Monday, March 3, 2008

Health Kick

I have been on a health kick lately when it comes to cooking. Granted, I have always tried to cook a good nutricious meal but sometimes I admit to cooking up some serious artery clogging but oh-so-yummy dishes. Creativity in the kitchen can be a bitch. I am always one for ramping up a recipe and making it better. Skim milk? Nah, whole cream would make it fantastic! Baked salmon? How about frying it in butter with some fresh lemon and dill!
I must have some French in me.
But I digress.
A few months ago I found out my Mom has cancer. She is not having treatment and is living out her last days as if they are her last. And they are. And since I was blessed with diabetes in my early 30's I do really need to pay more attention to my health and now with cancer in my lineage I decided I better start changing my lifestyle before my lifestyle changing me, for the worse. So I am on a mission, a heathier way of eating and it really is quite easy.

Since I cook a lot, I have friends who want recipes from me to help them lose weight. They are on diets and for the most part they do not seem to be working for them.

To me, diets never work. A diet sounds like it is a short term plan, you go "on" a diet which sounds like on day you will go "off" the diet. No, if you want to lose weight and keep it off you do not go on a diet. If anything, a diet is a mental thing that sets you up for a let down. Right off the bat you tell yourself you are giving up things and restricting yourself. Limiting yourself. And then if you even reach your goal, you feel like you can reward yourself by going off the diet. A few months later, you'll probably have to go back on a diet, and so on and so on....until you end up heavier than when you started your first diet.

Instead of starting out by limiting foods and making a lot of things off limits, it may be better to add foods instead of taking them away. Best way to lose wieight is making exchanges and learning what to add to your diet so that you no longer have the need for the "bad" things.

So, coming up will be posts in regards to taking off some weight or simply eating better and enjoying what you eat so much more.

Until then, start thinking about positive changes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Back to the Blog

I took a long sabbatical from my blog here, only because I got too busy to keep it up more than anything. Then I kinda forgot about it. Now I hope to at least post once a week...but with everything...vamos a ver!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

XX Beans

I love beans!
"Beans! Beans! A musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot!" ~Bart Simpson

Not only are they great for the tummy, they are great for your heart. Make them often as they are easy, inexpensive and good for you.

2 cans Bayo or Pinto beans, drained
2 cans whole black beans, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 jalapeño chile — stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
2 bay leaves
One 12-ounce bottle XXDos Equis beer
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce or use two tablespoons salsa de chipotle
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (can omit or use parsley)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt to taste

Pour beans into a heavy large pot or dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeño, cumin, brown sugar and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for 10 minutes. Stir in the beer and simmer for another 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and stir in the chipotle chiles, vinegar and cilantro; season with salt. Stir well, cook for five minutes more and serve.

These beans are fabulous served as a side dish with anything grilled. Try it with chicken, steak, pork chops or salmon. that charcoal for dessert!

When the coals start burning down, throw a few fresh fruit kabobs on the grill for a refreshingly different summertime dessert.

Fresh Fruit Kabobs
Honey Raspberry Down Low Dip

16 ounces of Lite Sour Cream
1/3 cup seedless red or black raspberry jam
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Mix well and refrigerate. Serve with fruti kabobs.

* Idea!
Serve the dip inside of the hollowed out pineapple and garnish with fresh mint sprigs

Fruit Kabobs
Soak bamboo skewers in water for at least minutes before adding the fruit so they do not burn on the grill or you can use metal skewers.

Basting mixture:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 capful rum extract

Melt in small sauce pan on the stove until sugar has broken down and combines with the butter.

Fruit Ingredients:
Pick three or more of the following and alternate fruits on the skewer.
Grill about 2 minutes on each side or until fruit is golden but still firm with grill marks. Bast the last minute or two with basting mixture.
Firm bananas (cut into 1 inch circles)
Fresh pineapple (diced into 1 inch chunks)
Nectarines (quartered and pitted)
Apricots (halved and pitted)
Peaches (quartered and pitted)
Kiwi (peeled and cut into 1/2 inch circles)
Pears (cut into chunks)
Granny Smith Apples (cored and cut into chunks)
Fresh Strawberries (hulled and cut in half or if small, use whole)

Enjoy! Buen provecho!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Let's Salsa!

One-two-three-four! Everybody hit the floor and let’s salsa!

You can put away your dancing shoes and get out your favorite chopping blade, we won’t be cutting rugs today but we will be cutting up some fresh ingredients to create some great Salsa Mexicana, Pico de Gallo or Salsa Cruda…whatever you choose to call it; you will definitely want to dip into it.

The first step is to make sure your ingredients are as fresh as possible and the tomatoes, while ripe, are still firm without any soft spots.

Most people make their salsa with roma/plum tomatoes but any good firm tomato will work as long as it is fleshy and you remove the seeds and juice.
When I am catering a party or having guests over, I like to jazz up my salsa with a variety of tomatoes. I like to use quartered cherry tomatoes or halved grape tomatoes, or mix in halved yellow pear tomatoes. (WalMart carries all of these including hydroponic and cherry tomatoes on the vine.)

The second step is to make sure your knife is sharp so you do not bruise the tomato when you dice or cut them. If you do not have a knife sharpener, just listen for the sound of a pan flute… that is the “knife sharpener guy” and he will sharpen your knives for a very small price. If all else fails, a thin serrated knife will cut through a tomato skin better than a dull knife, so bust out a steak knife if need be.

Third step, wash/soak all of your ingredients, dry and get ready to salsa!

Basic Salsa Recipe

4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 or 2 fresh chiles (jalepeño or Serrano) peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients in a glass or other non-reactive bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Makes about 2 cups.

This recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc. You may want to make extra and divide to make a variety of salsas.

Add any of these to the Basic Salsa Recipe from above:
½ cup seeded and diced cucumber
1 cup black beans and 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup fresh raspberries with 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
1/2 cup diced pineapple
½ cup diced green, red, yellow or orange bell pepper

Any of these salsas are great on totopos (tortilla chips) or you can top a baked potato, or served with fish, chicken or pork. Try them as a marinade (just pulse in a blender or food processor for a few seconds) and save some for the garnish.

Another great option is to spread a glass pie plate with an 8 ounce block of cream cheese, top with your favorite salsa, shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese and bake until bubbling and cheese is slightly browned. You can also add sour cream and black olives on top. Serve with chips.

Fiesta Corn Salsa

5 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/3 cup chopped purple onion
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped orange bell pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeño or Serrano pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Makes about 4 1/2 cups of salsa.

Serve in margarita “fish bowl” glasses or Martini glasses

Mango Madness

1 cup diced fresh mango
1/3 cup roasted red peppers, drained & diced (you can buy these all over in either a can or a jar)
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients and chill in a glass bowl. Goes great with fish or chicken.
Makes 1 1/2 cups of mango salsa.

Tropical Down Under Salsa

3 kiwis, peeled and diced
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped fine
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced

Add the diced fruit and jalapeño to a mixing bowl. Add lime juice and toss with cilantro. Allow to chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes for flavors to blend.

Peachy Keen Salsa

2 ripe peaches, diced
1 small red pepper; chopped
1/2 red onion; chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper; minced
1/3 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint

Add the diced fruit, pepper, onion and jalapeño to a mixing bowl. Add pineapple juice and balsamic vinegar and toss with the mint. Allow to chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes for flavors to blend.

Buen provecho!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Broiled Kung-Fu-Tofu

Here's a super easy tofu recipe that even "meat and potato men" will dig into.

Tofu is easy to find here although it seems to be only one brand for the most part. Usually found in creamy/silken (good for dips and spreads) and the extra firm which you will want for this recipe.

Broiled Kung-FU-Tofu

1/3 lb extra firm tofu ) I use one package
1 large portabella mushrooom sliced into strips

2 cloves garlic chopped or pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley

1 sliced scallion,(green onion) all of the white and half of the green stems

Spray a pyrex pie plate with oil.
Put 1/4 of the soy in it.
Cut the tofu into small bite size pieces and put in the pie plate.
Add the sliced mushrooms, garlic& ginger.
Sprinkle remaining 3 tbsp of soy on top.
Sprinkle with the parsley and scallions.
Broil 6" from heat source for approximately 10 minutes or until the soy is bubbling and the tofu is browned. If you wish, after broiling for five minutes, flip over the tofu to brown the other side.

This is great served with jasmin rice or brown rice and steamed broccoli.

Speaking of mushrooms, here is a super-duper easy and absolutely tasty recipe for a mushroom appetizer but also is a great side dish.

Super 'shrooms


2 lbs Fresh mushrooms

1 stick of butter

1 pk Garlic or Italian "Good Seasons" mix


Saute cleaned mushrooms in butter for 5 minutes.

Sprinke with the package of "Good Seasons" dressing mix.

Simmer covered, do not boil, for 1 1/2 hrs.

For a party, serve in hollowed out colored bell peppers, or martini glasses garnished with a stalk of rosemary and a few red pepper sticks for color.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Kitchen Strike!

Well, it's been a long time since the last post and I know I promised more about what to do with left-over chicken but I am going to digress a bit.

First, I went on a kitchen strike and was totally uninspired to cook simply because I was dead on my feet for the last week and half because of work. Selling shoes is a tough job! Actually, the selling shoes part is a piece of cake, it's the shoe orders, inventory!ay yi yi and end of the month accounting for three stores is the killer. I feel like a one armed juggler trying to keep my balls in the air (hey! do not go there!) and still keep some sanity.

So, my sanity recently has been pizza delivery, sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, salad and whatever I can grab out of the fridge with one eye open and does not require a plate. When this happens, Carlos gets to regress into bachelorhood and off to the taco stand he goes. I think he has eaten over 1 million tacos through the years until I weened him off and introduced him to such delicacies of maple grilled salmon, asparagus and my newest creation, "Smashed flowers".
(The good ol' eyeball recipe is below)

I love having an at home guinea pig and he is learning that when I ask him "Do you like it?" I require a little more than a grunt or an "uh-huh". (Similar to the whole "Does my butt look fat in these pants?" question. Yes, guys, we do want an answer and we want an answer we like.)

Tonight's menu was not as thought out as usual. After a long day at work, sometimes I like to go to the grocery store to decompress. I know, sounds strange but do you expect any less from me? So, grocery shopping is my therapy. The store is usually cold, the music is usually tolerable (Unless the Hawaiian Tropic girls are there and you would think you were in the middle of MTV Spring Break..."thump thump thump" goes the bass...and "wiggle wiggle wiggle" go the girls and the sweet smell of concocted coconut fills the air....hmmm..... why do I foresee more men offering to do the grocery shopping?.......)

Ok, back to my hour of therapy. Today's session was at the new Soriana by the Krystal. I have been really anti-Soriana because the old one kinda got a bit dumpy and all the good stuff they used to order has been missing in action for over a year. Now, I have to admit, this new Soriana has made up for all the bad feelings I have had about them. The new store is always clean and organized, the staff are very friendly and helpful and they stock beautiful flowers for dirt cheap. (Good pun, huh?) For instance, today they had five stems of perfectly gorgeous cala-lilies (alcatrazes) for 49.00 Pesos. I also scooped up a huge bunch of eucalyptus for under 40 Pesos which I will dry and keep as a nice smelling dust collector.

Their meat section and seafood area are fantastic. Plus the butchers are good guys and will cut you what you want and how you want it. Thick rib-eyes, nice porterhouse steaks and a T-bone with a real bone in the shape of a T. Imagine that! They will grind up chicken breast...which reminds me to write about how to make some simply rockin' chicken meatballs..... and best yet, Soriana always surprises me with an odd assortment of "gringOh MY!" imported goods you never see outside of Rizo's "GringOh MY goodness 10 bucks for Rice Krispies! Aisle" at normal...yes....normal prices.

"So...Doctor"... I think to myself, as I wander the aisles, "What shall I fix for dinner?"
And like the waves parting.... a bag of mahi-mahi fillets jumped up and said "pick me!"
They had bags of frozen mahi-mahi (also known as Dorado) on sale. 450+ grams of fish, four fillets to be exact for under $40.00 Pesos! Score. (Normal price was 69.00 Pesos a bag.)
Three bags go into my cart, one for dinner, two for the freezer.
In the produce section I spotted big beautiful white heads of cauliflower. Not a speck of "rust" and they were also a great buy. One in the cart.
I also loaded up on a few other things, like some dill pickles and a great new cheddar cheese and chipotle salsa.

After checking out and getting a bunch of points on my Soriana card. This month is Tupperware month and you can get some great pieces for FREE! with your points. Last month I got three ice cube trays with covers on them. They rock! No weird freezer dingleberries in the ice and they retain that nice ice flavor....of.....well.....nothing!

On the drive home I was inventing recipes and wondering if we would ever get to eat dinner before 9:30 PM in our lives. Being a betting woman, I give myself odds of slim to none.

I get home, drag myself and the bags up the stairs, put things away and drag out what else I need to make my boys tummy happy and also clean out my fridge using these bottom of the barrel bottles to make a marinade for the mahi-mahi.

Four mahi-mahi filetes, thawed.
One Ziploc bag with:
Hoisen sauce
Fresh garlic (one clove)
Splash of soy sauce
Juice of two limes
grated ginger (I had some in the freezer)
fresh grated pepper (multi-colored corns)
a couple of pinches of Kosher salt
Covered well and left to marinate for 20 minutes.

While the fish were swimming in their sweet brown pool of marinade....
I soaked and cleaned the big head of cauliflower, cut it into white "trees" and steamed them until tender. Once drained and back in the pot, I mashed the cauliflower with a hand masher (ricer) and then I added:

2 tablespoons of butter
a pinch of Kosher salt
a small container of sour cream
1 small bar of Philly cream cheese
1/2 packed of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
and about a cup of grated cheddar cheese

Mix well and you have "smashed flowers" low-carb but high fat version of mashed potatoes. Yes, I defeated the purpose of healthy eating but this is so yummo it is all worth it.

The fish were hauled out of the Ziploc pool and put in a pan with a little olive oil to coat. Cooked on medium heat until the edges turned white, about five minutes, and flipped to cook the other side.

I was not sure how this combo of "clean out the condiments" marinade would work for fish but...wowza! it worked. The fillets had a nice Asian inspired flavor and a last minute squeeze of lime over the top before removing from the fire was perfect.
On the side we had a fresh salad and both of us went back for more. Good thing my experiment did not blow-up in my face, otherwise we would be having sandwiches again!

Buen provecho!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Food in a Flash

Most of my friends cannot cook. They say just the sheer thought of slaving away in the kitchen gives them pesadillas (nightmares) so off they go to the taco stand for an order of quesadillas.
In fact, most people I know that live here tend to eat out for the most part and if they do eat at home it is usually from a doggie bag or picking meat off of a roasted chicken.

One of my friends who will remain unnamed has lived primarily off of hot dogs for the last couple of years. How he has remained lean and mean is beyond me but he has survived. Has he enjoyed eating at home? Probably not so much, so this post is dedicated to the people who are uninspired in the kitchen with some easy quick “throw-together” meals.

Leftover Chicken

Every Tuesday or Wednesday some chicken place has a special with 2X1 chickens or a special price. I prefer a grilled chicken from Pollo Feliz as I do not always trust a roasted chicken from grocery stores as they can sit under a heat lamp for hours. I also do not trust rotisserie chickens from some places as they often throw in a new rack of chickens that drip on the cooked chickens and the potatoes below. I am too afraid of salmonella and will only buy a rotisserie chicken if it passes my “no raw chicken-drippin’ test” and I never buy the potatoes.

Have I grossed you out yet? Sorry for that, but now you have a few things to ponder when buying a cooked chicken.

Anyway, buy the chicken you feel most comfortable with and buy an extra for the next couple of meals.

Step One: Strip all of the meat from your extra chicken. Put all the meat into a Ziploc bag and have on hand to add to these easy “throw-togethers”.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches for one or two

Base Dressing:
2 TBS. Mayo (Best Foods) or Miracle Whip
2 TBS Sour Cream
Small splash of milk to thin
Dash of Salt and Pepper

Mix together and throw in a good sized hand full of shredded or diced chicken. Serve on bread or roll with lettuce and tomato.

Mix Ins:
Add a dash of either Honey Mustard or Chipotle salsa or both for a sweet and spicy version. A little goes a long way, so go slow and add more to your taste.

Here are a few variations, but have fun! Lots of other items from your fridge can be thrown in for added flavor and crunch.

Variation 1:
Take the base dressing, dice up some black olives, avocado, diced hard boiled egg, diced chicken, mix together and serve in a pita or bread or crackers of your choice.

Variation 2:
Take the base dressing, diced apple, a dash of sweet pickle relish and shredded chicken.
Mix and serve on desired bread.

Variation 3:
Mix 2 TBS of plain yogurt and 2 TBS of mayonnaise. Add 1 tsp of brown spicy mustard or Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, ¼ cup finely diced celery, ¼ raisins, one small thinly sliced green onion with top (scallion). ¼ cup diced apple without skin (Granny Smith) and a good sized handful of chicken. Serve on lettuce or on crackers or bread. Garnish with some thin slices roasted almonds or diced cashews.

Variation 4:
One small container of strawberry yogurt with 2TBS mayo and ¼ cup diced strawberries, pinch of salt and pepper and a big handful of diced chicken. Serve on a bed of spinach with a balsamic vinaigrette or raspberry vinaigrette dressing, sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Other Mix-Ins:
Diced Pineapple
Cubed or shredded cheese
A dash of curry powder
Halved green grapes
Tabasco or hot sauce
Diced jalepeños from the can
Green olives

Again, have fun, be creative and any of these can be served on bread, pitas, crackers on a salad or even as a wrap in a flour tortilla. (For best results, heat the tortilla a little so it is warm.)

Coming up next…..More things to do with leftover chicken!