Welcome to my F-ing life!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wasabi Almond Crusted Grouper

My local grocery store sometimes lacks in certain departments. Sometimes, I really wish I could afford to shop at one or two of the 'upscale' food stores; not because of the brand/notoriety of the place, but simply because they are the only places I can sometimes find things I want.

Alas, these pricey stores are so out of my budget, that I can only dream of going actual weekly shopping there.

I stick to the normal food store and sometimes the grocery section of the local Wal-Mart superstore (which is also seriously lacking items on a normal shopping list - I mean, really? They don't even carry sofrito?).

So on a normal trip to a normal (but lower cost) food store chain, I of course can't purchase the fish that I originally wanted for this recipe - halibut. The only acceptable choices in the fresh fish case were flounder or grouper, so I opted for the grouper.

Don't get me wrong... I like grouper! But I had my heart set on halibut. You could use any firm white fish in this preparation. The grouper came out fantastic though, so we weren't disappointed in the least. The fish stayed firm but flaky, and the texture of the almond coating was crunchy and spicy sweet.

As a point of reference, Blue Diamond almonds are what I pulverized in a food processor and used as the coating.

I cut 3 rather large fillets into 6 smaller portions, but you could leave them larger.

Salt and pepper them up.

Coat in flour and shake off excess.

Dip in beaten egg to coat.

Dip into crushed almonds, pressing to coat and stick to fish.

Heat oil in pan and add the fish when it's good and hot.

Cook for a few minutes and flip when the coating gets a nice toasted color. Do the same for the other side.

Serve while the gettin' is good!

Wasabi Almond Crusted Grouper

serves 4

4 grouper fillets
Salt and pepper
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 can wasabi almonds (I used Blue Diamond), ground in food processor
4 tbsp olive oil

Rinse off your fillets and place on paper towel to pat dry. Season with salt and pepper.

Place fillets in the flour, and coat both sides. Shake off excess.

Dip the fillets in the egg and thoroughly coat all sides.

Place fillets on top of crumbs, and coat every side, pressing crumbs firmly on fish. Place fillets on clean plate.

In a large skillet, heat oil, over medium high heat. When oil is hot, place fillets in skillet. Cook about 3 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of the fish) and brown all sides until dark golden brown.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sprouts-n-'Shrooms - A Quick and Easy Side!

Brussel Sprouts.

You either love 'em...or you hate 'em. There is no in between, is there?

I happen to love them.  In fact, I could count them as my favorite veggie that isn't an oriental veggie.  Brussels sprouts look like miniature heads of cabbage. They are quite similar to cabbage in taste, but they are slightly milder in flavor and denser in texture.

Did I mention that they're good for you? They contain significant amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A, and nitrogen compounds called indoles which may reduce the risk of certain cancers.

They are too tough and icky (technical term, you know) to be gnawed raw, but you can steam, blanch, boil, saute and even fry these babies in a huge variety of ways and still not get bored with them.

This quick little side dish method combines them with shallots and mushrooms and goes with just about any entree you want to serve them with.

Start with halving the sprouts, mincing a small shallot and quartering some button mushrooms.

Heat some oil and add the shallot and sprouts.

Saute until you start to see some browned edges on the sprouts.

Add some (blurry) lemon juice.

Then add some Worcestershire sauce.

Cover and cook for about 15 minutes.

Serve piping hot!

serves 4

2 cups Brussels sprouts, cut into halves
1 large shal­lot, minced
1 cup button mushrooms, quartered
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp extra vir­gin olive oil
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pep­per to taste

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add shal­lots and brus­sels sprouts. Cook until brus­sels sprouts start to brown.

Add mushrooms, lemon juice and Worcestershire; reduce to low-medium heat and cover. Stir­ring occa­sion­ally, let cook for about 15 min­utes or until brus­sels sprouts are a bit soft and bright green.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Breakfast Souffle In A Bowl

Mmm. Breakfast for dinner.

Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner?

I almost feel guilty eating breakfast for dinner...like I'm cheating or something. But breakfast foods, at least of the hot variety, are a comfort food to me. If left to my own devices, pancakes and french toast would each be on the menu at least once a week.  Now we have been known (in a tight week) to have cereal for dinner (and then I really feel weird going to bed four hours later...), but I don't get caught up in as big of a guilt trip with a hot breakfast for dinner.

Especially when there's bacon involved at any level.

This dish combines several favorite breakfast staples into one complete little package. How can that not be good?  I have several variations to try with this one, which I'll get to in a second, but this is the "master" recipe they all stemmed from.

This is also one of those variable types of dishes. You can take out or add what you like...anytime...and it still works!

Dice up some bacon.

Crisp it up in a pan and drain off on a paper towel.

Add some butter and oil (or if there's enough bacon grease, use that) and toss those shredded taters in.

Crisp those bad boys up!

Whisk up some eggs...

...add some milk...

...some shredded cheese...

...some chopped spinach...

...and whisk your little fingers off!

Add potatoes to the bottom of your bowls (or baking dish).

Add the nummy bacon.

Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and bacon.

I added a small pat of butter (that I quartered) to each bowl. Totally unnecessary, but I wanted more butter. Sue me.

Put the breakfasty goodness in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Add some more cheese to the top and cook another few minutes.

Take 'em out of the oven and let sit for a few minutes to set.

You can remove to a plate, or serve inside the bowl!

Other variations I might try would be cooked in a tortilla shell, a puff pastry shell, or a thick(er) slice of ham that I would shape inside the same souffle dishes or maybe in a jumbo muffin tin.  I might also toss in some items one might find in an omelet, like peppers, onions, mushrooms, or even some shrimp or crab!

Breakfast Souffle

serves 4

6 strips of bacon, diced
4 potatoes, medium to large sized, peeled and shredded
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
12 eggs
1/2 cup milk
10 oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 cups of your favorite shredded cheese blend (I used Colby Jack)

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.

Heat frying pan over medium heat. Add diced bacon and cook until crisp. Remove to drain on paper towel.

If there is at least 2 tbsp of bacon grease left in the skillet, add 2 tbsp butter and omit the olive oil. Use 2 tbsp (or less) of olive oil to make a total of 2 tbsp (so there's 2 tbsp butter plus 2 tbsp of bacon grease/olive oil). Add shredded potatoes and salt/pepper. Cook potatoes until just crisp and starting to brown.

Remove potatoes to the bottom of glass baking dish (a 9x13 would work) or four 6 inch individual souffle dishes. Sprinkle bacon pieces on top of potatoes.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, spinach and 1-1/2 cup cheese together. Pour egg mixture over bacon and potatoes.

Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup remaining cheese on top. Bake 3 to 5 minutes more, just until cheese melts.  For a crispier top, switch to broiler and broil for 2 to 3 minutes.

Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Three Ingredient Jalepeno Poppers

These beauties are so easy to make, my cat could do it!

I enjoy a good popper every now and then, but sometimes I don't want them fried. Weird, I know.

I get like that (all wishy-washy) when it comes to fried foods. Sometimes I really crave something...anything fried. Thank goodness that craving doesn't overtake me too often (well, often enough...), and if I don't feel like something fried, I try to figure out how not to fry it and get a similar satisfaction from the dish.

You won't miss the frying on these, trust me...

Halve, core and stuff with cream cheese.

Wrap 'em in bacon...


Eat 'em while they're hot...

Three Ingredient Jalapeño Poppers

20 whole fresh Jalapenos, about 2-3 inches long
2 bricks of softened cream cheese
1 pound thin-sliced bacon, sliced in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Cut jalapeños in half, length-wise. With a spoon, remove the seeds and the ribs. 
Fill each half with softened cream cheese. Wrap the jalapeños with a slice of bacon.  (You can use a toothpick to secure if needed) 
Layer them on a baking sheet and cook in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.  If, after 20 minutes, the bacon doesn’t look brown enough, feel free to turn on the broiler for a couple of minutes just to finish them off, but keep an eye on them so they don't burn.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Beef Negimaki

Have I mentioned I love Chinese and Japanese food?

Of course I have. How could I not?

I used to work in an office in a strip mall.  On the other end of the strip mall, there was a little Japanese / Teppanyaki place I used to frequent quite often.  It's been awhile since I've been there. Too long, in fact. They had fantastic Bento box lunches, sushi, and I remember this is where I tried Negimaki for the very first time.

Negimaki, also called negima, is simply strips of beef marinated in a teriyaki sauce and rolled with scallions. Traditionally, the beef is broiled, but you can certainly grill it or sear it in a frying pan just as easily.

I make these little bundles of happiness when I need a nice and easy dinner. Serve them with rice and a veggie and you'll have happy tummies all around.

Beef Negimaki

serves 4 portions

12 scallions with ends trimmed
1 pound boneless beef top round steaks
3/4 cup classic stir fry sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water


Place each steak between sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound until 1/8 inch thick.

Lay 3 scallions down the length of each piece of meat; tightly roll up from the long side. Cut alternately straight across and diagonally in 2" pieces. Secure with toothpick. Place in large zip-lock bag.

Stir sauce, sugar and water in bowl until sugar dissolves. Add 1/3 cup of this mixture to Ziploc bag; refrigerate 30 minutes to one hour.

Heat skillet over medium high heat. Add negimaki for about 4-5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Discard marinade.

Microwave remaining sauce to use for dipping.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Serious Mushroom Lover Soup

So you love mushrooms? I know I do. Any kind, size, shape...I love them all. Out of the four of us (Papa Bear, Drama Queen, Little Lawyer and myself), Papa Bear took the longest to covert to a Mushroom Lover.  My girls loved mushrooms straight out of the gate! Him...not so much. Until about six months ago, the only way I could get him to eat a mushroom was to sneak it in to a dish finely diced.

Something in him, a 'fungus switch' if you will, flipped and now...he can't get enough of the little guys! I love when that happens. It happens to everybody at some point. You dislike a certain food (not necessarily mushrooms), and then one day...

...when you least expect it...

...'IT' happens...

BAM! Boing! BOOM!

You like this food! You really like this food! Where've you been all my life?

I have made this soup many times for the Mushroom Lovers Club. Papa Bear has heard us slurp and moan and complain of a full tummy every time we have devoured it. It's one souper-hearty soup, lemme tell ya! Not for the faint of heart Mushroom Lover. But they could certainly eat it too.

Best part is...you can use any variety of mushroom you prefer. I have favorites, of course, but sometimes the ones that make it into the soup are the ones that cost less, if you catch my drift.

Mmm, Mmm, gooooooood!

Serious Mushroom Lover Soup

serves 10-12 (and makes souper leftovers the next day!)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 2inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 pint cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 pint button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 pint shiitake or oyster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 small Napa cabbage shredded
1 large bunch bok choy chopped
2 carrots cut in matchsticks
1 bunch scallion thinly sliced
Dark sesame oil

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the garlic and ginger until browned.

Combine the broth, soy sauce, and fish sauce to the saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Add the remaining ingredients, except the scallions and sesame oil. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the scallions to the saucepan, remove from heat, and ladle into serving bowls. Drizzle a bit of sesame oil over the top of each serving.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chicken Piccata

You gotta love the types of dishes that are interchangeable. You can do this dish with chicken or veal, and I think it (untraditionally, of course) would be rather tasty with a firm fish or even shrimp. It is also acceptable to use pork instead of chicken or veal. Vegetarians or vegans can prepare the dish using thin slices of tofu or eggplant. 

Piccata translates to piquant or piquancy, which (in one definition) means tart or zesty. Piccata does have a tart sauce, with traditional additions of lemon juice, white wine and capers. It’s also quite easy to prepare, especially in small batches. The dish takes about 20 to 30 minutes to make, so it's a speedy weeknight meal.

Pounding the meat to the desired thinness is probably the most time consuming process. Instead of spending more money at the grocery store for the already thin cutlets, I usually horizontally slice a  chicken breast in half and then pound it out to the thickness I want, usually about an 1/8 of an inch thick. You can reduce any chance of a flying chicken mess by placing the meet in a sealable plastic bag, or by putting it between two layers of plastic wrap.

If you want a good laugh, hand your kids the mallet and then let them do the flattening for you...hilarity will follow! Plus, it's a great way to have them (or you) work out any pent up aggression...

Seasoned and dredged chicken makes for sticky fingers.

Brown those birds, remove from pan and keep 'em warm while the rest of the magic happens.

Brown some shroomage - remove and set aside.

Add garlic and wine to the pan and reduce by about half.

Stir in broth-flour mixture, lemon juice and salt. Simmer and stir in parsley, capers and butter.

Bring chicken back to the party and heat through. We do have mushroom haters, so I only added the mushrooms to the party when those that do not like them were served. Otherwise, throw them in when you reintroduce the chicken.

Serve the chicken over pasta and smother with sauce!

Chicken Piccata

serves 4

1/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 chicken cutlets, (3/4-1 pound total), trimmed
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 10-ounce package mushrooms, sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
2 teaspoons butter
Hot cooked angel hair pasta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and rinse.

Meanwhile, whisk 5 teaspoons flour and broth in a small bowl until smooth. Place the remaining flour in a shallow dish. Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper and dredge both sides in the flour.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned and no longer pink in the middle, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; cover and keep warm.

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they release their juices and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add garlic and wine to the pan and cook until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in the reserved broth-flour mixture, lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in parsley, capers, butter and the reserved mushrooms. Measure out 1/2 cup of the mushroom sauce. Toss the pasta in the pan with the remaining sauce. Serve the pasta topped with the chicken and the reserved sauce.