Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Velvety Kabocha Squash Soup

Kabocha squash is that large, dark green squash that looks like a small pumpkin, only it's dark green. :) Look at this though - it's very orange on the inside! It's really velvety and quite sweet. I've tried roasting and eating the seeds too, but I don't care for them. The only two ways I've had this, is as tempura (Japanese) and this soup. I like smooth soups, but I also heard just today from someone else who said her grandmother just cubes it and drops it into a pork soup, which sounds good too! I'll have to try that next time. Also, since it's on the sweeter side, you could totally play that up and use it something like a pie, or roast it with some butter, cinnamon & sugar ... or whatever.

This is what it looks like on the outside.

You can peel it, then steam it or boil it, but it's a really hard squash, so be careful - don't cut yourself. I just cut it up like this, and then boil it (with a bit of salt) with rind on and wait to scoop it out once it's cooked and soft.

Boil until soft (about 20 min or so). Scoop out the orange flesh, and discard the rind.

Finishing the soup:

In a blender, combine the cooked Kabocha with vegetable or chicken broth (you can make the soup as thick or as thin as you like - I used about 3 cups for one medium sized squash and it was about milkshake consistency). I also added about 2 TBSP of butter, and then salt & pepper to taste, a squeeze or two of fresh lemon to taste, and then a pinch of dried thyme. Blend until completely smooth and then return to a pan to reheat. You can finish it by adding a splash of cream or half & half, if you want.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Classic BLT

Sometimes the simple things are the best.

I have been thinking about a BLT for a couple weeks now. Today I made one. I could have eaten four, but I stopped at one. :)

And for me, it has to be old fashioned, soft, white bread. Toasted. And real, full fat mayonnaise. No extras like avocado or onion or whatever the heck else people like to put on their BLT's (which would then technically no longer be a BLT but a different sandwich altogether). And summer is really the only time it will be at it's best, because of the fresh tomatoes. And my tomatoes out in the garden are superb right now - as you can see. :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dinner Inspiration - Irish Shepard's Pie

I was pretty surprised when they delivered this beautiful looking plate at my local Irish Pub. It's Shepard's Pie, which is supposed to be a casual, rustic dish. Or, at least that's how I always thought of it. But after seeing how it's plated up here, with the fresh peas, baby carrots and then that little sprig of rosemary sticking out from the center of the beautifully browned mashed potatoes, I have changed my opinion about it, and now it's on my list of really impressive dinners I could serve.

And it's not just pretty, it's SO good! Great for kids too.

I'm not going to post a recipe, but I'll give you a basic rundown of how you'd make it, should you decide to give it a whirl. This is basically a ground beef stew, topped with potatoes and baked. You could make 1 big family-style dish, or smaller individual portions, as seen above. This could also work well as a chicken & dumpling flavor, just make a thick stew and add the same potatoes on top.

A quick rundown of how I make it is below. For those who are like me and just want a quick view of what's in it so they can make their own version, see below. If you need a real recipe, I'm sure FoodBuzz has tons - click on the FoodBuzz badge on the right side of the page. :)

Brown your ground meat (beef, turkey, lamb, or a mix) then add some chopped onions & carrots to the pan and cook until the carrots start to get soft. Salt & pepper to taste, some garlic, pinch rosemary and pinch thyme. Add peas. Mix in some brown gravy - enough to make a thick stew (like a sloppy joe). Transfer to the baking dish(es) and then add mashed potatoes on top. Cook in the oven to brown the potatoes. If the stew is fully cooked, you can just brown it under the broiler.

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Favorite "Quick Fix" for making Brussels Sprouts Sassy?

Mix in a spoonful or two of Mascarpone. It works wonderful on brussels sprouts, but also spinach, green beans, zucchini, all greens, broccoli, etc., etc. It's as good, if not better, than butter - it's rich and creamy, and has a wonderful flavor. Bacon used to be my favorite, but adding Mascarpone is just so much easier and faster than cooking up bacon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rotisserie Grilled Chicken

We grill a lot in southern California, so this year I treated myself and I got that new Weber grill a few weeks back, and at the time I ordered it I also got some fun accessories like this kick-ass Grill Daddy brush I can't live without, and then a rotisserie attachment. So last night I hooked up the rotisserie attachment.

Took about 1 hour to cook this chicken. Tender inside, very juicy, crispy skin. Perfect! And I did nothing but take the chicken out of the package, sprinkle it with seasoning, and throw it on the fire.

It didn't get off to a good start though. First, the rotisserie bar sits so low that the meat hits the grates and can't rotate. So I removed the grates and ended up just sitting them directly on top of the bars that cover the burners - which you can see in the picture. Now it had room and could turn. Next problem was, they tell you to put a pan under the meat to catch the drippings. I did that, and the grease that went into it of course smoked like a bonfire and almost caught fire (because of course it was sitting right on the burner). I should have known better, it's only common sense that a pan full of grease sitting on a hot burner is going to eventually ignite. But I was in a hurry to get dinner made and just followed the rotisserie's instructions. With smoke POURING out of the closed-lid grill, heat off and rotisserie motor now unplugged, I waited with crossed fingers that it would cool before it ignited. I've had a few grease fires in the past, so I definitely knew one was possible now. Once cooled, I opened the lid, and yep - that grease pan was black as tar. I almost just pull the darn thing off and said screw it, but then I thought, why not just take the stupid pan out and then let the drippings drip to the bottom ... like ALL the food we cook on the grill does. Geez. Problem solved.

If I hadn't been in such a hurry to get dinner cooked, I probably also would have remembered to do the flavor injections before cooking. Injecting the bird, especially the breast meat, with garlic herb butter.... OH YEAH BABY.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Watermelon Martini

This was really yummy. So much so, that I'm thinking about going back up to the produce market tomorrow to get a few of their $1 watermelons (the ones with the seeds are cheaper) so I can make more fresh watermelon juice!

It's trickier to juice them though when there are seeds, because crushing the seeds would make it bitter. What I did was just cut it up, dust it with a teensy bit of salt, and wait for it to juice itself. After it sat for about an hour, I just crushed the rest with my hands.

A note about the salt ... you only add a small amount, but it benefits in two ways: It helps to break down the fruit's flesh releasing the juice easier, and it also boosts the flavor. The key is to only use a small amount, like when you make cookies, because you only need flavor enhancement, not salty juice.

Watermelon Martini:

2 oz watermelon juice
1 teaspoon of agave nectar
2 oz vodka

Method: Add watermelon juice, agave nectar & vodka to empty shaker. Add ice last and shake immediately - serving instantly after shaking. Watermelon juice tends to bem umm, watery, so by adding ice last keeps it from getting anymore watered down.

Garnishes & Variations: Fresh Mint is my favorite garnish - I just didn't happen to have any on hand today. Also, you can add a splash of any melon-flavored liquor to deepen the flavors, but if you like a fresh flavor, and not fake, I highly recommend you do this in small amounts -- like, half a teaspoon at a time. Grand Marnier is also good in this, but again, just about a half teaspoon per serving.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

OUT with the old, IN with the new : GRILL

Look at that nasty old grill, sitting at the curb. All alone. Newly homeless. I'd feel sorry for the old grill, except for the fact that I knew it would find a good home. And it did -- it was snatched up in less than an hour. I love California, you can put all of your old crap out at the curb, and someone will always come by and take it. It's an unwritten rule here that anything sitting at the curb is free. It's awesome. Why toss it when you can recycle it? One person's trash is another's treasure. I've even got a few goodies off the sidewalk myself.

Anyway. That grill sucked. So I got a new one. I was going to get the Costco one, but the warranty was a little shady, and living at the beach you need something that can stand up to the weather, and have the warranty to back that up. So I did some research, and the Weber was always at the top of everyone's list for durability, so Weber it was.

It's not a Father'a Day present for Theo, it's a present for me. :) Well, me, and everyone else here that I cook for! So anyway, it came today ... right in time for Father's Day weekend, which is cool. I got a little excited when I was ordering, and also got the rotisserie attachment, a new Weber Grilling Cookbook, a new cover for it -- a must have though, and then this really cook steam-cleaning grill brush (the reviews for it were killer). So, yeah, we're ready to make some food!!

It took me an hour and a half to put it together. I had a helper though ... who actually cost me a good 30+ minutes, because without Charlotte here, it would have taken about an hour. Or less. Because had I been alone, I wouldn't have had to stop in the middle of things 12 times. Or look for all the screws she misplaced. Or "un-jam" the bolt she shoved into the leg of the grill that prevented me from getting the wheel on. Etc., etc.

Sigh. Isn't it just beautiful! It lights like a dream, heats up uber fast, doesn't flare up & cooks clean (no more soot on my food!)

You have no idea how in love I am with this new grill.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I planted something!

Tomatoes. Yummy, sweet, summer tomatoes - fresh off the vine! Oh boy, I can hardly wait! The last 2 years I've been really disappointed with the Farmer's Market tomatoes, so I'm taking matters into my own hands. Even if it means cutting a hole in my very expensive lawn because that's where the sunniest spot is.

Friday night, after work... we're driving home and did an impromptu detour - to Lowe's Home & Garden Center. I had had the tomatoes on my mind for a few weeks now, so I just decided to bit the bullet and do it. While walking around looking for stuff we didn't need, we spotted these cute little kid's gardening sets, and since they had a Disney Princess design... well, we of course had to get it! Then, something to plant of course, so we got Charlotte some sunflowers. She was beyond excited. We came home and immediately went out back. I planted the tomatoes, and she planted her seeds. Wish us luck!

Update: July 15th. See below! They're doing good! We've eaten quite a few of these sweet tomatoes... and as you can see, more are coming :)
Next year I'm planting 3 times as many-- They're THAT good.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pretty Fingerling Potatoes

I love Whole Foods. We have a huge one in southern California (in Tustin) and it's so inspiring to just walk through and pick up all the beautiful veggies.

So I got these fingerling potatoes and decided to roast them. Simple, but always a classic. Since there were 3 different kinds, I cut them in different shapes for character (the reds in circles, the purple were diced, and the whites were cut lengthwise).

I tossed them in olive oil, some fresh rosemary, and dried, granulated garlic (fresh garlic would burn in the high heat). Then added some red carrots and Nature's Sweet cherry tomatoes.

Baked @ 425 until golden. Seasoned with s & p after they came out of the oven.