Saturday, January 30, 2010

Take the Bad With the Good

We have all done it, ladies.

You sit down in a restaurant, and your internal monologue goes to work: "saladorburgersaladorfriedchickensaladorgrilledcheesesaladorpizza?"

"What can I get for you?", asks the server. It is time to make a decision.

YOU: "I will go with the salad today. Light dressing on the side. 86 the cheese."

SERVER: "Is there anything else I get you?"

YOU: "Well since you asked, let's add an order of know for everyone. Oh, I will also have a diet coke."

And so it goes. We make ourselves feel better about the bad by simply tacking it onto the good.

Ordering pizza? Add a salad.

Juicy burger? Leave off the Mayo.

Ordering fried chicken? Slap it on top of a salad.

Well, it is that mentality I worked off of here. It is not that this chicken is so so bad for you, but it was certainly made worse by the fact that I was adding a huge chunk of No Fail Bread slathered with my new original recipe for Bacon Rum Butter (recipe soon to come) on the side. This recipe is very easy. The inspiration came from a Paula Dean recipe for scallops which I will likely try one day as well, but since I have a 10 lb bag of frozen chicken in the freezer I decided to go with that. Bacon. Mustard. Chicken.

Bustard Chicken

(makes 2 chicken breasts)

4 strips smoked bacon
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Peanut oil (you can also use vegetable or canola if that is all you have)

Ahead of time:
Cook the bacon (not too crisp) by microwave or on a skillet.
Drop the bacon and the mustard into a food processor (from the hole in the top while it is already running).
Keep the food processor on until the mustard and bacon is thoroughly mixed or even pureed.
Coat the chicken breasts with the bacon/mustard mixture and place them in a ziploc bag. Place the bag in the refrigerator and let sit for at least 5-6 hours.

To cook:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet (should be about 1/4 inch thick).
Take the chicken out of the plastic bags, making sure to use every last bit of the bacon mixture to coat the breasts.
Once the oil is hot, Use tongs to place the coated chicken breasts into the hot oil. Cook for about 1 minute on each side.
Transfer the chicken breasts to a small baking pan, making sure to scrape up all the bits of bacon/mustard from the skillet and putting it on top of the chicken on the baking pan. Place the pan with the chicken in the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the chicken in cooked all the way through.

I served the hot, crispy chicken over a nice fresh salad which included tomatoes, light ranch dressing, sharp cheddar cheese and chunks of toasted no fail bread.

The Boston Lady - a guest blog

Guest blogs are the best. I love collecting the recipes that people I am close to treasure. The following guest recipe comes from someone about whom I have spoken frequently. It is Zach's mom, also known as "The Boston Lady" on her very own, highly entertaining (especially if you care to see occasional baby photos of Zach) blog named after her lovely Boston Terriers. The Boston Lady has been a huge encouragement in my cooking ventures. She has not only given me some great ideas, but she has also given us some cooking materials that have become and will forever be staples in our kitchen (i.e. the handy-dandy slow cooker and my cast iron skillet). I was also prompted to make three adorable purchases from Anthropology after being given a gift card by her and Zach's dad (also referred to as "Mr. Tennis"... she has fitting nicknames for everyone on her blog) for Christmas this year. These newest additions to the kitchen include my almost-too-lovely-to-cook-in Anthropology apron which hangs here on the wall next to my huge match-shaped lighter for the gas grill (on the left) and the beautiful retro hand-mixers (also given to me by The Boston Lady on the right).

The crossed silver spoon hooks on which I have chosen to hang the apron:

And the teeny weeny bluebird salt and pepper shakers on the table:

From the day that I met them in Orlando, Zach's family has made me feel comfortable and welcome. The cast is as follows:
The Maven: Zach's younger sister is charming, passionate, easy to talk to and a talented musician. She has the same sense of humor as her brother which is the quality I have always loved most about him.
Mr. Tennis: Zach's dad is lovable, kind-hearted, charismatic and generous.
Orlando Grandma: Mr. Tennis' mother is spunky, thoughtful and can make anyone laugh.
The Boston Lady: Zach's mom is smart, compassionate, encouraging and someone I look up to a great deal.
The Writer: This is The Boston Lady's nickname for her son about whom I have already said enough.

So here you have it: a guest blog by The Boston Lady. This post along with so many others can be found on her own blog, The Boston Lady. Enjoy!

When The Writer entered Kindergarten, he made a life-long friend who was a steady fixture in our house over the years. They were truly opposites. The Writer being somewhat quiet and introspective and his buddy, Elliott, a virtual whirlwind of activity and mischief. It ended up being such a special friendship not just for The Writer, but for our whole family. Elliott was just a part of our household and we liked to think of him as our second son.

The Writer and Elliott with their sax teacher, Mr. Wier circa 1999
When Elliott and The Writer were in middle school, I was the morning carpool driver. The boys will tell you those were somewhat hellish mornings waiting for our third carpool member, a female, to emerge from her house, always 10-15 minutes late. It was an exercise in patience and restraint. It was during these years that I started giving Elliott a little bag of homemade peanut butter cookies on his birthday. A tradition I've sworn to carry on as long as possible. Since Elliott still lived in O-town, this task has just been a matter of dropping the cookies off at his parent's house as I knew he would drop by there on his special day. I always got a phone call, or special thank you note from him declaring it was always his best birthday present. Well, I know my second son, and he is a flatterer, but I appreciated his appreciation nonetheless.

This year, Mr. Elliott is living in Oklahoma! Awaiting the birth of his baby girl! The Boston Lady had to think ahead this year. I extracted Elliott's address from him while he was in Orlando in December. I marked today as the day I would make THE cookies and Monday for mailing day so they would arrive to Elliott, Birthday Boy, Daddy-to-be, by Feb 3, his day of birth.

Elliott doesn't know the recipe I use. It's one I've modified over the years, but it is a classic peanut butter cookie recipe that I always use from a cookbook my mother gave me when I married Mr. Tennis in 1981.

The book always falls open to the peanut butter cookie recipe because I've used it so much over the years for school bake sales, Christmas cookies, family get togethers and of course the annual baking of Elliott's Bday cookies.

So here you have it:

My Second Son's Birthday Peanut Butter Cookies:

(From The Joy of Cooking)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup granulated sugar

Beat until soft:
1/2 Cup of butter

Add the sugar gradually to the butter and blend until creamy.

Beat in:
1 egg
1 Cup of peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Sift before measuring:
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
Add flour to batter as well as:
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.

I vary the recipe slightly by adding the vanilla when I blend the sugars and butters. It just seems to help them blend better. I also do not sift my flour. After everything is mixed together (in my Aunt Dot's bowl, using my mother's wooden spoon) I add a bag of Reese's peanut butter chips.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Press a fork into some leftover flour and press down cookies forming the usually seen grid pattern on peanut butter cookies.

Bake 10 minutes, let cool ten minutes and then remove from pan and let cool on some paper towels.

Happy Birthday Elliott!! Love, Your Other Family

Monday, January 25, 2010


Muffin fail.

This may not look like a huge failure, but it I am here to tell you (and so is Zach) that it most certainly was. I wanted to make muffins after a brief discussion about how muffins are underrated with my friend, Amanda. I told her I would name an amazing muffin after her one day: The Amanda. Well, I like Amanda. She is my friend. This muffin was not my friend, nor did I like it.

NO GOOD. I am not going to consider this my fault. I made 2 batches, and they were no good. The best part about these muffins is that I get to use the word "fail" as a noun to describe them. For more on that, please enjoy this ever entertaining Fail Blog. The only other good this about them is they looked just adorable in my tree bark bowl next to my band new Anthropology blue-birdie salt and pepper shakers:

I baked something else to make myself feel better about my muffins.

It is one of the most popular recipes on, and I have made it before. It is a soft, dense and slightly sweet white bread. The first time I made this bread was the first time I ever used yeast. I used to be scared of the smelly, living stuff. Don't ask me how it works, but this recipe makes it really easy to use. The bread reminds me of the amazing bread my friend Anna's mom used to make.

The original recipe calls the bread "Amish White Bread." I once ate dinner in an Amish home when I was in Pennsylvania with my aunt and uncle, and these people know food. I would probably be willing to try almost any recipe if you slap the word, "Amish" in front of it. This bread recipe has only increased my confidence in the previous statement. It is the opposite of my muffin fail.

No Fail Bread

(recipe from allrecipes - makes 2 loaves)

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.
Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth.

Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth.

Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9x5 inch loaf pans.*
Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

*I found that it took much much longer for the inside of the loaves to bake in the 9x5" pan. The middle was still doughy after the 30 minutes. However, last time I made this, I used the mini-loaf pans. I believe maybe 4 or 5 of them, and they were perfect after 30 minutes.

Friday, January 22, 2010


In case you were wondering. The bridal shower last weekend was a success.

It has been a long time since I have had such a girly weekend. It was essentially full of flowers, tissue paper, sangria, cheese plates, chocolate, magazine, purses, toothpicks, ice cream, ribbon and pictures. To top it off, I even bought a pink long sleeved shirt this morning at the mall. Ridiculous.

Even thought I would have loved to, I did not really get to make any food (besides sangria) for the bridal shower since we had too much to do in such a small amount of time. We bought almost all of the food, but I think it turned out just fine.

The bride does not like cake so we did a chocolate fountain and an ice cream bar instead which was delightful.

The games were silly but really fun.

I would like to let all of you know that if you should ever have anything shipped from Crate and Barrel, you do not EVER need to worry that it might break. They use plentiful tissue and padding in just a single medium-sized box.

The weather was nice as well.

I am not even going to pretend that this recipe has anything to do with that weekend. It is something I made the week before that was simple and easy. I didn’t want to do any heavy duty cooking since I wasn't necessarily going to have a relaxing weekend. Zach loves chicken potpie. I tried to make one a couple moths ago, but it never made the blog because we hated it. It was horrible. I say this so that you know I filter the recipes that end up on here. There are not many things I make with the intention of posting and then don’t, but there are have been a couple disasters. This chicken poop pie was probably the worst, but there was the salmon incident (summer 2009) and then the dry sugar cookie bar debacle (also summer 2009).

This chicken potpie was pretty much a sure thing. It was too simple to mess up. I mean, it is a recipe printed on the back of the Bisquick box for Heaven’s sake. It is a great weeknight comfort food recipe. However, I am still on the hunt for a chicken potpie recipe that uses nice variety of fresh vegetables, flavorful seasoning and a tasty golden crust…something that will take the better part of a Sunday afternoon to make.

This is Good for Now Chicken Potpie:

(makes 4 servings)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 10 oz can cream of chicken soup
1 large egg
1 C bisquick mix
½ C milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Mix vegetables, chicken, soup in a mixing bowl. Mix the bisquick, egg and milk in a separate bowl. Pour the chicken mixture into a small casserole dish, and pour the bisquick mix over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the bisquick is cooked thoroughly. Mine could have used a few more minutes...possibly 35 or 40.

Friday, January 15, 2010

This Is Nuts

Am I nuts?

Possibly. I am taking a red-eye flight out tonight from Los Angeles to Tampa. This will put me in the Sunshine State (which ironically is not as sunny as California right least that is what I hear) by 5:46 AM. I will be picked up from the Tampa International airport at 6:00 AM by my lovely, hope-they-won't-hate-me, friends. I will then proceed to gallivant around town with them picking up supplies, food and decorations for the bridal shower we will be hosting the following day. Monday afternoon I will lunch with part of the bridal party from another amazing wedding before hoping back on a plane back to Los Angeles. I live for this crazy stuff.

Yes, it is that time in life. Marriage is in the air. I am the proud proud friend of three very engaged, very beautiful couples.

Chroe - Christy and Joe. Don't you just want to be friends with these people? I mean, look at them. They really look alike, don't they. It seems like they should know exactly what their children will look like.

Jeagan - Jonathan and Meagan. Gorgeous people with big hearts. Meagan is my oldest friend, and you should know her parents dressed up as homeless people to get this shot taken right after he proposed.

Amandike - Amanda and Mikey. This picture says it all. Adventurous, fun, and contemplative. Mikey likes to say things like, "Arranged Marriages...Discuss." I also feel that I should mention they will not be having an arranged marriage; they have been dating for over nine years.

So anyway, this weekend will be nuts. So I have decided to share with you a recipe involving them. I received this recipe through an email recipe exchange. My aunt sent me the original email, I sent an email out to some unsuspecting victims and then I received some fun recipes back. I look forward to making a few of them this year!

Samantha's Broccoli with Garlic Butter and Cashews

1.5 pounds fresh broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped, salted (or unsalted) cashews

Place broccoli into a large pot with about 1 inch of water in the bottom. Bring to a boil, and cooke for 7 minutes, or until tender but still crsip. Drain (well) and arrange on a serving platter.
While the broccoli is cooking, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Mix in the brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, pepper and garlic. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Mix in the cashews and pour the sauce over the broccoli. Serve immediately.

Tip: For thicker sauce, mix 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch with a little bit of water and add it after the garlic. If you add the cornstarch directly to the sauce without mixing it first with a little water, it tends to clump.

I think this would also be great if you stir fry some chicken with the sauce (you would have to make more) and broccoli and serve it over rice.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fair Stealing

Don't judge me.

Yes, I am one of those people who say, "I love Thai food," but really mean, "I love pad Thai (and I am not really sure about anything else)."

Also, I am becoming cheap. Cooking at home is supposed to be the economic way to eat, but sometimes when making a new or exotic recipe, buying all the ingredients can cost you more than a dinner for two at a nice restaurant. In an attempt to encourage you to try new recipes (or maybe just to allow me to afford the recipes I make), I have come up with a cost-effective scheme I would like to share with all of you: fair stealing.

If you know you will be making something like Pad Thai (or anything for which you lack many of the random ingredients) ahead of time, pay attention to sauces and packets at the places you dine. I am becoming way too cheap to buy the entire bottle of Thai hot sauce (e.g. sriracha) or red pepper flakes (I had never used them before) because of the small amounts of each required for this recipe. I swiped my sriracha from a chicken take-out restaurant I had ordered from that allows you to fill up tiny containers of different hot sauces with your to-go order. I believe I have my lifetime supply of red pepper flakes from our regular pizza joint (I asked the to-go guy to throw a couple packets of the hot stuff in the box). If I know I will be making something using artificial sweetener (like a salad dressing), I just grab a couple extra packets from the coffee shop since it is not something I keep around the kitchen. I happened to have most of the other ingredients for this recipe, but soy sauces and even sometimes fish sauce is freely available at any Chinese restaurant. I do not condone walking into a restaurant, making the grab, and bailing. However, if you are a customer at these sorts of establishments, it is fair game.

Pad Thai. I first tried this popular dish at a Thai restaurant in Orlando. Nutty, hearty, meaty, sweet, spicy, crunchy, dense, umami are words I would use to describe it. Wash it down with a rich glass of Thai iced tea and you are good to go (and by "go" I mean, "not eat for the next 24 hours because you have already used up all your allotted calories"... if you pay attention to that sort of thing). I live on the border of Thai Town and Little Armenia in Los Angeles so I really have my choice of Thai restaurants all the time. This does not serve to explain why I would try making it myself.

Thrifty Pad Thai

(recipe adapted from Recipezaar - makes about 5 servings)

1 (1/2 lb) package rice noodles
6 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons sriracha (Thai hot sauce)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 lb fresh shrimp, peeled and de-veined, tails removed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (hot)
2 eggs
2 cups bean sprouts
5 green onions
1 cup chopped cilantro
3 limes
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts

Boil water in a medium-sized pot.
Place noodles in large bowl and cover with the boiling water (they should no longer be on the heat) for 10 minutes.
Drain and set aside.
Mix together fish sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire, Thai hot sauce and sugar, and set aside.
Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Chop about half of the shrimp into small pieces, and leave the other half of them whole
Heat peanut oil in large frying pan or wok.
Add garlic, chicken, shrimp and red pepper flakes.
Cook just until chicken is cooked all the way through.
Add beaten eggs and stir constantly for one minute.
Add sauce mixture and stir for 3 more minutes.
Add drained rice noodles and toss until coated.
Stir in 1 C bean sprouts, onions, 1/2 C of the chopped peanuts and 1/2 cup cilantro.
Stir and toss for another minute.
Garnish each plate with remaining chopped peanuts, cilantro and bean sprouts.
Top with slices or wedges of lime, which will be used to squeeze over noodles upon serving.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

In Defense of the Gin Martini - a Guest Blog

If you have ever read this blog before, you have heard me talk about Zach.

I may or may not have explained that he is my boyfriend. I feel weird writing the word "boyfriend"; it makes me feel like I am in middle school. A little about Zach:

He is tall. He is smart. He doesn't smile as much as I do, but when he does it is way more exciting. I get excited when he laughs at my jokes because I think he is funny. He has put up with me for 3 1/2 years. He lifts a lot of weight at the gym (although he will be embarrassed I said that). He wears glasses. He has only one dimple when he smiles. He is from Orlando, Florida. He always compliments the food I make, but I can tell when he doesn't like it. He makes me great gin martinis:

Hello, dear readers of Bite Me Food Blog. I don't know how to compose dishes. Perhaps I could figure it out, but the problem is that I don't have the patience. When I do the cost-benefit analysis in my head, also known as the "lazy math," I realize that the amount of time spent measuring ingredients, mixing them, chopping them, et al, will never pay off, given the quality of dish that my imprecise culinary methods will produce. Therefore, I don't really cook. Good thing I'm dating the Bite Me Food Blogger, right? Eh?

The one thing I will mix is a drink. The primary reason for this is that it's simple. The secondary reason is that I love the result of my work, namely, a tasty beverage.

Recently, the Bite Me Food Blogger returned to the apartment late at night rambling about gin martinis. I was all, "What? Martinis haven't been made with gin since like the '40s." She assured me that it was the way to go. I didn't believe her, but the thought stuck with me for a long, long time. By that, I mean it stuck with me until the next time I was in a grocery store. I took the opportunity to grab a big ol' handle of Tanqueray gin.

That night, I made my lady a gin martini. For some reason she likes a lime in it, so I went with that, too. We sat down to watch Mad Men, where the boys enjoy what's known as a "three-martini lunch." Because I am a creature prone to suggestion, I stole a sip of the drink.

WOW. It's genius. Maybe it's because I'd rather attempt to swallow a flaming sword than shoot vodka down my gullet, but I don't remember being that pleasantly surprised since I saw this moving speech from Senator Robert Byrd who, coincidentally, probably peaked around the same time the gin martini did.

The beauty of the gin martini is that it is refreshing. Because it is made from juniper berries, you feel like you're drinking the forest. It's as if some wood nymph has handed you a cupped leaf full of alcoholic rainwater. Unlike the vodka martini, which most people must load up with olive juice to tolerate (i.e., pure salt), the gin martini requires only a hint of citrus to accentuate the freshness. That last sentence sounded like some crap out of a cooking book, I think.

The Gin Martini, Folks:

(makes one drink)

2 ounces of gin, chilled* (2 1/2 if you want to get real toasty)
A splash of dry vermouth
A lemon peel (or lime wedge, I guess)

*I keep my bottle of gin in the freezer. The high alcoholic content keeps it from solidifying.

I keep the martini glass in the freezer so that it's nice and frosty. Unfortunately, this has caused me to break several glasses because I forget that it's on the door and open it too quickly. When I do have a glass, however, I remove it.

Put a bit of vermouth into the glass and swirl it around. Your goal is to coat the inside of the glass. I actually pour out any excess, as the martini tastes better dry.

Pour the gin into the glass. If you think lime sounds good, put the wedge on the rim. The Bite Me Blogger squeezes her lime into the drink, but I would never be so presumptuous as to do it for her and over-lime the drink. Traditionally, I believe a "lemon zest" is used, which is just a small part of the peel to give it a bit of citrus aroma.

Told you it was simple.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ham it Up

Always wanting to be the center of attention...

I remember being described as a ham when I was growing up. What can I say? I like to make jokes, even bad ones. I was in some fantastic school musicals in high school including: Annie Get Your Gun, West Side Story, Music Man and 42nd Street. I am not sure that if you met me at this point in my life you would picture it. It really depends on whom you ask.

West Side Story is by far my favorite musical; it is also my favorite movie. I played the role of 'Anita' (played by Rita Moreno in the movie). She is one of my favorite characters of all time. She is smart, snappy, saucy and sexy. Playing that role in high school was one of my favorite memories growing up. I got to belt some great alto solos and trot around the stage, tossing my hair, stomping my feet and flapping my Spanish-style skirts. The accent came easily to me as I simply impersonated my Puerto Rican mother.

My musical days are behind me, but you may catch me occasionally singing a show tune in the car or impersonating my mom at the dinner table. Speaking of dinner table, Spanish, music and ham...I made something TASTY last week.

After Christmas dinner, we were left with what had been the center of attention that day: the ham. I have never eaten so much ham in my life in the days following the holiday (not that I am complaining), but I needed a way to put some of those leftovers to good use. Black beans slow-cooked with ham and tomato did the trick. Beans are the musical fruit after all. I like this recipe because you do not have to start with dry beans to get them to turn out flavorful. The only problem is I don't know that I can ever be satisfied eating black beans right out of the can without making them this way ever again.

Hasty Tasty Black Beans with Ham

(recipe adapted from Chef John Folse & Company - makes 6 - 8 servings)*

4 (15-ounce) cans black beans, undrained
1 pound lean or low-fat cubed ham
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup onions, diced
¾ cup red bell peppers, diced
2 tbsps minced garlic
½ tsp ground cumin
3 tbsps chopped fresh cilantro
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 (10-ounce) can Rotel tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 Cup fat-free chicken stock
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over med-high heat.
Saute onions, bell peppers and garlic until tender.
Add the ham, and cook for 3 minutes.
Add cumin, cilantro and thyme, and saute for 1 minute.
Mix in the Rotel tomatoes and tomatoe paste.
Once the tomato paste is blended, add the chicken stock and black beans.
Turn up the heat to bring the beans to a boil.
Reduce to simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

*I altered the original recipe (which was for a black bean soup) to make them thicker, more of a dish to serve over rice.

I also roasted a whole chicken, seasoned with a Goya rub, lemon, onions, olive oil and garlic.

To make the chicken, simply follow the cooking times and technique from my previous post, and season it however you like. I removed the skin from the chicken in the previous post, but I did not in this one. They were equally tender and dare I say moist so do whatever you prefer. You cannot really go wrong here.

Per an episode of Dr. Oz I watched during my vacation, I am trying to leave a couple bites of food on my plate after every meal.

...starting now, that is.