Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Haiku

Done with the first job
And now for Chinese Takeout
Merry Christmas time

Monday, December 15, 2014

Shepherd's Pie (aka Cottage Pie)

I have been eating a lot of different kinds of shepherd's pie recently. Crazy Wisdom's tearoom has been serving up a chicken shepherd's pie that is made with what seems to be stoneground mustard. It has a very different flavor from what I think of as "traditional" shepherd's pie, but I like it! 

My first introduction to shepherd's pie was via a vegetarian recipe I found online (and can not locate right now, sadly). It had all the layers, but the sauce (for lack of a better word) was very Indian in nature with spices like curry and turmeric. I liked it, and my Irish descent roommate liked it, but he declared it not shepherd's pie.

My first taste of "real" shepherd's pie was the frozen entree version at Trader Joe's, and I loved it. It has also ruined me on most (possibly all) future shepherd's pie made with beef. The Trader Joe's version uses cuts of meat, not ground, giving it a very meaty, stew-like texture, which I love. I have never liked ground beef. Too greasy. (And beef used to make me extremely ill. I can eat it usually now, but I am very selective about how, when, and from where I eat it.) 

So when my boyfriend Greg and I went to Conor O'Neill's Traditional Irish Pub and Restaurant in Ann Arbor (a great love of ours), I ordered the Fisherman's Pie (shepherd's pie made with shrimp, salmon, and cod) while Greg ordered their Shepherd's Pie (which has ground beef and lamb), which he'd been craving for a while since I first brought home the chicken version from Crazy Wisdom. (Incidentally, Conor O'Neill's also offers a vegetarian shepherd's pie. I do not think it has curry or turmeric.) 

When I search this morning for shepherd's pie on the internet, I came across, as I often do in searches, the Wikipedia article which calls it "cottage pie" (hence the "aka" in this entry's title). I have never heard it referred to as cottage pie before, though that turns out to be the older name for it and a more encompassing one as "shepherd" implies "beef or mutton." I suggest looking through the variations in the Wikipedia entry. Very interesting! 

And that's all I've got for this week. Now to pack up my leftover fish pie and head into work for 9 hours.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Woodstone Grill of Belleville

On Rawsonville Rd, perched on the border of Ypsilanti and Belleville, a stone's throw north of I-94 sits Woodstone Grill. According to their website, once upon a time another restaurant named Woodstone Grill operated in that same location, but this new Woodstone Grill is named in homage and actually has nothing to do with the first one. I never went to, or even knew about that Woodstone Grill. 

The restaurant I remember being in that location is Spirits Restaurant and Lounge, which I visited and reviewed back in 2012. They offered bison burgers, poutine, and wojapi (which I attempted to make at home also in 2012). Spirits will be sorely missed. 

But I am here to talk about the new Woodstone Grill, and I do wish them luck. Greg and I loved the food we had at Spirits, but we rarely saw many cars in the lot, and that seems like a tough area in general for a business, being not particularly populated (though it does usually have reasonably priced gas at the Speedway, which also doesn't charge extra for credit cards). 

We started off our meal with the Cajun Onion Petals. I was expecting it to arrive huge and (mostly) whole like the Blooming Onions at Outback. It did not, but I did find it much tastier! What spice it had was cooled by the ranch dipping sauce. (I love ranch.) I could have eaten the whole place myself if entrees weren't imminent.

Greg went with the Center Cut Top Sirloin, which comes with the option of being "encrusted with our special blend of coffee and cajun spices." I don't think it arrived in such a state, however, which is unfortunate. I wanted to try that. Myself, I ordered the Not Your Mama's Meatloaf, an apt name in my case since it was made from beef and not turkey. The texture was surprisingly smooth, as if the meat had not simply been ground, but pureed. I liked it. Our sides were seasoned vegetables and mashed potatoes and really weren't anything special, though the taste was fine. 

Usually, we are too full to order dessert. This time, Greg was too curious about the Oreo Brownie Sundae, so we indulged and split one. "It tastes like microwaved Oreo!" he declared upon finishing his first bite. I've never put an Oreo in the microwave, and don't really intend to. This sundae did have an Oreo-esque flavor, but I may be thinking that because the name suggested it. It's basically your typical brownie sundae with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Again, I liked it, but not particularly fancy or unusual. 

I really enjoyed my meal there, and would go again. It's a nice local alternative to the big chain steakhouses  (the kinds of places I tend to avoid, no matter how hyped) with food that tastes home-cooked. Our server was very friendly, too, and related to us like a real person. If you live in the Belleville-Ypsi region, you won't lose anything by giving this place a try. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hot Nutella

The weather report calls for temperatures in the 50Fs tomorrow. but for tonight, the air remains chilly. So when I got home from work tonight, I decided to mix up a treat: hot Nutella. This is a lot easier than it may sound.

First, I got out the mug I wished to use and filled it with milk. I then poured the milk from the mug into my littlest saucepan. I heated the milk up slowly, starting at low and gradually moving up to medium. I didn't precisely measure it, but I think I stirred in about two tablespoons of Nutella, one at a time, adding the second only after the first had melted.

Since I could still see little dots of Nutella floating around in the milk, I fished out a whisk from our Drawer of Many Things and whisked the milk and Nutella, which did a far finer job of blending the two than a spoon or rubber scraper had done.
When I was satisfied that the Nutella was blended well enough with the milk and that it wouldn't separate itself out, I turned off the heat on the stove and carefully poured my lovely concoction back into my mug. It was very hot, so I allowed it to cool a little before taking my first sip. Delightful! So easy, and it only took a few minutes.

My only regret is that we are now nearly out of Nutella. Bother.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Special Diet Thanksgiving Recipes

Last year to help people ready themselves for Thanksgiving, I made a list of Alternative Thanksgiving Dishes, mostly comprised of tasty side dishes that would work for Thanksgiving (there are a couple baked squash recipes) and my Dairy Free Green Bean Casserole (because it's a classic - also see Gluten Free Corn Stuffing). 

I also wrote a poem entitled Recipe For A West Michigan Thanksgiving. In 2012, I wrote my first poem for Thanksgiving simply called A Thanksgiving Poem

This year, I feel like I have linked often enough to  my own blog posts (just click the above links), so I thought I would wade through Pinterest and see if I can find some more allergy free Thanksgiving dishes. I know a lot of people with special culinary needs (I have some myself), and I like to find food that everyone can enjoy. I have not tried these recipes, but I want to! They sound delicious. There is a bit of overlap between gluten free and vegan (in case that isn't completely obvious).


GLUTEN FREE
VEGAN
Clipart courtesy of this place.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Beards Brewery in Petoskey, Michigan

It's hard to miss a sign with a giant, curly beard on it. Once you step through the door from the street, however, you may be wondering where exactly it is. Just keep walking. Beards Brewery is located at the end of a very long hallway decorated with posters that give a heads up on what is going on around town, like afternoon tea Sundays at Dripworks, the C. S. Lewis Festival, or the paranormal weekend at the nearby Terrace Inn

Now (and frequent readers probably already know this), I am not into beer. I like the home-brewing fever that is sweeping America - and especially Michigan! - because I like people who do or craft things themselves and I like the relaxed, homey (and home-built) atmosphere that small, local breweries provide. Beards definitely stands out in this department. Sure, most places play music in the background while you chat with your friends and drink your beverage of choice (I got a bottle of Northwoods black cherry cream soda while Greg enjoyed the Pomegalactic Pale), but at Beards, it isn't just any music. They play vinyl! Their record collection reminded me of my parents', complete with wooden crate storage. 

Beards does not serve food (minus on select taco nights), but we were told we could order food from elsewhere and have it delivered, which I think was very cool of them. We opted to leave, get a pizza from Mighty Fine Pizza (because everywhere else we tried had stopped serving food or was closed at 9pm) and bring it back. Pizza is a most excellent accompaniment to beer, locally crafted soda, and vintage records.

It looks like Beards hosts a lot of events even in the off-season (Petoskey is a resort town in Northern Michigan along the shores of Lake Michigan). They don't cater to tourists, but that doesn't mean tourists can't stop by and enjoy some of the finer, off the beaten path things that Petoskey - a great town in any season - has to offer. 

Side note about Mighty Fine Pizza: It was delicious. If you are in the Petoskey region and find yourself in the midst of a pizza craving, order from Mighty Fine. We watched the guy hand-toss the dough and build our pizza from scratch, pepperoni and mushroom. The result was, indeed, mighty fine. (Man, now I want pizza.)


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pizza Chicken

This recipe is a lot like the salsa chicken that my mom used to make when I was growing up (and that I have made myself several times as an adult). It requires three ingredients: chicken, pasta sauce, and shredded mozzarella cheese.

First, I preheated my oven to 400F (my oven runs hot, so it was actually more than that, but I have yet to temp it, so we'll just go with 400F). While that was happening, I placed two chicken breasts in my square glass baking dish. I then poured enough pasta sauce over the breasts to thoroughly cover them. Here's something new for me! I covered the baking dish with the chicken in foil before sticking it in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.
After the timer went off, I uncovered the chicken and put it back in the oven to bake for another 15 minutes. Then I turned off the oven, sprinkled shredded mozzarella cheese (or carefully placed the melted-together-in-the-fridge chunks of mozzarella cheese) over the chicken breasts, put the dish back in the oven and allowed the heat to melt the cheese while I waited for Greg to arrive home. 

I have dubbed this Pizza Chicken because it's a lot like a cheese pizza, only with chicken instead of dough. So if you have it in for gluten (or gluten has it in for you), but you still enjoy the taste of mozzarella and tomato sauce, this may be a good fit for you. I paired it with some steamed veggies from Green Giant that were pre-flavored with garlic and herbs. I think it would also be tasty with mashed potatoes (think pizza and french fries), or pasta (because pasta). 

Also what if I put sliced mushrooms in with the cheese when I did that part.... Mmm! Maybe next time. I still have plenty of leftover pasta sauce and mozzarella.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Meatball and Potato Casserole with Peas and Carrots

A lot of my friends like to share recipes on Facebook. A few times, I've seen a picture pop up for a meatball casserole. I'd never heard of a meatball casserole before, so I decided to investigate it because I love casseroles! Here is my creation based on a few different recipes and my own experimenting.

Ingredients

1 package of frozen shredded hashbrowns
1 oz container of sour cream
1 can of cream of potato soup
1 cup of frozen mixed peas and carrots
1/4 cup of fresh chopped chives or smaller amount of dried chives
2 cups shredded cheese (Colby or cheddar are great)
1 package of frozen miniature meatballs
Steps
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, blend together the shredded hashbrowns, sour cream, cream of potato soup, frozen peas and carrots, and the shredded cheese. Spread this evenly in a large, glass baking dish. 
  3. On top of the hashbrown mixture, evenly spread the frozen meatballs.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
  5. Uncover and bake for an additional 25 minutes. 
Et voilĂ ! Dinner is served. It wasn't quite as cheesy as I wanted it to be, but it was still very tasty, quite filling, and supplied leftover lunches for the next few days. It rather reminds me of the Chicken Meal in One recipe in that it has meat, potato, and a vegetable all together.

I feel like you could easily make meat substitutions with this recipe, like chunks of ham (which I can't eat) in place of meatballs, or slices of kielbasa or other large sausage. Using frozen meatballs is, of course, quick and easy, which I think is the main point of this dish. Obviously, other vegetables could also be used. I avoided using corn because of the presence of the already starchy potatoes.

So there it is, another easy casserole to pop in the oven on cold, winter nights. Hey, there was snow last night, therefore, it is officially winter. (Boo.) Happy baking!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall Harvest

Squash and pumpkins,
Sweet potatoes, plums.
Tomatoes, apples,
Cabbage and pears (some).
That's just the start
Of what you will find
In the market
At Fall harvest time.

I hope everyone is enjoying the fresh fall foods! This is my favorite time of year with so many wonderful things to make. Like baked acorn squash, apple cake, pumpkin pie... All of these are common seasonal foods in Michigan, and I realize a number of my readers do not live in Michigan or even a similar climate, so the growing seasons and available foods will be different, yet somehow, pumpkins and apples are familiar fall favorites even to places that can't grow these things. I guess that is the power and allure of the Fall Harvest. ;)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Here is another recipe that I got off Pinterest, and it is totally a keeper! Naturally, I ran into a few kinks and had to add my own flare, which is why I am writing about it here. The recipe I followed called for half a packet of taco mix, or something odd like that, so instead of buying a baggy of taco mix, I made my own. It's super easy and very delicious! Making your own taco mix is totally the way to go since you can hone the flavor to your own taste.


How to Make Your Own Taco Seasoning:

  • Gather the following spices: chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, and sea salt. If you want to make it hot, add crushed red pepper flakes, but they aren't necessary.
  • I put roughly half a teaspoon of each into a little glass dish and stirred them together. You can't do a very good taste-test, but you can smell it to judge if it's the right amount of spice. I think I ended up with 1/8 of a cup of spices if I had to judge visually.
  • Et voila.
Now, to make the baked chicken chimichangas:

Ingredients
  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese
  • 1 8oz package of shredded pepperjack cheese
  • the taco seasoning you just blended
  • 1 lb shredded cooked chicken
  • 8 flour tortillas
Steps
  1. Cream together the cream cheese, shredded pepperjack, and taco seasoning, then blend in shredded chicken.
  2. Divide this mixture amongst the eight tortillas. I think I actually ended up with 9 tortillas, there was so much stuff.
  3. Tuck in the sides of the tortillas and roll them up.
  4. Lay them with the seam side down on a baking dish. 
  5. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F.
  6. Flip the chimichangas over and bake for an additional 15 minutes at 350F.
Garnish with sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt if you are out, which is what I have had to do a few times), more shredded cheese, salsa, sliced green onions, or whatever you wish. 


Not only was this dish really tasty, it was really easy. The hardest part was getting the cream cheese to blend. I ended up softening it in the microwave to make it more malleable. As you can see in the picture above, I added a vegetable side dish to round out the meal. Would I make this again? Absolutely. In fact, I could probably make a huge batch in advance and freeze them for meals later in the week. I am a fan of this idea, but have rarely ever actually put it into practice. If I had a more set schedule, or one that didn't involve working most evenings, it might be easier to implement. 

Eh bien, c'est la vie. Onto the next cooking challenge.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Chicken Meal in One


Here is another recipe that I found on Pinterest, and I am totally geeked about it! I don't know if it would work with meat other than chicken (I am not well-versed in meat that is not chicken), but it would definitely work with other vegetables and possibly other kinds of potato, though the only other kind of potato I can think of is the sweet potato. Along that line, squash might work nicely for this. But I digress.

Here is what you do:

  1. Wash and cube a few potatoes. I used little Yukon golds. Place these potatoes along one side of a large baking dish. They should take up about 1/3 of the dish.
  2. In the middle of the dish, next to the potatoes, place two chicken breasts. 
  3. In the remaining third of the dish, put a bag of frozen green beans. I used French cut because that is all that Meijer had in stock. The original recipe calls for fresh green beans. Either works. I am not sure canned would be so great for this, though.
  4. The original recipe says to sprinkle everything with cubes of butter. What I did instead was drizzle olive oil. 
  5. Over the whole thing sprinkle a packet of Italian salad dressing seasonings. You should also use a Ranch salad dressing seasoning packet. Or garlic salt and parsley. Or salt and pepper. Really, you can use anything to season the dish. I just happened to follow the recipe that said to use the Italian packet.
  6. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 1 hour. Cover with foil if you like. I forgot this part and it turned out fine, and my oven even runs hot.

This was ridiculously easy to make! Usually I only prepare a protein and a vegetable for dinner, and in just over an hour (prep time is almost nil), I had not one, but two sides. No, it's nothing terribly fancy, but it's quick, easy, and good for you. And as I said at the beginning, I am pretty sure I can trade out the green beans and maybe even the potatoes. I'd like to try it, anyway. Maybe some sweet potatoes with brown sugar and butter sprinkled over-top. Mm... Sounds like a good combo for Fall.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Fake Pumpkin Ice Cream

Has anyone else seen the healthy homemade pumpkin ice cream floating around Facebook and Pinterest? When I saw it, I was intrigued because I love pumpkin. (Actual pumpkin, not just the spice.) I've been calling it Fake Pumpkin Ice Cream, which is perhaps misleading because it has real pumpkin - the ice cream is fake. Turns out it's really pretty tasty and super easy to make with only four ingredients:
  • 4 medium bananas sliced and frozen overnight
  • 1 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup of real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice
Puree all of the above together in a good blender. I say good blender because every time I try to puree frozen things (like when I attempted to make corn pudding), nothing really blends. (I didn't have a problem making smoothies, though that involved adding a liquid.) Once everything has been blended into submission, pour it into a freezer safe container and freeze it over night. Voila! Frozen pumpkin flavored thingie.

The pictures that I've seen floating around the internet make it look just as creamy as ice cream, and that was not the case with mine. It was actually quite icy, but this did not take away from the flavor. As it melted, it got less icy and creamier, so maybe it was a blender fail or maybe it was the Tupperware container that was only kind of freezer safe. It doesn't really matter to me. I quite enjoy the flavor (which Greg likened to summer squash; I tasted more banana and maple), and intend to make it again.

I was actually thinking about what other things I could use in this recipe in place of pumpkin. Sweet potato immediately sprang to mind, which I sometimes eat sweetened with brown sugar. In keeping with the fall theme, applesauce or cooked down fresh apples and cinnamon might also work. We may yet go apple picking this year, and if I give this one a try, I will be sure to post about it here (even if it turns out to be a total disaster). 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Mustang Lounge on Mackinac Island

As I mentioned on my Life From Ann Arbor blog, my boyfriend Greg and I took a vacation up north earlier this month. We spent our first night in St. Ignace in the U.P., then took a ferry over to Mackinac (pronounced mack-ih-naw - ignore the "c" or suffer withering glares) Island first thing in the morning where we spent the next night. 

We had dinner on the Island at a place called the Mustang Lounge. I ate here a few years back when I was visiting from California and craving Coney Island hot dogs. I remembered the food being pretty good and the prices were reasonable. This time, we had somewhat more interesting fare than coneys (which I can now eat whenever I feel like it). 

For an appetizer, we ordered the Beer and Pretzel Bites, which were, as far as I could tell, mozzarella nuggets beer-battered in pretzel coating with a cheese dipping sauce. They were tasty! The right amount of salt and a lot of cheese. Great for munching. 

Greg chose the Grilled Bacon Mac 'N Cheese sandwich and a Lighthouse Amber that we think was brewed in Cheboygan. When he saw the picture of the sandwich on the camera once we returned home, his comment was "Dear God, that does not look good for me." He said it tasted good at the time, though it was a bit greasy. 

I opted for fish and chips, which were wonderful, though also greasy, and I ended up peeling a lot of the batter off the fish at the end of the meal when it started to bother my stomach. It came with an order of coleslaw that was not so doused in sauce as to hide the flavors of the vegetables, so I liked it, and the tartar sauce had just the right amount of tang. To drink, I had an iced tea, which was lovely, but nothing special. 

The Mustang Lounge is a good hangout place with good food and beers and sports on the TV. It claims to be often patroned by the locals, and I am inclined to believe it because the 'Stang has a very neighborhood bar kind of feel. There is also enough variety in the menu to please just about anybody. 

So if you are on the Island and in the mood for some basic, down-home dude food, or a spot to catch the game with a good beer, this is a great place. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Baked Oregano and Garlic Chicken

Somewhat inspired by the tasty (and easy) baked breaded basil chicken that I made over a month ago, I decided on another baked chicken and herb dish, this time using dried oregano, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

The trick I learned from the basil chicken was to coat the chicken breasts (thawed if they were frozen) in a little bit of olive oil before shaking on the seasonings. Everything stick so much better! So I put the breasts in my baking dish, drizzled on some oil and smeared it around to coat the meat, then shook on my dried oregano leaves followed by some garlic powder, then a little bit of salt and pepper.


I pre-heated the oven to 350F and baked the chicken for about half an hour. One breast was thicker than the other took a little longer to cook. I suggest started baked chicken at half an hour, then cutting into the meat to make sure it is cooked through before removing it from the oven. If it's still pink, I put it back in for another ten minutes. It may help to stab holes into the meat before baking to help the heat get through. Some people tell me this makes the chicken cook faster, but I couldn't say for certain.

The flavor of this dish was excellent - very Italian, which gave me the idea to next time add some grated Parmesan cheese to the oregano and garlic coating, maybe finishing with some tomato sauce a couple of minutes before it is done cooking.

I still haven't done a baked parsley dish (that I can remember). That may have to happen in the near future.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Good Morning Egg Scrambles and Herbs

I was inspired by my breakfast egg scrambles comprised of leftovers to make an egg scramble that involved fresh ingredients: quartered fresh mushrooms, grape tomatoes cut in half, and hand-torn spinach leaves. It was fantastic! But I didn't stop at just these three items. I also added dried parsley, dried chives (which I think I will always need in my kitchen from now on), and the totally awesome garlic salt grinder from Trader Joe's that includes not only roasted garlic and sea salt inside, but dried onion and parsley, as well. 

Aside: I love that grinder, and I use it on almost everything. The only problem I have had with it is that the innards sometimes get moist and stick together, refusing to fall down to the grinder part without a lot of banging on it. This happens often in the warm and humid months because Michigan is terribly humid under normal summer circumstances and we don't use much AC. 

I was talking to an herbalist recently, and he said that humans have been eating herbs for millenia - they've always been a part of our diets - but nowadays it seems that herbs aren't really a part of our diets. I agree! I love herbs. My family grew some herbs and mints in our garden while I was growing up, but I don't recall us using many in cooking (mostly basil and parsley because my mother, being half Sicilian, cooked a lot of Italian food - and it was delicious).

But herbs are fantastic little punches of flavor! They need to be incorporated into more everyday dishes, like egg scrambles. To make a delicious plate of scrambled eggs, one does not need a bunch of vegetables or fungi, though these are very tasty additions. Just adding some parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary, or dill adds a new and tasty element that makes the mostly bland flavor of plain eggs more interesting. Consider it a culinary adventure. I also highly suggest adding garlic. Garlic is awesome.

There are medicinal benefits to herbs, just ask an herbalist. Different herbs can be used as antioxidants, antibacterials, and more. A quick internet search turned up this article, Everyday Medicinal Purposes of Herbs, which just touches the surface. Click here for the health benefits of my favorite herb parsley.

Anyway. My breakfasts have gotten a bit healthier, more colorful, and more satisfying lately as a result of these experiments. If you are tired of the same old breakfasts, maybe some herby and veggie egg scrambles will help to perk up your mornings. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Red Bean Tempeh Saute and Scramble


In the latest issue of the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal, I reviewed the Brinery, a local company selling their delicious pickled products through farmers markets and health food stores (as well as some items online through their website). While I was visiting their booth at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market one day, I picked up some red bean tempeh. I have had tempeh many times, but never cooked it myself. Red bean (also known as azuki) is one of my favorite things in the whole universe, so I couldn't pass up an opportunity to try red bean tempeh! 

I actually didn't have the time to cook this dish myself, since I work evenings and get home late, so my terrific boyfriend Greg did it for me so it was ready and waiting to be eaten when I got home from work at 10:30pm. I poked around Pinterest for some recipe ideas, then Greg and I went to Meijer to pick up the other ingredients: 1 small onion, 1 red bell pepper, and some mixed leafy greens.

The steps for cooking are simple:
  1. Slice up the onion and red bell pepper.
  2. Break up the tempeh.
  3. Saute all of the above in your oil of choice until vegetables are softened.
  4. Toss in some fresh greens. When they are wilted, your dish is done. 
I think Greg tossed in some garlic and salt for extra flavoring. Many herbs would good with this combination. Of course, I recommend parsley because it's the king of herbs (in my kitchen), but thyme or basil would also be great additions. Also, I think tomatoes would be good because I like tomatoes. Maybe some cherry or grape tomatoes sliced in half.

Anyway, that was dinner. I loved it! The red beans had an interesting, almost crunchy texture that sort of popped when I chewed them. Red beans are sweet, so they matched the red bell pepper and onion quite well. 

Since we had some leftovers, I tossed them back in the frying pan the next morning, cracked in two eggs (rendering the dish no longer vegan, but still vegetarian for some), and made an awesome breakfast scramble. I don't know why I don't make more egg scrambles with red bell peppers and onions. It's a wonderful combination! Throw in some fresh mushrooms and I'm really happy. (Alas, I had none on this morning.) 

I don't know if red bean tempeh is unique to the Brinery or not. If so, find them and buy some! If not, find someone else and buy it from them! I found it to be a tasty new vegetarian/vegan item that I am glad I tried and would absolutely buy again.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tex-Mex Black Bean Cornbread Supper with Gluten-Free Option

Years ago, I worked at a little pharmacy gift shop at Texas Corners outside Kalamazoo Michigan. Gift shops are always interesting little places because they are constantly playing this game of "what do people want?" thus are wonderful and unique hodgepodges of all manner of stuff. Every now and again, this gift shop would get in funky little recipe books that sometimes sold well and other times were total flops. 

One book that I picked up for myself is called Mom's Best One-Dish Suppers: 101 easy homemade favorites as comforting now as they were then by Andrea Chesman. I don't think this book is in print any longer, but you can get the eBook for $8.49. (Kobo is the cheapest version I found online.) The book has some really good recipes with chapters covering soups and stews, skillet and other stovetop suppers, oven-baked suppers, and salad suppers, all designed to be a complete meal (protein plus veggies, etc) in one dish. 

I am not actually sure how much I have ended up using this book over the years because the recipes call for a lot of things I could not always afford to buy, like meat, spices, fresh vegetables, and wine. I am in a much better position now to splurge on such things, though the phenomenally delicious recipe I am sharing today is vegetarian and can also very easily be made gluten-free. It's called Tex-Mex Black Bean Cornbread Supper and it is found in the skillet chapter, but I had to make it into a casserole because I don't have an "ovenproof skillet." I will show you how I made it, which did involve a little tweaking.


To make the beans, you need:
  • 2 T canola or olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped (the recipe suggests 1/2 green and 1/2 red; to avoid being wasteful, I used 1 orange)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 15oz can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (do not drain)
  • 1 15oz can black beans
  • Salt & pepper to taste
The recipe actually calls for 1 to 3 fresh hot chiles, finely diced, and one can of regular diced tomatoes. I don't like chiles and I am frugal, so I bought the can of Meijer all-natural diced tomatoes with green chiles for the same price, saving myself about $3 and really getting the same effect in the dish. (Actually, it did end up with a little bite to it, so next time I may scratch the green chiles entirely.)

This recipe also has you make the cornbread topping from scratch. I used Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix because at 99 cents a box, it saved so much time and money. The internet tells me that Jiffy Mix is not gluten-free, however. For the gluten-free easy-breezy option, I recommend Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Cornbread Mix, which can also be bought from Meijer, or probably any decent-sized grocery store (Kroger, Safeway, Harding's, Whole Foods, and so forth). Both of these mixes can be made with milk substitutions (soy, almond, hemp, etc) and egg substitutions (like this flax egg substitute I made one time) making this casserole a pretty darn tasty option for people with food allergies.

The assembly:
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and cumin. Saute until the onion is soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cans of tomatoes and beans and cook a few minutes more. Remove from heat and salt and pepper to taste. Carefully pour the beans mixture into an appropriately sized casserole dish. 
  3. Make the cornbread according to box (or recipe) instructions. Evenly spread the cornbread batter over the beans mixture in the casserole dish to make a top crust. 
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cornbread topping is golden brown and firm. Serves 4 or 5.

Et voila. This was so delicious that I want to eat it again right now. It sure did heat up my kitchen, though, so maybe not the best thing to bake when the weather is hot and humid and your kitchen is incapable of getting any sort of breeze. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Baked Breaded Basil Chicken

Here is a really simple and tasty chicken recipe that took very little time to prepare and bake. I don't recall where the recipe came from, but it's a relatively new one for me. 

Ingredients:
  • two chicken breasts thawed (or more, if you prefer)
  • olive oil
  • dried basil flakes
  • garlic salt
  • breadcrumbs (try Italian seasoned for extra flavor)
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Pour some olive oil into a dish large enough to dip chicken breasts in. Add some garlic salt and basil. Measurements are not exact, so just do what you think you can handle. "To taste," as they say. Stir the mixture and let it sit for a couple of minutes to blend flavors.
  3. Pour about 1 cup of breadcrumbs into another dish large enough to dip chicken breasts in. 
  4. Coat the chicken the breasts in the olive oil, basil, and garlic mixture, then in breadcrumbs. 
  5. After placing the breaded chicken breasts into a baking dish, sprinkle some more basil flakes over the top.
  6. Bake uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes.
Et voila. Add a veggie side, maybe some pasta or potatoes, and dinner is served. 

Before when breading chicken, I have always used an egg. I find the olive oil creates much less of a mess, and the breadcrumbs seemed to stick more evenly. I think I will use this technique from now on. 

I was thinking this would also be very tasty using parsley rather than basil since parsley is my favorite herb. You could probably use any herb, really, or a combination. I don't particularly enjoy rosemary, but I can see it working very well in this type of dish. Maybe a dash of grated Parmesan, too, before baking. The possibilities are endless.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Grand Rapids: the Green Well & Brewery Vivant

After spending most of the day at the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park a few weeks ago, Greg and I headed over to Brewery Vivant. A coworker had highly recommended it to me before we took off on our West Michigan adventure, and Greg thought he had heard of it before, as well. Unfortunately, they do not open until 3pm, another hour away, and we were hungry.

So we headed across the street to the Green Well Gastro Pub for lunch. Since the weather was nice, we ate outside on the patio. We started with the Breads and Spreads, "an array of spreads that rotate daily served with toasted breads from Field & Fire Bakery & Green Well flatbreads." At least we tried to. Our wait forgot about our appetizer order, and we didn't get it until the end of the meal. Not a bad dessert, I guess. The four spreads were interesting, and I like the idea that it changes. It adds re-play value, though I don't now when I will ever be in that neighborhood, or any part of Grand Rapids, again.

For lunch, I ordered the Kind Wet Burrito, a pretty involved burrito with all kinds of tasty things in it! I assume it's "kind" because it is normally vegetarian. I added chicken for $4, making it a less kind burrito? Whatever, it was delicious! It would have been just as tasty without the chicken, but I needed the added protein. To drink, I tried the Michigan Strawberry tea on ice. I don't think it tasted much like strawberries, but the flavor was pleasant. 

Greg ordered some kind of funky spritzer that he liked more than I did and Otto's Family Farm Chicken & Waffles. (He pretty much orders chicken and waffles whenever it is available on a menu.) He was disappointed with this his smaller portion size, while I was nearly overwhelmed with the size of mine. We paid roughly the same for both dishes.

When lunch was over, Brewery Vivant was open, so we went back across the street for liquid dessert. I am not a big fan of beer, and though there was at least one hard cider offering, I opted for the house-brewed root beer instead. It always pleases me when breweries offer their own root beer. I think Brewery Vivant's sticky brew shot up to my favorite micro-brewed root beer. (Olde Peninsula of Kalamazoo will probably forever hold the number one spot. The former #2, current #3 place is held by Joe's Friendly Tavern located in the village of Empire, MI up north.) Greg ordered a flight so as to sample a few of the brewery's signature brews, and he enjoyed every one.


What makes Brewery Vivant unique isn't just the beer. It's located in an old church, and the main seating area was once the chapel. It's only a little bit eerie. The shape of the bar mirrors the shape of the stained glass window behind it. The bathrooms were also fun, or the sink was anyway. There are no basins, only the counter, tilted imperceptibly until the water is turned on and all runs to the back. I was intrigued and a little puzzled, so I can only imagine how a drunk person would feel when confronted with this. (Bravo, Vivant.)


Brewery Vivant also strives to be a sustainable company with a small carbon footprint, and "[i]n 2012, [was] awarded the first ever LEED certification (LEED Silver) for a brewery in the United States." Cool beans!

While we were at the Green Well, we learned a lot of people did as we had, taking lunch at the Green Well before heading over to Brewery Vivant for drinks. You don't have to as Vivant has a full menu, including snacks for kids, but it isn't a bad deal if you arrive too early. That wet burrito was pretty amazing. If you like beer and are in Grand Rapids, definitely check out Brewery Vivant. It can't believe it would disappoint.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blank Slate Creamery: New Homemade Ice Cream in Ann Arbor!

A couple of months ago, I was excited to try locally made and totally stellar gelato from Hello! Ice Cream.There's another local ice cream I was happy to try out not long ago from the newly opened Blank Slate Creamery in downtown Ann Arbor at the corner of Liberty and Ashley. (I can't recall exactly what was in that location before, but Greg and I think it was a hydroponics store.) There is a small parking lot, a rarity for downtown, making it even more convenient to get to!

There are a lot of flavors at Blank Slate ranging from the totally normal chocolate and vanilla, to the more unusual-but-not-unheard-of strawberry balsamic and creme de menthe and flavors I've never encountered, such as the malted chocolate stout, which is what Greg ordered. (For a complete list of flavors, click here.) I got creme de menthe and it was delicious. The waffle cones are also made fresh and sometimes arrive in your hand still warm. There is enough seating for plenty of people to sit inside, chairs and tables on the sidewalk outside, and, of course, all of downtown to explore.

Possibly the most entertaining part about sticking around inside is that the tables and walls are covered in chalkboard paint, so you can doodle to your heart's content! Just don't get so absorbed in your temporary masterpiece that your ice cream drips all over you (a very real hazard). 

Since I work downtown, I am often asked for recommendations on where to eat, drink, or get ice cream. Until now, I've always sent people to Kilwin's (also located on Liberty) because it was the only place I could think of. I love Kilwin's - the fudge, the caramels, the ice cream, the goofy post cards of naked hippies - and I will still mention them when people ask about ice cream. But I will also be sure to tell them about Blank Slate. It offers very different flavors from Kilwin's and seems like it can handle larger crowds. When it comes to ice cream, I am not prohibitive. 

So let's all welcome Blank Slate to the downtown community! Banzai!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Roasted Mushroom Quinoa

Since the last few posts have been about local restaurants I have visited, and the next few will probably be about my mini vacation to West Michigan this past week, I thought I would throw up another recipe. I found this one, Roasted Mushroom Quinoa (pronounce "keen-wah"), in an old issue of Clean Eating Magazine. I guess it's too old be posted on their website, so I will - more or less - reproduce it for you below and tell you how my batch went. (Clean Eating is a great resource for recipes using fresh ingredients packed with vitamins and all that other healthful stuff.) 

Ingredients
16 oz sliced fresh mushrooms (I used steak cut) 
2 cloves of sliced garlic
1 thinly sliced large shallot
1 T olive oil (I used considerably more)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup quinoa any color
1 loosely packed cup of fresh parsley


Instructions
1) Preheat oven to 425F. (My oven runs hot, so I did 400F.)

2) Spread the mushrooms, garlic, and shallot out on a large baking sheet. Salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil. This is why I used more than one tablespoon. Maybe there is some secret technique I am missing, or maybe my baking sheet was too big, but just one tablespoon is never enough. Pop this tray in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, tossing the mushrooms around every now and again and flipping them if you can to ensure an even roast. I think I overcooked mine a little as the garlic and shallots were less crisp and more blackened.

3) While that is baking, prepare the quinoa according to box instructions Tip: Don't use your littlest pan. It will about double in size as it cooks. The box says you can use a rice cooker. I have not tried this.

4) Once everything is all cooked and happy, combine the roasted mushrooms, garlic, and shallots, in a large mixing bowl with the quinoa, then sprinkle on the parsley and gently mix. I served mine immediately, though the magazine also recommends chilling it and serving it cold.

I love mushrooms, and these were certainly tasty despite the blackened garlic and shallot. (Stupid oven.) The quinoa, however, distinctly lacked flavor. I think it would have helped had I added the garlic and shallots to the quinoa rather than the mushrooms, or cooked the quinoa in a broth instead of just plain water. Parsley is my go-to herb because I am in love with the flavor - and this was from our own garden, too! - but it was not enough to flavor the dish in this case. 

I have the other half of the box of quinoa left in my cupboard and a wealth of other quinoa dishes to make, so I think I may combine a few and make this again. I think some balsamic vinegar would not go wrong here, and maybe some sun-dried tomatoes. Neither should impact the healthfulness of the dish, and would add some fun color and more taste. This is definitely a dish you could bring as a side to a picnic or a potluck, though we had it as the main course with broccoli on the side. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Old German Bar and Bierkeller

There are a lot of places to drink in Ann Arbor, and I don't mean sports bars or university meat markets. Though these places do exist in abundance, I refuse to step foot inside them. No, my boyfriend Greg and I prefer to haunt the Main Street area and do our drinking in slightly more sophisticated environs where drinking is serious business. 

Take the relatively newly opened Old German Bar and Bierkeller beneath the already popular Grizzly Peak Brewing Co. located at the corner of Ashley and Washington. (A bierkeller is "a public house decorated in German style, selling German beers," though it literally translates to "beer cellar" from German.) My first impression of Old German was that is was dark. Very dark. I could barely see two feet in front of my face and as we made our way to an open table, Greg smacked his shoulder against a pole that neither of us had realize was there. 

As my eyes adjusted, however, I realized the interior is very, very cool. Sadly, it was too dark to take pictures. Imagine a dark cellar - but not a dank one!- with wood furniture everywhere and smoky lanterns swinging overhead. Greg and I agree that one day we would like to have just such a cellar as part of our home, hopefully with the same giant vats of beer behind the bar and pleasing array of spirits on the shelves. 

The food is German. Very, very German. There is a lot of pork, so my choices were limited. I decided to play it safe with a chicken brat that turned out to be stellar in the taste department. Greg ordered the bacon and beer brat, which he quite enjoyed. Both came with a side of German potato salad, which I don't often like because it is warm and lacks mayonnaise. This one was more than tolerable, and I ate most of mine. (The vinegar-dense potatoes at the bottom proved to be too much for my tastebuds.)

But this is a bierkeller, so onto the drinks! I didn't actually get a beer. I got a Snow Weiss, "Berentzen Apfel Schanpps, Absolut Citron, Bacardi Melon Rum, Sour Mix." Mmmmmm..... I loved it. I could have ordered probably three glasses, it tasted so good, but I would have definitely been stumbling. All of the spirits looked pretty amazing, especially the Hasselhoff, which has a lot of blue in it. Greg enjoyed the beer selection, as I am sure any beer-loving person (especially of the German variety) would.

If you enjoy German food and/or German beer, Old German is a real gem. I would absolutely hang out there with friends, and it is totally a bar I would bring friends to who are visiting from out-of-town. I wish Old German all the best! And I might be seeing it again soon.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Friendly and Fun Lena of Ann Arbor

At the corner of Liberty and Main in downtown Ann Arbor, there was once a terrific Greek restaurant called the Parthenon. Not long after I moved to Ann Arbor, they closed. It was with great curiosity and some anxiety that I watched the space be gutted and rebuilt as a new restaurant, Lena. Stairs? Those hadn't been there before. Where did they come from? Where did they go? And what's with that egg-shaped fireplace that seems to hang from the ceiling. 

It wasn't until Art Fair this past week that my boyfriend Greg and I at last were able to give Lena a chance. You'd think any downtown restaurant would be packed at this time, but we were able to get a table right away. Our waiter was friendly, attentive, and personable. He was also very knowledgeable about the menu and was ready with food and drink recommendations. 

First we ordered drinks, an iced tea for me and a vanilla clove mojito for Greg, and a plate of plantain tostones because Greg loves plantains and I am always game for new food. The vanilla clove mojito had an intense flavor and was strong. Greg fell in love with it, though he dared not order a second. "If I keep drinking these, I'm not walking out of here," he said. 

For the main course, I decided on the blue crab burrito. I love crab, especially blue crab. I wasn't sure if it would be any good this far from the coast, but I wanted to give it a try anyway. I enjoyed it! Thought the flavor was a bit on the fishy side. (There was fish mixed in with the crab, which I don't begrudge them. Crab is expensive this far from the coast.) Greg had the Cuban sandwich. He raved about this, too, dubbing it "like the most tender Cuban sandwich ever." I did not try it because I cannot eat most forms of pork without becoming horribly, painfully ill. 

Both of us were too full for dessert, so I can't report on anything there. But the friendly staff, terrific food, and strong drink will draw me back. One day!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti

About a month ago, my boyfriend Greg and I went to the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, MI for the first time where they were hosting what turned out to be a very cool and entertaining burlesque show. I've had many invitations to go to the Corner Brewery - there was even a work event held there once - but it just never ended up working out for me. I liked it a lot better than the original location, the Ann Arbor Brewing Company (ABC) Pub in downtown Ann Arbor. The atmosphere is more inviting, and I enjoyed my food considerably more. 

I honestly don't remember what food Greg ordered, but I got a fantastic quesadilla that was packed with flavor and quite filling. I highly recommend it. Greg also ordered two different beers over the course of the evening that he enjoyed. I am not a fan of beer, and only enjoy certain wines. (I don't generally like California wines, for example, or French. Too dry. Italian, Great Lakes, or Pacific Northwestern wines can be downright delightful!) I do like mead and hard ciders, so when Greg ordered his first beer, I requested a cider. 

"Which one?" the tapster asked. "Apple or blueberry?"

BWUH? I had never heard of blueberry hard cider and got very excited. Blueberries are far and above my favorite berry. I was definitely not disappointed with my choice. I could have drunk a barrel full and still have been thirsty for more. It went surprisingly well with the quesadilla, as well. 

I really want to return and try more food! We ate outside at one of the many beer garden-style tables because the weather was fine, but the inside is cozy, too. There are games you can play inside and out, giving the place a relaxed, festive air. I really liked it! So did Greg, and there are an awful lot of beers that he did not try. Maybe next time we can meet up with friends and play a game or two. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Low Carb Diets Are Very Restrictive


Totally forbidden.
First, I have to say that my car accident last week has really thrown my schedule! As has working 20 days in a row. (I only missed one shift for the car accident, and worked half of another before being taken to urgent care, then the ER. Riding in the ambulance was not nearly as exciting as it had sounded.)

Anyway, I have been seeing a nutritionist lately to see if a change in food and adding supplements to my diet would help the health problems I have been experiencing that conventional medicine has completely failed to address. Good news, it is helping! Bad news, I am being asked to cut out next to all carbs from my diet. I'm down to a limit of 165 per day, which is extremely difficult when I eat a fairly balanced diet already of vegetables, fruit, and milk. I may have to cut out my morning (and only) serving of milk with cereal because it puts me over the daily limit, which is stupid. 

No more fresh fruit and Greek yogurt parfaits - too many carbs! No more blueberries, cherries, raisins, or apples, either. Turns out they're riddled with carbs and super unhealthful. The only fruits listed on the sheet I was given are avocados (yes, avocados are a fruit), chayote (I have no idea what that is), raspberries, and strawberries. Most nuts are also verboten due to their unhealthfulness. I am allowed only macademia nuts and pecans. 

Vegetables, greens, dairy, and eggs make up the bulk of the list, in that order. Which makes little sense since the largest contribution to my daily carb intake is the half cup of whole milk I put on my cereal at breakfast (yes, it contains more than cereal itself). I've been keeping a food diary for a month now, and I am really struggling on where to cut out carbs. I don't eat sandwiches at lunch, so there is no bread there. We also don't have bread with dinner, and rarely eat pasta. The true bulk of my daily carb intake comes from fruit. I refuse to believe that eating fresh fruit is bad for me. 

This has also severely cut down on the number of calories I intake a day, which may sound like a good thing until you see that I go from 1600 calories a day to 900. I have been led to suspect (by a dietitian I met with in college mostly) that less than 1000 calories per day is not really so great a thing.

These things will kill you.
I was told I can have a treat every now and again, like ice cream, but how can I do that when my normal fruit and dairy diet is already maxing out my calorie intake? I don't think fruit should count as "carbs." When I think of carbs, I think of bread, oatmeal, cereal, pizza, ice cream, cookies, cake, etc, not blueberries (a superfood) and apples.

A typical breakfast for me was once a bowl of cereal or oatmeal with a tablespoon of raisins over-top and sometimes a glass of 100% juice. Now that is forbidden. 100% fruit juice is especially forbidden. The carb count is ridiculous! I used to eat an apple or some cherries with my lunch. Had to cut both. I had no idea what a terrible dietary lifestyle I was leading. Fruit, the silent killer.

Keeping the diary does make me more aware of what I am eating, but I don't think it is helping me curb carbs. Scurvy may sound funny, but I would rather not get it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Food Reviews, Poems, and a Summer Recipe

I announced a few months ago that I have started working for the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal. Well, after my column "Crysta Goes Visiting" debuted, I was approached by the editors about an idea for a restaurant review column. I like to post restaurant reviews occasionally on this blog when I have a neat new place I checked out (or wish to warn people about places to avoid, though, thankfully, those are rare). Since it is once again submission and editing time, I haven't had much time to write my blog, and a lot of my food adventures have been reserved for the Journal. (I say this to entice you. The next issue will be out September 1st.) 

Quite frankly, I am worn out. I am in the middle of a twenty day work week for my two hourly wage jobs, plus working on articles for the Journal and going back and forth with the editor of Valves and Vixens, which was just released in eBook format (my story is number two in the line-up!), in my "spare" time. This all means no fun new update for the food blog this week. 

Instead, I offer you this: I've written a few poems about food for this blog and linked them here for your reading pleasure. 

Also, here is a recipe for zucchini and yellow squash casserole. You should be able to get the ingredients fresh from your local market!

Happy eating, everyone. And resting.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hello! Ice Cream

Hello! Ice Cream is a loal company that shows up in the form of an adorable old style ice cream truck named Ingrid, or sometimes a nifty cart that doesn't appear to have a name, that likes to park at various events in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area and sell delightful "Italian style ice cream and frozen treats made fresh." I have kind of been stalking them online for months, but I was just never able to make it to an event they were working. Then I learned that Hello! Ice Cream was going to be at the Ann Arbor Book Festival where I was going to be womanning the booth for Crazy Wisdom, the bookstore where I work. I agreed to work the even provided we could have our table by the ice cream truck. And I got my wish! 

I actually saw Ingrid for the first time the week prior at the Kerrytown Farmers Market where I was passing out coupons for my other job, Catching Fireflies. Much to my great despair, I did not have the right amount of cash on me, so I could not get gelato. HUGE SIGH.

But then at the Ann Arbor Book Festival, my table was kitty-corner from Ingrid, and I was very excited. My three options were chocolate-raspberry, chocolate stout (which I know my boyfriend Greg would have jumped on), and gianduia. First, I asked how to pronounce gianduia because that's the kind of word-loving person I am. It's said like "John-Do-Ya," as in "John, do ya like chocolate hazelnut ice cream?" because it turns out that is what flavor gianduia is. Wikipedia tells me that Nutella was originally called Pasta Gianduja. 

The gelato vendor went on to tell me that a previous customer had told her that "gianduia" is the name of a clown character from a particular region in Italy known for its hazelnuts, rather than a translation of "chocolate-hazelnut" as she had originally assumed. (Read Wikipedia for a fuller explanation.) So not only does this gelato flavor have an interesting name, it has an interesting backstory. I had to get it. Sorry, chocolate stout! I'm not a fan of stout anyway. 

It was creamy, delicious, and oh-so satisfying after I had spent two hours in the sun. I would love to hunt them down again (or have them come to me; that was pretty great, too) and try more flavors. Maybe I will give the chocolate stout a try, though I still think I will leave that to Greg. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Kale Sauteed in Olive Oil and Garlic Insanity

A little while ago, I picked up a huge bunch of kale at Meijer for pretty cheap. I had intended to use it in smoothies, which I did do once or twice, but I also had a hankering for kale chips, so I made a couple batches of those, too. (The first one burned because I misjudged the difference in temperature on this stove versus my old one. Sad times.) There was so much kale that I didn't go through it all before it started to go bad. I put it on a turkey sandwich just to use it, which gave the sandwich an odd peppery taste. I don't think I will be putting kale on a turkey sandwich again any time soon. But the kale was turning yellow, so I needed to use it immediately! An easy solution for cooking most (if not all) greens is to saute them in olive oil, which is just what I did with the remainder of the kale.

First, I heated a couple tablespoons of olive oil in my largest frying pan. As it was heating up, I added a few dashes of this spice I found in the cabinet called Auntie Arwen's Ultimate Garlic Insanity. Greg and I love garlic, so this sounded great to me! I always like to add my spices and herbs to the oil and let the flavors combine before adding whatever it is I am trying to cook. In this case, kale.

I let the kale cook down just a little bit before turning off the heat. I find that if I turn the heat off early, then by the time the food is cool enough to eat, it has been cooked to perfection. If I wait for it to be fully done, the residual heat from the pan will push the dish past prime. I learned this technique from baking cookies, actually. If you want soft cookies rather than super crispy, remove the tray from the oven just before the cookies are technically cooked. They will continue to cook on the hot pan out of the oven.

Kale has a natural, almost peppery flavor to it, so I didn't add any pepper, nor salt this time, preferring to let the Garlic Insanity and oil do their thing. I ended up using this as a secondary side dish because there wasn't very much of it once I had thrown out the bad kale and cooked down the good. The escarole is coming back from last year in one of our balcony pots, and this is basically how I cooked that last year and hope to do so again. It's simple, quick, and delicious! I recommend trying it with any green.