December 9, 2016

Finally Friday: spinach and turkey pasta bake edition

Honestly this feels a bit like cheating because who doesn’t know how to make pasta? You just cook the pasta al dente and add interesting things. For some reason this particular pasta bake was a huge hit.

JuggerBaby decided that this was the night ze didn’t want spinach and picked it out occasionally but ze got more than ze avoided. PiC, on the other hand, had four servings and ate all HIS spinach, so on balance, I’d call it a success.

Ingredients

garlic cloves
1 medium onion
1 lb of pasta,
1 lb of ground turkey
1-2 bunches of spinach
4 slices of cheddar cheese
1/2 Tbsp garlic salt
1/2 Tbsp onion powder
1.5 cups tomato-based pasta sauce
Optional: 1/2 cup of mixed cheeses (romano, parmesan, etc)

Directions

We’ve been eating a lot of veggie penne and whole wheat penne lately, and it works really well for this recipe.

Mince the garlic, and dice the onions, toss both in the heated, oiled Dutch oven set to medium-low heat. Boil salted water for the pasta, which takes about 9-10 minutes while washing and chopping up your spinach – just a rough chop to discard the stems and cut down the leaves to 1/6th or 1/8th a large leaf size.

Toss the chopped spinach into the Dutch oven, and stir until the leaves settle down into nice green, add the ground turkey, onion powder and garlic salt, cook til done. Add the pasta sauce and sliced cheeses, stir to distribute evenly. Your pasta should be cooked through by now, add it to the pot and stir til it’s mixed in well. Top with a generous sprinkle of cheese on top, bake uncovered at 350 degrees for ten minutes.

Total time from prep to serving: 35 minutes.

December 2, 2016

Finally Friday: shrimp and (cheesy) grits

It’s almost embarrassing to admit this but I buy my shrimp from Safeway. My Asian card just caught flame. But there’s a good reason, I swear! One, the nearest Asian market is 99 Ranch and that parking lot is, if possible, as terrible to navigate as any parking lot in Rowland Heights back in Southern California. I’d rather walk to the store. Except it’s ten miles away so that’s not happening either. Two, their shrimp are deveined! This was revelatory.

I can devein shrimp, I’m good at it. Or rather my 13-year-old, pre-fibromyalgia hands were great at it. Now? Hah! I save my fine motor control for things like not slicing off more than just the tip of my finger. That’s not hyperbole, by the way, I did slice off the tip of my index finger two weeks ago. It got better.

Anyway, shrimp from Safeway, saving fingertips, and even more importantly, time across America!

(If you don’t know why I’m mocking myself, it’s because I’m probably the only person in my family who buys their seafood from a not Asian market. Growing up in Southern California nearish to LA meant that Asian markets abounded and growing up in a traditional immigrant family meant we never cooked anything but our home country cuisines. And no non-Asian market carried Asian food fixings beyond soy sauce, so we always always always went to an Asian market. And stopped by for a passel of banh mi on the way home.

My shrimp were destined for a decidedly non-Asian ending though, because I adore this dish!

I keep this one super simple, just as it was intended.

Ingredients

1 cup polenta (grits)
3 cups water
Swish of salt
Half a small onion, halved again and sliced
Several cloves of garlic
1/2 pound of shrimp, deveined, shelled

Doing it right

Boil 3 cups of water, swish your salt in, and when it’s boiling, stir in the cup of polenta. Let it boil at medium to low heat, stirring every 20-40 seconds to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pot. This is something I forget every other time I make it and end up scraping regret off the pot. Actually no, I cheat and boil water with some baking soda which lifts off almost all burnt-on guck. So don’t burn your grits.

Mince your garlic and slice the onion while the grits are cooking, unless you’re smart and/or had a sous chef do this already. I shooed my sous chef away to chase JuggerBaby around so I had to do the dirty work. Toss garlic and onions into a hot pan and let them cook for a few minutes. You could also toss in your tomatoes now, if you’d diced any. I always err on the side of cooking a little longer at this stage because I don’t want raw onions or overcooked shrimp when I realize I’m going to have raw onions. Because the next step is tossing on the shrimp and on medium heat shrimp cooks through really fast. I hate overcooked shrimp, it’s rubbery and awful. As soon as your shrimp are starting to curl up and the split deveined side turns outward, it’s nearly done. Usually it goes from translucent to solid white too but some don’t, and you don’t want to overcook it seeking that solid white. A few minutes will do the trick.

In the meantime, your grits. Once the pot is hot and smooth when you’re stirring, it’s just about done. If you want (and I usually do), throw in your cheese at this point, stir it well so none is sitting on top and turn off the heat. It’ll thicken in no time. (Actual time: one to two minutes)

To serve: a generous dollop of your cheesy grits on a plate, with a little hollow for your grilled onions and shrimp on top.

I added a handful of too-crispy, slightly burnt kale chips to our plates for our brown-greens. Still edible but those should have come out if the oven a few minutes earlier.

Total time to serve: 45 minutes, and only that long because I was poky and inefficient. Normally I’d have gotten it served in 25-30 minutes. 

November 11, 2016

Finally Friday: a fish fillet dinner

My absolute favorite fish dinner is a whole oven roasted fish, with the skin on, crispy on the outside, moist and flaky inside, flavored with a homemade tamarind sauce, served on a bed of lettuce with a side of cucumber, rolled in rice paper wraps, and dipped in a lemon fish sauce. We would have that at home and it was culinary heaven.

That is not this recipe. Sorry.

Someday it will be. But I tried making it once without a recipe or guidance ten years ago, it was a horrid failure, and I haven’t had the nerve to waste another fish trying it again.

This is a suitable substitute, JuggerBaby approved.

Ingredients

2-4 fish fillets, I like tilapia or catfish
onions
oil, salt, pepper

Baby bok choy
Sesame oil
Diced garlic

Steamed white rice

Directions

I usually steam the white rice first, earlier in the day, since we use a rice cooker and that’s just an easy win. If you need help making perfect white rice, let me know in the comments and I’ll do a little snippet on that later.

The fish and bok choy are ridiculously easy – the fish fillets are placed on a large sheet of foil, sprinkled with oil, salt, pepper, layered with sliced onions (sometimes tomatoes or lemons if I feel like it), and the foil is pinched shut like a little packet. This goes into the toaster oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. It’s my cheater version of Fish en Papillote.

Meanwhile, the bok choy is washed and cut up into smallish pieces. This is tossed into the saucepan after cooking the garlic for a minute, tossed to coat the bok choy with a bit of oil and garlic, and covered for a few minutes on medium-low heat. I add a little drizzle of sesame oil and toss again, then leave it on medium-low heat for a few more minutes. Since JuggerBaby seems to think that ze can’t chew up vegetables that aren’t a bit on the soft side, crunchy like I prefer them, I cook it a little longer than if I were just serving it to adults. Cooked this way, ze will happily munch on bok choy all through dinner.

Total time from prep to serving: 35 minutes.

October 28, 2016

Finally Friday: shepherd’s pie

I love food, and I love cooking for my family now so by somewhat popular vote, I’m sharing some of our family-approved meals here with you, on Fridays.

How I generally try to cook: 3-5 ingredients per dish; use fresh ingredients if possible; time from prep to table goal is 1 hour or less. I aim to serve a starch, veggies, and some protein. Sometimes dessert if I’m feeling incredibly motivated but that’s pretty rare.

It’s cool weather again so I’ve hauled out the Le Crueset for a stovetop to oven dinner. I’ve never made a classic shepherd’s pie, so don’t be surprised if this all looks a bit weird to you. The important thing is that the family will happily eat it.

Our little Le Crueset is one of my favorite kitchen staples. I wouldn’t have splurged on it but it was affordable some years back with a combination of coupons, gift cards, and not being picky about colors. Cherry seems to be the current unpopular color, and therefore cheaper, right now but I can never tell why certain colors are more or less popular than others. I can’t imagine picking white cookware, though, not the way I cook. I don’t need my cookware to advertise my cooking mishaps, thank you very much.

Ingredients:
1 lb of ground turkey
2 diced zucchini
1/2 diced tomato
1/2 cup frozen sweet corn
1/4 cup frozen shelled edamame
1 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp garlic salt
2 potatoes and 2 cups of beef broth to make mashed potatoes topping

I started the mashed potatoes in a medium pot first. I boil my diced potatoes in broth for extra flavor so I can skip the butter and milk or cream. Nothing against them but I prefer to save those fat calories for something really delicious, like butter filled pastries. Mmmm…..

While that was bubbling away, I start to saute the ground turkey with the spices, experimenting with not using black pepper to see how that changes the flavor, over medium heat in the Le Crueset. While that’s cooking, I cut up my vegetables, deciding against adding carrots and onions because that’s ten more minutes of sous chefing on my feet. Once they’re ready, in go the vegetables, including the frozen ones, and everything is cooked through in about ten more minutes.

The heat gets shut off while the potatoes finish cooking through, and I wash all the dishes that were waiting in my spare five minutes. That done, the potatoes are ready to be smashed with a wooden spoon, added to the Le Crueset, and topped with a sprinkling of cheese. Ten minutes at 350 degrees in the oven finishes it off while I prep some broccoli to steam on the side – if JuggerBaby rejects some of the shepherd’s pie veggies, ze will nom on the steamed broccoli. If ze doesn’t, then the broccoli goes into zir lunch for tomorrow.

Total time from prep to serving: 1 hour.

:: What’s your favorite filling combination for a shepherd’s pie?

April 3, 2015

Just a little (link) love: eat your veggies, REALLY, edition

LinkLive

I was all misleading last time I did an Eat Your Veggies edition so I’m really going to share some veggie recipes this time 🙂

CAREER + MONEY THINGS

Female angel investors

Patreon is an interesting new business model (I love Kylee’s products so if you want to support her: have at it!)

FUN THINGS

Dog earns a home after 430 miles (and quarantine)

Star Wars in IttyBitty

Alan Tudyk is back, with ConMan

I would like this in a weekender size but I wouldn’t mind this one either. Or this, that would be good too.

This is silly: men describing menstrual pain

INTERESTING THINGS

I really need people to pay attention to the racism that exists today because when cops come under fire for supporting equality, there’s something wrong.

How Can You Be Mad at Someone Who’s Dying of Cancer?

When a generation declutters

You’d think we’d have figured out government email protocols by now

VEGGIES!

I am terrible at vegetable side dishes, so I always look for the easiest way out possible. Proportions for my veggie recipes are pretty flexible. I don’t tend to measure much, and I skimp on oils and butters to just the minimum necessary to get the job done.

Sugar snap peas

1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 pinch sea salt to taste
1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
*optional: 1 teaspoon chili oil

Heat the sesame oil (and chili oil if desired) over medium-high heat. Toss the snap peas until they turn bright green and start to become tender, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper as they cook. Sprinkle peas with sesame seeds, and toss before serving.

Other variations: saute bacon (cut strips to approximately 2 inch pieces) first and toss the snap peas in the pan with the nearly cooked bacon. Because everything is better with bacon. Unless you don’t like bacon….

Green Beans

1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut to 1.5 inches
butter
minced garlic

Blanch green beans in boiling water, about 3-4 minutes, until they’re bright green. Toss in a small pat of butter, let it melt and coat all the green beans. Mix in as much minced garlic as you like.

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