, a thought occurred. Make some! I decided on strawberry sorbet because it's all of 3 ingredients and SO easy to make and SO delicious. Hope you try and make some, and if you do, comment on its otherworldliness.

Ingredient List:
~2 pounds strawberries, hulled (I use 2 rectangular boxes)
2-3 lemons, 1 seeded and chopped (just the inside) and the others juiced
2 c sugar

Place the chopped lemon and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined. Put in bowl. Should look like this:
Puree the strawberries in the food processor, adding the lemon mixture and the lemon juice a little at a time. The taste of the strawberry should come through strong. Pulse.

Before & After

Add mixture in your ice cream maker and churn until frozen. I put mine in the freezer overnight and then 
used the leftover lemon skins as decoration/sorbet holder. THIS IS DELICIOUS. 

*click on "hulled" for video on how to hull a strawberry properly. Also, if you're looking for a really great ice cream maker, look no further than to the one I have. Click on the link above. Cuisinart is a really great brand. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hot Potatoes

Who doesn't love potatoes? As my sister-in-law (SIL, for short) says: "I've never met a spud I didn't like." So I've decided to make some potatoes to eat on the side while we finish off our chili. These potatoes can be some work, but they are worth it because they taste GREAT. You dice them, boil them, saute them and bake them.

Ingredient List:
6 cups (3lbs) of all-purpose potatoes (idaho or russet)- the brown ones
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4c minced parsley
3 tbl unsalted butter
3 tbl canola oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1- Fill a large saucepan with cold water. Do not turn heat on yet. Wash and dry potatoes. Slice a small piece on the side so that the potato can stand on its own on your cutting board.

(Don't throw out those bad boys on the side. We'll be eating those too!)

The potato stands alone.

Slice cutting down the potato about 1/4 inch thick.

Slice again on the other side.

Cut into 1/4 inch dice. Place these in the saucepan until ready to cook.

Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat immediately and drain the potatoes; do not rinse.

* You can begin chopping the garlic and parsley now. Mince and put to the side for later use.

Let them air dry on a cookie sheet with a kitchen towel underneath. Potatoes should be dry before the next step (saute).

* A word of advice: when you cut potatoes and you don't use them right away- put them in water, otherwise they'll turn black!

Remember those side slices you didn't throw away? Toss them with some canola oil and bake at 350 degrees for around 10 minutes. As soon as they come out, toss some kosher salt on top and put them on a paper towel. They are DELICIOUS, sort of like a baked chip.


In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and put in potatoes in a single layer. You don't want to overcrowd the potatoes. Saute about 6-8 minutes. Pour off excess oil. Add the butter, garlic and parsley and continue sauteeing till they are brown to your liking. (5 minutes for me) If you like, you can stop here and enjoy! If you're like me and you want an even crispier potato, continue to the next step. Season with salt and pepper and...

Put them in a pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the foil and leave uncovered for a crispy potato. Now you can enjoy!

  WWSILS- What would SIL say???