My Fast Food Guilty Pleasures

March 29th, 2011

As I believe I mentioned, I don’t get hungry, although in the last few days, that may be coming back – Yay! I get occasional cravings, but usually for something I can’t eat, like cheesecake. Other times, it’s fast food of the meat variety. My digestive system sometimes rebels against it, but at this point, it rebels against just about everything, so what the heck, why not indulge. I need the protein and calories. So I’ll list those things I’ll go out of my way (but not very far – it is Salem, after all) to get when on sale, or are cheap to start with. I go through the drive thru so I don’t get caught eating the junk!

1. McDonald’s Cheeseburgers: Back when I had a whole stomach, these were a 3 bite snack. Now, one is a whole meal. I get them home, remove the pickle slice(s) and about half of the onions, re-wrap and nuke for 20 seconds. I usually hate hate hate onions, but this just wouldn’t be the same without those re-hydrated bits. (note to self: look for dehydrated onions to add to my own burgers) And at $1 each, I can pick up one for immediate consumption and one for later.
2. McDonald’s Hot & Spicy Chicken Sandwich: This isn’t currently listed on their website, and I usually only notice it when they’re showing on sale on the readerboard. These days, I have some issues with spicy foods, but for some things (like fried calamari), the discomfort is worth it.
3. Arby’s Beef and Cheddar: Again, this wouldn’t be the same without onions. The combination of meat product, cheese product, Arby’s Sauce, and onion bun is just what I need some times!
4. Taco Time Crisp Meat Burrito: Crunchy fried tortilla around seasoned ground mystery meat. I usually get a couple of these. I eat one in the car on the way home and eat the second with Taco Time Original Sauce at home.
5. Taco Time Soft Combo Burrito: That seasoned ground mystery meat, refried pinto beans and shredded cheese. If I’m feeling especially naughty (or if they offer), I get it with sour cream inside. This requires Taco Time Original Sauce poured over every bite. These days, one of these makes two meals.

McDonalds and Arby’s are pretty close to me, so they can be a little out of the way, or on my way home.

Unfortunately (or fortunately!) the last remaining Taco Time in town is on the other side of town, on Lancaster, a high traffic (for Salem) area, so usually I need to be there for other things before I’ll stop in. They don’t have the bottles of Taco Sauce, or participate in the Day of the Week sale items, but maybe none of them do anymore. Mom and Dad got me a Taco Time Gift Card for Christmas, but the one time I tried to use it, the phone line was busy with someone inside using a debit card, so I still have it in my wallet. I found the one in Stayton after it moved, so at least I can stop there twice a year after my dentist appointments in Sublimity.

Almost Sugar-Free Pear Tart

March 25th, 2011

Pear Tart

Pear Tart

Almost Sugar-Free Pear Tart

If you’re very sensitive to sugar, the pears add natural sweetness that may be too much.

Crust:
1 C All-purpose flour
½ C cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
1 Egg
1 Tbsp Water

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a food processor (I was able to use my mini one). Pulse flour and butter until evenly distributed.
3. Add sugar and pulse until mixed
4. Gently mix egg with water and add to flour mixture and blend until mixed and a bit sticky.
5. Remove dough from food processor and knead to bring together.
6. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 20 minutes or until ready to use.
7. Before filling, roll out to fit a buttered or sprayed 9” or 10” cake pan, coming up the sides to the top (will shrink when baked).
8. Poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork and blind bake for 10 minutes.

Filling:
10 dried pears (or fresh pear halves)
2 Tbsp dark molasses
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cardamom
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground cloves
2 Cups water
1 ½ C cornstarch
1/3 C lightly sweetened granola

Directions:
1. Bring everything but pears to a boil in a large sautee pan then reduce to a simmer.
2. Place pear halves in a single layer in the pan
3. If using dried pears, simmer until pears become soft and expand a bit, turning occasionally. If using fresh pears, simmer until cooked and spices are soaked in. (I used dried, so I’m not sure of the timing for fresh). If necessary on the dried pears, add more water.
4. When pears are done, carefully remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and place in a single layer in the cooled tart shell.
5. If necessary, add water to what’s left of the simmering liquid to make about ½ C liquid.
6. Mix together 1 ½ Tbsp water and 1 ½ Tbsp cornstarch in a custard cup and slowly mix into pan liquids.
7. Keep simmering, turning up heat if necessary and cook until thickened
8. Pour sauce over pears evenly
9. Sprinkle granola evenly over top
10. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes until edges are browned and sauce bubbles a bit
11. Cool on rack

Enjoy!

Breakfast Quinoa

March 19th, 2011
Breakfast Quinoa

Breakfast Quinoa with Dried Fruits

My acupuncturist suggested that I eat quinoa. I don’t think I really have eaten it since living in Ecuador. I read up on recipes and cooking instructions, and all of the add-ins I was thinking of pointed to something on the sweeter side.

Ingredients
1 ½ C Quinoa, rinsed and drained a bit
3 C water
1 C dried fruit – I used dried bing cherries and raisins
1 Tbs orange zest
2 Tsp grated ginger
1 pinch cardamom

(again, I didn’t measure as I mixed everything but the quinoa and water in a bowl, so I’m guessing at relative amounts)

Instructions:
1. For a nuttier taste, toast quinoa in a large skillet until it starts to turn golden (the rinse water will dry out here).
2. Mix all of the add-ins together in a bowl.
3. Bring water to a boil in a pot.
4. Drop in quinoa and add-ins
5. Reduce to a simmer, partially cover with a lid, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
6. Fluff with a fork and serve!

Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave.
If the fruit is sweet enough, no additional sweeteners are needed. Mine was plenty sweet.
Quinoa varies in it’s water absorption. I’ve read that at 2:1, people end up with mushy or wet quinoa, so I started with ½ Cup less than called for and added more at about the half-way point.

Enjoy!

Blood Orange and Brie Crostini

March 13th, 2011

This was an experiment, and I wasn’t sure how it’d turn out, but it was great!

Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Juice 1 blood orange and measure amount of liquid
Measure double that amount in olive oil and add to orange juice
Add a pinch of salt and pepper
Add a teaspoon or so of vinegar (I found ponzu (Japanese citrus) vinegar in the cupboard and it worked great)

Whisk all of these together and refrigerate until needed.

Blood Orange Crostini

Peel a blood orange and divide into it’s natural sections, removing as much pith as possible. Count the sections.
Cut a baguette on the diagonal into as many slices as you have orange sections
Brush baguette slices with olive oil and toast until they begin to brown around the edges
Cut brie into 1/2” slices and cut to fit onto toast pieces.
Heat toasts again until brie begins to melt
Top each toast with a section of blood orange
Whisk up vinaigrette if separated and spoon over each orange slice
If desired, top with a few grains of fleur de sel.

Note: This makes more than enough vinaigrette. I only did this with one orange on the crostini as it was an appetizer for just two of us. Can be multiplied.

Cranberry, Cream Cheese and Turkey Roll-ups in Puff Pastry

March 12th, 2011
Hot out of the oven!

Hot out of the oven!

There are endless variations that can be made with this. Just imagine your favorite sweet or savory combination and try it out!

Ingredients:
8 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature*
7 oz Cranberry Sauce (½ can)*
1 pkg (2 sheets) Puff Pastry, thawed, but kept in fridge
10 oz Deli Sliced Turkey Meat (I used a package of Foster Farms)
Flour to dust work surface

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Mix Cream Cheese and Cranberries until smooth
3. Dust your work surface with a bit of flour so pastry won’t stick
4. Remove one sheet of Puff Pastry (leaving other in fridge for now)
5. Roll the sheet to smooth out the seams and form a rectangle with the longer part going side-to side and the short, front-to-back.
6. Spread surface of pastry with some of the Cream Cheese-Cranberry mixture, leaving the far ½ or so empty in order to seal the roll before cooking
7. Top Cream Cheese mixture with a layer of sliced Turkey
8. Roll up starting at the edge near you. If you gently pull back towards you as you roll, it’ll give the filling more room, so it’s less likely to ooze out the far side.
9. When you get to the end, pinch the plain dough against the layer beneath it to seal.
10. Place seam-side down, cut in half, and refrigerate to make it easier to cut.
11. Repeat with second sheet of Puff Pastry
12. When chilled a bit, slice into 1/4” – 1/2” slices and place, cut side down on a greased baking sheet.
13. Bake in heated oven for 20 minutes, or until edges start to brown
14. Serve hot out of the oven, or at room temperature

*I doubled the Cranberry and Cream Cheese mixture – it goes great on bagels, sandwiches, and would be good over granola!

Setting up the work area

Setting up the work area

Mixing the cranberry and cream cheese

Mixing the cranberry and cream cheese

The first layer spread on the puff pastry

Turkey layer down

Turkey layer down

Rolled up, ready to chill and cut

Rolled up, ready to chill and cut

Enjoy!

Essential Cookware and Serving Dishes

March 8th, 2011

Cookware
1. Cast Iron Skillet
2. Le Creuset pot
3. Crock Pot
4. Pizza Stones
5. Pizza Peel
6. Good quality heavy-bottomed pots and pans with lids
7. Loaf pans
8. Casserole dishes
9. Cake pans
10. Spring-form molds
11. Muffin tins
12. Mini-muffin tins
13. Popover tins
14. Waffle Iron: I have the kind that rotates 180 degrees part-way through to get perfect browning
15. Steamer basket: veggies and seafood
16. Saucier: no corners so it’s great for sauces

Serving dishes:
1. Oval enchilada plates
2. Oval au gratin dishes
3. Salad bowls and tongs
4. Nice glass serving tray for sushi and sashimi
5. Himalayan salt block for sashimi
6. A Variety of Chopsticks
7. Sets of soup bowls in all shapes and sizes
8. Large serving trays for parties or appetizers

My Necessary Kitchen Gadgets

March 7th, 2011

In no particular order…..

1. Microplane grater/zester: zesting citrus, grating nutmeg, parmesan, garlic, etc.
2. Immersion blender: whirring up soups, sauces, making smoothies, blending salsa, making home-made mayo
3. Large Plastic Drink cup (Large enough bottom for immersion blender to fit all the way in, tall enough for mixes so they don’t overflow): Use with immersion blender for smoothies, salsas and mayo
4. KitchenAid Stand Mixer: Mixes, whips and kneads everything, and has so many attachments available that you hardly need anything else!
5. Mini food processor: chop nuts, make pesto, home-made blender hollandaise, etc.
6. Spatulas: a variety both for flipping and bowl scraping
7. Good quality knives: I have a set of Henckles from years ago and they’re still great
8. Silpat Baking Mats: nothing sticks to these things!
9. Bench Scraper: Great for dividing doughs and picking things up off the cutting board without dulling your knife
10. Ring Molds: I have a graduated set that packs conveniently in a tin. Perfect for cooking eggs to fit an English Muffin, or crimp ravioli (rounded side of ring).
11. Rolling pin: rolling dough (of course) and crushing nuts or crackers in a zipper lock bag.
12. Box grater: I did without for a couple of years and really missed being able to grate up large quantities of cheese!
13. Cheese knife: I have a Cutco one that you have to be very careful of the blade when hand-washing, but it cuts cheese like a dream
14. Cutting boards: A variety of surfaces and sizes
15. Glass ramekins: Great for mise en place or small servings of ice cream
16. Apple peeler/corer/slicer
17. Ice Cream Maker
18. Colander
19. Small Sieve or Strainer
20. Salt Pig: right by the stove – covered to keep salt dry, but nice wide opening to grab a pinch of salt or a measuring spoon for baking.
21: Pepper Mill: ’cause there’s nothing better than fresh ground pepper!
22: Tongs!: How on earth did I forget something I can’t live without!