Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Comfort Food - Chicken Casserole

This is my "comfort food" standard and it is easy to prepare. Start with 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts. Salt and pepper on both sides and add to a glass baking pan in about 1/4" of chicken broth. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. The chicken will be moist and tender.
In the meantime, cook Uncle Bens Roasted Chicken Rice in the microwave. Sometimes I use Trader Joes Jasmine rice that also cooks in the microwave. Open a can of Cream of Chicken soup.
After you cook the chicken breasts, cut into bite size chunks.
You will need another baking dish; add the Cream of Chicken soup and about a 1/4 can of water, the cut-up chicken and rice. Stir together.
Cut up 3 zucchini and microwave for 4 minutes. I use a Pampered Chef Micro Cooking system.
Add the zucchini to the casserole. I also added left over green beans, and this recipe lends itself to using whatever you have in the frig. Mix the veggies in.
I added a handful of these yummy Garlic Pepper Onions and some grated low fat cheese blend on the top which will form a nice crust when cooked.
Bake at 400 degrees for 1/2 an hour.
Scoop it out and serve. We had peaches with our dinner! Since there are only 2 of us at home, I can take the rest of the casserole to my parents for them to enjoy!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ice Cream Performance Art: Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

My husband makes wonderful ice cream. Instant gratification ice cream. How does he do it? A large bottle of liquid nitrogen!
4 cups unsweetened cream
1.5 cups half & half
1.75 cups sugar (or sugar-substitute)
1/2 tsp vanilla
dash salt

liquid nitrogen, which can be obtained from, well, I don't know where he gets the stuff. You have to have an appropriate container to house it. Good luck with this part. I don't know about these things. Good thing I'm married to a nerd.

Tim measures ingredients.
He split the ice cream into 2 batches: one with sugar and one with sugar-substitute

stirring all the ingredients together.
You must use a metal or plastic bowl, and preferably a wooden spoon.
The liquid nitrogen will shatter some tools.

Pouring the liquid nitrogen into the cream-mixture.
Begin stirring as soon as liquid nitrogen is added.

The mixture freezes almost instantly

Delicious ice cream!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Panko-crusted Tilapia, salad with roasted leeks & vinaigrette

I have a local source for fresh tilapia filets so I keep some in the freezer at all times. They are easy to thaw quickly: simply immerse the bag in a bowl of water for about 20-30 minutes.
I was bored with the usual method of preparing them so I decided to experiment. First I dug around in my pantry and freezer to see what I had. Sometimes I "bread" fish with ground pecans or almonds because we are watching our carb-intake. I decided to try some Panko for a little variety since I was using such a small amount.
I had a bunch of young leeks so I prepped them for roasting to include in our salad.
leeks usually have a lot of dirt inside, so cut them lengthwise and wash thoroughly

rather than drizzle olive oil over them, I put them in a bag and toss them in olive oil
prior to putting them on the roasting pan. I think this coats them better and saves on oil
I put them in the oven to roast for about 30-40 minutes @ 350 degrees.

Next, I concocted a moist-coating for the fish out of chick-pea miso paste, rice vinegar, a splash of toasted sesame oil, about 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, some lemon zest & juice:

fish sauce is stinky but it adds a lot of depth to whatever you are cooking

here's what my "fish coating" looked like

Next, I mixed a bit of dry seasoning into the panko. This was a local "salmon crust", but I think any sort of dry seasoning would do.

panko crumbs with dry seasoning

here's the package of panko crumbs
It is usually found in the asian section of a good store, or in an asian grocer if you are lucky-enough to have one nearby!
If not, use any sort of breading or ground nut meal. It doesn't matter. I just used this because I needed something different!

First I coated my fish filets in the miso-mixture

then I pressed the panko crust into the moist surface
and placed the filets on a roasting pan
These could have been sauteed nicely on the stove, too.
I cooked these for about 15-17 minutes at 350 in the oven.

While they were roasting, I mixed a vinaigrette for the salad. The greens were already washed, spinned, and waiting in the salad bowl. I never dress the greens until just before serving because I don't want them to get soaked in excess dressing-yuck!

I use a little plastic cup with a tight lid because it is perfect for emulsifying the mixture.
Today's vinaigrette included 3 mashed blackberries, about a tablespoon of balsalmic vinegar,
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, the juice of half a meyer lemon, a bit of zest, about 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil (I prefer it to olive oil on salads because it is lighter on the tongue), a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper. I don't emulsify it until immediately before I dress the salad.

pouring the emulsified vinaigrette onto the greens

I toss tender greens with my hands rather than tongs to avoid bruising them
Plus, I like to play in my food

Here are the roasted leeks

Dinner is served!
I plated my salad, then layered some leeks and a few extra blackberries onto the greens.
Roasted red peppers complete the meal,
and I mixed additional dipping sauce for the fish out of a bit of soy sauce, fish sauce, and chili sauce which was served is small bowls to the side.

Something I WON'T EAT

I have an adventerous palette, but seriously?  I can't do this......
are these dried snails?

somebody help me here...

And if they are, well, whatever they are, what do you do with them?  How are they cooked?  Inquiring minds want to know.

To Market, To Market

Taking a stroll through Chinatown in San Francisco...these colorful veggies were on display
I love how vibrant the purple color is
These are really interesting and would be a nice addition to a quilt - very tactile
This is a gourmet market in the Mission District - amazing selection of produce, bread, coffee, tea, wine and ice cream. They have a deli too.
A choice bunch of selections outside of the store...eye candy!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Girl's Night - Dinner and a movie! A low-fat smaller portion dinner. Breast tenders, seasoned lightly with garlic, sea salt and pepper, and baked in a short layer of chicken broth, with made ahead mushrooms, asparagus and caramelized onions. Chicken dish cooked at 400 degrees for 1/2 hour. A broccoli salad with cut-up apples, strawberries and dried cranberries in a fat-free raspberry dressing. We watched the movie "The Princess and the Frog."

Mod Podge and Hummus

My daughter and I are doing a little decoupage project on the deck and needed a healthy snack. Jicama, a big round thing with roots sticking out at the top and bottom. Hmmm, how to cut into that? It can be easily peeled with a vegetable peeler. Cut into strips, like french fries, add a couple of spoonfuls of hummus, an you've got a healthy snack. Usually we don't use forks, but we do have rubber gloves on, so it works for us.

Fresh, fresh, fresh

Cooking great food does not have to be difficult. I think some people give up before they even consider cooking because they are intimidated. To me, some of the best things are the simplest: what could be better than roasted vegetables?
top rack: sliced mushrooms, onions, and greens which were tossed in olive oil
and seasoned with sea salt & freshly ground pepper
bottom rack: sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, then seasoned with grated fresh
parmesano-reggiano cheese, salt & pepper

fresh ingredients brought home from the Farmer's market
I like to wash & prep most everything as soon as I bring it home.
That way, it is ready to eat!

Unfortunately, my kitchen looks like my studio: messy when I work!
Who cares? It all cleans up in no time.

Here's a little tip: if you have lettuce or other greens that are wilted, before you throw them away try this: fill a large bowl with ice water. Chop your lettuce (or other greens) into large chunks with a chef's knife and immerse the greens in the ice water for about 20 minutes. Chances are the greens will rehydrate and be good-as-new. Remove them from the ice-water bath and use your spinner to shake off the excess water. No spinner? No problemo: simply lay the greens out on several layers of kitchen towels, roll them up and swing the roll back and forth a few times. Unroll, and store your rehydrated greens in a storage bag with a paper towel inside. The paper towel will catch any leftover moisture so the greens won't begin to brown at the edges. Refrigerate.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Welcome to our other obsession....

Cooking.  I guess you either love it or hate it.  Me?  I love it.  Fresh ingredients and a lot of love.
I believe cooking is an artful endeavor.  Few things make me as happy as preparing a wonderful meal for family and friends.
This blog was started by Jamie Fingal and myself, two artists who love to cook.  We have been joking about starting a blog called "What's For Dinner?" for a long time.  As luck would have it that title was already taken.  Since I've always liked the phrase, "Now You're cooking with gas", it seems perfect for our new blog.
We have a few ideas for this project.  We may invite guest bloggers in for some foodie contributions along the way.
Stay tuned!  Dinner At Eight Artists are really Cooking With Gas!