Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Use it Up: Red Curry Paste

Red Curry Paste

A few weeks back, I bought red curry paste. I can't even remember why.

Now, it's threatening to get lost in the abyss that is my refrigerator. Red curry paste is one of those oddball ingredients you buy to make a single recipe from some magazine/cookbook/website that you can't wait to try.

Then, you forget you have it until a year later you find it in the very back growing some kind of funky mold.

Don't pretend this hasn't happened to you. It may not be red curry paste. It could be any ingredient you buy swearing you'll use it in more than one recipe, but knowing that you'll never get around to using it up before it goes bad.

This time it will be different. In fact, in an effort to use it up I tried Thai-Style Vegetable Curry. It started out with promise.

Local tomatoes

See? With fresh, local tomatoes like these how can anything go wrong?

These were the best tomatoes ever. Seriously. I don't even like raw tomato all that much and I kept popping these beauties in my mouth.

Anyhow, back to my recipe fail. It wasn't the worst thing I've ever made. With double the curry paste and a healthy dash of hot sauce it wasn't inedible. Still, I would like to be able to say something better than, "It wasn't gross." You know?

Thai-Style Vegetable Curry

Even the photo isn't very good. Oh well. You can't win them all.

Any ideas on how to use up my red curry paste? Or, what ingredient do YOU need help using up?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Shrimp Paella

Shrimp Paella

Happy Monday! Ha! Is there such a thing?

My Monday is packed with meetings. I started writing out my to-do list for this week on Friday.. and it didn't look promising. Gah.

Good thing fit in plenty of rest, relaxation and cooking in this past weekend!

This Shrimp Paella was on the menu Friday and holy wow. Delicious.

The original recipe came from Bon Appetit several years ago. I clipped the recipe and filed it away and forgot about it. A few weeks ago, I found the clip while cleaning up around the apartment and I'm glad I did.

I can't say whether or not this is authentic. It's not that far off from the version I usually make, but I think I like this better.

The nutritional information included with the recipe says it's 503 calories. While I didn't figure what my version came to, it has to be a bit leaner.

For one, I cut back on the rice. I'd rather have less rice and add a side veggie or salad. And, the chorizo I used is actually pretty lean (about 130 calories and 6 grams of fat per link). I also used less than because it's so full of flavor.

Shrimp Paella
Serves 4
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces (2 links) spanish-style chorizo
2 cups onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (regular paprika is fine)
2 1/4 (or more) low-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 cup arborio rice
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup green olives

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo through bell pepper and saute until golden brown - about 8 minutes.

Add the saffron, paprika and 2 cups of the broth and rice. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low and simmer until rice is just about cooked -- 15 minutes.

Nestle the shrimp in the rice, add the olives, and 1/4 (or more) broth just to moisten. Cover and cook until shrimp is opaque in the center - 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Whole Wheat Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

I found this photo of blueberry pancakes floating around in my Flickr photostream and I realized I never shared these. It's a shame, too, because these were really good!

Probably one of the better blueberry pancakes I've made so far.. and I've made a lot. I've made buttermilk oatmeal blueberry pancakes, blueberry buttermilk pancakes, and way back in 2007 I made regular old blueberry pancakes.

I guess by the look of it, it seems like I make a lot of pancakes. That's not really true, though. Most pancake recipes make a zillion servings and it's sometimes hard to halve a recipe if it calls for an odd number of eggs.

So, when I saw Mark Bittman's recipe in How to Cook Everything could be easily split in two, I was in love. Then, I started going wild with the variations and I loved it even more.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
Serves 4.
Adapated from How to Cook Everything

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or regular whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon butter for the griddle

Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, beat together the buttermilk and eggs. Slowly add the mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring just enough to combine. There will be a few lumps. Gently stir in the blueberries.

Preheat a griddle pan over medium heat. Put the tablespoon of butter in a paper towel. When the pan is hot, swipe the butter over the pan just to create a thin layer. You could just add the butter to the pan a bit at a time, but you use tons less butter this way.

Drop the batter on the griddle, about a 1/4 cup at a time. Cook until bubbles form and the outer edges appear cooked. Flip and cook until lightly browned. Between each batch, wipe the pan out and add more butter.

You can keep the cooked pancakes warm in a 200° oven for about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Turkey Taco Filling

Turkey Taco Filling

After a weekend filled with pizza and ice cream, I've been craving healthier food.

I've been trying to cook what's in my pantry/freezer as much as possible to cut back on my grocery bills and when I found a 1/2 a pound of ground turkey stuffed in the back of my freezer I put turkey tacos on the menu plan this week.

When I was growing up, "taco meat" was ground beef made with a packet of taco seasoning. I'm not knocking that in any way. I fully admit I have a soft spot of taco seasoning. The problem is added sugars (yes.. sugar is sometimes in the ingredients list!), oils and sodium.

This taco filling mimics the flavors of the seasoning packet, but is much better for you. Especially if you choose no salt added tomatoes. To make it even leaner, I used lean ground turkey instead of ground beef.

I used 93/7 ground turkey but you could use ground turkey breast if you really wanted to. I personally prefer a little dark meat mixed in. I think ground turkey breast is a little too lean and gets dried out too quickly.

Put this taco filling in hard taco shells (like I did), soft taco shells, or even use it to top nachos. I usually make a double batch and freeze it for quick meals. It freezes really well.

Turkey Taco Filling

Serves 4
Adapted from Everyday Food

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground red pepper (use more or less based on your spice tolerance)
1 pound lean (93/7) ground turkey
8 oz. can no salt added tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Warm oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the cumin, chili powder, coriander and red pepper and the ground turkey. Cook, breaking up the turkey as it cooks, until the turkey is browned — about 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomato sauce. Let it come up to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer until the sauce thickens up — about 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Peach Ice Cream


On Friday, my parents and I also stopped at Legend Hills Orchard for some local peaches. Local peaches put grocery store peaches to shame.

Peaches at my grocery store are always rock hard, and they never really ripen up. If they do soften, they're mealy. Such a waste of money.

These were perfectly ripe and juicy just like a peach should be.

I split this box with my parents, but even so, I have a lot of peaches on my hand. I was trying to decide between peach ice cream and peach crisp, when I saw Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Honey-Peach Ice Cream.

I made a few adjustments to the base recipe, though. Only because I was too lazy to make custard based. Now I kind of wish I had spent the time.

Not that the result was bad. Far from it, actually. I just like the consistency of a custard base.

The peach flavor is light, but that might be due to the variety I used. The Canadian Harmony variety might not be suited for ice cream. If I go back, I'll have to ask them what varieties are best for ice cream and try this recipe again.

Peach Ice Cream

Peach Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart.
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Honey-Peach Ice Cream recipe

2 pounds peaches, pitted and peeled
1/4 cup honey
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean

Cut half the peaches into bite-sized chunks. Put them in a small sauce pan and add the honey. Cook over high heat until boiling; then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until peaches are soft — about 10 minutes.

Puree the cooked peaches in a food processor and set aside.

Bring 1 cup of whipping cream and sugar in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the bean to the saucepan and cook over medium until sugar is dissolved.

Stir in the remaining 1 cup of cream, 1 cup of whole milk and the reserved peach puree. Refrigerate until completely chilled then churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

Meanwhile, finely dice the other half of the peaches. Once the machine is done, add the diced peaches and churn until well incorporated. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Pizza Box

Pizza was the real reason we took a mini food tour of my parents hometown. But it can't be just any pizza. It has to be Plaza Pizza.

When my dad was growing up, my grandparents owned a few pizza shops in town. My grandfather bought a recipe from another shop in town that was closing, tweaked it a bit and opened a few shops with a business partner.

The story, according to my dad at least, is that my grandpa's business partner helped open Plaza Pizza. Who knows if that's the real deal or if it's family lore. (Aunt Liz, if you're reading feel free to correct me if I've got the story mixed up!)

Point is, the recipe is similar to the recipe my grandpa used, my dad says. I wouldn't know, since my grandpa's pizza shop was long gone by the time I was born.

But, I did grow up eating Plaza Pizza. My grandparents on my mom's side always ordered Plaza Pizza when we visited. We always ordered two pizzas -- green pepper and mushroom (for my grandma) and an All the Way, which I think pepperoni, onion, green pepper, banana peppers, mushrooms and green olives.

The pizza is one-of-a-kind around here. We haven't been able to find a pizza like it closer to us. And most importantly, it's good. Really good. It has a cracker-thin crust -- just the way I like it.

The place doesn't look like much from the outside, or the inside for that matter. But there's always a line of people waiting for their pizzas.


That's the leftovers from two large pizzas with three people eating. As you can tell, we liked our pizza.

The pictures don't even do it justice. I haven't gotten used to taking photos in restaurants (don't think I ever will!). So, all the photos, were unfortunately taken once I got home.

If you're ever near the central Ohio area -- definitely take some time to try them out.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ye Olde Mill

Ye Olde Mill

Some of my best childhood memories are tied to food. And today, I took a mini food tour of my parents' hometown for a few of my favorites.

One stop was the Ye Olde Mill in Utica, Ohio — home of Velvet Ice Cream. It's called the Ye Olde Mill, because it once was an old gristmill.

It still has the giant water wheel. I was always a bit fascinated by that wheel.


You won't find too many out-of-the-ordinary flavors here. But that doesn't matter. It's good ice cream.

And most importantly, it was the ice cream I remember most from my childhood.

The Ye Olde Mill was where my grandparents on my mom's side always took us for ice cream after dinner. She'd always buy me a scoop of mint chocolate chip and let us feed the ducks that hang out in the ponds near the mill.

The ducks are still around, and are really used to people. This one didn't even flinch when I got right next to it. I forgot bread to feed it with, though.


When I was older, my grandma took me to their annual Ice Cream Festival on Memorial Day weekend. People come from miles away to go the festival. It's fun — if you like crowds of people.

My dad's side of the family also had our family reunions in the fall at the mill. My uncles would shake buckeyes from the tree and help us crack them open. Even as an adult, I found myself on the lookout for one.


And look what we found! It's not a great one and the color on the photo is a little off because it was so bright out.. but you get the idea.

In case you ever wandered what the Ohio State mascot really is.. this is it!

Of course, we also ordered ice cream. I had the Birthday Cake, complete with sprinkles and icing. Delicious! They also make a pumpkin ice cream in the fall that beats Edy's pumpkin ice cream by a mile.

Birthday Cake Ice Cream

And because we couldn't help ourselves...

Mom and Me

Me and my mom as an ice cream split. Always fun to be a goofball!

What's your favorite childhood food memory?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gnocchi with Kale

Gnocchi with Kale

A funny thing happened while I was making dinner last night. Well, not exactly funny. More like hilariously tragic.

I saw the "recipe" in a magazine. It's simple, really. Boil some gnocchi. Warm up a pan with some olive oil, wilt the kale, add some salt, pepper and lemon zest. Add the cooked gnocchi and voila.

I was doing great until pepper.

I have one of the those pepper grinders from the store with the peppercorns in jar with a plastic grinder screwed on the top. The plastic grinder kept jamming and my response was to just turn the grinder harder.

Wrong choice.

The grinder top came flying off and the entire contents of the jar spilled into my pot of wilted kale. The jar was full, by the way.

I tried to fish out the kale, but I still ended up with a lot of whole peppercorns in the final dish. Oh well, not worst mishap in the kitchen and probably won't be the last.

It would have been a great dish minus all the pepper. At least it looks pretty!

What's your worst cooking mishap? Mine is probably the time I made a chicken and rice casserole for my friends when I was first learning to cook. I forgot to cover the dish while it baked and I ended up serving them rice pellets. Not good.

Edited to add: My Whole Wheat Banana Bread Muffins made the Foodbuzz Top 9. Awesome! Thanks Foodbuzz!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Whole Wheat Banana Bread Muffins

Muffins ready to go

Today was sugar overload.

First, there were cookies. A new co-worker had her first day today and her boss enticed people to come introduce themselves by putting a plate of cookies on her desk. It worked.

Then, there were Smarties and Caramel Cremes. I was helping another co-worker with an issue when I saw she put my favorite candy in the candy dish on her desk.

Now, I’ve made banana bread muffins. It’s a perfectly acceptable way to cap a sugar overloaded day. I’ll eat better tomorrow.

At least these banana bread muffins are on the healthier side of things. Besides, I had some seriously black bananas that probably couldn’t wait.

Honestly, I don’t know how these even turned out. I’m not a stellar baker so changing up a baked goods recipe is like playing with fire. But yet, I felt up to the challenge.

I was almost out of all-purpose flour so I made them with whole wheat pastry flour and what little all-purpose flour I had. I was supposed to have low fat yogurt but all I could find in small containers was nonfat.

Oh, and it’s supposed to be loaf – not muffins.

But I didn’t have enough banana to make a whole loaf and making half a loaf is sort of impossible — especially when only you own a standard-sized loaf pan. So muffins it is.

If it worked for my beloved zucchini bread, it can work for this, gosh darn it. At least that’s what I was hoping for when I put them in the oven.


Whole Wheat Banana Bread Muffins


It worked.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread Muffins
Serves 14.

2 cups whole wheat pastry
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas
1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 14 muffin cups (I did half this recipe so I only needed the one pan).

Scoop the flour into a measuring cup and level with a knife. Mix together the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and the butter on medium speed with a mixer until well-incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg. Add the bananas, yogurt and vanilla extract. Beat together.

On low speed, add the flour on low speed. Beat just until blended.

Divide mixture between the muffin cups. I use a standard sized ice cream scoop for this. Bake about 20 minutes until a toothpick in inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

I'm one of only a few single people in my department at work. Most are married with kids, married without kids, or planning their weddings. There might even be a couple who, although not married, are in a relationship.

I'm none of these things.

You can usually tell who the single people are, just by how they eat. Many eat daily in the cafeteria, warm up frozen dinners or bring the same sad looking sandwich every day.

Many single people I know don't see the value in cooking for just themselves. They'll learn to cook when they get married or move in with someone, they say. Afterall, most veggies, meats, etc. don't come in single-serve packages.

I understand their reasons, but I disagree. I don't have to wait until I'm married to feed myself well.

It's true, most things don't come in single-serve packages. But, I've developed lots of strategies for dealing with family-sized packaging.

For one, there's this Roasted Vegetable Pasta. It's a good go-to recipe when you have bits of odds and ends in the produce drawer that need using up.

I used the mushrooms, tomatoes and onions that it called for. But really, you could use just about anything that's good roasted. Broccoli, green beans, brussels, squash. Heck, you could probably even have zucchini or summer squash.

Instead of wine, you could try balsamic vinegar. That'd be good, too. If you don't want onions, try tossing in some garlic instead.

If you decide to mix it up a bit, definitely keep the tomatoes. They burst when you roast them and add a sauciness to the dish. The tomatoes are my favorite part.

What are your go-to meals when you need to clean out the veggie drawer?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pork Enchiladas

Pork Enchiladas w/ Refried Black Beans

Enchiladas are hands down my favorite Mexican food to make at home. They're simple, easy and it isn't difficult to make them like you'd get them in your favorite restaurant.

My favorite light enchilada recipe is Cooking Light's Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde and over the years I've made many riffs on the original recipe.

Last night, I switched it up a bit by using a red sauce instead of salsa verde and pork instead of chicken. I used canned sauce but you can certain make your own.

I made red sauce with these enchiladas. It was good, but time consuming. So I usually just buy it.

Pork Enchiladas
Serves 4

1 cup onion, chopped
1 can red enchilada sauce
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup (3 ounces) low fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded cooked pork (see recipe note)
8 small corn tortillas
1/4 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

Combine the onion, enchilada sauce, garlic and cilantro in a food processor and process until smooth. In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and chicken and stir in 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce mixture. Reserve the rest of the sauce.

Meanwhile, put the tortillas on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake in the oven for four minutes or until the tortillas are soft and pliable.

Remove tortillas from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 425.

Fill each of the 8 tortillas with 1/4 cup of the pork mixture and roll up, placing seam side down in a baking dish coated in cooking spray. Cover the enchiladas with the rest of the sauce and top with shredded cheese.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 18 minutes, or until heated through.

Note: For the cooked pork, I used about 2 1-pound pork tenderloins, but I may use a fattier cut next time. I put them in a slow cooker, covered them with chicken broth (about a 32 ounce carton) and added some crushed red pepper, chili powder and cumin (I didn't measure.. just kind of sprinkled it in). Cook on high for 4 hours until the pork is tender enough to shred.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad

Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad

I don’t know about where you live, but it’s been super hot and humid here. I love that it’s hot — especially since I spend most of my day as a Popsicle. You could hang meat in my office.

But the humidity? Ugh. I could definitely do without it. My A/C is working overtime and I have electric bill to prove it.

To beat the heat and cut back on my electric usage I’ve been avoiding the stove. Enter my favorite salad: Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing.

I wrote about this YEARS ago and it’s still in heavy rotation.

Is it wrong to look forward to a salad all week? Not when it’s this salad. Blue cheese, grilled chicken, avocado and tomatoes — can we say YUM? There may or may not have been a bit of crumbled bacon in there, too.

I skipped the watercress because it’s hard to find near me (have to travel a ways to Whole Foods to get it) and ended up with a mix of chopped romaine and the tail ends of some bagged butter lettuce mix.

If you make nothing else, make this dressing. Really. It’s a homemade, healthy, creamy dressing that may change your life.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vegetable Quesadillas

Vegetable Quesadilla

I've been grilling a bunch. How 'bout you?

Most nights this week it's been simple stuff like hot dogs. Last night I made some jerk chicken thighs I wasn't too crazy about. If anyone wants to suggest a good recipe for that I"ll gladly accept.

A bit ago I also made this vegetable quesadilla, which is good enough to share.

I started with a recipe.. but switched it up a bit. The original recipe calls for just raw veggies folded in a tortilla and thrown on the grill.

Maybe on fancier grills the vegetables soften before the quesadilla chars to a crisp — but on the my el cheapo $99 apartment-sized charbroil gas grill the vegetables would barely be warm let alone soft.

So.. I sauteed them first. It was a good move on my part. Worked beautifully. You could also grill them first. I would've, but I'm not a very talented grillmaster and tend to lose the vegetables between the grates.

These don't have a lot going on — so the condiments are really important. Fine by me. You can really taste the vegetables, plus quesadillas are really just a method of putting salsa and sour cream into my mouth.

Get the recipe on Everyday Food. And, if you couldn't tell — I skipped the corn relish. I've been feeling a bit lazy lately. What can I say?

What have you been grilling?