Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recipe: Fish Sandwich Tacos

Ok so every recipe I put on here isn't going to be dime store gourmet.  In fact, I debated on whether or not to post this one, but part of this blog is chronicling what I put together on my whims.  Fish tacos themselves are nothing new...they do however generally require a bit more work than these, and more ingredients.  These tacos borrow more from their sandwich brethren than the taco world, using common fish sandwich ingredients. This is not so much a dish you would serve your friends but maybe something you might throw together if you were craving fish like I was.  It is not glamorous but is perfectly serviceable and can easily be taken up scale.

I used:

Gorton's Battered Fish Fillets
Small Corn Tortillas (the smallest ones you can buy fit the fillets perfectly so this would be great for kids)
Sweet Bread And Butter Pickles
Colby Jack Cheese

Cook the fish fillets (~24 minutes in a 425 degree oven, flipping once).  When they are nearly done begin heating the tortillas, I did mine over a gas range and just lightly charred them.  Place a half slice of cheese (or use shredded) on one side of the tortilla.  On the other put a line of ketchup and then 3-4 of the pickles.  Place the cooked fillet on top of the cheese. Fold and eat.

To spruce it up you could add tarter sauce, guacamole, pickled onions, or salsa.

Serving size: 2 tacos a person

Monday, March 28, 2011

Recipe: Sticky Buns

Sometimes you just need a gooey, sticky, delicious breakfast.  My parents recently tried this recipe from the "Carolina Country" magazine and told me that I needed to share it with you.  While I generally post recipes that I have tried myself or made up, I'm willing to make exceptions...especially when the pictures look so good.  Reading over the recipe it is great because you use pre-made biscuits which would be a huge timesaver over making your own dough.  I know some of you crazy people like raisins in with your sticky buns, so if you want to add them I will try and denote in the recipe where you should sprinkle them.  

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tubes (17.3 ounces each ) large refrigerated biscuits
In a saucepan, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter: cook and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Add the pecans.  Spoon into a greased 13 X 9 X 2 inch baking pan (Sprinkle in the raisins if desired). In a shallow bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon.  cut each biscuit in half ( I cut into 1/4s); dip in cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place, cut side down, over brown sugar mixture.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Invert onto a serving plate;  serve warm.  

Yield 12 - 16 servings
This recipe was in  "Carolina Country" magazine March 2011 edition.  They originated in the Taste of Home magazine www.tasteofhome.com.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Recipe: Miracle Marinade Pork Loin

Pork loins may be my favorite cut of pork.  It is moister than chops, less calories then ribs, and is very simple to prepare.  Combo that with the Miracle Marinade and you've got a show-stopper of a dish that is bound to impress anyone.  Pork loins are a bit more expensive than other cuts of meat usually featured on here but there are some tricks.  First always look for the pork loins that come two to a pack.  Ask the people working at the store if they sell them.  It not only gives you more pork for your buck (It costs a bit more than a single but you tend to save a few dollars on the "second" loin) but you can freeze one or just cook both.

You will need:

One batch of Miracle Marinade (check link for recipe)
One (or two) pork loins
A gallon ziplock bag

Mix together the Miracle Marinade.  Remove the pork loin from the plastic wrapping and coat with salt and pepper.   Place the pork inside the gallon ziplock bag and cover with the marinade.  Massage the pork around in the marinade to make sure it is completely covered.  For best results let it marinade during the day, though it can be as long as overnight or as short as an hour or two.  When ready to cook begin by heating a large skillet to high and preheating the oven to 350 degrees.  Sear the meat on all sides in the skillet for 3-4 minutes.  Then place the meat in an oiled or foil lined baking dish/pan and place in the oven for 30 minutes, uncovered, until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees.

Servings: ~3-4 per loin

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Recipe: Chicken Marinara

This is a very easy recipe that cooks quickly and can be used in a variety of different ways.  I had chicken thighs on hand so I used those but chicken breast could be used as well (just vary the cooking time to make sure its done).  With my completed chicken marinara I made sandwiches for work (which worked great on hamburger buns) but if you wanted something fancier you could pair it with pasta tossed in a bit of the leftover tomato sauce and paired with some vegetables.  Or you could even cube the chicken in to bite sized pieces and serve on a toothpick topped with a mozzarella cube on top as a sort of appetizer.

You will need:

However many pieces of chicken you want to cook
Your favorite tomato sauce (I used a tomato, basil, and garlic sauce for some extra flavor)
Paprika (optional, I just like it)
Mozzarella Cheese to top if desired.

Start by putting a small amount of oil in the bottom of a large saute pan and spread with a napkin or paper towel to coat bottom.  Then heat the pan over high heat until very hot.  While the pan is heating generously coat each side with salt and pepper.  Use the paprika as desired.  Then very lightly dust with flour.  This will help the sauce thicken and stick on the chicken. When the pan is hot add the chicken and cook 7 minutes on the first side, turning down the heat to medium high if needed.  Flip the chicken and sear on the second side (3-4 minutes).  Then add the sauce over the chicken and turn to coat (making sure to wind up the side that was only down for 3 minutes).  After 3-4 more minutes add the mozzarella on top and put a lid over the pan so that the steam quickly melts the cheese.  Remove from heat and serve as desired.

Servings: The # of chicken pieces you prepare

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tips: Splurge

Occasionally you just need a splurge.  This doesn't have to be something that breaks the bank and it doesn't have to be something you feel guilty over.  It could be as simple as buying that three dollar tub of ice cream or a nice steak.  It could even be something thats on clearance that you still really like.  Outside of the grocery it could mean treating yourself to a meal out.  Using websites like Yelp, Groupon, or Living Social you can get the food you are after at splurge friendly prices.

When you are living on a shoestring or trying to save money it can be easy to push aside the things you really like in favor of the extremely practical.  Part of the goal of this blog is to show that you can merge those two worlds with a bit of ingenuity.  Its all about mixing things up just enough that you never get bored.  It may not be the traditional definition of a splurge, but having your food stay interesting is almost as good.  Even if you don't spend a lot of money use what you buy in an interesting way to make it feel special or new.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tips: Don't Oil the Pasta Water

Many people believe that putting a splash of oil in the pasta water while the pasta is cooking will keep it from sticking together.  Unfortunately thats not really the case.  When cooked correctly the pasta shouldn't stick together at all. Its important to use plenty of water and a large pot, this alone should keep any pasta from sticking to each other.

To further illustrate why the oil doesn't matter think about the water and oil themselves.  The oil doesn't mix with the water.  The pasta is under the water.  There is no way for the oil to actually coat the pasta while it is submerged.  When you drain it, only add oil if that is part of your sauce (i.e. an oil and garlic or herb sauce).  If you plan on using a tomato or cream sauce avoid putting any oil on it as the oil will keep the sauce from sticking to the pasta.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Recipe: Simply Seared London Broil

London Broil is another meat that is very easy to prepare both indoors and out.  It can be served as a main dish, sliced thin for sandwiches, or even thinly sliced and paired on top of a caesar salad.  This recipe shows you a simple and delicious way that can work in any of the above ideas.  As I only cook for myself this recipe only uses a 1 to 2 pound London Broil, if you are using a larger one cooking times might vary.

You will need:
One 1-2 pound London Broil
Garlic Powder

Begin by substantially salting the london broil, the salt is important to make a crust on the meat that will add incredible flavor.  Next add the pepper, garlic powder and paprika and gently rub into the meat.  On the stove heat a large skillet with a little oil over high heat (if numbered, 9; if not on high).  When the pan is hot add the meat.  

This next part is important, once the meat is in the pan don't pick it up and flip it around.  By leaving the meat still you will create the crust that you are after.  

For rare/medium rare cook the meat 7-8 minutes per side.
For medium cook the meat 8-9 minutes per side.  

When you flip the meat you may think the outside is burned but that is just the spices that have cooked into the crust giving a great flavor boost to the meat.  

After you have cooked the meat on both sides wrap the meat in foil and allow it to sit for 15 minutes.  This allows the juices in the meat to redistribute and stay in the meat when you cut it.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Recipe: Pasta with Peanut Sauce

Here is another easy pasta dish that tastes great and can be ready in around 20 minutes.  A few days ago I showed you how to make a simple peanut sauce.  In this recipe that sauce becomes a coating for whole wheat pasta, a protein of your choice, and cooked frozen vegetables.

You will need:

1 Recipe of Peanut Sauce
1 box whole wheat thin spaghetti (half box used in recipe)
1lb your choice of protein cooked as desired
1 cup frozen crinkle cut carrots
1 cup frozen broccoli
3/4 small/medium onion

Optional Toppings:
Crushed lightly salted or salt free peanuts
Chopped Green Onion

Begin by setting your pasta water boiling and begin preparing your peanut sauce. Begin cooking your protein of choice if you wish to add one.  If not you may wish to add more vegetables.  I used casing free chicken sausages that I found on sale though shrimp, chicken, and beef would also work well. I sauteed the onion along with the meat as it had started cooking.  After the water boils salt it heavily and add the thin spaghetti and frozen vegetables.  Cook for 6-7 minutes.  Reserve a cup of cooking liquid before draining in case the peanut sauce needs to be thinned further after adding.  Strain pasta and vegetables and put it back into the pot, add the protein, onion, and Peanut Sauce.  Stir to combine.   Top with crushed peanuts or green onions if desired.
Serves 4-6

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Recipe: Homemade Peanut Sauce

Peanut sauce is a great trick to have in your arsenal for dips and pasta as it uses things that you most likely have in your pantry and takes minutes to put together.

You will need:

~1 cup peanut butter (creamy)
2-3 cups chicken stock
2 heavy pinches red pepper flake
salt, pepper, garlic powder

Begin by placing the peanut butter and 1 and 1/4 cup chicken stock into a saucepan and turning on medium heat.  Allow to warm and begin to stir the two together.  They will initially appear as if they will not mesh, but keep it going and eventually they will smooth out into a sauce.  Add the red pepper flakes, a teaspoon of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and garlic powder.  Stir the spices into the mix and allow the sauce to simmer.  You will need to add more chicken stock as it cooks so do so 1/4 cup at a time.  Taste the sauce and add more seasoning as needed.  After simmering for 10-15 minutes remove the sauce from the heat and  serve immediately either as a dip for grilled or roasted meat or shrimp or as a sauce.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tips: Reach for the Back

This tip is fairly self explanatory but can help you get fresher produce and the longest lasting salads, dairy, and meats.  Essentially every time a grocery store gets a new shipment in, and for some stores every time they restock the shelves they are supposed to rotate their products meaning the newest product goes in the back.  So when you are shopping for milk, yogurt, cheese, or salad (etc etc etc) always take the time to get search for the longest date from the day you buy.  This way you have the least likely chance of the food going bad before you use it saving you shopping trips and money.

The same can be said with fresh produce but to some lesser degree.  Berries tend to either be rotated or simply restocked where space is available, while fruit or vegetables in bins most often is simply dumped on top.  For those you may still need to manually and visually make sure what you are buying looks or feels the freshest.

One caveat with this method.  Please put the merchandise back on the shelves or in its proper location after you take the one you want.  Someone has to clean up the mess you make looking for those long shelf lives and great deals so help them out OK?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Recipe: Skirt Steak (Super Simple)

Skirt steak is amazing.  An often overlooked and underutilized piece of meat it can be found fairly cheap especially when on sale.  What is great about the meat is all of the marbling fat that runs through it.  Also, being a thin piece of meat it cooks in no time and takes on marinades and flavors especially well.  It would be a great candidate for the Miracle Marinade even if you only let it sit for an hour (or less) when you got home from work you would find the end result to be full of flavor.  For this recipe though I kept it simple, a little salt, some pepper, paprika, and garlic powder.  Thats all, nothing fancy. The end result? A beautifully juicy, tender, flavor packed piece of meat.

You will need:

1 skirt steak (lightly trimmed of excess fat if needed)
Garlic Powder

To cook:
If you are cooking the skirt steak on the grill you can most likely leave it whole, if you are cooking it inside on a skillet you may need to cut it in half and cook in two batches.  Either way begin with salt, with a heavy pinch on each side of the meat.  Follow with the pepper, paprika, and garlic powder.  The measurements here are vague and for that I apologize but it truly is a light dusting of each that is then rubbed with the fingers into the meat.  (You may also wish to trim off any extremely thin parts at the tail of the meat.  This small bite can be cooked first for about 30 seconds to a minute on each side as a small snack for the chef).  Allow the rest of the meat to sit for a few minutes as you heat a large skillet or the grill over high heat.  Add the skirt steak and cook for no more than 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and wrap in aluminum foil for ~10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute themselves into the steak so they don't all spill out on the plate when you cut the meat.  To serve cut the skirt steak into thin slices with a sharp knife.

1 skirt steak should serve 3-4 people.

Here are two pictures.  The first is the skirt steak raw in the pan, the second is what you should look for to know that a side is done (aka nicely seared).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tips: The House Drink

Having a party? Having a group of (over 21 years old) friends over where drinks are needed? You could buy lots of different drinks to try and have everyone satisfied, but that will wind up costing you an arm and a leg and potentially mixing drinks for your guests instead of interacting with them.  Out of the potential drinks you can do one of the easiest and most gathering friendly is the sangria.  Made of white or red wine and fruit, the sangria can be made in advance and chilled (for white wine) or served room temperature for red.  For the wine I like Yellow Tail.  All the varieties I've had have been good with the Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon being my favorite choices.  You can also regularly find the large bottles for under $10 making them a great deal.

If you are doing a red wine sangria apples and berries (strawberry, blueberry, cherry, etc) are the fruits I would use.  Fresh and frozen work equally as well so buy what is cheapest.

For a white wine sangria you can use apples, berries, and also some citrus if you like so feel free to add some orange to it for a nice presentation.  Frozen berries are especially nice with the white wine because it will chill the sangria without you having to add ice.

If you chose to do a liquor based drink do one that can  be made ahead in a large batch and have the cups and pitcher out for the guests to serve themselves.  A mojito or a hard arnold palmer (lemonade, tea, and citrus alcohol) would be great choices here.

The most important thing is that you enjoy your guests and the party that you have worked hard on.  By having a drink that is prepared and you don't have to think about you will have more time to focus on what really matters.