Swapped and Popped Corn

March 21, 2009

popcorn2I am swamped with work at the moment and stress-eating like mad, so when I was craving something spicy today I threw together one of my favorite recipes: spicy guilt-free popcorn.  I air-popped the kernels in the microwave, threw some spicy goodness on top and indulged without feeling a single trace of remorse because these babies are packed with flavor and not with calories!  I highly encourage messing around with the spices; this is just one that I happened to throw together today.  I really like to use India Tree’s Paloma de Colores kernels because they’re tastier and less kernel-y (and actually barely need any seasoning), but regular store-brand kernels work fine, too.  I fully intend on making this again tonight for a guilty-pleasure Twilight viewing with my friends!

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Soy Vay’s the Way to Go

March 19, 2009

soyvayteriyakiIn honor of National Poultry Day, I am reviewing a way to use one of my easiest, tastiest, fastest ways to cook America’s staple meat: chicken.  Some time ago I impulsively found Soy Vay’s Marinades and Sauces at the grocery store.  Initially I just like the design of the bottles: little boats and fun looking writing on a larger-than-usual bottle.  I was further intrigued when I discovered that not only are all the sauces completely organic and preservative-free, but they’re also completely kosher because, in their cute little story, “Jewish Boy Meets Chinese Girl and SOY VAY!  A Sauce is Born!”.  Nutritionally, they’re relatively low-calorie, although the sodium content is very high (although expected in soy-based sauces).  My personal favorite in the line is Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki. In fact, this stuff is so good it’s not only the only teriyaki marinade I use now, it’s also the only teriyaki sauce that Trader Joe’s even sells.

Initially I used this alone just to figure out how it would taste cooked when chicken was marinated in it.  It’s a little thicker than regular teriyaki sauces, and you have to shake the bottle pretty well to ensure that all the sesame seeds that aggregate at the bottom are mixed in.  I had some chicken thighs, so I dumped them in a plastic bag with a generous amount of the sauce.  About 2 hours later, I removed them from the bag, put them on a baking dish with some of the sauce and cooked them at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  What I ended up with were honestly some of the best chicken thighs I’ve had.  Read the rest of this entry »

News: The Wikipedia of Recipe Websites

March 18, 2009

foodistascreenshotI don’t know about you, but I’m always frustrated when I’m looking for a recipe for something specific and come across literally dozens of variations that all seem pretty decent.  So along comes Foodista.com, the first collaborative cooking website of its kind.  Essentially this is a fully editable Wikipedia for recipes, tips and techniques.  The duo behind the site gathered some 2 million recipes from around the web and then edited and combined them down to an initial compendium of about 1,500.  In their words, “Foodista is a collaborative project to build the world’s largest, highest quality cooking encyclopedia.  With your contributions, we can create a free resource that helps millions of people learn how to cook everything and anything”.

Sounds pretty good, right?  Searching terms like “chicken” or “stir-fry” produced a plethora of recipes with nice pictures and easy-to-follow directions.  Furthermore, there  were links to information on techniques and equipment involved.  All together, it was a pretty sweet package for someone who hasn’t been to culinary school but wants to try completely new things and cook delicious food.

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St. Pat’s = Irish Soda Bread!

March 17, 2009

brbuttsodabread21As a second generation Irish girl, nothing makes me happier than a dinner of beef, potatoes and a fresh toasty loaf of Irish Soda Bread.  On St. Patrick’s Day, this dinner is absolutely essential.  I’ve made many different forms of soda bread over the years, some containing caraway seeds and flax, others containing generous amounts of roasted garlic.  But as my grandmother taught me, traditional soda bread should be simple; in fact, real soda bread contains nothing more than flour, butter, baking soda and salt.   Why no yeast?  Because of the Irish climate, hard wheat could not be grown (which rises nicely when yeast is added).  To make up for this, the Irish used baking soda as a leavening agent, which is why the delicious result is called Soda Bread.

I’ve never been a fan of the versions containing bits like caraway seeds, raisins or currants (Martha Stewart’s, sadly, is one such recipe), so the two I’m including and had success with contain none of those extras.  The key to soda bread is to never overwork the dough.  Only mix until the ingredients are moistened and the dough ball is formed.  Overworking it will destroy the bread.  The first recipe is more savory, slightly more impressive and great for dinner.  The second is more traditional and simple and I love it for breakfast with jam (although it works for any meal, really).

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Spiced Sweet Potato Fries

March 15, 2009

sweet-potato-fries1So while winter seems to be taking a break for tonight, it wasn’t because suddenly the weather is more spring-like. If anything, it felt (and smelled) like full blown autumn. So what else was I to do than make myself some pork chops with a maple-apple glaze and some spiced sweet potato fries for dinner?

While my invented pork chops were less than stellar (honestly, a complete disaster.  They both looked and tasted like dog food), I feel the need to pass along the Sweet Potato Fries recipe, because it was incredible. I took Ina Garten’s basic recipe and made a few changes, although I think that next time I will change it again. Her recipe is incredibly versatile and you can cater it to complement almost any main dish you’re cooking. Here was my variation:

Spiced Sweet Potato Fries:

2 medium peeled sweet potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp granulated light brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp plus more to taste fresh ground black pepper
nutmeg, sprinkled
cinnamon, sprinkled

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Cut potatos into medium-sized wedges
3. Place wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over potatoes and toss to cover wedges evenly.
4. Sprinkle brown sugar, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon over wedges. Place in over and bake for about 30 minutes, turning once.
5. Remove from oven and add more salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Ina’s original recipe is essentially the same as above minus the nutmeg and cinnamon. While what I ended up with was incredible-tasting, I would make some changes. First, I would toss the fries in the olive oil in a bowl before placing them on a pre-oiled baking sheet. The excess oil seemed to pool on the cookie sheet and I had to blot some off the fries. I would also have cut my potatoes much thinner to make them more crispy and less potato-y.

Here’s some variations I would try:
Sprinkle the wedges with McCormick Seasoned Salt (my favorite store-brand seasoned salt).
Sprinkle with a different spice such as paprika (hungarian) or cayenne.
Toss with minced garlic before spreading out on the baking sheet.
Drizzle with maple syrup, honey or brown sugar before baking.

In a nutshell, you can do anything with these babies! Not to mention they’re relatively fast cooking for a potato side and massively easy to do. Enjoy!

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