Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Slow Food

While browsing around the interwebs the other day, I came across an organization called Slow Food. I read their mission statement and then looked up my local chapter. Turns out, they're doing a neat event called the "Slow Food on a Fast Food Budget" Potluck. The idea is that anyone can cook a healthy, wholesome meal with limited materials and a limited budget. I think this is awesome!

This week, my plan is to try to find some dishes that would meet their criteria. You can check out the criteria, as well as some recipes they already have by following the link I provided. I'm thinking this project should be relatively easy seeing as:

  1. I don't have any fancy kitchen appliances. I do all my chopping by hand and I don't have a fancy mixer or anything else of the sort.
  2. I consider myself to be on a pretty small budget so I already take into consideration the price of all the foods I buy.
  3. I already did the math before this endeavor on how much I spent eating out, whether it was fast food or a nicer restaurant and it is much cheaper to prepare fresh dishes at home.

Wish me luck. Hopefully I'll be able to find a few dishes to recommend.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Japanese Steakhouse

I LOVE going to the Japanese Steakhouse. I crave their food constantly and can't wait to go again. Unfortunately, they're pretty pricey in my opinion ($33 per person), so I decided if I can't go to the Japanese Steakhouse, I'll have the steakhouse come to me. When you first arrive at the steakhouse, they give you a salad with a special dressing on it (either yum-yum sauce or ginger). They also provide an amazing hot mushroom "soup" to go along with the salad. It is very light since it only has a few pieces of mushroom in it. After quite a few weeks of searching, I finally found a recipe online for this soup that sounded like it could be the one.

My friend works at the restaurant near us so I had asked him what was in their soup. He said their version was mainly chicken and beef broth so that's why I thought I'd try that recipe first. There was another one that looked promising, but it didn't have the chicken or beef broth. Not all the restaurants use the same recipe, but generally the soup tastes the same wherever you go. Here is the recipe I found:
1 box (32 oz) Chicken Broth
2 Cups Beef Broth
Mushrooms (I only used 3)
Dash of Pepper
All I had to do was clean and peel the mushrooms. Then, I thinly sliced them and added them to the other ingredients in the pot. I heated it until it started to boil and then set it on low. I started the soup first because I knew I wanted to mushrooms to have a chance to get softer and add some flavor to the soup. Then, I got my ingredients ready for the main course. I used:
4 Tbsp Margarine
2 Cups Brown Rice
1 Cup Leek
7-8 Pieces of Broccoli
4 oz. Bean Sprouts
While the soup was heating up, I boiled the rice with water and 1 Tbsp. margarine for 7 minutes. I turned off the stove, poured most of the water out and let the rest sit until it was ready to go in the pan. Then, I started cutting up the beef. I used stew meat that I had left over, but I do not recommend using it for this endeavor. Stew meat has a lot of fat on it and you don't want a bunch of fat on the meat when stir-frying. Also, if you stir-fry stew meat, it turns out chewier than a nicer cut. I had to cut the meat for quite awhile to use it for this project. I didn't mind though because I plan on using the fat for another recipe.
Normally when stir-frying, I add the soy sauce on my own along with a stir-fry sauce I picked up at the grocery store (also made by KIKKOMAN). This time, I thought I should let the experts handle it since the last time I used my normal ingredients along with a sweet and sour sauce it turned out VERY salty. I ended up using a store brand packet, hoping I wouldn't have the same experience. It said to mix the packet's ingredients with 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 2 tsp. sugar, and 1/3 Cup water, then set it aside for later. 
After mixing the stir-fry sauce, I got the pan ready for my ingredients. I set the stove on high and added some olive oil. I used the new silicone basting brush my mother-in-law got me to spread around the oil in the pan. Last time I stir-fried food, I used a different brush. It was not made of silicone and apparently not made to withstand any type of heat. When I went to spread around the oil, the brush disintegrated. It looked like the tip was just browned, so I didn't think anything of it. Later on (of course after we'd eaten the meal) I realized that pieces of the brush had gone into our meal. To avoid my mistake, either get a silicone basting brush (thanks Mom!), or just spread around the oil with the spatula you'll use. I also used 3 Tbsp. margarine in the pan because, let's face it, butter makes everything better. 
When the pan had been thoroughly heated, I added the meat. You want the meat to brown a bit before adding the other ingredients (or at least that's what the stir-fry packet said). Once the meat was browned (it only took a minute or so), I added in the rice and bean sprouts. This is also when I added my stir-fry mixture. The directions said to basically wait until everything's almost done, add it and then cook it another minute. I'm obviously not a good listener, but it still turned out fine.
Since I wasn't sure how the vegetables would turn out (I just recently found out I don't totally hate broccoli), I ended up cooking them in another pan. This was probably for the best because the first time I cooked the veggies, they got a little burnt. Fortunately, I have a whole bowl of leek sitting in my fridge waiting to be used (any ideas?) and quite a bit of broccoli left over. The second time around, I used a lot more oil in the pan. I started off with the stove set to high and a little bit of oil in the pan (just enough to cover the pan). Once the pan was heated, I added the vegetables. I mixed them around a little bit and actually paid attention to them this time. After about a minute, they started cooking very quickly so I took the pan off the stove, added a bunch more olive oil and turned down the heat a notch before putting it back on the stove. This time, the veggies turned out well. Granted, they were a bit soggy from the oil, but since I put them in a separate bowl, it didn't matter.
All in all, the meal turned out well. I used some yum-yum sauce from the last time I went to the Japanese Steakhouse. I found a recipe for it online but haven't had a chance to try it out yet. The soup wasn't exactly the same, but definitely close enough to suppress my cravings for the real deal. When I was eating, I was trying to figure out what was missing. I didn't realize until later on that I'd forgotten to add the egg in. If you want to add egg, do this first. Put a small amount of margarine in the frying pan, wisk/stir the egg in a bowl or cup, then pour it into the hot frying pan and twirl the pan so it spreads evenly on it. Then, quickly take it off the pan and set it aside to put in the rice when the meal is almost ready. Oh, and don't mind the plate/bowl configuration. I didn't mean for it to look like Mickey Mouses's head.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Let me preface this by saying, I am not usually a wine drinker. It's just never been my cup of tea. However, this recipe that I got from my mother is amazing. I remember her making it when I was younger and giving some to the parents of kids who were trick-or-treating. It's great for when it's cold outside.
What you'll need:
  • 1 large bottle of cheap red wine- I used Riunite Lambrusco, but feel free to chose what you'd like. Just make sure it's a sweeter wine). The bottle I used was 3 Liters.
  • 3 oranges
  • Cloves
  • Cinammon Sticks
  • 1 shot of vodka (optional)
  • Sugar (optional)
To begin, pour the wine into a large pot. I used my large stock pot (about 12 quarts). You want to be sure that the wine does not boil so set your stove on the lowest setting. I just used the "warm" setting on my stove.
Next, wash the oranges and peel off the stickers. Start poking some cloves into the oranges. It doesn't matter where you poke them into the orange. I just haphazardly put them on. Places the oranges in the pot and let it cook (covered) for a few hours. I waited 3 hours before tasting mine and I thought it turned out great. If you think it's not sweet enough, you can always add a bit of sugar. Here is the finished product. I used a soup ladel to get it out and let the rest sit on the stove on the warm setting so I can come back for more.

New Interests

Since I've had quite a bit of free time on my hands lately, I've developed some new interests. One of these is cooking. Now, I've been cooking for quite a few years, but I've mainly stuck to the basics. I'm a pretty picky eater so it's hard to find recipes for the foods I like. Well, it was hard, until I found Supercook. That website is amazing! Instead of inputting the items I had on hand, I added all the foods I like to eat. This discovery has brought me much joy (and delicious meals!). The only issue I've had was finding people to cook for. My husband is currently deployed so he's not around to cook for. Half of my friends are married and cooking for their own families and the other half are too busy partying to come over for a relaxing meal. It's really hard to get motivated to cook an entire meal when you know it'll just be you sitting alone at the table eating it. I have to eat (and save money) so I improvised.

One of the things I've done is find meals that I can freeze for later. This is perfect for the soups that I've been making, especially since the winters in Ohio are brutal. Another idea I'm trying to implement is a weekly "girls night" with one of my good friends. One week we eat dinner at my place, the next at hers. This is still a work in progress, but progress nonetheless. The last solution I've found to this problem is, just don't cook so much! For me, that's easier said than done. Since I'm new at the whole cooking for pleasure thing, I'm not really sure the quantities to use. This will get better over time, just like my meals will (I hope!). All in all, I think I'm set to continue this new hobby of mine. Hopefully I'll have some new recipes to use when my husband gets back. I know not all of them will turn out, but you never know unless you try-- and keep tons of Mac and Cheese on hand for emergencies.