Archive for April, 2013

One Skillet Stir Fry

In our little shack we get down to business especially, when a cooking stir fry. This stir fry in particular is a small milestone, marking the beginning of another farm season. My roommate brought home two large flats of micro arugula and one flat of micro cress. Cress and arugula are both greens that are used in salads and in a whole array of delicious recipes. We call them micro greens because of their size; smaller than ‘baby’ greens they are cut after an inch or two of growth. Micro greens are a great garnish for dressing up any dish; both arugula and cress both have a spicy zing flavor. So, when deciding what to cook, a stir fry seemed rather perfect; a celebration of all vegetables mainly, because the past few nights have consisted of pasta dinners. Don’t get me wrong I love pasta dinner, it’s one of my favorites, but when there’s too much starch in your diet, there is simply too much. To balance our lack of variety I purchased all the basic vegetables and the cheapest meat which ending up being boneless pork ribs and starting cooking.

Ingredients

Southern Style Boneless Pork Ribs – $6.07

Button Baby Bella Mushrooms – $1.79

2 Green Bell Peppers – $1.79

2 Red Onion – $3.10

1 Bulb of Garlic – $0.69

Spinach – $1.99

Arugula & Cress – Free! Compliments of our local farm!

Total – $15.49

Directions

1. Bring skillet to medium heat. Chop all vegetables and slice meat into bite-size chunks.

2. Add meat first; let edges of the meat brown then add all vegetables except for arugula and cress.

3. Once meat is done and vegetables are tender stir in handfuls of arugula and cress. Remove from heat immediately and serve.

Pictures

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Comments

Always cook the meat first, especially when cooking a heaping mound of raw meat and vegetables together. This I learned the hard way after cooking for so long that all my roommates fell asleep on me! It also probably did not help that our stove does not disperse heat evenly. So, cooking consisted of constant stirring and rotating the skillet to ensure all pieces of meat got cooked. After about an hour or so the meat was done and the veggies were a bit over cooked. I like my vegetables still crunchy in stir fries. The juices from the meat and spices mixed together gave this stir fry a classic savory taste. The arugula and cress added in after all the veggies have cooked allows the micro greens to wilt ever so slightly, but not turn to mush; keeping its spicy zing of a flavor. A wonderfully simple dish that feeds five people easily.

Spinach & Artichoke Grilled Cheese

I found this delicious recipe from a fellow food blogger named Joy the Baker. Although I did not follow her every direction these sandwiches turned out just as good if not even better that before! Joy’s recipe said to boil the baby spinach, chop the artichoke hearts into small pieces, shred Parmesan cheese, then mix the three ingredients together with a dollop of sour cream. Since I prefer my spinach fresh, not boiled so I took to my own way of doing things.

Ingredients 

Organic Baby Spinach – $3.49

Sesame Semolina Bread ( On sale) – $1.99

8 oz Whipped Cream Cheese -$2.29

16 oz Sour Cream – $1.59

7.5 oz Artichoke Hearts – $1.99

8 oz Shredded Parmesan Cheese – $2.39

8 oz Shredded Cheddar Jack Cheese – $2.39

Total – $16.13

Directions 

1. Add 8 oz container of whipped cream cheese and half container of sour cream in a bowl and mix until smooth. Add lots and lots of chopped garlic and spice to taste.

2. Slice thin pieces of bread and butter on one side of each slice. Turn stove top on to medium heat.

3. Prepare sandwiches. First, spread a thick layers of cream cheese mix on one slice of bread. Add lots of Parmesan and cheddar jack on top then, place artichoke hearts on cheese. On the other slice of bread layers leaves of spinach. Place slice of bread with cream cheese and artichoke on pan first open-faced, then close sandwich with spinach cover slice of bread. Flatten with spatula and grill each side till gold brown and cheese has melted.

4. Repeat till the bread is gone and everyone is happy! Enjoy!

Pictures

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Comments

By far this is the best meal I have made this semester! it’s easy, cheap, and incredibly delicious. The cream cheese mixture with shredded cheese makes a delicious mess, the spinach cooks ever so slightly while remaining fresh, the artichoke add savory notes, and the bread wraps it up with a buttery crunch. The only problem I ran into during the entire process was counter space. There was not enough counter space for me to prepare the sandwiches. Well, let’s be honest, not enough clean counter space. So, I sliced the bread on the bag it came in, chopped garlic on cardboard, left the cheese and spinach on the couch grabbing handfuls for each sandwich, and placed finished sandwiches on another piece of cardboard.  All these things at once was rather work intensive. In fact some people might think this process was too much for the amount of grilled cheeses made, but I disagree. The scrumptious taste from each grilled cheese far surpasses and makes up for any annoying repetitive work ethic. If you have a modern house unlike mine with plenty of clean counter space, I sincerely urge you to cook spinach and artichoke grilled cheeses, they are worth your while!

Kitchen Science & Beer

Your typical ‘beer can chicken’ recipe says a grill is needed and a can of beer must be opened, half-drank, and placed inside. After the half drank beer has been placed inside a whole chicken the can acts a third leg to place up right on the grill. Then, cook the chicken slowly on the grill so the beer evaporates into the body cavity, making the chicken extremely moist. I chose this recipe to see if could get the same results without have to balance a whole chicken on a beer can and two legs. Never mind that I did not have access to a grill only an oven. The overall purpose was to see if I could take an entire recipe completely change it to my accommodations and still get the same results without having a huge disaster.

It began with a four pound whole chicken that was destined to be cooked for dinner, but the question was how. Since, I had already consumed a few glasses of wine I assume that is where idea for an alcoholic chicken came to be.  So, the research began, but all the recipes called for a grill to cook the chicken upright with a beer placed up the body cavity. An upright chicken in the oven was not going to happen in my uncle’s small oven and no proper pan to place it on that would allow the chicken to stay upright. To compensate I placed the four pound whole chicken in a deep dish pan on its back. This pan would fit in the oven just fine after some rearrangement.  I warmed the oven to 420 degrees F and brought a pan of water to a boil to start the stuffing. While waiting for the stuffing to cook I began seasoning the bird by rubbing salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning inside, and out. Then, sliced one inch wide slits in the chicken’s breast, about four or five on each side and stuffed each slit with a chunk of butter. A few minutes after seasoning the stuffing was finished. One big mistake I learned – let the stuffing cool down first before your stuff it into the chicken. I almost scorched my hands trying to stuff the chicken while it was still hot. Anyway, when stuffing the chicken I first poured beer in the cavity then placed a small amount of stuffing inside and repeated. This way it became like a layering process. Once the body cavity was full I gathered the skin to close the cavity and weaved a shish kabob stick through to seal up the body cavity. Finally, poured the remaining beer in the pan for the chicken to cook in. Right now you may be thinking, how many beers did she use? Well, it’s hard to believe but there was only one beer used to one four pound chicken. More beer is always welcome to the process as they say the more beer the merrier and the moister your chicken will be. Place, the chicken in the oven at 420 degrees F for about thirty minutes. After thirty minutes lower the heat to 375 degrees F and leave in the oven four about fifty to sixty minutes. Take the chicken out of the oven and let cool for about five to ten minutes and well la! The delicious beer can chicken with a twist is ready to eat.

Beer was the key ingredient in this recipe. You can cook a chicken a million different ways, but beer is what really makes the difference this time around. Beer is most known for its tenderizing properties. When cooking with beer, be careful of the type of beer that is used. IPA’s are typically a light bitter beer. So, if an IPA is cooked with a dish a bitter taste will be left in the dish. Also, never cook with a beer that you wouldn’t drink; it will end up tasting like that beer. Beer is used in many recipes everything from fried foods to soups and sauces. Beer seems to be more versatile than wine when it comes to cooking because of its many different textures and flavor varieties. So, when cooking with beer it is important to choose the beer that is right for the recipe. The exact history of how beer was invented is unknown, but cooking with beer has been done for centuries. Beer is typically given a bad name when it comes to health, but in moderation just like most things beer is healthy for you. A glass of beer is known to have fewer calories than a glass of milk or apple juice.  It also raises levels of HDL, which is good cholesterol, in your blood. Beer also contains vitamins and minerals benefiting the nervous system as well as increasing blood circulation and stimulating metabolism. When cooking with alcohol there is a myth that the alcohol evaporates when added to a dish. This is not necessarily true; in order to fully cook the alcohol out of a dish it needs to be cooked for about three hours for all traces of the alcohol to evaporate. This also depends on the potency of alcohol and the temperature that the dish is cooked at. So, be aware more times than none alcohol that is added to a dish will still remain in the dish unless cooked properly.

One chemical reaction that occurs when cooking is color change. This occurs with most dishes cooked especially meat. Before I put my beer chicken in the oven the color of the meat was pink. After ninety minutes of cooking in the oven the meat had turned white. There are many chemical reactions when cooking a chicken or just about anything for that matter. When cooking the gases in an oven react with the hemoglobin in the meat tissue leaving a pink tint. Through this chemical reaction you can determine if the chicken was young or old when slaughtered. When the meat of a chicken around the bone and the bone itself is still pink after the chicken has fully cooked until a temperature of 165 degrees F this is evidence of a young chicken. This is because the skin of a younger bird is thinner and can be penetrated by oven gases more easily. Older birds usually have a layer of fat underneath their skin giving protection from oven gases. The intense coloring or ‘browning’ of meat is also linked to its flavor; this chemical reaction is a known as the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction happens when amino acids and sugar are heated to high temperatures such as three-hundred and five-hundred degrees F to combine and form new flavors and smell. In my beer chicken the Maillard reaction was caused by the sugars and amino acids in the beer, butter, and chicken. All the ingredients chemically reacted to give the chicken a moist delicious aroma and taste.

My beer can chicken with a twist ended up being very successful. The chicken was unbelievably moist and the stuffing was out of the world. So next time you run into a cooking dilemma never be afraid to switch it up to meet your own accommodations. If Julia Child broke some of the rules you should too. Who knows you could whip up something fantastic for your family or significant other. Through my research with beer and chemical reactions of cooking I learned you don’t need to be an expert you just need a little courage to tackle the kitchen and what may lay within.

French Toast with a warm Fruit Chutney

French toast isn’t so french. This meal can be traced back as early as ancient Roman times when cooks had to use every last scrap of food. Traditionally, french toast was made with stale bread, dipped in a milk and egg mixture fried in oil. So, french toast has had all different names and still does for example, American toast, German toast, etc. French toast has been a staple in my breakfast foods since I was a kid, especially on the weekends. The weekends were when my family got together and every Sunday morning there would be french toast of some kind waiting for my two brothers and I when we awoke. This meal is also significant for me because it was the one meal my mother cooked to perfection every time.

Ingredients ( Hannaford’s

100% Whole Wheat Bread – $2.50

2 Cans of Peaches – $1.25

2 Half Pints of Raspberries – $3.99 each

1/2 Gallon of MOO Milk – $3.69

1/2 Dozen of Eggs – $1.95

Total – $13.38

Directions

1. Bring sauce pan to medium to low heat. Cut peaches into small chunks and put in sauce pan. Let the peaches cook for about 5-10 minutes. While peaches are cooking put all the raspberries in a bowl and mash until they have a puree consistency or just use a blender. After the peaches have cooked add raspberries together and turn heat to low. Let simmer.

2. Place a frying pan on the stove to medium heat and add butter.

3.Then, beat all six eggs in a bowl and add a small amount milk. Add spices to taste cinnamon, and vanilla extract go very well with french toast.

4. Dip bread in egg and milk mixture and place in frying pan. Flip each piece when bottoms are golden brown.

5. When done frying place on a plate and pour the warmed peach and raspberry chutney over. Enjoy!

Pictures

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Comments

At first, frying the bread was difficult; I added way too much milk in with the eggs. So, the bread would not fry right because it was too saturated in milk so it burnt and stuck to the pan. What a mess! Be careful not to make that mistake or you’ll just end up wasting bread unless you enjoy the strange combination of mushy and burnt. Another small problem I ran into was peaches. Hannaford’s did not have fresh peaches, only the canned crap. Excuse my french, but really take a second to think about this. Hannaford’s sells kiwis and dragon fruits in the middle of the winter, but I can’t get a fresh peach? That’s a little strange. Anyway, the chutney was still delicious, warmed peaches and raspberries compliment each other really well. Although, I would have preferred fresh peaches I guess you just can’t ask more of your local supermarket than to carry dragon fruit in the middle of winter. Bon appetit!

BLT!

Bacon, lettuce, and tomato who knew how simply delicious a sandwich could be? So, I feel as if the BLT does not need much of an introduction, but since I am nothing short of an avid perfectionist I’ll be happy give you one anyway. So, the actual name of this sandwich ‘BLT’ has no known founder, you could say it just happened. How the sandwich came about however is known; the BLT was a product of the late Victorian-era and was originally a sandwich that was eaten with tea (Olver). Anyway, on to the more important part of this post.

Ingredients

(All purchased from Edward’s Shop N’ Save)

Iceberg Lettuce – $1.99

Locally Grown Tomatoes – $2.99/lb

1 lb Bacon – $3.49

Mayonnaise 32 oz – $2.99

100% Whole Wheat Bread – $2.50

Total – $13.96

Directions

1. Saute entire pound of bacon on medium heat until done according to your preference.

2. While bacon is cooking slice tomato, lettuce, and toast slices of bread.

3. When bacon is finished, let cool only for a short time! You don’t want your bacon to be cold!

4. Finally, lather both slices of bread with mayonnaise and pile on the bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Enjoy!

Pictures

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Comments

Other than wholesome deliciousness of such a simple sandwich, and the little to no time it takes to prepare the comments should be saved for enjoyment, but I do have to complain about one ingredient in particular: bread. I t recently has blown my mind how many loaves of bread in the supermarket contain enriched flour. The next time you find yourself picking out a loaf bread I would like you to take the time and look at the ingredients labels of all the bread that look appetizing to you. I guarantee that 99.9% of those loaves of bread you pick up will contain enriched flour and the first ingredient will be enriched flour. You might be asking ‘what’s so bad about enriched flour? Well, for starters it sounds like it should be good for you, ‘its enriched‘ well yeah, but with what exactly? Not vitamins and minerals that for sure. the enriching process is when some minerals and vitamins are extracted for a better texture and longer shelf life (Davis). This lack of nutrients and god knows what else is put into the enriched flour can all be avoided by purchasing 1005 whole wheat which always contains 100% whole wheat flour.

For more information go to:

http://www.processedfreeamerica.org/resources/health-news/48

http://www.stlouisholistic.com/Articles_EnrichedFlour.php

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/enriched-white-flour/