Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pork and Pancakes for Christmas

I know most food blogs post lots of recipes over the holidays for the benefit of their readers.

With baby Rachel: check out those aunt-ing skillz

Well this blog is for me, and I was busy. This is not to say you should not read my entires. In fact, I welcome it, and it truly encourages me. However, if I thought about this blog as a responsibility, it would never have lasted as long as it has. When I get busy, the blog takes a backseat. When I am bored, it keeps my occupied. The most important part of all is it keeps me cooking, and maybe...just maybe it gets you to cook too. Like this:

I usually stay pretty busy when I come to Florida for the holidays. I try to spend some quality time with my friends and family that I rarely get to see during the year. This Christmas, I got to see my whole Puerto-Rican Style family for Christmas Eve and then my brother's family for Christmas Day. I even got to spend some time with my boyfriend's family the day after. Nothing made me happier than to see so many people I love in the short time I have here. A highlight included my aunt Janet's new fluffy black dog, Diva. See if you can spot her sandwiched between our dark curly hair in the pictures below:

My Aunt Janet makes flavorful, tender Puerto-Rican style pork every year for Christmas Eve dinner, but this year was absolutely, by far THE. BEST. PORK. I. HAVE. EVER. HAD. I couldn't stop eating it. I wish I could pass along her wisdom with a simple recipe and a little story, but this is something that comes with years of practice, trial, error and patience.

We had another pork the next night for Christmas night which we shared with my sister-in-law's wonderful family. Then it was time for dessertland.


Now, I have never bothered to includes ads on my blog because I don't know that I have all that many readers. However, I am going to go ahead and personally endorse my first product.

Without this product's knowledge or approval I am going to crown it the official pancake accessory of Bite Me Food Blog. It was gift for my sister-in-law who makes pancakes about 100% more than I ever do. The pancake pen jumped out at me when I was skimming through a magazine one day months ago. It worked far better than I ever imagined it would, and it was a blast to use to amuse my 4-year-old niece:

Check out the cutie presenting the plates with her sister's name on them. Poor Charlotte's name is too long so she just got a "C".

She was super impressed up until the point where I could not be precise enough to give Minnie Mouse a bow between her ears; she had to settle for a blue berry bow after being plated.

I am not going to supply you with a fantastic pancake recipe here because to be honest, I cared very little about the taste of the pancakes and more about the fun we would have making them. I used the "just add water kind" and attempted to cover it up with an array of toppings and mix-ins. I call it "pancake bar": chocolate chips, blueberries, bananas, pecans and any combo you can think of. I ended up with a choco-banana-nut pancake, and I must say the letter "A" (or whatever letter I had) never tasted so good.

I don't really have a recipe for you, just a couple tips. Consider them a late Christmas present: #1 buy the pancake pen if you or someone you know have kids who could get a kick out of it and #2 make the lost of your left overs.

Number 2 might hit home specifically to my brother and sister-in-law who like us, must have at least 4 to 5 pounds of pork left over from Christmas dinner. Of course, you don't want to get stuck eating the same thing every night just to avoid the guilt of throwing something perfectly good away later. It is important to get creative with leftovers, especially when you have a ton of the same thing (this might be a familiar Thanksgiving situation including turkey instead of pork). This year, I decided to use some of the pork leftovers to make BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.

It was simple to shred the meaty pieces into smaller ones and reheat with plenty of brown sugar BBQ sauce, slap it on a bun, and call it a good ole' American meal. Another use of the pork was just as part of a salad that included dried cranberries, feta cheese, apple slices and walnuts. Considering we originally enjoyed the pork as an authentic Puerto-Rican style dish, the variations so far have been different enough to keep the meal "fresh" in my mind. What's next? Pork enchiladas? sweet and sour pork? Pork Pancakes?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Card UpDATES: Prosciutto-Wrapped Stuffed Dates

I love "family update" Christmas cards. I really really do.

I want to be clear that while it may sound like it, this is not a sarcastic "love". I truly look forward to updates each year through photos and funny stories on anyone from families I am close to families I haven't seen in years and would not recognize them if they passed by on the sidewalk if it were not for their annual Christmas card updates. I suppose we will all always be curious about the people we know or even used to know and what they have been up to and what has become important to them over the years. I have consolidated my need to update anyone in my life by having a blog. I do also send out life updates to friends and family via email from time to time. However, this year, I have decided to put together my own version of a "family-update" Christmas card right here where it belongs.

Greetings friends and family! What's up with you? Feel free to send your responses via a family-update Christmas card to my home address (anytime of year). In case you were wondering about me at all over the past year, let me unsolicitedly update you.

Family: That's going pretty well. I now have three nieces as Rachel Marie was born October 19th. Zach and I adopted an addition into our little LA family, Stanley Weissmilian, back in the early spring. While it took him quite a while to adjust to his couch-potato lifestyle, he seems to have accepted that he will have to happily live out his days in his "retirement home".

Zach and I have been doing a pretty good job waddling through the responsibilities of adulthood, job, bills, Christmas card updates. This may actually be the first holiday season I can announce that we are both very happy with our jobs at the same time. While each of us have like past positions, we are finally both pretty satisfied this year. These jobs afford us the glamourous lifestyle of watching a lot of TV or Netflix instant (through our sweet Roku hookup) while eating gummy bears on the couch Stanley so generously shares with us. We also enjoy:
*going to the gym (increasingly less this year)
*complaining about the Ralph's grocery store down the street and how they never have anything I need, but it is just so close that I wouldn't consider going somewhere else
*getting to know our neighborhood chinese takeout workers
*traveling to far off places (see blog post about local travel)
*fighting about politics...not usually with each other but with people in/on the news (again with the TV)

Television shows we have liked this year include (in no particular order):
Mad Men (AMC)
Glee (Fox)
The Office (NBC)
Dexter (Showtime)
Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Entourage (HBO)
Big Love (HBO)
Penn and Teller's Bull$h*t! (Showtime)
Breaking Bad (AMC)
Parenthood (NBC)
In Treatment (HBO)
Jersey Shore (MTV)
Damages (FX)

Movies we have liked his year (in no particular order):
The Kids are Alright
City Island
Black Swan
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Star Trek
The Fighter
Hot Tub Time Machine
Please Give
Tillman Story
A Single Man
The Switch
Never Let Me Go
The Social Network

New Years resolutions:
None, they don't work.

I just changed my mind about not having a New Years resolution; I hear by commit to convincing my dear friends Case and Becky to move to Southern California. Starting now:

Dilemmas I foresee coming up in the next year:
*Should we keep or cancel the Costco membership when we only go about 3 times a year?
*Should we celebrate out 5 year anniversary jointly with Stanley's adoption anniversary? This will set a precedent for years to come.
*Will I finally spring for a proper umbrella before the next time it rains in LA, or will I stick with the mini-umbrella we struggled with during the great week of constant rain in early December of this year?
*Will I stop cooking things I have already made on this blog over and over again so I can have finally some new material to share?
*How long will it take my hair to grow out of this between stage it is in where it is not short enough and not long enough?

Lastly, I worry I may spend quite a deal of time in the coming year wishing I were a part of this random family I photographed on the beach in La Jolla because then I could submit some great pics to Awkward Family Photos. Yes they are wearing neon matching Disneyland t-shirts.

There you have it. Maybe while you are at it, you should have these too.

These little gems are great for a Christmas appetizer. I wish you all a Merry Merry Christmas and a Happy Happy New Year...Thanks for reading my blog!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Stuffed Dates

(recipe from Cooking Light Magazine)

3/4 cup (6 ounces) goat cheese
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
24 whole pitted dates
6 thin slices prosciutto

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a fork. Slice dates lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, other side. Open dates; place 1 rounded teaspoon cheese mixture into each date. Cut 1 prosciutto slice in half lengthwise and then crosswise to make 4 equal pieces. Repeat procedure with remaining prosciutto to form 24 pieces. Wrap each date with 1 prosciutto piece; place dates on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until filling is thoroughly heated. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

THE Cookie

It's the season for milk n' cookies.

I'll have to admit I thought my milk n' cookies and pizza party days were behind me. But I am glad to report that adults have pizza parties too. And grown ups besides Santa Cause can enjoy milk and cookies.

My boss had the wonderfully retro idea of having an office pizza party to celebrate the holidays. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to get back on the wagon and try my hand at baking again. You see, I have been failing miserably lately, and I thought that if I ended up botching yet another cookie recipe, at least there would be pizza around to comfort any disappointed individuals.

I refuse to be one of those "I-am terrible-at-baking" people. A wise friend of mine once expressed his disdain for this sort of complacent, self-aware-of-my-faults attitude. Of course, his disdain lies more in character flaws like "I-am-selfish-so-sue-me" or "I-am-always-late-so-just-learn-to-expect-it-people" and less in things like "I-have-no-patience-for-baking" or "I-use-too-many-hyphens-when-I-write-blogs".

However, as an exploratory recipe-blogger I feel a sense of responsibility to try things with which I may be uncomfortable, particularly because I may demand you do the same at times. This "we're all in it together" mentality is the message of this blog.

I have wanted to try the NY Times recipe for a while now (which was all the craze a few years ago). However, that recipe requires you to refrigerate the dough at least 24 hours. I hardly have the patience for baking; waiting at least 24 hours to bake the dough is out of the question. I found a recipe that claimed to be the "last chocolate chip cookie recipe you will ever need" and did not require the 24 hour chilling period. The recipe comes from Ashley Rodriguez of the popular food blog, Not Without Salt . I decided to give it a try and follow the recipe exactly as is. The only thing I changed was to use already chunked chocolate (high quality) instead of chopping my own. Ashley explains in her post that chocolate chips have a waxy texture that makes them cute and pretty, but does not do so well in the taste department. The chunks really were better than chips, and I bet a great quality chocolate bar broken up would be even BETTER! The tiny pinch of sea salt on each cookie was such a great touch too. I truly have found the last chocolate chip cookie recipe I will ever need.

I know that if I can make great cookies, anyone can. It seems this is a fool-proof recipe if I ever saw one. Just follow the directions exactly. The cookies turned out perfectly. They were thick with just the right texture: soft/chewy on the inside with a nice soft crusty outside. I do not like the flat greasy/chewy kind of chocolate chip cookie because the cookie does not absorb the milk the way these could. Sometimes it pays off to take risks and attack your flaws full force.

The party was a success as well! A great group showed up, and it was really nice to just relax and spend time with the people I work with or at least along side of every day. I am including a couple pictures of the office here. It is such a great space, and my boss has it decorated so nicely. My camera doesn't work very well without tons of natural light so these pictures don't even do it justice; most pictures of the attendees were just too blurry to post.

Main room:

My desk:

PTP (Personal Trainer Patrick) judging all the cookie and pizza eaters as he offers a tangerine instead:

The guardians of the pizza:

THE Chocolate Chip Cookie

(recipe from Not Without Salt, a food blog)

2 sticks butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup Turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)
1 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cup All Purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 lb. chocolate (use the best quality chocolate you can afford. With a serrated knife cut chocolate chunks roughly 1/2 inch)

Cream the butter and the sugars until light. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Continue mixing while adding the eggs one at time. Make sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Combine the flour, soda and salt in another bowl. With a whisk, stir to combine. With the machine on low, slowly add the flour. Mix until just combined, taking care not to over mix. With a spatula fold in the chocolate.
If you so choose, and I do recommend that you do, sprinkle a very fine dusting of good quality sea salt. Fleur de Sel or Murray River Pink Salt are my recommendations.
Bake at 360* for 12 minutes. They should be lightly golden on the outside but still look gooey on the inside.

PS - I made my trusty Cakie recipe as well. This time, I tried Red Velvet cake mix and added white chocolate chips. You just need to follow the original recipe and use white chocolate chips instead of regular chocolate chips or M&M's. It was fantastic (aside from the stains it left on my hands). I failed to get a great picture, but you get the idea here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 - Vegetable Tian Time + a Tribute to Southern California

Quite possibly what I love most about Southern California is the fact that you can drive an hour or so in any direction and be in a completely different world.

To the NORTH, you have Santa Barbara, an upscale costal town with mountains, great restaurants, a beautiful pier, bike trails, shops, wine and a sophisticated beach bum attitude as well as the Malibu Mountains where you will find anything from a beautiful dam on a hike to a line of buddhist monks at the Getty Center Gardens.

To the EAST, you have the dessert areas like Palm Springs (a chill desert town with a retro-chic charm and a huge casino), Joshua Tree (a small hippy-ish native town with a huge unspeakably beautiful national park for hiking, camping and awwwwing), other desert towns (where you can do things like apple-picking or gambling at random casinos) and Big Bear Lake in the mountains (great for hiking, kayaking and other water sports in the summer, snow skiing in the winter and lama petting!).

To the SOUTH, you have charming coastal towns like La Jolla (where the seals literally sun bathe on the shore). New Port, Huntington, Seal Beach and Laguna are all worth while destinations for weekend trips that might include surfing, relaxing, shopping and whale watching. You might even prefer the small-town life in a place like Jullian, famous for their apple and berry pies. Travel slightly farther south, and you will reach beautiful San Diego...slightly farther to reach Mexico!

To the WEST (southwest), you have Catalina Island which is a gorgeous small island off the coast of Long Beach. Catalina is extra romantic and relaxing, but you can always occupy yourself with the beach, SCUBA, fishing, walks through the gardens and the casino...unfortunately, I cannot find my pictures from Catalina. I will just have to go again soon I suppose!

The amazing thing about these each-completely-different pictures is not that they are all in California (the state is huge!), but that they are all within day-trip distance of Los Angeles (2 hours or less). I wanted to expand to all of California (or weekend-trip distance), we would have a completely different situation on our hands! I would include places like Mammoth Mountain for skiing, San Francisco or even Las Vegas (which is slightly out of state, but still just under 4 hours driving. This place is crazy!

Part 3 of our Thanksgiving adventure takes place in a town just southeast of Los Angeles called Temecula. Temecula is one of the wine countries of Southern California, reaffirming the southern California mentality that you can, in fact, have it all. I couldn't believe this area even existed. I loved traveling to Northern California and visiting Sonoma and Napa wine country the few times I went. It seemed like such a unique experience and great way to spend a relaxing day just frolicking from winery to winery casually sipping on wines that took the winemakers years to perfect. Then you say something like, "I like this one...has a bite to it...now THIS one...it has less of a bite at first but then it kicks in after a few seconds." I, of course, don't really know what I am talking about, but it is fun to compare the wines once you have started to try them. It is also fun to take a little piece of the experience home with you when you buy a bottle...or two...or three...or....

I must be fair and say Temecula is no Napa. It is less beautiful and the wineries do not have the reputation of the northern California wineries. However, it is the perfect substitute when you consider the time it takes to travel to Northern wine country and the lack of knowledge I possess about the difference between a taste of a good wine and of a great one (if that barrier even occurs here...like I said...I cannot tell). I decided to take my parents to Temecula for some lunch on the terrace of a winery that overlooks the Temecula valley and some tastings of our own. It was a really nice time, and we got back to town just in time for a Lebanese feast at one of my favorite restaurants, Pi which was followed by a trip to the Planetarium show at the Griffith Park Observatory. Phew! It makes me tired just recapping it.

The final recipe I will share with you from my Thanksgiving feast was the first recipe I decided on making. As you can see, it was at the top of my list on the chalkboard:

Vegetable Tian is something I have never heard of before. I am still not entirely sure of what it means, but it seemed like the perfect side dish (not only for Thanksgiving, but for anytime of year). The recipe I used was from a really great cooking blog I came across called For the Love of Cooking. This was one of several recipes I will be trying from this site. I am especially drawn to the roasted chicken recipes she has posted...there are some unique and delicious sounding ideas I am excited about. The result for this dish was so pretty and tasty as well. It is just a great way to get in your starch and veggie sides in one fancy-looking dish. The one thing I regret is prepping this one ahead. I baked it half way (without the cheese) the day before, and then I continued the day of. The cooking times were all off because I was putting a cold dish into the oven on Thanksgiving day instead of a pipping hot one (because you are normally just taking it out to put the cheese on and then returning it to the oven). The result was still tasty, but my potatoes did not end up cooking properly so we were forced to get by on only the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes on the table this year.

Vegetable Tian

(recipe exactly from For the Love of Cooking - serves 6)

2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
1 large sweet yellow onion cut in half and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 russet potatoes, unpeeled
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
3 large Roma tomatoes
Sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Dried thyme, to taste
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 60 seconds. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the greased baking dish.
Slice the potatoes, zucchini, squash and tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly into a spiral, making only one layer. Season with sea salt, black pepper and dried thyme, to taste. Drizzle the last tablespoon of olive oil over the top.
Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Uncover and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until browned.

*I forgot to et a close up of the dish with my camera, but my dad snapped this shot with his phone. I guess I got a little tired of taking pictures by the time it came out of the oven. The good (read: great) news is that the blog link for the original recipe has a beautiful picture that I could never duplicate anyway. So look to that for inspiration, and enjoy!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 - Sweet Potato Casserole Time

I had a helper in the kitchen when I was cooking my Thanksgiving feast.

Stanley loves to follow me around the kitchen while I cook. I thought he was looking for handouts, but I never gave in as to keep from encouraging it. However, I realized the other day that he follows me around the house in the kitchen or out. If I am working on the computer in the bedroom, he stands there next to me. He was not looking for handouts in the kitchen (I was making vegetables at the time, not exactly tasty to him), he just wanted to be with me. Nothing made my Elmyra side happier than this revelation. I knew he could never resist a cushy spot on the ground as long as it was in the same room so I put his bed in the doorway of the kitchen so we could hang out together, but he would not be in the way of my every step. I know he was happy to be there with me, but it made me really happy too to have the company. Such a sweet boy.

I did make something sweet for the Thanksgiving table this year, and I am not talking about the dessert. Sweet potato casserole has been one of my specialties growing up. From the time I was in college (and felt the need to contribute something of my own to the family feast), I would make a sweet potato casserole, garlic cheese biscuits and some sort of dessert. In the past, I have used canned sweet potato chunks for the base of this "recipe". I say "recipe" because I have never really followed any sort of instructions to make this. This year, I decided to keep with my make-from-scratch theme and bake the potatoes. Sweet potatoes are so creamy and delicious, I could have eaten them right out of the oven just the way they are. The natural sugar gives the skin a caramelized taste. I added a couple new things to my "recipe" this year that I think worked really well including bits of the skin (bonus fiber and some nice texture) and ground almonds for a nice smooth nutty flavor.

Stanley Is Sweet Potato Casserole

(Serves 6)

4 sweet potatoes
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 C half and half
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 ground almonds (plus a little to sprinkle for the topping)
1/2 C pecan pieces
1 C mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Individually wrap each potato in foil, and bake for about an hour (until completely fork tender).
Turn oven down to 350 degrees F.
Scoop out flesh of baked sweet potatoes, and mash with a potato masher (you can use a fork if you like them to be chunkier)
Chop up the skin of one of the potatoes into small pieces and sprinkle into the mashed potatoes.
Add half and half, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground almonds and mix together until combined.
Fold in pecan pieces.
Transfer mixture to a square 8" casserole dish; spread evenly into the dish.
Sprinkle some ground almond on top of the mixture, and evenly sprinkle marshmallows on top (you can also sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon on top of the marshmallows).
Put the casserole back in the oven for about 20 minutes (or until the marshmallows start to toast.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 - Green Bean Casserole Time

I realize this is a little late, but I have some great Thanksgiving recipes for you.

The good news is most of these dishes, you can make anytime of year. Of course you are welcome to make a huge turkey and gravy anytime of year, but those dishes are better left to have something to look forward to each November.

My parents visited for Thanksgiving this year which I could not be more excited about. When preparing a Thanksgiving feast, little to no consideration goes into how many people will be at my table. My turkey is 13 lbs, they only sell Yukon Gold potatoes by the 1 1/2 lb, and 1/2 of my aunts stuffing recipe still contains 2 lbs of beef. The good news is, I am hosting this dinner at my place this year which makes for quick and easy storage of leftovers to eat for weeks! There was a cutthroat process to limit f=down the dishes that ended up making it onto the table. I recently painted a wall in my kitchen with chalkboard paint, and I decided to map out the meal there.

I wrote out all my ideas and then went all "politician" on it, making "line-by-line" cuts to the budget...the only difference is, I actually did make cuts, significant cuts like slashing the rum cake, succotash and mac and cheese.

Truth be told, I wanted to be sure to make some dishes I haven't made before so that I could share them on my blog. That is something I really appreciate about keeping this blog; it keeps me on my toes, trying new things instead of getting to complacent with my cooking comfort zone.

Green bean casserole is something I wanted to make from scratch this year. My dad has always been responsible for this dish when my whole family gets together, and it solely consists of cans: canned green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, canned fried onions...oh a bag of chopped pecans as well. Now, don't get me wrong. I have learned to love this "dump and go" green bean casserole over the years, but I wanted to try to make it from scratch to see how it holds up. I used a popular recipe from Alton Brown, and I dare to say it was worth the extra effort. I may tweak it a bit next year by adding more green beans and also adding pecans (the way my dad does), but I highly suggest this recipe for the essential Thanksgiving dish.

I am particularly confident in recommending this recipe because it happened to be Zach's favorite dish at the table this year, even though he does not like green beans. There are several more recipes where this came from so stay tuned!

Alton Brown's Best Ever Green Bean Casserole

(recipe from Food Network's Alton Brown - serves 6)

For the topping:
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Nonstick cooking spray
For beans and sauce:
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Toss the onions 2 to 3 times during cooking. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F.

While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Top with the remaining onions. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sometimes Sides Take Center Stage

Say that 10 times fast.

I made a roasted chicken for dinner. I am still impressed with myself every time I pull out a whole, beautifully cooked bird from the oven. I am not sure why because it is really one of the easiest things to do, but it just looks so pretty. However, last night I made a roasted chicken with a spicy rub that looked much better going into the oven than it did coming out. It is not the recipe's fault. It is just that I was supposed to slow cook the thing, and seeing as how I wasn't able to start until about 6pm, I kind of rushed things a bit. The spicy rub charred, and turned black. It actually didn't look so bad once I rubbed the charred part off a bit.

While the chicken was still delicious, and the spicy rub flavor was the bomb, it fell behind the star of the evening's meal, the Mediterranean couscous.

I have never made couscous before. But sometimes you need an escape from the same old rice and potatoes. I liked this recipe because it was basically the starch and the vegetable in one. It could definitely even be the main dish in a vegetarian meal. It was so flavorful and pretty healthy (due to the vegetables, not the couscous since it is basically teeny weeny bits of pasta). I cannot wait to experiment with this weird little food some more, but I don't know that I will be able to beat this recipe.

Tracie's Couscous Salad

(recipe adapted from Paula Deen)

1 box flavored couscous (garlic or Parmesan), cooked (I used toasted pine nut flavored couscous)
1 can chickpeas
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped (I used a shallot)
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 to 3 limes, juiced (I used lemon)

*Be sure to chop everything nice and small so that nothing is too chunky. This is the kind of thing you eat with a spoon

In a large bowl, toss all the ingredients with the olive oil and lime juice, to taste.