Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Vegetarian Mexican Experience!!

When my Friend told me about this event, I thought ohh I can come up with something. Had to I love Mexican food, and had to do something. I was talking about it at work, and another friend of mine, Susan, said hmm we should make egg rolls. I thought yes..Mexican Vegetarian Egg rolls. So we made plans to do so. Well, Monday failed, some health issues with her family whom is much more important than my cooking. Which left us with today, Wednesday the day before its due. We actually did 2 events in one, the next will be posted in a few days, when I have some rest lol. Back to my egg rolls.
This event, Hosted at Dk's Culinary Bazaar wanted us to come up with a vegetarian Mexican item. Anything, appetizer, entry..anything. Leaving room for the creativity to flow freely. See me, I could easily be Vegetarian.. I love fruits and vegetables..but the issue is ..well I love meat. But I had no troubles putting that aside to come up with something. And man we had a blast doing so today. I know that an egg roll isn't very authentic, but I liked the idea of twisting something to fit the theme. So we went with it.
Now since they were dabbled the entire time, I don't have an actual recipe.. but I have everything we used, and the cool thing is, you don't need to be exact with them. Its really all a matter of taste for each person. Making them super easy, and open to many variations!! So we made a list and set out to come up with our Mexican Egg rolls. We thought of everything we could that sounded Mexican, flavor wise. And hit our local Walmart.
Our list consists of:

Spinach (I like the green it adds)
Red, Yellow, and Orange Bell peppers, Sliced into thin strips
Cilantro, finely chopped
Can of Black Beans, drained
Can of diced green chilies
Fresh Garlic, minced
Mushrooms,finely chopped
Bag of Shredded Cabbage
Onion, diced
Can diced tomatoes with chili's
1 bag each Lipton Mexican rice, and Spanish rice (we thought it would work for a binder and added flavor) (*Make the rice before you make fillings and start assembling the egg rolls)
Egg roll wrappers
Fresh corn Kernals...(we have hers frozen from her garden!! and of course, frozen or can would work as well, but my gosh her fresh corn was amazing and sweet!!)
Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese

The herbs we used were:
Ground Chili pepper
Red Pepper Flakes

So, since we played, we actually made 3 different fillings. Using the ingredients to make variations.
For the first one, We put about 1 tbsp vegetable oil in skillet. We heated and then added our Pepper strips, Garlic and onions. We sauted for a few minutes and added the mushrooms, black beans, cabbage. We seasoned this one with the cumin, coriander, green chilis, and cilantro. We put in a good heaping scoop of the Mexican rice and made sure it was heated Through. Put the filling in a bowl to cool slightly. Once room temperature, sprinkle in a small amount of shredded cheese. Fill egg rolls and set aside. Fill a large frying skillet with a good deal of oil. You want it to go about half up the side of the egg roll. Heat until hot, then fry until each side is golden. Place on paper towels to drain and cool slightly. This had the best texture and hold together of the three, flavor was right on too, she preferred this one, I liked the 2nd one's flavor better. Both good =)

For the second filling, we took the peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms, black beans, cabbage, green chili's, spinach, corn, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, salt, pepper and cilantro. We left out rice and cheese. Now for this one, we felt that the filling wasn't sturdy enough. It definitely needs a binder, we thought either a rice or maybe even a shredded potato; But flavor wise, it was my favorite just lacking the sturdiness of the binder

And for the 3rd filling.. we took the peppers, garlic, onion, mushrooms, beans, corn, diced tomatoes, green chili's, cilantro, and used Spanish rice. We left out the added herbs to see how they affected the flavor. For both of us, the Spanish rice was too much. With it and the tomatoes that was all you tasted, and leaving out the herbs didn't help. The texture was good, but the flavors needed enhanced.
Obviously you cool the fillings and prepare as listed in the first variation, I just didn't want to take the time to fill that all out again ha-ha! Overall, we were very happy, infact are going to take a huge batch to work tomorrow =). I made a guacamole to go with mine. Fresh avocado, homemade salsa, cilantro, salt and pepper all mixed together.
I hope someone takes them on. They were easy, alot of fun and very tasty. We enjoyed the entire process and definitely the final outcome!!
Thanks for a great fun event!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I want back ribs!!!

I have nothing against veggies, I love them in fact..But there is just something about hunks of meat, tender juicy meat. I would become a vegetarian easily if it wasn't the fact that I love me some meat ha-ha. And here is the first slab of the season. My husband found that I had 1 slab left in the freezer, and has been waiting peacefully for me to make them. I had to wait for a day off, because for my method it takes a few hours to make them. I must say, one of the best things I got out of school..was the rib day in Meat Cutting class. Our Chef came in with a case of baby backs, and a case of spare ribs and we set out to make a slew of sauces and grill some ribs. There were several different ways we were shown about how to make them. But this is my favorite. Well 1 of them.. there is another, but I have been using this one more.
So, I don't so much have a recipe because I have taken to shaking a little of this and a little of that on them. Usually toward the end, just before grilling I slather them with which ever BBQ sauce I have on hand and get em going. For me grilling them is strictly for flavor, it caramelizes that sauce, gets them a little crispy and a bit of that smokiness from the coals. But tonight, its rainy and I switched it up a bit.

So here is what I do for mine:Preheat oven to 375.
Line a Jelly roll pan with foil. (that just happens to be the one I use.. any sheet pan will work)
Take your slab ( you can fit 2 easily.. maybe 3 depending on the size of your sheet pan. Try not to overlap them though) and place meat side up.
Season with your choice of seasonings. I use on a regular basis...Salt, pepper, pepper flakes, Paprika, a spicy garlic bread rub I have (sounds weird, but its got great flavor..garlic, peppers, herbs.. all the stuff I enjoy haha). Its really up to you, add as much or as little heat as you like.
Take another piece of foil and seal the ribs, make sure the foil covers the entire pan. You want the steam from the juices to stay in with the ribs.

Cook in the center of your oven, for about 2-3 hrs, depending on size and amount of ribs. If your oven runs hot, start checking about the 1.5 hr mark. I take my tongs and lift one side, to see if they start to pull away from the bones. You want that tender falling apart rib. If me.. You plan to grill them, you want to pull them out before they are falling off the bone, or you will loose the rib meat on the grill..and that is simply blasphemy. When they are ready, pull them out and have your grill heated. I use a coal grill, so when I see them getting close, I get it heated. The ribs can sit in their sauce until the grill is ready. You will only use the grill for 15 min maybe 20. You will put your sauced up ribs on the grill to caramelize the sauce, keep them heated and get that great flavor. Watch them so they don't burn, they should be about falling from the bone at this point. The grill will finish that off for you =).

Now tonight, with the rain, I decided to do something different. I did the usual until the end. I took a bit of grape jelly, honey, Teriyaki sauce and pepper flakes. I heated in the microwave for about 20 seconds to get all melted and thinned out. I basted the ribs the last 30 mins of cooking with the foil off. I probably had about 2 tbsp of honey, 4 Tbsp of the jelly and 3-4 shakes of the teriyaki sauce. I do something similar to this with chicken which we love. The out come was the fantastically sticky, finger licken good glaze on the ribs. Tender and oh so tasty!! I paired them with some Lipton Teriyaki noodles and some veggies. It was soo yummy I just had to post about them ;).

Monday, May 5, 2008

Banana Bread Bake off!!

Who Doesn't like Banana bread? I mean I know there are a few out there, but for the most part I think everyone likes that super moist sweet bread often studded with nuts. When I saw the bake off event up hosted by Not Quite Nigella I couldn't pass up the chance to play with some banana bread. The only problem with these events are that my mind gets going with what I can come up with to impress people or to be different. Mostly to be different. I love to play with flavors and take something simple slightly over the top. So what can I do with banana bread? Chocolate of course, but thats a typical thought, or I can do a peanut butter one..but again to me that is pretty typical, mainly because I love Peanut butter and banana's together. Fine lets get a look in the freezer where I keep my stash so its always on hand. What is left?? a ton of peanut butter chips..(how the hell did I end up with 4 bags of those???) and butterscotch chips. (crap not even chocolate chips, I need to get shopping soon ha-ha). Well what about nuts what do I have?? Hazel nuts.. don't use them!! You know that the second you do you will need them so leave those alone. Pecans..and Macacadamia nuts. So I thought what to make? Well caramel and banana's go pretty well, and butterscotch is a caramel flavor. So I decided on doing Butterscotch Macadamia nut Banana bread. I pulled out a few recipes I had to see which I thought would be best and settled on the one to tweak.

Butterscotch Macadamia Nut Banana Bread:

2 1/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 lrg eggs
1 1/3 c mashed ripe banana
3 tbsp sour cream
3/4 c chopped macadamia nuts
1 1/2 c butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350, Spray a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with non stick pan spray. (ok I used my largest pan and I will say there was a ton of batter!! If I had them ready I would have divided the batter between 2 pans.)
Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda and the salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream the butter with the sugar, beat in the vanilla, the eggs, 1 at a time, the banana and the sour cream. Add the flour mixture ( I kept about 1/4 of a cup of the flour mixture in the bowl and added the nuts and chips to it, to help them stay up in the batter and not sink), beat the batter until it is just combined, and stir in the nuts and chips. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake the bread in the middle of the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool the bread on a rack. Cooled bread can be wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil, chilled for 1 wk or frozen for 1 month.

I put off baking the bread until the 3rd. Kept rethinking and making sure I really liked the idea. I was able to get it made a few hours before work (those lucky lucky people whom get all my treats!). So I got my 3 pics and took it in for the taste test. Mind you I have never made it with this combo before and didn't even taste it myself yet ha-ha. They saw it from a distance. I walked into the hospital and 3 of them waiting for the shift said "YAY what did you bring us????" I said "You will see ". I had to drop some off in our diet office (they demand to be served first lol) and the rest to the kitchen. They jumped on it. I had nothing but "oh my god what is in this bread" It was gone so fast, and I barely got a small piece of this amazingly moist and oh so tasty banana bread. I will tell you that this may be the ONLY recipe I will make from now on, It was awesome. They all wanted the recipe and more banana bread!! Hope you all enjoy it if you make it, it is definitely one of my new favorites =).
Thanks for the chance to create it!!