Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fresh Salsa AKA Salsa Crack

We are in full swing Breaking Bad addiction. Everyone did warn us before we began. Once we get the little monster to sleep, it's time for episode after episode of Walter White, Jesse and all the characters in between. I've been keeping this salsa around for the occasion. Inevitably, at some point during the Marathon, we both want a movie snack. The guy loves pretzels and cream cheese. Weird, I know, but actually amazing. Unfortunately, cream cheese has a great relationship with my thighs so I stick with salsa, a nutritional and low cal snack. 

This recipe tastes like it should be very bad, super fattening and hazardous to your health...bonus points! Paired with a low fat chip, a baked tortilla cut into forths or a low carb grain cracker instead of real chips and it's a whole package of goodness. If you're not yet sold, my 3 year old will obliterate a bowl of this salsa...and he doesn't knowingly consume vegetables typically, but will devour a bowl full of tomatoes in salsa form. AAAnnnddd ... I've heard this is the "best salsa ever" ... SO, there's that. It's the Breaking Bad of salsas, the Walter White Special Blend, the Blue Meth version of Salsa. For the record, I'm not actually promoting meth use, but I do love Walter White. I hope you'll understand! :)

Give it a try for your next office potluck or family function. Feel free to leave comments or message me suggestions, feedback, etc… I love hearing about cooking experiences!

Fresh Salsa AKA Salsa Crack

11 Tomatoes (Roma or Vine Ripe preferred)
2 Green Onions, chopped
½ Shallot Clove, grated
1 ½ Small Jalapenos (or 1 large), grated
2 Small Limes
1 Lemon
1 Tbsp Dried Minced Garlic
Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

Fill a large pot with water, halfway and get boiling on the stove. While the water heats up, clean and score the tomatoes. To score the tomatoes, cut a large “X” just under the skin but not too deep into the flesh. Also, cut out the woody tops out that you won’t want in the salsa.

Once the pot of water is boiling, turn water off and add the tomatoes to the water, cover with a lid and allow it to sit.

While the tomatoes “steam” prep the other ingredients.

Chop to green onions, whites and tops, to a fine chop- not too large of pieces, but not minced. Add to a medium ceramic bowl.

With a fine grater, grate the shallot into bowl.  

Grate jalapeno into the bowl, seeds and all- everything but the stem. The seeds stay whole as you grate the jalapeno.

Add the dried minced garlic or you can always replace with 2 Tbsp of Fresh Grated Garlic instead. Use what is easier for you, and on hand!

Squeeze one whole lemon and 2 whole limes, remove seeds before adding to the bowl.

Now for the tomatoes. Drain the water from the tomatoes. They will be pretty hot at this point and lightly cooked but not mush. I let them sit out for about 20 minutes to let the air cool them enough to handle.

Once they have cooled enough to handle, you’ll see the skins usually start to curl away from the flesh where you scored them. Just peel the skin right off, kind of like peeling a boiled egg. Reserve the tomatoes in a bowl and throw skins out.

With the tomatoes in the bowl, squeeze the juice from them to collect in the bowl, and chop the tomato flesh into medium diced size pieces. The juice and chop tomatoes get added to the mix you are refrigerating. Give everything a good stir, add a generous dose of salt and maybe a tsp of black pepper.

I add the cilantro at the very end, LOTS OF CILANTRO. I usually use one whole bunch, stems removed, rinsed and chopped. Add to the bowl.

Cover and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours to chill, up to a few days. This kind of thing just gets better and better. I’d say it is good for 3 days max, though I doubt it will last long before being demolished!

A side note, the whole recipe takes about 20 minutes or less from start to finish. You can make it a 10-minute-or-less-recipe by replacing the fresh tomatoes with 2 cans of whole, peeled tomatoes. The two differences I notice with the canned preparation are: 1) canned tomatoes seem over stewed and loose the texture of gently steaming them. I don’t really know the why’s and how’s of it, but because I don’t actually boil them to cook, just let them kind of take a very hot bath, the tomato looses its raw taste but keeps some texture. I mean, I’m guessing but it sounds good, right? 2) canned tomatoes keep that tin like flavor, that ever so subtle canned flavor that usually gets cooked out in a sauce or stew. The acid and cilantro masks it, but it’s just enough to know it’s not fresh.

With that said and done, I'm going to go watch more Breaking Bad now so...Happy Cooking!!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Citrus Cilantro Steak Marinade "Carne Asada"

This is a really fun recipe to use for entertaining friends. You can do almost all the hard stuff well before guests arrive, so you can just enjoy the party without slaving over a hot stove. Serve with a topping bar to have a fun interactive dinner, while also being eye-catching and fresh. The following recipe will serve about 4 adults, double it up for a crowd or triple it for a party!!

Citrus Cilantro Steak Marinade “Carne Asada”

2 lbs Petite Sirloin Steaks
5 Mandarin Oranges, juice only
2 Limes, juice only
1 Lime, grated peel only
1 Grated Jalapeno
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 Handfuls Fresh Cilantro
2 Garlic Cloves, grated
1 Medium Shallot Clove, grated
1 tsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Paprika
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
Sprinkle of Montreal Steak Seasoning

Grilled Flour Tortillas, for serving

Gather your ingredients, rinse the veggies and cilantro.You'll need a non-metallic bowl. A grater and chefs knife make the slicing and dicing quick work. I like to grate everything that needs to be grated, first, so I’m not switching back and forth with utensils. In a bowl, grate the lime peel. Grate the jalapeno, seeds and all, just not the stem. Grate Shallot and Garlic. Squeeze juice of small Mandarin oranges and limes. Add olive oil, whisk for a minute or so to blend. Chop parsley and add to bowl. Add cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Whisk until blended.

Cut the steaks in half to make smaller steaks. You will thinly slice the steaks later before serving, so cutting them smaller makes for more surface area for the marinate = more flavor!

Toss the meat in the marinade, covering each side and sprinkle with Montreal seasoning. Marinate for 4+ hours. Halfway through marinating, I flipped them and sprinkled the other side with Montreal Seasoning.

After 4 hours of marinating, the change in color comes from the citrus working on the steaks.
When you are ready to cook them, they can be broiled or pan seared or a scorching hot pan. We (the guy and I) love using our grill, so he and grilled them; I think they do come out best by grilling. Get the grill super hot before putting the meat on. We did 5 minutes per side (the other half does most of the actual grilling, so I just kind of helped in the process). Steaks were about medium rare at that point but on the rare side, so we gave the bigger pieces another minute per side. Then, they were perfect!!!!

While the grill is hot, throw Flour tortillas on to char them up a bit. 

Let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Slice into thin slices. 

Serve with a variety of toppings. If you are entertaining a crowd, some ideas for a topping bar include lime wedges, sliced red cabbage, romaine lettuce, sliced cucumber, sliced radish, cheddar cheese, onion, sour cream and homemade Blanched Tomato Citrus Salsa (recipe to follow on the blog tomorrow!!) Check out the pictures, having the toppings buffet style make it fun, fresh and pretty!

Happy Cooking, Grilling and having Carne Asada and wine (beer or margaritas, too) with friends!!!!


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pretzel Baguettes, Miso Mustard Butter & Easy Cheesy Dip

When we found out we were expecting, Steven and I talked about what life would be like, what would change, what wouldn’t change. All pretty normal for life changing stuff. Like most new parents, we weren’t sure; we just became sponges soaking up advice. There’s a lot of new information that comes trickling in…by trickling, I mean like a tsunami. When it became obvious about 6 months in, people being the inquisitive beings we are, would ask all the cringing stranger questions- you know, when a complete stranger or someone you know peripherally asks you intrusive questions. I often found myself cringing inside, that little “Eek!” feeling a little offended.

Ladies, when/if you become pregnant, it’s almost as if you are not your own anymore- you are open field, with everyone petting you and staring, sometimes admiring and sometimes more as though you are a leper. There’s the whole hormonal thing, so it probably felt a lot worse than it truly was.

I am a shy creature, by nature, so all the intrusion was hard for me, probably more than the average human. Worse than the petting and the staring was the unsolicited advice I was hit with daily. I was surprised by what could only be described as negative energy from people after they realized we were expecting our first. I felt that the peanut gallery was planning my future and deciding how miserable we were going to be.

Excited parents are beleaguered with ominous comments. The most common, “Oh, you’re life is going to really change.” A particularly helpful comment... because we decided to have a child with the notion that everything would be the same…not. That one left my IQ feeling assaulted. And WHAT does that really mean, anyway? Or there’s the, “Oh Man, nothing will be the same after he/she born."                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I guess it was the “Oh Man” that did it for me. Oh man, that really sucks is what it sounded like. And the best one, “Are you ready for this?” What the F, am I preparing for war? A whole lotta scare tactics going on.

Not to fear, ladies, there are many congratulations and most people are genuinely excited well wishers with good advice and without foretelling. Still, the backhanded foretelling would smack me in the face, at work, at the grocery store, sometimes from friends or family.

That’s when we decided that all of that was crap. We don’t often do things in a traditional way, and that would not change. We would revel in it. We decided to make a conscious effort to bring our little guy in to our world. To adapt with him. To continue living our lives, not selfishly, but in a way that didn’t conform to these outdated notions that children change everything. With a lot more toys to step on.

Once we had made up our minds about our attitudes and what kind of life we wanted for the three of us, me being me…I made sure to give it right back to people. My favorite, when they started in, was to make sure to work in the not married part, if they hadn’t already glanced at my ring finger 15 times. SHOCK all over their face! Me, amused. 
"Well, you’re, you’re, you’re… going to get married, aren’t you?"
Hell no, I would tell them with a big smile. (In reality, my answer was, “Well, maybe, someday if life takes us there” but I wasn’t letting them in on any of the juicy, good stuff.) My consolation to their invasion of my privacy was the look of disgust and judgment as they walked away. Well, shouldn’t have asked then…. :)

Three years later, I can say that one thing definitely does change. My unsolicited advice for parents to be will watch a lot of kid’s movies. The Power of the Parent is you can sometimes choose which ones. Think wisely before choosing the movie, because you will watch it 15 times in a row and then never again. So, I always go with something a little more adult. There was the Wreck it Ralph phase- I loved that movie…couldn’t wait to watch it 3 times in a row. I’m being serious.

And bringing it all around to the real point, right now, we are in the heat of The Lorax phase. I’m not complaining. I dig it. So one day I was home, had the house all to myself. I was cleaning up the Christmas Pageantry, watching the Lorax, of course… and Dr. Suess smacked me with enlightenment. “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.”

I thought, what better quote to inspire people to try something new in the kitchen…something like…Pretzel baguettes ::gasp:: I know, it sounds scary. It sounds hard. I thought so, too. But then I looked at the flour, the water and remember Dr. Suess, “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.

Originally, I found this recipe on a great blog site called Table for Two. I was leery to give it a go because, as you may know, I hate following recipes. But, for a special New Year’s Eve appetizer, I figured I would start the New Year trying to follow the rules, for once.

I did it. I followed the recipe for the baguettes. Okay, I switched it up a little. Instead of two long baguettes, I made small ones for individual portions. They looked adorable. It helped me in the boiling phase, for an easier flip, double bonus!

The dish was devoured, served with a Miso-Mustard Butter and a Warm Cheesy Dip. Balancing the miso-mustard was a task that took lots of trial and error. In the end, guests loved it and the cheese dip was a crowd pleaser, too. 

Pretzel Baguettes

The full recipe for the baguettes can be found at the following link:

I want to give Julie of Table for Two a huge thank you. She provides many more great recipes and tips on her website and if ever you have questions or comments, she is quick and accommodating with her response! Great website and resource.

Below I have a step-by-step of how I approached the recipe, to show how actually pretty easy it was to make...pretzel bread:

Miso Mustard Sauce

You can use this recipe as a great fish or chicken marinade later in the week, killing two birds with one stone. Yay for efficiency!

1/3 Cup Sour Cream
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
2 tsp Miso Paste
1 tsp Rice Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Pickling Spices from pickle jar (pickled mustard seeds)
2 tsp Ground Whole Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
4 Tbsp Ground Mustard Powder
1 ½ tsp Turmeric
1 ½ Tbsp White Onion, grated
½ tsp Granulated Garlic
Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

There are a couple ingredients that need a little attention before mixing everything together. Once you get everything measured, all goes into a mixing bowl and whisk it up.

Start by first measuring sour cream into mixing bowl.

Squeeze the juice from a lemon, add to sour cream.

Measure Miso paste, rice wine vinegar and add to bowl.

For the pickling spices, I drained the pickling spices that remain in the bottom of a good jar of pickles, like Nathan’s, and added those (not the actual juice) to the sour cream.

Add brown sugar to bowl.

Grind whole mustard seeds, you can use a coffee grinder or spice grinder. I used my mortar and pestle, and grinded just enough to break it up but not make a powder.

Add turmeric to bowl.

Grate onion and add to bowl.

Add granulated garlic to bowl.

Add some black pepper, start with ½ tsp and go from there. Little sprinkle of salt.

That’s it, give it a whisk and refrigerate.

Miso-Mustard Butter

This is the actual dip for the pretzel baguettes.

½ stick butter, melted
¼ cup soy sauce
3-4 Tbsp Miso-Mustard Sauce, recipe above

Melt ½ stick of butter. 

Add ¼ cup soy sauce plus a dash. 

Add the miso-mustard sauce and whisk all together. 

Refrigerate for about an hour, to firm up a bit. 

Take out of fridge 15 minutes before serving the warm pretzel baguettes, so it will be a soft enough for dipping.

Cheesy Pretzel Bread Dip

Great for soft pretzels, the pretzel baguette recipe from Table for Two, even served over broccoli or noodles for a quick Mac n Cheese. It is a versatile recipe with many uses, and easy to whip up in a pinch!

2 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Flour
½ tsp Pepper
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Nutmeg
¾ Cup Milk
3 Slices Kraft American Cheese

Melt butter in a sauce pan on medium heat.

Add pepper, salt and nutmeg.

Warm in butter for about 2 minutes and then add flour. Let flour cook in butter on medium heat for about 5 minutes, careful not to burn. 

Add milk and bring to a gentle simmer. Turn heat down, and cook for 10 minutes. If it thickens too much add a splash of milk.

Whisk in cheese.

Serve warm in a little dish with warm pretzel baguettes and miso-mustard butter.

And of course ...Happy Cooking!!!


Friday, January 3, 2014

Crab Broth with Ginger and Miso

It all started with this picture from my new Masterchef cookbook.

Never having handled a Dungeness crab, I was curious. I was also assembling a menu for New Year's Eve dinner that was quickly approaching. The other half requested his favorite Filet Oscar style- steak covered in a mountain of King Crab. The plan was to take the crab meat out of the shells, leaving a pile of leftover shells. I hate wasting parts of an animal that could otherwise be used. Thus, a crab broth was the solution and the soup's origin.

After researching recipes for a miso soup with a crab stock base, I couldn't seem to find what I was looking for. I decided to just go with it, using the flavors in mind- ginger and miso, balanced with sweet crab and soy sauce, a bit of Mirin and green onion.

Starting with a traditional crab stock, the usual characters of lemon and parsley. Replacing white wine with Sake (YUM) ::the opportunity to drink some hot sake as you go along, of course:: A method to the madness! Then adding layered flavors... taste testing as I went along, adding flavors to find a balance of sweet, salty, tart, etc. When it was all said and done, it was good but needed a bit of sweetness. Mirin was the perfect balance in the end.

Start the stock the day before you plan to serve the soup. I found the broth developed more flavor by refrigerating overnight, and serving piping hot the next day.

The recipe for that which I could not find elsewhere- tofu, miso, crab, shiitake mushrooms, enoki, and bok choy all balanced in a crab ginger broth:

Miso Crab Soup
Serves 6

2 lbs King Crab, shells only
1 – 1 lb Dungeness Crab, meat and shells separated
1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
½ - 1 Cup Celery Hearts (the leaves and inner stalk inside the celery)
1 lemon, halved
5-6 allspice, whole
6 whole peppercorns
3 Bay Leaves
4 Tbsp Shallot
One Bunch of Parsley, Just Stems
1 Cup Sake (Geikkan)
½ Cup Soy Sauce
10 Cups Water
4 Shiitake Mushrooms
Enoki Mushroom Stems (tops reserved for garnish)

½ Cup Medium Firm Tofu, diced
Reserved Dungenous Crab meat
¼ cup white or yellow miso paste
5 Tbsp Mirin
6 Baby Bok Choy
3 Shiitake Mushrooms
1 package Enoki (Seafood) Mushrooms
4 Green Onion sprigs, chopped


Remove the crab meat from 2 pounds of King Crab, reserve crab for Steak Oscar, crab cocktail, sushi, etc. Don’t rinse the King Crab shells before putting in the pot, the little bits are tasty.

Clean and remove meat from a one pound Dungenesss crab. Reserve meat for the soup, and use rinsed shells for stock.

Guide to dissembling the Dungeness Crab for soup

In a large stockpot, add grapeseed oil, celery and crab shells. Sauté shells on medium high heat for 10 minutes, stirring every so often. 

Squeeze the lemon juice over shells and drop the halves into the pot. Add 5 pieces of whole allspice, whole peppercorns, and bay leaves. Sauté everything another 5 to 10 minutes; regulate the temperature so as not to burn but to get a good fragrance going.

Warm up a couple shots of sake. Drink.

Deglaze pan with one cup of sake. Let that simmer down for 10 minutes. Add 10 cups of water, parsley stems, 4 tablespoons of sliced shallots and a 2 tablespoon-sized chunk of ginger, or about half the size of your thumb; cover and let simmer for an hour and a half.

Cool broth in an ice bath and refrigerate overnight.


A couple of hours before serving, reheat stock on the stove to simmering.
Clean 4 shiitake mushrooms, and quarter them; add to stock.

While simmering for about an hour, prep the garnishes.

Remove the outer leaves from the baby bok choy, trim stem and leave the base in tact to serve whole.

Remove stems from three shiitake mushrooms; throw the stems in to stock. Clean and slice tops into thin strips for garnish.

Trim the mushroom tops from the enoki mushrooms and clean, reserve for serving. Add the stems to the stock. 

Slice green onion. Set aside for garnish.

Dice 1/3 package of medium firm tofu into bite size pieces. Set aside.

Strain stock through fine sieve or cheese cloth. I have heard that coffee filters will also work, but have not tried it, yet. It sounds like a great option for the hone chef, let me know if you have insight.

Put clear broth back on stove, simmer. Once simmering, add bok choy to broth for 5 minutes, until just tender. Use a slotted spoon to scoop and drain the bok choy, set them aside for serving. 

Add miso paste and mirin to broth. Add diced tofu and half of green onion. Give it 5 or 10 minutes to warm tofu through and gently scent the broth with green onion.

Prepare bowls with a few pieces of the reserved dungenous crab, one bok choy, a sprinkle of green onion, a few enoki tops, and a sprinkle of the sliced shiitake mushrooms. 

Cover with a ladle or two of broth and serve hot.

* You can also replace the crab meat in the soup with a very thin marinated slice of beef, make sure the broth is piping hot and cover the meat with broth, let this cook in the bowl before serving. A soy, Mirin, shallot marinade would pair well.

Kitchen Tip: Find exotic ingredients at specialty stores, online or your local international market, when available.

Until next time...Happy Cooking!!! AND a Happy New Year, too!