Monday, October 29, 2012

Tasty Shredded Brussels Sprouts

I was inspired by the demo at work and a couple of crafty coworkers to make up this dish. I didn't have the exact ingredients they had at demo, so I improvised. 

First, I bought a bag of shredded Brussels sprouts. I could have bought a bag of unshredded Brussels sprouts for perhaps less, but I didn't want to attempt to shred them with a handheld cheese grater. My electric food processor might have been up to the task, though it is rather small and I probably would have had to cut up the Brussels sprouts in order to fit them in the food processor. Buying the bag of pre-shredded just seemed easiest.

Next, I pulled out of my cupboard the half-empty bag of dried cranberries that my mother had given me for a pumpkin bread experiment that will be described in another blog. Also found in my cupboard was a mostly empty bag of slivered almonds. The original recipe I was using as inspiration included spicy chopped walnuts. 

Ingredients assembled, I poured canola oil into my large frying pan, heated it up under medium heat, then poured in the entire bag of shredded Brussels sprouts, which really did turn out to be a lot and I had to turn them over carefully to be sure they were evenly heated. 

The Brussels sprouts weren't in the pan for too long before I added the cranberries and slivered almonds. The idea wasn't to cook everything thoroughly, just to sort of soften the sprouts so they were a little darker green and tender, and heat up the rest. 

Once it was all warm and done to my mind, I turned off the heat and drizzled some balsamic vinegar over-top, mixing it all together so the sprouts etc were coated. I had thought about tossing it all in a Tupperware with a lid and shaking it like a tossed salad, but decided I didn't need to. 

This can be served hot or chilled. I had it both ways since there was enough for leftovers for the next day's lunch. I didn't bother adding salt or pepper since I find Brussels sprouts to be naturally quite peppery. With the cranberries and nutty flavor of the sprouts and almonds, I think this would make a fine dish for Thanksgiving. Which reminds me that I need to make baked acorn squash. I might do my own version of Thanksgiving dinner pre-Thanksgiving again this year, just so I can eat all this awesome stuff. Again. Together in one sitting?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sauteed Squash

A few weeks ago, I wrote about making scalloped squash with a new kind of squash that I'd never encountered before, pan squash (or pattypan, button, sunburst, scallopini, etc). I had one more squash and needed to use it up before it shriveled in on itself, so I decided to do a very simple recipe.

First, I sliced the squash, scooping out the seeds in middle when I got that far, rather like scooping out a pumpkin's innards, or back when I made baked acorn squash (which I should totally do again). 

I prepared the frying pan with canola oil, or possibly olive oil, I honestly don't remember now, with garlic salt sprinkled over-top and dried parsley flakes. If you hadn't noticed, garlic salt or powder and dried parsley flakes are pretty much my standard now. It's such a delicious combination!!

Anyway, once the oil was simmering a bit, I added the slices of squash. I covered the pan with a clear glass lid to help them cook faster. After a few minutes, I flipped them over to be sure both sides were cooked through. Since the squash was rather large and yielded a great number of slices, I had to do a few batches before it was all done.

I love the texture of the pan squash. The skin isn't nearly as tough as the yellow squash turned out to be. I think I prefer the flavor, too. It's a bit nutty and reminded me of acorn squash, from what I remember of the acorn squash. 

I don't think I've ever seen pan squash in the store, but if you should come across it, or find it at your local farmers' market, don't be put off by its unusual shape. It's really a very tasty squash that I don't think you'll regret buying. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes

On one of my rare evenings home, I decided that I needed more protein in my diet. The only two meats I have at my disposal right now are canned tuna and frozen chicken thighs. I picked the chicken and decided that I hadn't made fried chicken in far too long. This was the first time that I made it with dark meat, which definitely gave it a distinctive flavor. Still tasty, though! 

First, I thawed the chicken thighs in the microwave because that made the ensuing process a heck of a lot easier. Then I rolled the raw thighs in a small bowl of raw egg that I had scrambled with a fork. I really don't see the point in wasting the yolk by only using the egg white. 

Next, I plopped the thigh onto a plate that I had covered in Italian style bread crumbs. Yes, the same bread crumbs I've been using over the past two years - they're still good, I swear! Sometimes I have been known to mix grated Parmesan cheese with the breadcrumbs, but I did not do that this time.

Lastly, I put the coated chicken thighs into a preheated pan of canola oil - just a little to help keep the chicken from burning. When the chicken was about half cooked through, I flipped it over to brown the other side, as well. That's all! Pretty easy fried chicken, and healthier than deep-fried.

While the chicken was going, I boiled some potatoes and made mashed potatoes with the peel still on since that is where most of the nutrients are. To the potatoes, I added grated Parmesan cheese and garlic powder. In retrospect, I think I should have also added dried parsley, but the potatoes were good even without it, and a wonderful companion to the chicken.

I was sure to make enough for both dinner and a packed lunch later in the week. I really wish I had more time so I could do this more often. Buying food at work can get expensive when done too often, even with an employee discount.

Monday, October 15, 2012

And we're back!

I apologize for my unannounced week-long absence. I was in a car accident last Monday, rendering the ensuing week extremely busy with insurance details, getting a rental car, and a doctor's visit to ensure my neck wasn't damaged. Most of the time I ate leftover pizza and bread sticks that Greg bought me Monday night, and occasionally leftover tomato bisque that the Crazy Wisdom tea room let me take home. (It was a very tomato-y week.) 

The only update I have now for you is to warn you away from a restaurant called Royal Kubo in Clawson, MI. The website claims they have the best Filipino karaoke, food, and drinks, but unless nachos, lo mein with jalapenos, and hamburgers are native Filipino fare, I think not. (I briefly dated a Filipino young man years ago, and I think I have enough memory of his mother's cooking to be suspicious.) 

I've been to Royal Kubo twice now. The first was for the new goth club night that they host on Tuesday, which is definitely worth going to, just don't go hungry. Seriously. Eat before you go. We ordered nachos, thinking they would be a good snack, and it took about 45 minutes for them to arrive, and I've had fancier nachos homemade in my microwave. And the place is not exactly hopping. There were maybe a dozen people in the restaurant at the time, and few of them were ordering food. 

The second time I went was to see "San Francisco-based cellist-singer-songwriter" Unwoman. She was fabulous! I'd never seen a cello comprised solely of the neck before, which she had strapped around her waist while she played. She also did her own accompaniment by playing a bit and recording it with the use of a pedal at her feet and having it replay that part while she went on to play a different part. I've never seen that done before, and it was really cool. At one point, I think she had 4 going at one time.

Since the doors opened at 7pm and I worked until 6pm, Greg and I went straight there deciding to order dinner from their kitchen that we hoped would still be open. It was. We both ordered interesting fusion versions of lo mein. When the food arrived over an hour after ordering it, I was so sick with hunger that I didn't wait for the server to bring silverware and dug in with my hands. I had ordered beef lo mein because I wanted the protein, but the tiny nuggets of beef were so few and so hard that I couldn't stab them with my fork, it wasn't worth even the nominal extra cost. The noodles had obviously been boiled too long as they were mushy and fell apart in my mouth without needing to be chewed. 

I think only once before in my life have I been so unhappy with a dish from a restaurant that I couldn't eat it even when desperately hungry, and that was, believe it or not, at Walt Disney World in Florida (never opt for the vegetarian entrees in their parks - seriously!). I texted my roommate to see if she would eat it, and when she answered that she would, I asked for a to-go box. 

Sadly, between being hungry and frustrated over both the terrible food and my on-going car accident insurance claim difficulties (my agent told the adjuster that she didn't have my phone number (which is absurd), thereby making it impossible for the adjuster to get a hold of me outside of snail mail, which would have taken weeks), and the poor acoustics and too high a volume for the dance music played between Unwoman's sets, Greg and I left early because my head hurt and I just wanted to go to bed. Greg did buy one of her CDs because she is really talented, and we listened to it on the way home. 

The summation of this story is don't eat at Royal Kubo and do go check out Unwoman. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Squash By Any Other Name

As I have mentioned before, a few coworkers have had very productive gardens this year, which has come in handy with the prices of food having gone up and the sizes of much produce gone down in size due to bad commercial harvests this year from lack of winter snow and rain.

One day, on the break room table, next to a "free" sign, were some very unusual looking gourd. The person who grew it was little help, and I suspect he didn't even know what it was or what to do with it. Another coworker called it a pan squash and said it was tasty. Not being the least squeamish about unusual vegetable material (animal is a different story; I've seen Andrew Zimmern), I picked up two of these alleged "pan squashes" and took them home.

And home is where they sat for a few months. Ahh, the beauty of squash - it lasts! But one day I noticed that the one squash was looking a bit shrunken, so I decided the time had come to figure out how to cook it. After a somewhat exhaustive search on the internet, I learned that it is more usually called a "pattypan squash" (sometimes sunburst, button, scallopini, among many other names, including UFO as my friends termed it). I also found a recipe that looked not only tasty, but could be made with what I had on hand in my kitchen: scalloped squash

Naturally, I did not follow the recipe exactly. For starters, I still had half of a yellow squash in my fridge, so instead of thinly slicing both pattypans (such a stupid name), I sliced just one and then added to it in the baking dish the sliced up remainder of the yellow squash. I don't think that I would do this mixture again. The skin of the yellow squash tends to get hard and almost chewy when baked, and the pan squash was much softer in texture, which lent itself better to scalloping. (Hey, what do you know, spell-check says that's a word!)

Here are the steps:
  1. I preheated my oven to 350F.
  2. I sprayed my largest glass casserole dish with canola oil.
  3. I sliced up the squash and spread them on the bottom of the pan.
  4. I sprinkled sea salt and ground black pepper over the slices in the dish.
  5. I shook out a good helping of dried chopped onion over the squash slices in the dish, as well.
  6. I poured the remainder of my grated Parmesan cheese evenly over the squash in the pan. There was about 1/4 cup.
  7. Poured 1/2 a cup of milk around the pan, as well, which wet the cheese, then gathered on the bottom of the pan.
  8. I put the pan in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.
When the half hour was up and I took the pan out of the oven, I decided it needed more cheese, so I sprinkled a handful of grated Mexican blend cheeses over-top. This is the type of cheese I happened to have on hand. When my mother makes scalloped potatoes, I believe she uses straight up cheddar. Depending on the oven, one might need to stir the pan of squash intermittently while baking to make sure it cooks evenly.
My roommate Kimmy and I agreed that the texture of the rind of the yellow squash was a bit off-putting, though I could still eat it, unlike her. My boyfriend Greg thought nothing of it. I would actually like to make this again with the remaining pan squash and perhaps with freshly grated Parmesan cheese rather than the shelf-stable stuff from the can. I found so many interesting recipes, though, it's hard not to try something new.  I guess time will tell what I end up doing. If it's something new, rest assured it will appear on this blog.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Season of the Pumpkin

Pumpkin latte.
Pumpkin? Oh, hey!
Pumpkin ice cream,
Pumpkin, we scream!
And pumpkin bread-
Pumpkin, I said!
With pumpkin beer
Filled with pumpkin cheer,
And pumpkin pie.
Wait, "pumpkin why?"
Get into the pumpkin swing,
Pumpkin is in everything!