Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Experimental Tuesday

I failed at being consistent with "Experimental Fridays" so now I'm just going be experimental when I can!

Today I decided to try to put my kale to good use. I'm not a huge fan of kale, despite how healthy it is supposed to be for me. There are plenty of other greens that I really love to eat, I haven't felt the need to force feed myself one that I didn't like much. However, I get kale in my CSA box pretty much every week. Sometimes I use it, sometimes I give it away to my neighbors, and sometimes it just goes to waste and I end up tossing it.

This week it occurred to me that I could try to make chips with it. I turned my oven on to 400 and lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper. I then washed and drained my kale (something I should have done on Sunday before it even went in the fridge). I removed the stems (all the way up the leaf, so you are just left with the green part on either side). Then I tore the leaves into chip sized pieces and coated them with olive oil. I VERY lightly salted the chips and then used my microplane to grate some parmesan cheese on top. I popped the chips in the oven for 10 mins. They came out perfectly. Since it only took me about 5 mins to prep the chips my oven wasn't fully preheated to 400. For the second batch I reduced the heat to 375, repeated the 10 mins and they were perfect. So, if you fully preheat I wouldn't put the oven at more than 375 and 10 mins is the max I'd cook them at.

Even my toddler loved them. I liked them so much I had eaten 1/2 of the first batch before I remembered to take a picture!

Anyhow, these were a total hit and I'm pretty proud that I totally winged it with a green I'm not too fond of and managed to create something I love. And seriously, it took 15 mins max to make one batch of these from start to finish.

Beets, Beets and More Beets - Part Two

The beets keep coming. After my last beet post I was left with 6 beets. I got my next CSA box and there were TEN beets in it! So, I've continued being inventive with my beets.

I had been considering trying to make a cake with them, figuring it might come out similar to a carrot cake. I found a carrot cake recipe online that looked pretty good. I made a few adjustments to it, and of course used beets instead of carrots. It came out incredibly well! It was quite tasty and you seriously could not taste that it was made with beets! Here is the recipe:

4 eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (you can add nutmeg, too, if you like)
3 cups grated beets
1 cup chopped walnuts (or whatever nut you prefer)

1/2 cup softened butter
8oz soften cream cheese
2 cups confectioners sugar (could probably use even less, I actually cut the sugar from 4 cups to 2 and it was probably even a bit sweeter than I liked, but still good)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in beets. Fold in walnuts. Pour into prepared pan.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
4. To Make Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cake.

Even the kidlet approved!

I also used some of my beets to make a roasted root veggie medley. I used this Wolfgang Puck recipe, again I changed it a bit.

I couldn't find all the veggies and some I simply didn't want to bother with (like potatoes, seemed like a waste of space when you are using such fun veggies already). Here is what I did:

I used 3 carrots, 1/2 a celery root (mine was huge), 1 head of garlic, 1 onion, 2 turnips (on the smaller side), 2 small chioggia beets, 1 large golden beet, 1 fennel bulb, olive oil, salt, pepper and about 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped. I also peeled my garlic, so it did start to fall apart a bit. I think I'd still peel it just to save everyone the hassle of having to deal with the paper skins after it's cooked. Oh, and I purposely did not use regular, purple beets as I didn't want all my veggies to be pink.

I cooked my veggies at 400 degrees for about 90 minutes, stirring every 30 mins or so. They were amazing. I think my favorite veggies were the celery root and fennel. I only got a picture of them before they went in the oven. But they sure were pretty!

This weekend I plan on trying my hand at pickling some of the beets I have remaining. It'll be my first attempt at canning. Expect more on the beet front in a week or so!

Happy cooking!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fried Tomato and Bacon Salad

Well, Experimental Friday came and went with zero experimenting. Life got in the way, as it often does.

My house is currently much quieter than normal with the hubby and toddler on their way to their first solo camping trip. It's very weird to have such a quiet house. I have Pandora going and of course there is still munchkin number 2, but he's pretty quiet when he's happy. It's peaceful!

On Thursday I was starving and it was about 4pm...too early for dinner, but too late for lunch. I was sorely craving a very decadent fried tomato and bacon salad I've made in the past. I got the recipe from my friend Marlyn and we'll see how my arteries thank her in a few years! I'd literally eat this salad every day if I could.

So here is how the recipe goes:

You need some sort of green, I prefer spinach as the green is going to be slightly wilted by the dressing and tomatoes and there really isn't another green I like both raw and wilted. I think I'd like it with arugula, as well, but I've only done spinach. In the pictures I'm posting here, I used Bloomsdale spinach, which is why it's so curly.

At least 2 thick slices of tomato per serving of salad (if you cut the tomatoes thinly they will just fall apart when being fried). I like to use those big, meaty, purple/green heirloom tomatoes.

Bacon-I like at least 2 slices per serving, but you could do one (really, if you are worried about the fat and all that fun stuff you shouldn't be eating this salad!). My favorite is Whole Foods' black forest bacon you can get from the butcher. When I'm curbing my Whole Paycheck addiction, my second favorite is the Trader Joe's apple smoked bacon.

And lastly, whatever vinegar and herbs you'd like to use to make a dressing. I usually just use a little apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar and some Italian seasoning. Quick, easy and tasty.

First you prep your greens (wash, drain, etc.). Then fry up the bacon and set aside to drain on some paper towels. Keep the bacon grease hot (the hotter the better) and gently slide your tomato slices in. Tomatoes are full of water, water and hot bacon grease really don't go well together, so don't cook this wearing your favorite $200 top. Wear an apron and stand back! Now just wait and let the tomatoes fry. After you feel like you've waited long enough (a minute or so), you can gently check the bottom of one, see if they are browned at all, if they are, flip and repeat! As soon as the tomatoes are cooked to your liking, remove directly onto your plate of greens (you should put each individual serving of greens on their own plate). Turn the heat off and swirl in some vinegar and herbs with the grease. Again, this is going to pop like crazy and if you've ever heated vinegar, it's a good idea to turn a fan on so you don't shrivel your nose hairs. While the dressing is still bubbling and hot, pour over the salad. Next crumble your bacon (or in my case I just chopped the bacon) on top and voila! Eat immediately, while your tomatoes are still hot!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bacon-wrapped Hot Dogs!!

Sweet Lord, there is an entire event dedicated to serving the gloriously greasy bacon-wrapped hot dog!!

Do they have these everywhere? On any given night out on the town in Hollywood you can find suspicious looking vendors selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs. It's smells divine, it's cheap, and hard to resist despite the well known fact that you'll probably regret it the next morning. Most often I've encountered these little carts outside of concerts. It's late, you've been partying hard and you come out to the cold night and there they are.

The event takes place next Saturday, the 22nd, at 12pm. I hope I can make it!!! YUM!

Echo Park Lake
751 Echo Park Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Here is the Yelp Event.

And some tasty pictures at the LAist.

What do you want me to try?

Experimental Friday is tomorrow and I'd love to know if there is a recipe or crazy food idea you have that you would like me to feature on my blog tomorrow or for future Experimental Fridays. Post your idea or recipe in the comment section. I'm heading out to the store soon, so post quickly!

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies!!

Great post about baking gluten-free!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Beets, Beets and More Beets

Most weeks I purchase a CSA (community supported agriculture) box from South Central Farmers. It's a huge box of organic veggies for only $15 (you can pay more if you would like to contribute more to the farm but the box is the same regardless of how much you pay). You never know exactly what is going to be in the box till you get it.

This week, along with many other veggies, my box contained 7 beets! I already had 2 in my fridge. So I have 9 beets I need to somehow plow through! The beets weren't all boring purple/red ones, there were two purple, two golden and two chioggia (candy-cane striped).

Miraculously I managed to get both kids to sleep at the same time this afternoon so I whipped out my beets to experiment with.

I have tried to make beet chips twice in the past. I burned them both times. I was following a recipe that had me cook them at 425 and they just kept burning. I decided to try again. I got a new mandolin this morning with a guard so I didn't slice my fingers off (which my old one didn't have). I sliced the purple and golden beets quite thin, but since the chioggia beet I had was so fat I had to slice it a bit thicker. I sprayed them lightly with oil and VERY sparingly salted them. You have to remember how thin they are and that they will shrink down when they cook, I learned this the hard way.

I cooked them at 375 this time and kept my eye on them constantly. I did the purple and golden beets together since they were thinner. I flipped them after about 8 mins and took them out after about 15-18 mins. I took some out sooner than others. I managed to not burn a single one! I can't imagine having the same luck if my kids were awake, though.

Then I cooked the chioggia beets. I cooked these for probably 20-25 mins. I did a full 10 mins on the first side and then flipped. I kept flipping them till they looked done. The chiogga chips came out the best. Next time I'll cut all the beets a bit thicker.

I took the remaining chunks of the golden and chioggia beets and julienned them along with a carrot (also from my CSA box). I added some sliced mint to the mix. I made a dressing with about 3/4 a tsp of horseradish mustard, 1/8 tsp of honey, a tsp of apple cider vinegar, and a tsp of olive oil. I also sprinkled the beets with salt and freshly ground pepper. Sooooooooo good!! The only reason I didn't use the purple beet, too, was because I wanted to see all the pretty colors in my salad and we all know how staining a purple beet is!

So, today was a very beety day. I'm not sure when I'll do the rest. I normally like to cut them up and roast them with some olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary, but after today I'm not sure when I'll feel like more beets!

Cooking with the Munchkin

I decided to include my older munchkin in making dinner last night. This past week was exhausting, so we were making a super lazy, easy dinner: rainbow chard with Italian sausage and spaghetti.

I started off by teaching him what rainbow chard was. He thought it was pretty cool. I showed him how to take the stems off and how to wash it properly. I broke the chard up into big chunks (maybe 2 inch pieces) and let them drain in a colander.

I cut up 3 raw Italian sausages with my kitchen shears and cooked them on low till the chunks were browned on each side. This time I had some spring onions from my CSA box so I chopped one up and tossed that in, too. And I was drinking some chardonnay so I dumped a little of that in there just for kicks. I then shoved all my rainbow chard in the pan and squished it down with a heavy lid. I flipped it over a few times till it was all just wilted and all done! On the side I'd made some basic spaghetti, nothing fancy just regular dried noodles and a jar of organic sauce from Trader Joe's. I figure I can get fancy and start making my own sauce when my kids are older! I topped it all with freshly grated parmesan cheese and yum!!

I had meant to make our one little artichoke we got in our CSA box, but I never got around to it. It worked out because I was stuffed after just the spaghetti and chard! Anyhow, easy, healthier than just plain ol' spaghetti and quite tasty!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Experimental Friday

Last night we visited the South Pasadena Farmer's Market. There was a new mushroom vendor called LA FungHi. They had an amazing selection of mushrooms, a vast majority of them I'd never even knew existed. The woman running the stand allowed me to sample a variety of the funkier looking ones. While there, she divulged to me that one way she loved to cook her mushrooms was to bread them using eggs and whole wheat flour and fry them in piping hot olive oil. With my love of fried foods and mushrooms I couldn't believe I had never tried this before.

In the end I couldn't decide what to get so I purchased one of their $15 mixed baskets. It is a huge amount of mushrooms!

Today I picked out a variety of mushrooms to fry up. While I love fried foods, I don't fry a lot of foods myself, so this was a major experiment for me. I coated the 'shrooms with egg and then rolled them in whole wheat flour (which I added a bit of salt and pepper to). In the meantime, I'd poured a whole lot of olive oil in a small pot and had that going on the burner. I was able to get them done in two batches. They looked amazing.

I tried the more delicate mushrooms first and was sadly very disappointed. They were kind of tasteless (mostly just tasted like fried flour) and really a waste of good mushrooms that would have been delicious sauteed, raw or roasted. Then I tried the fatter ones...

Oh. My. God. They were insanely amazing. They were juicy and luscious and dripping in flavor. All I was missing was some hot ponzu sauce to dip them in!

My next experiment was a recipe I'd received from the lovely Monika at Hipcooks. The recipe was for a savory beet and goat cheese muffin. They sounded super yummy to me, but I wasn't sure how they'd actually come out.

The basic recipe is to grate a beet, toss in some walnuts and chopped rosemary. Then gently fold with the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt). Then stir in the wet ingredients (butter, buttermilk and an egg). She also has you sprinkle Parmesan cheese in the pan before you put the muffin batter in. I then put chunks of goat cheese on the tops of each muffin. I had intended on putting goat cheese in the middle of the muffins, too, but I made these while holding a screaming baby, so that didn't work out. (Email me if you'd like the whole recipe and I'll forward the Hipcooks recipe to you).

They came out quite well and were extra tasty with more goat cheese spread on them while hot. They were even good with a bit of honey. I felt like I put a lot of beet in these muffins, but after they were cooked, you really could hardly taste them.