Monday, April 30, 2012

RECIPE: Sweet Potato with Ham, Black Beans, Pineapple, and Swiss Chard Cheese Sauce (Jeez, is that title long enough?!)

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." -- Abe Lincoln 

Maybe Abe was talking about Swiss chard? Because the leafy green turned out to be extremely divisive at the dinner table last night. By which I mean I loved it, and hubby hated it.

It started with a LivingSocial deal for Suburban Organics. Basically, Suburban Organics will ship fresh organic fruits and veggies to your door. I have trouble resisting group buys to begin with, and I love getting mail, and I love eating, and I love when things are marketed as organic or local or free trade or any other feel-good words. So hellz yeah I was getting this deal.

My box arrived a few days ago, and it contained some old faves (avocado! bananas! a medium-sized grapefruit!) but it also contained Swiss chard, which I couldn't have picked out of a veggie lineup. I posted a plea for recipes on my Facebook page. Suburban Organics was cool enough to link me to a few recipes on their site, but their recipes were a bit too...well, straight-up chard. As a chard virgin, I felt more comfortable mixing the chard with a bunch of other ingredients.

Enter Brianne at Cupcakes and Kale Chips, a.k.a. my aforementioned former foodie roommate. She sent me a very complicated recipe for Mexican sweet potatoes. I dumbed it down big-time and added ham (I needed the bone for split pea soup this week). And it was nothing short of amazeballs.

Except hubby heartily disagrees with me. His exact quote was, "Eww, what's that smell?" followed by several affirmations that it tasted as bad as it smelled, and finally, the helpful suggestion, "Don't ever cook chard again."

Me? I LOVED IT. So tasty. There were, like 17 unique and delicious flavors going on in my mouth, and it was still delicious. Imagine throwing a party and inviting your work friends, your college friends, your gardening-club friends, and your Civil War reenactment friends and everyone miraculously gets along.

Anyway. You have to be your own judge, but I thought it was awesome. (P.S. I was also directed to this tasty-looking recipe at Smitten Kitchen, but went with the Mexican recipe because I had already eaten half a brick of havarti and figured an au gratin might not be the best idea for dinner. But I'm putting it in the mental database -- clearly, for a night hubby's not home!)

You'll need:

  • sweet potatoes (I made three)
  • Swiss chard (I used four big leaves or stalks or whatever they're called)
  • olive oil
  • Papa Joe's salt
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 15-oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 cup canned pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1 tsp ground cilantro
  • 1 cup diced ham

STEP 1: Stab the sweet potatoes with a fork a few times, and cook them in the microwave on HIGH for about 10 minutes.

STEP 2: Rub some olive oil on a pan. Chop up the Swiss chard (I found a helpful tutorial here) and heat it in a pan with the garlic and a few shakes of Papa Joe's salt (or a mix of sea salt and black pepper).

STEP 3: In a bowl, mix the red pepper, black beans, pineapple, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, ham, and and lime juice.

STEP 4: The chard should be pretty soft now. Add the cheese and milk to the pan until melted, then puree the whole shebang in a food processor.

(No, seriously, this is the dumbed-down version! I am telling you, my friend is nuts in the kitchen.)

STEP 5: Cut open a sweet potato, scoop in some salsa, and pour a little bit of the cheesy chard sauce on top.

STEP 6: Ignore husband who clearly has no taste buds.

STEP 7: Steal hubby's rejected cheesy chard sauce and mix it into your eggs the next morning. OM NOM NOM all over again.

Thanks for the recipe, Brianne!

READING: Not So Funny When It Happened

This week's read:

One of my favorite Henry Rollins quotes is, "Read or don't, but you can't catch up."

That said, I'm a few weeks behind on my 52-week project. I blame my heavy workload the past few weeks, which is a good thing -- I'd rather be writing than reading.

But I also blame this book. The full title is Not So Funny When It Happened: The Best of Travel Humor and Misadventure but it should have been called Not So Funny When It Happened: And Still Not Particularly Funny Now. I bought it because it featured travel stories from Dave Barry, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, and Bill Bryson, along with about 30 others. Guaranteed win, right?

As it turns out, the only stories I liked were the ones by...Dave Barry, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, and Bill Bryson. And even the Dave Barry piece wasn't half as funny as anything in Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need or Dave Barry does Japan. Some of the stories, like "Close Encounters of the California Kind," read like a seventh grade summer-vacation report, or a lame bar story. Some were just boring. I really related to "Fear of Not Flying," an essay about arriving at the airport obscenely early -- and having a husband who casually wanders off to the bathroom during final boarding -- but I wouldn't call it funny. Just relatable, and slightly panic-inducing.

I was so unenthused that I only dog-eared two pages, and looking back, I have no idea why I dog-eared them. I can't find anything particularly funny or thought-provoking on those two pages. I think I just felt weird having all those unfolded pages in a book.

Oh well. I'm done, and I can move on to the next. I'm six weeks behind now, so I don't know if I'll be able to catch up -- but Henry Rollins says I can't anyway, existentially speaking. So I'll just keep reading :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RECIPE: S'mores Pops!

I'm feeling snackish today. Maybe it's because the last of the Easter candy finally ran out. I could literally eat a baker's dozen of these s'mores pops right now. (But I won't. Really. I won't.)

You may remember my recipe for portable s'mores from a little while ago, which was inspired by my love of campfire food and my fear of forest fires. These s'mores pops are inspired by both of the above, plus:

  • my annoyance with hauling my butt all the way to Joann Fabrics for melting chocolate every time I want to make something chocolate-covered;
  • several unsuccessful attempts at making cake pops. In fairness to myself, "unsuccessful" is a bit too harsh. I mean, no matter how fugly they were, they were still chocolate-dipped cupcakes. But they weren't adorable like cake pops are supposed to be;
  • a surplus of popsicle sticks;
  • an unexplainable competitive streak which made me determined to bring the cutest dessert of anyone at our most recent family gathering, nyah nyah nyah.

To get past the melting chocolate problem, I used my husband's oil trick from our recent chocolate-covered pretzel cookoff. See step 3.

You'll need:

  • a bag of marshmallows
  • a bag of chocolate chips (I used the Nestle minis)
  • about eight whole graham crackers
  • popsicle sticks
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • wax paper

STEP 1: Crush the graham crackers in a bowl.

STEP 2: Put a sheet of wax paper on a cutting board or plate.

STEP 3: Put the chocolate chips in a bowl and microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds. Stir, then microwave on 50% power for 15 seconds. Stir. Repeat in 15-second intervals until the chocolate starts to melt. Mix in 2 light teaspoons of vegetable oil and stir vigorously* until all the chocolate is still thick and goopy, but completely melted.

STEP 4: Hold a marshmallow by the edge and dip into the chocolate, followed by the crushed graham crackers. Lay the marshmallow "clean"-side down on a sheet of wax paper. Keep going until all the marshmallows are coated.

STEP 5: Put the marshmallows in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to set the chocolate.

STEP 6: Take the marshmallows back out and poke 'em with the popsicle sticks.

STEP 7: Do your cute little presentation thing, to really drive home to point of how awesome you are. I got these glass jars at Target for $5 and wrapped them with cheapo ribbon from Joann Fabrics -- clearly I can't escape that store even when I try.


* Kind of a favorite word of mine right now.

This recipe was featured on...
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Perfect timing...I'm adding this recipe to the S'mores Week Roundup at!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

RECIPE: Baked Barbecue Tofu

Tofu is a weird food. The words "bean curd" freak me out, to be honest. I it curdled soy milk? I don't actually know the answer, and I've never Googled it because I don't want to know. Just in case I'm right.

The first time I tried tofu was at a Whole Foods near my old office. They had chipotle-lime tofu in the salad bar, and compared with the rest of the lunch options at Whole Paycheck, tofu had one distinct advantage -- the salad bar charges by the pounds, and tofu doesn't weigh much. I mean, a pound of tofu is the size of a brick. (Unlike tomatoes and watermelons, which are pretty much the biggest salad bar rip-offs ever.)

But then I tried to make tofu at home, and to say it didn't go well would be an understatement. I bought a lump of tofu, chopped it up, threw it into a pan with some seasoning, and after about 20 minutes I had a pan full of what looked like spicy curdled milk. So, I resigned myself to the fact that Whole Foods was working black magic on their tofu and I'd have to keep paying them $5.99 a pound to do so.

I waited four whole years before trying again. Luckily, in the interim, someone had tipped me off to the secret of slicing the tofu into 1/2"-thick slabs and pressing it between several layers of paper towels to absorb all the moisture. Once I had that little trick in my wheelhouse, it was a whole different story.

Until now, we've mainly been sautéing tofu in a teriyaki sauce. But then I came across a few recipes for oven-roasted tofu and figured I'd give it a try -- mainly because the cook time was only 25 minutes, and I was working on taxes all day and had forgotten to cook anything. I went with a barbecue theme because, well, those were the ingredients I had in stock.

Verdict: Delicious and so much easier than sautéing!

You'll need:
  • 1 lb. extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • a few shakes of Frank's Red Hot

STEP 1: Mix everything but the tofu in a bowl and stir vigorously. Once you add the tofu, you're going to need to be gentle, so now is the time to get your aggression out with the whisk.

STEP 2: After drying out the tofu per the instructions above*, toss it (gently! did I mention gently?) in the bowl with the sauce.

STEP 3: Line a baking sheet with tin foil, non-shiny side up, and spread the tofu out in an even, single layer.

STEP 4: Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until edges start to look golden-brown.

That's it! I served it with a broccoli-cauliflower Steamfresh packet and Alexia sweet potato waffle fries. Yum! Perfect summer meal (since it's apparently already summer here in the Northeast).

* I slaved over a bright computer all night** writing this post for you! Read the paragraphs!
** Okay, I was primarily wasting time on Facebook. And yes, I just footnoted a footnote. That has to be some sort of new literary device -- can we name it after me?

This recipe was featured on....

Sunday, April 15, 2012

RECIPE: Slow Cooker Spicy Adobo Pulled Pork

So, if you're following along, you know that I've basically spent the past week torturing my family's palates with spicy foods (well, except for the less-adventurous toddler, who's been eating a lot of rigatoni and apple slices). This was the last installment of my self-proclaimed Spicy Food Week. It definitely has a kick, which you can mellow out by using less adobo sauce*.

You'll need:

  • 1-2 lbs. pork
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 can of Goya chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin

Throw everything into the slow cooker and stir it around a bit. I plucked the peppers out after stirring, because I hate the soggy texture of canned peppers -- but pluck them out after you stir, because otherwise you'll waste a lot of sauce. (The chicken broth sort of "rinses" the sauce off the pepper. That's the best way I can explain it.) Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

I served it with a sliced avocado and Goya rice with pigeon peas**, but it would be the perfect meat for burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas, or taco night***.

*This tip has been brought to you by Chef Obvious.

** One of those boxed mixes. I don't know what pigeon peas are, and I certainly don't cook with them of my own accord.

*** Have I forgotten any delicious uses for tortillas?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

RECIPE: Spicy Buffalo Chicken Dip

I know, buffalo chicken dip recipes are a dime a dozen. But this one is particularly simple, spicy, semi-healthy, and super-delicious...if I do say so myself. And I do. I'll put my money where my mouth is on this dip. Or actually, I'll put this dip where my mouth is, repeatedly, until the bowl is empty.

I think I got a little lost in that metaphor. And I made myself hungry.

Anyway, check out this bowl o' yum!

You'll need:
  • (3) 5-oz. cans of shredded chicken*
  • 4 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese**
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
Mix it all in a bowl and microwave it for a minute or two, or put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let it set for a minute or two before you start dipping. I like red peppers for dipping.***

* Or 2 cups of the real thing, but the canned stuff is shredded so nicely and I just don't have the patience.
** Well, any cream cheese will do, but I have to represent my home turf.
*** Not true. I like nachos. But let's pretend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

RECIPE: Quick Chicken Curry with Spinach Chole

If you've ever made Indian food, you know it's a laborious, hours-long epicurean journey of chopping and rubbing and overnight-marinating and simmering and slow-cooking and hunting down approximately 1,937 ingredients you can't pronounce.

That's why I usually end up buying the Trader Joe's Indian packets. I mean, $2 and 90 seconds in the microwave, and you have tofu and veggies in a creamy curry. And it's delicious. For real, why would I try to compete with that?

Here's why: Because I bought some plain Chobani yogurt a few weeks ago, and my husband ate it before I had the chance to use it. So I bought some more, and he ate it again, and I was like, "Dude, I bought that for a recipe!"and he was like, "Oh really? Because it's been in the fridge for a few fortnights*" so I vowed to use yogurt in a recipe ASAP to prove I had a plan all along.

So I decided to come up with a chicken curry recipe that's actually semi-easy. Is it as good as real chicken tikka masala? No. But it also doesn't take longer to prepare than an actual plane ride to India, so at least I win on that front.

What you'll need...

  • 1-2 lbs. chicken
  • 6 oz. Chobani plain yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp garlic
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp Papa Joe's salt (a mix of sea salt, pepper, and garlic power)

  • 2 tsp ground cumin (yeah, more cumin)
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp Papa Joe's salt (yeah, more salt)
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp ground cilantro
  • 1 tsp Coffeemate Simply Sweet Cream

Combine the marinade stuff in a large ziploc bag or bowl and let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two or three. When you're ready to eat, saute the chicken and marinade in one pan until it's cooked through, and simmer the sauce in another pot for 20 minutes. Mix them together.

For the spinach chole, I just bought a box of chole and added in 1/2 cup of spinach. I can't handle the time commitment of soaking beans, and I'll never out-chole a packaged chole anyway.

બોન ખોરાક
If that's not Gujarati for bon appetit, you can blame Google.

* I'm paraphrasing. He would never say "fortnight."

Monday, April 9, 2012

RECIPE: Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Recipe (a.k.a. Alligator Bites)

My brother-in-law Mike and I are basically polar opposites, but we share one very important belief:


I mean, when you see the words "bacon-wrapped" in a recipe, you know it's a guaranteed win, right?

Anyway. Mike served these at a party last month, and I stole the recipe and have pretty much found every possible excuse to make them. The recipe is short and simple, but it also presents several opportunities to burn yourself, so don't skim over the disclaimers in your rush to consume bacon.

You'll need:
  • one pack of bacon (I like the new Oscar Meyer Selects nitrate- and nitrite-free kind!)
  • a bunch of fresh jalapenos (Short and fat work best. I think I used eight in the above photo.)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese (I like Philadelphia cream cheese!)
  • 1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning

STEP 1: Slice the stems off the jalapenos, cut them lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and meaty stuff. 

STEP 2: In a bowl, mix the cream cheese and Old Bay. Scoop the cheese mix into the hollowed-out jalapenos. 

STEP 3: Wrap each jalapeno with a slice of uncooked bacon and secure it with a toothpick.

STEP 4: Place a metal grate (I used the one from the toaster oven) over a baking pan or a casserole dish. Lay the wrapped jalapenos on the grate, and cook at 400 degrees until the bacon browns to your liking. You can also grill them -- that's how Mike made them, but I'm too lazy and pyrophobic to cook outside.

  • When you're chopping fresh jalapenos, you might want to wear gloves, especially if you're using an extra-spicy variety. Don't touch your eyes. Be careful if you have asthma. The best idea is to trick someone else into doing this part of the job. It sucks! 
  • If you ignore the above disclaimer and end up with jalapeno burn-juice on your hands, wash with dishwashing soap, then soak your hands in lemon juice for a few seconds (make sure you get the lemon juice under your nails, too!), then once more with the dish soap. Lick your finger as a test before touching your eyes.
  • DO NOT use a cookie sheet under the grate! The bacon fat will drip down through the grate, so use a fairly deep dish or baking pan (like a brownie pan) to keep the fat from burning your hands or turning your oven into a box of fire.
  • Control yourself when it comes out of the oven. The cheese is hot lava for the first minute or two.
As long as you follow these guidelines, you'll enjoy injury-free deliciousness.

P.S. If you like gardening, jalapenos are ridiculously easy to grow! 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

RECIPE: How to Rescue Almost-Ruined Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Originally, this post was going to be called "How to Make Chocolate Covered Pretzels" for the benefit of anyone who, like me, doesn't have the crafty gene and needs to be handheld through the process the first time. (And yes, I'm calling it a craft. You can't buy sugar and flour at Joann Fabrics, but you can buy melting chocolates! Hence it's a craft.)

I was making chocolate covered pretzels for a friend's Easter Egg Hunt. Things started out okay. I put the chocolate in the microwave for a minute on 50% power.

I kept popping it back in for 20-second intervals at 50% power until it got nice and melted.

Or so I thought. While I was microwaving, I was also telling some long-winded story to my husband and I apparently overshot the melting process a little, because when I tried to dip my pretzels, they turned into delicious-but-fugly chocolate globs.

Now, here's where my hubby and I went in different directions. I wanted to take the easy way out; he is an engineer. So we present you with two options for rescuing chocolate covered pretzels when you get distracted and accidentally overcook the chocolate a little bit.


Crush the pretzels and dump them in the bowl of goopy chocolate until you have a pleasing pretzel-to-chocolate ratio.

Scoop one-inch balls of pretzel mush out of the bowl and let it set on wax paper. Done! Wasn't that easy?

But my husband doesn't do easy. So he decided to go with....


Add vegetable oil to your chocolate, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until it hits a consistency that seems conducive to dipping and evenly coating pretzels. For my husband, this ended up being around 2 teaspoons. Then dip and set as usual.

[EDIT: Okay, hubby wants me to alert you to two things. First, the interweb warns that you should never add more than a tablespoon! And second, even with only two teaspoons, it took a lot of stirring to get it to cooperate. This is why I stand by my pretzel clusters!)

He would want me to point out how much nicer his look than mine. But I would like to point out that I sabotaged him by making him test out his scientific theory using peppermint chips, and everyone was a little scared of the mint pretzels. Even though they were delicious, much like Snyder's York Peppermint Pretzel Dips, which are the best thing since sliced bread and I don't know why they're not in stock anywhere! But I digress.

Anyway, both methods work very well in their own way, so don't abandon ship if your melting chocolate isn't cooperating! And I'm happy to report that all the pretzels played very nicely together on a party tray.

The End.