recipe

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Okay, so my resolution to help everyone else ruin theirs was to do 31 posts in 31 days.  Fortunately, my resolution was not to release one post per day or else my resolution would be undeniably broken since you may notice January 11th is empty.  However, I did release two posts today.

The worst part is that I had the post done, it was just in a draft form.  Oh well, life, goes on right into today’s lesson: vegan nachos.

Vegan Nachos

All things considered, vegan nachoes maybe the healthiest thing that comes out of this month in terms of the amount of bad stuff you might consume.  Still, I have done my darndest to make sure the recipe is packed full of things which are delicious enough to qualify this as comfort food.

Now, I know what you are thinking…vegan nachos?  If you have hung around the site at all, you know I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve for vegan ground beef (Fantastic Foods taco meat) or chicken (Match Foods).  Still, nachos are known for one thing: cheese.  How can you have cheese without animal products?  Fortunately, in my post on Nutritional Yeast, I provide the answer using How It All Vegan!: Irresistible Recipes for an Animal-Free Diet‘s Eazy Breezy Cheezy Sauce that we will kick up a bit.

After that, it is a simple matter of adding some vegan refried beans (hello Fantastic!), some olives, tomatoes, and some other goodies and we are ready to rock some nachos.

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Over the weekend, I went to my local Whole Foods looking for new recipe ideas.  As I was passing by the seafood department, I noticed that whole dungeness crabs were on sale for $9/lb.  I had just watched an episode of Guy’s Big Bite on Food Network where host Guy Fieri had stir fried whole dungeness crabs.  It had me hungry.  I bought one of the monsters.

The funny thing about the dungeness crab…it sort of made me believe in aliens.  It’s an odd mushroom shaped critter with spindly little legs and two mean looking claws.  Not very earthly at all.

I still decided to eat it.  Here’s what I did to prepare it for cooking: 

Note: the crab I bought was preboiled.  If it had not of been, I would have dunked the little guy into a pot of boiling water for 12-20 minutes.  The one I had was almost two pounds, so I definitely would have gone over the 12 minute mark 

Step 1: Remove the top shell of the crab.  This is the large cranial shell on top of the crab which protects its body. 

  1. To do this, put the palm of your hand on top of the crab so that your fingers point away from the crab’s front.  You should be able to wrap your fingers around the back edge of the shell.
  2. Pull up on with your fingers so that your hand makes a 90 degree angle to your arm.  As you do this, the crab’s shell should pop off and fall away without too much effort.
  3. If the crab shell is still attached at the front, it can easily be pulled off using either hand.
  4. Save the shell and turn it into stock!

Step 2: Cleaning the crab.  If you did not think it looked like an alien before, surveying the innards of a crab should make you feel like you are in a science fiction movie.  You have three tasks: removing any cartilage, removing the gills, and determing what to do with the crab butter.

  1. Cartilage is long pieces of white, tough material.  There should be at least two resting on the gills, which are triangular greenish-yellow areas near the crab’s face.
  2. Using a knife, cut the cartilage and gills away from the body of the crab.  Use a finger to poke around.  Any other tough, stringy pieces of material will be extra cartilage.  Remove it.
  3. Now comes the fun part.  See that yellow lumpy stuff in the middle of the crab?  You have uncovered the little guy’s digestive tract.  That was his last meal.  In polite circles, this is called crab butter (because crab digestive innards has a distasteful ring) and for some, it  is delicacy.  I tend to avoid eating digestive tract materials whenever possible.  I used a spoon and the butcher’s paper that Whole Foods used to wrap my crab to get as much of it out as I could.
  4. Check for more cartilage and remove if found.

As a side note, there’s nothing poisonous or harmful about cartilage, it is just impossible to chew and might be a choking hazard for children.

Now for the Fun Part.

  1. Take a rolling pin and crack the shell on the legs and claws.  Work out some stress.  Make some noise.  Let the kids help.
  2. Now, optionally you can cut the crab into halves or quarters depending on your recipe and preference.  I cut mine into halves before cooking.

Next time I’ll talk sauces.  Anyone have a favorite Dungeness crab recipe?

So I kind of flaked on spice week.  I blame the extreme sickness that came and visited me for too long.

Because I only posted three recipes, I wanted to follow up with a fourth post on unique spices.  For this post, I shall talk about file powder.  Pronounced FEE-lay, it is a term for ground sassafrass leaves and is one of two ingredients that work with roux to thicken gumbo (the other being okra) and is a flavoring spice in other cajun food.

File makes the gumbo broth dark and gives the whole dish an earthy, savory taste that is not present in okra-based gumbo.  In addition, file powder seasons the entire broth whereas the only thing that tastes like okra is the okra.  As an added benefit, file powder does not get slimy and chewy like okra that has been cooked to long.  Which is not to say that I do not like okra gumbo.  I make it a lot, I just prefer file-based gumbo.

So here is my challenge to you.  In the United States where I am at, the weather is starting to get cold and winter will soon be upon us.  Cold weather is the perfect excuse to try out a new soup or stew recipe, so if you have not had a file-based gumbo, give one of these recipes a try!

http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,gumbo_file_powder_ingredients,FF.html

Okay, the following recipe is not mine…at least not completely.  I came across this recipe one day as I was flipping channels and happend to pass by the Food Network.  There, in primetime no less, was the lovely Paul Deen staring back at me over a mixing bowl.

With her Southern belle smile, she announced she was going to make a pumpkin cheesecake.  While she had me at “Hey y’all,” I sat in rapt attention as she made this recipe.

I had never made a cheesecake before.  I made that cheesecake.

I can bake.  Who knew?

If you decide to try it, follow the baking instructions exactly.  That’s my best advice.  My second best advice would that next time I make the recipe, I am going to add a half cup more sugar and double the spice.  I like my pumpkin pies bold with big flavors.  Paula’s pumpkin cheesecake was good, but it did not explode with sweetness, nutmeg, and clove like I prefer.  That is not Paula’s fault.  Everyone else who has tried the recipe loved it and wanted more. 

And besides, it’s a Paula Deen dessert.  You know it has to be good!

Hi everyone.  I am alive and well and only slightly frazzled with everything going on.  This is the week of Thanksgiving in America so for the next few days we’re going to be talking about how to make Thanksgiving feasts.  And then we’ll follow that up with how to turn Thanksgiving feasts into awesome Thanksgiving leftovers.

I wanted to start with the old standby: Green Bean Casserole.  Why?  1) Because I love the stuff and 2) Because it’s ridiculously unhealthy as is.  Think about it, it is canned green beans (mmm…sodium) and fried onions stewed in cream of mushroom soup.  Wait a minute…no wonder it’s so good.

Anyway, my recipe for making Green Bean Casserole is pretty straightforward, but is a whole lot healthier.

You will need:

  • 1 bag of frozen green beans
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons of Old Bay
  • 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup of reduced fat chedder cheese (optional)
  • 1 cup of oyster crackers or roughly crushed saltines

To make it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Boil the green beens in salted water for 5-7 minutes or until al dente.
  3. Drain and add lemon juice.  Set aside.
  4. In a preheated skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, the onions, and the seasonings.  Cook until the onions are soft.
  5. Combine the green beans, the onions, and the cans of soup in a oven safe dish and bake until the soup is bubbly.
  6. If cheese is desired, add about five minutes into the baking prcoess.
  7. Add the crackers right before serving so that they stay crispy.

The key to this recipe for me is the Old Bay seasoning on the onions.  It gives them a flavor I prefer to fried onions.  To make up for the texture of green bean casserole, I added saltines to the top of the casserole.

 Enjoy!

I’m just mad about Saffron…Saffron’s madly expensive…

So, back for another edition of Spice Week, the cooking celebration of the reuniting of the Spice Girls.  Yesterday, we looked at a way to make a warm herbed goat cheese with herbs de’ Provence which can be enjoyed as is. 

However, by using another great spice, in this case, saffron, we can make an excellent topping for the goat cheese with a Spanish twist.

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil 
  • 1 medium white onion 
  • salt
  • 2 teaspoons of pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flake
  • 1 tablspoon of Spanish paprika
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of green olives
  • 1 healthy pinch of saffron cooked in 2 tablespoons of hot tap water
  • 1/2 pound of 21 to 25 count shrimp (cooked), tails removed
  1. Preheat a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.
  2. When the skillet is hot, add the onions, garlic, a good pinch of salt, paprika, black pepper and red pepper flake.  Cook until the onions are very soft.
  3. When the onions are soft, add the can of diced tomatoes.  Bring the liquid to a boil and cook to reduce the sauce by 1/3.
  4. Wash the green olives and give them a rough chop.  When the sauce has reduced to the desired thickness, add the olives and let them get warm.
  5. Add the saffron and let the color of the spice spread throughout the sauce.
  6. Add the shrimp at the last minute and keep the skillet on the heat just long enough for the shrimp to get warm.  If you prefer, you can add uncooked shrimp at the same time as the green olives and cook them until they turn pink.

Take a healthy spoonful of the saffron-tomato-shrimp mixture and use it to top the goat cheese.   Tell me how you like it.

Interesting saffron facts: Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world because it can only be harvested by hand and is deadly in large amounts.  Enjoy!!

Welcome back to another (slightly later than I would have liked) edition of Spice Week.  In celebration of the Spice Girls reuniting, this week is all about how to use spices in your cooking.

And yes, I realize that herbs de’Provence are herbs and not spices, but bear with me here.  They’re a handy little thing to have for cooking.

Firstly, what are herbs de’ Provence?  Well, they’re herbs…from…Provence, France…

Actually, herbs de’ Provence are a mixture of dried herbs all of which are typically found in abundance in the Provence region of southeastern France and typically contain rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay and thyme.  Sometimes sage or lavendar are added as well.  They are an earthy mix of herbs that are used to add a natural, woodsy flavor to cooked foods.

Use herbs de’ Provence with either very robust flavors like beef or lamb or when you want the herbs to be the star of the show like in herbed chicken or in brown butter sauce poured over cheese ravoli.  Why then?  Well, the herbs in question, especially thyme and rosemary, are very strong and can easily drown out mild flavors like most vegetables or seafood.

Here’s something I am considering doing with some of my herbs de’ Provence.

You will need:

  • One tube of soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup of flower
  • 1/4 cup herbs de’ Provence
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • cooking spray (yes cooking spray…)
  1. Make sure the goat cheese is fresh out of the refrigerator when you prepare this recipe.
  2. Cut the goat cheese into medallions about 1/3 inch thick.  If the cheese is very soft, spin the cheese and press the outer edge of the circle inwards to firm it up almost like folding the edge of a pizza crust.
  3. Mix the flour, herbs, black pepper, and salt together in a plate or wide bowl.
  4. Place the goat cheese medallions on the flour/herb/spice mixture and coat both sides liberally.  As you coat the medallion, press down gently to really get the herbs and flour to stick.
  5. Let the medallions rest in the refrigerator for 5 minutes while the skillet preheats over medium heat.
  6. Coat the skillet and saute two to four medallions over medium heat until the cheese/flour is golden.  This should take about 2-3 minutes per side.

Enjoy as is or tune in tomorrow for my advice on how to top the goat cheese.

This is another recipe I created in my quest for chicken for the next issue of BIAO Magazine.  I really liked how it turned out with several different flavors going on at once: the citrus tang of orange with the spiciness of ginger and a little soy and garlic to bring it all home.

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 6 oranges or 1/3 cup of orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons of grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  1. Trim any excess fat from the chicken and cut into cubes if desired.
  2. Roll the oranges on the counter.  This will make them easier to juice.  Cut each orange in half and squeeze out the juice into a bowl.
  3. Make a marinade by combining the orange juice, grated ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir vigorously.
  4. Taste the marinade.  It may be a little strong, but it should generally taste like something you would want to eat.  If not, add a little more salt and pepper.  Retaste.
  5. Add the chicken.  If you have time, marinate in the refrigerator for up to thirty minutes.  If you need to get dinner on the table quickly, go ahead and move to step 6.
  6. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and dump the chicken into skillet with the marinade.  Cook until the chicken has an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  7. Serve over rice or lettuce leaves.

Enjoy!  And if anyone tries this recipe and the plum chicken recipe, tell me which one you like better!

In a recent article for BIAO Magazine, I was asked to put together a healthy cocktail party spread.  I decided to make the centerpiece of the spread a chicken dish that would focus on that elusive combination of light and tasty.  I tried several different recipes before finding the one that worked best with party concept.  You will have to find a copy of the magazine to see which chicken made it, but here’s one I liked that did not quite fit the theme.

  • 4 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
  • 2 tablespoons of salt plus one more pinch
  • 1 tablespoon of pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of mustard powder 
  • 5 plums (I used 2 black, 3 red, but you can use all of one type), diced in quarter inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon of grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 serrano chili, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider (apple or grape juice would also work)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  1. Trim the fat from the chicken and cut into cubes no more than one inch by one inch.  The size of the chicken is not as important as keeping the cubes roughly equal so that the chicken cooks evenly.
  2. Make a spice rub by mixing the Mix the salt, pepper, and mustard in a bowl.
  3. Coat the chicken with the spice rub and set aside for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the plums, pinch of salt, ginger, garlic, and serrano to a skillet over medium heat.  Cook for about three minutes.
  5. Add the cider and put the heat on medium low.
  6. The sauce is ready when the cider is reduced by half.  It should still be a little runny as it will be cooked again with the chicken.
  7. Heat a second skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.   When the chicken is almost cooked, ladel in the plum sauce and continue to cook until the chicken is finished.  (You may need to do two batches.)

Serve over rice with a side of soy sauce.