Friday, January 27, 2012

Tear jerker

I'm hooked on the show" Heat Seekers" which features two chefs, Aaron Sanchez and Roger Mooking who are on a quest for hot food. They comb every city, going into restaurants and dives that serve the fieriest dishes. It's good reality TV when the chefs unintentionally cry, gasp, sweat, and blow their noses. Their fake bravado and steady repartee makes the show quite comical as they blink back tears and valiantly compete for the limelight. The loser is the butt of well meaning ridicule, but ridicule non the less. It makes for interesting entertainment but the down side is that the more I watch the hungrier I get.
Those of you that read my blogs must know that I am a heat seeker myself and drool at the mere whiff of hot food. What happens after each episopde is pretty predictable. Out come the chilies and the food processor and a flaming hot concoction is created.
This particular hot sauce happened late one night much to the horror of my family. It was an inspiring moment for me and I went for it full throttle. Hopefully you will appreciate it as much as I do.

Recipe for Hot Sauce:
10 Habanero peppers
5 finger hot red chili peppers
3 ancho chili peppers, re-hydrated
6 green chilies
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
6 cloves garlic
3 tbsp white vinegar
salt to tast
4 tbsp oil

1. Heat oil in a pan.
2. Blend all ingredients in the blender and saute in the pan briefly till the oil separates.
3. Cool in the pan and fill into a sterilized jar. Eat by the spoonful or refrigerate.

Disclaimer: Do not try this at home if you can't take the heat!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Let them eat pie...

Nothing beats a good old fashioned mince pie any time of the year. So Christmas is over you may say; I can't deny that but I felt like baking mince pies and so I did. When did I ever do as I was told? And why are we so intent on following unnecessary rules made centuries ago? There is something to be said about food traditions like turkey at Thanksgiving and mince pies at Christmas but who says we can't bend the rules? I say eat what you want- when you want. Besides, I did have a lot of home-made mincemeat left over from the holidays.
A mince pie is a fruit filled pie originating in England eons ago and to this day eaten at Christmas time. It is filled with dried fruit, nuts, distilled spirits and spices that are mixed and left to marinade together. A mature mincemeat is infused with spice and alcohol and literally melts in the mouth.
I ate my first mince pie in my uncles house in Nottingham, England some thirty years ago and recall sneaking into the kitchen at night when everyone else was sleeping. I've loved them since and now my children love them and do the sneaking around...

Recipe for Mince Pies:
Mincemeat- store bought or home-made

350 gms All Purpose Flour
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp icing sugar
2 eggs
220 gms unsalted butter

Combine all the dry ingredients and mix in the fat till it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the eggs with a pastry mixer or a metal spatula just until it comes together into a ball. Wrap and chill. Roll out onto a floured cutting board and cut out circles . Cut larger ones to make the cases and smaller ones for the lids. Spray a muffin tray with cooking spray and lay the cases neatly. Fill in the cases and place lids on top , squeezing them down gently. Cut a slit on top of each and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

For home-made mincemeat combine: peeled diced green apples, raisins, currants, sultanas, mixed candied peel, juice and rind of oranges and lemons, ground cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, suet, dark brown sugar and brandy.
Note : Most recipes call for suet, which is animal fat. I substitute that with a small blob of butter in the center of each pie filling before I put the lids on.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Salad Ballad

Salads are every girl's best friend, or at least the best thing that can happen to your waistline, but a salad without any kind of protein can unleash the munchies big time. It brings on endless snacking and actually has the reverse effect of what we have in mind. Let's not kid ourselves; most of us love to eat and that's why I'm writing (obsessing) about it and you are still reading. Glad we got that out of the way.
Anyway, in order for a salad to have the desired effect of keeping us in our skinny jeans, there are a few things to keep in mind:
(a) Keep the dressing low fat
(b) Add in protein, preferably nuts, beans, fish, eggs or chicken
(c) Add in as many veggies as possible
(d) Change up the vegetables often
(e) Add in fruit or dried fruit
(f) Keep the portions large ( filling)
(g) No croutons, bacon, cheese or rustic bread to mop up the dressing and last but not least
(h) Eat slowly. Where's the fire?

Recipe for Grilled Shrimp and Mango Salad:
4-6 large grilled shrimp per serving
1 ripe mango sliced thinly
Mixed bag of lettuce
Cherry tomatoes halved
Minced onion
Black beans cooked
Shredded carrot
Corn kernels

Flavored vinegar ( raspberry/ tarragon or whatever's in the kitchen)
lemon juice
Dijon mustard
salt to taste
crushed black pepper

Combine the dressing, Toss in the greens and arrange on a plate. Enjoy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Philly Cheesesteak

I live about a half hour away from Philadelphia, home of the Cheesesteak and thought it only fitting that I pay tribute to a sandwich greatly enjoyed up and down the East coast. Known as a Cheesesteak to locals, this sandwich consists mostly of thinly sliced rib-eye roast, sauteed onions and melted provolone. I like to add in peppers for color and texture since it is not the most visually stimulating sandwich and tends to taste better than it looks. Trips into Philly are usually rewarded with these sandwiches, and the only time I make them at home is with left over steak which tends to become chewy the following day. There are variations of the original cheesesteak with the addition of sauteed mushrooms, sweet peppers, mayo, hot sauce or ketchup and the choice of bread is usually a type of crusty Italian roll. I use hoagie rolls, baguette or whatever I have lying around. It still tastes pretty good...

Recipe for Cheesesteak:
4 hoagie rolls
1 lbs sliced rib eye
sauteed onion
grated provolone cheese
condiments of choice

1. Fill the rolls with all the toppings and stick under the broiler till the cheese is melted. Add on the condiments and enjoy!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Something's Fishy!

There was a time when the mere mention of the words "Fish taco" made me grimace in distaste; they made me think of fishy smells and unpleasant texture, but that was before I tasted one. Now I'm a convert and will eat a fish taco anytime if it's made well. There's nothing fishy about it and the texture is a combination of flavorful fish and crunchy slaw topped with salsa and guacamole. Even my kids enjoyed it and we were back buying fresh fish the following week. That in itself is a giant step in a household that eats fish only when it involves vast amounts of batter and grease. After eating our way through the holidays, I had to move up a size ( very depressing) so it's only fitting that I work on moving back down. A fish taco is relatively healthy and one ends up eating
a variety of vegetables in the guise of toppings, so it's really a win win situation...

Recipe for Fish Taco:
2-3 large fillets of flaky white fish
1 tablespoon chili paste ( Ancho / chipotle or any other)
2 chopped green chilies
salt to taste
handful chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice

Marinate the fish in all the ingredients for a few hours and cook quickly on a grill.
Prepare the other components while the fish is marinating:
Flour or whole wheat Tortillas
2 avocados, mashed with lime juice and salt to taste
Cole slaw: Shredded cabbage ( red and green) shredded carrots, red onion, cilantro and chillies dressed with lime juice, salt and a little sugar.
Assemble by filling the tortillas with the fish and adding on toppings as desired.