Monday, June 30, 2014

Lawd Have Mercy

Just stopping in to drop a off my new favorite picture


It's too hot to eat & too hot to cook, so I'm scouring the internet for great kitchen pin ups instead. YW!

Until next time...keep it cool my friends ::mists self with water bottle::



XoXo




Sunday, June 29, 2014

Thai-ish Beef Lettuce Wraps with Almond Ramen Crunch




This is a Thai-ish recipe, or as the sushi chef told me the other night when I was describing the dish to him, an "American" version of Thai beef. Ohhhh bam. He would have been more impressed if I’d used Thai Basil he said. "Americans can only attempt at Thai food" I believe was the statement (aka your white, don't even try Thai). At which point I was compelled to say something about our Thai sushi chef....hmmmm the irony was not lost on me. I held my tongue in kindness & I really just wished we could give each other high fives and say, "Hell yeah, good for you! You're making it happen, putting in the effort and doing a damn good job." Sometimes it seems we can be so eager to tear one another down to mask our own worries of inferiority. Oh well. My "American" version is delicious, so I'm excited to share the recipe.


The Ramen Almond topping adds that extra good crunch in these lettuce wraps and you can use it in place of croutons on almost any salad. I borrowed the recipe from my mom’s yummy Napa Cabbage Salad because I thought the crunch would go well with the softer beef. Yes, oh Yes, indeed it did. I’m not a peanut lover, per say, in foods, but adding the peanuts would give it a little extra Thai profile. Maybe the sushi chef would have been more impressed if I’d told him about the peanuts? A great recipe to keep in your back pocket because it’s EASY & versatile! I’m all about that life.

Thai-ish Beef Lettuce Wraps

2.5 lbs Cubed Beef Steak
1 tsp Oil
4 Sprigs Mint, chopped
2 Sprigs Basil, chopped
2 Large Green Onions, chopped
8 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tsp Ginger, grated
2 Tbsp Red Onion, grated
1/3 Red Jalapeno, minced
1 Lime
Sprinkle of Salt

Butter, Romaine or Iceberg Lettuce for wrapping


Sauce:

¼ Cup Soy Sauce
¼ Cup Water
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1/2 Tbsp Red Chili Flakes + or – depending on your spicy taste buds
1 tsp Grated Ginger
½ tsp Salt


Almond Ramen Crunch

3 Oz. Bag Almonds, chopped
1 Pack Ramen Noodles, broken into pieces
2 Tbsp Butter
Peanuts (opt.)





First thing’s first, get the Ramen Almond Topping going low and slow. Add all ingredients -butter, almonds & dry crunched up ramen noodles- to a warm pan and keep your heat setting medium.



Toss the flavor packet or save it for some other use…not sure what exactly but I’m sure there’s a Pinterest post about Ramen Packets somewhere. You’ll start to smell the butter browning the almonds, that’s when you know to turn it down to the lowest setting. Let it soak in the warm butter while you cook/prep the dish.






Now onto the filling of your wrap…Thai Beef mmmmm! Brown the cubed beef steak for 30 minutes, stirring every so often. Use your spoon to break the meat up as it cooks. While the meat works, chop/mince/grate the ingredients, as listed above. You can keep everything in one bowl once chopped; you’ll add it all together later. Makes for easy clean up!


Mix up your sauce and set aside, also.

Grate the peel of the lime over the beef, then squeeze lime juice over as well. Let that jam for a few minutes.




  
Now that the beef is good & browned & full of citrus, add all the goodies you just chopped up- Mint, Basil, Green Onion, Garlic, Ginger, Red Onion, Red Jalapeno.


Pour sauce over meat & let the sauce work to get the little brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Errr My Gawd, this is getting good. Again, let that jam a few minutes and pull of the heat for serving.

Sauce & Ingredients added & given a good mix before serving

Serve warm with crisp lettuce “cups”, Almond Ramen Crunchies and chilled Thai Sliced Cucumbers recipe found here:

http://www.diariesofakitchendiva.com/2014/06/thai-inspired-pickled-cucumbers.html

Makes for a fun dinner family style, where everyone makes their own wraps & chooses their toppings.

Served here in Coconut Cup on a Banana Leaf for decoration. Yummy!!!


On a last note, back to my exchange with the Thai Sushi chef, who was actually a pretty cool person. I am on a mission to build people up. To support & encourage whenever I can.  I catch a lot of negativity about blogging from people who maybe don't "get it" or whatever they've got going on. I understand it. Sometimes the negativity succeeds in bringing me down, being discouraged or can make me weary. But at the end of the day, I know what I love to do, and I think this goes for all of us, when you love to do something, you are good at doing it your way. Your own little finesse, your personality stamped on.

As for the negativity that can surround us and attempt to bring us down... I don't support or encourage it, and I wont give it legs. I keep doing my damn thing and will encourage and be excited for those out there doing theirs!! My hope is we can all show the love; it could change everything.

We can love and honor one another's achievements, as if they are our own & grow in strength and love together. A quote I heard last week really wrapped it up in a small package 

"Success breeds success"

So, for those of you out there doing your thang & doing it great, high fives & applauds; keep up the great work, keep going, keep striving! We'll get there, wherever there may be.


Love to you all <3 nbsp="" p="">Until next time…Happy Cooking!


XoXo




Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Thai Inspired Pickled Cucumbers





Hi Ya'll. I've got my twang on today.

This recipe was inspired by a trip to the International Market, where I found all kinds of good stuff. I have been working on a recipe for Thai Beef Lettuce Cups and they needed a something zippy to go with the fresh herbacious Thai beef flavors and to cut the spice. Yet, I kept these a little spicy themselves...I tried them without the kick & they were good but not special. These cucumbers, however, are something special.

I love this as a condiment in Asian dishes or just as a good pickley snack. Oh, pickled cukes, how I love thee. Especially delicious with the Thai-ish Beef Lettuce Wraps going up on the blog later this month. So without further ado...


Thai Pickled Cucumbers

2 ½  Cucumbers, peeled & sliced ½ inch rounds
1 ½ Cup Water
¼ Cup Rice Vinegar
½ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
¼ Cup White Wine Vinegar
Large Chunk Fresh Ginger, sliced into fourths
2 Heaping Tbsp Lime Juice
2 Mint Sprigs
2 Basil Sprigs
8 Sprigs Cilantro
1/3 Jalapeno, sliced
½ Red Jalapeno Pepper, sliced
1/3 Red Onion, sliced
1 tsp salt
¼ Cup Sugar


Literally, all you have to do is slice up the veggies as noted above & measure out the rest of the ingredients; toss them together in a non-metallic bowl or ceramic baking dish or even a big plastic Tupperware. Let it all chill together. Here are some photos of the process:

Cucumber Sliced & Halved


Herbs


Lots of Ginger

Green & Red Jalapenos Add Spice


Pour Liquid Over Cukes & Mix

Drink a glass of chilled chardonnay and chill with it. Keep in fridge until ready to serve. Make them the morning of if you plan to serve them with those great Thai Beef Lettuce Cups...found here:

http://www.diariesofakitchendiva.com/2014/06/thai-ish-beef-lettuce-wraps-with-almond.html



Add Red Onion Before Chilling


Until Next Time….Happy Cooking! Adieu.

XoXo




Danielle Dishes








Monday, June 9, 2014

Vegetable Medley Featuring Pattypan Squash

Blanching is an easy process. Basically, it's boiling your veggies, then plunging them in ice water or running under cold water to shock them out of the cooking process. The result is a bright color and a crisp but cooked veggie. The process for my family's favorite Vegetable Medley, is an easy one but does require multiple steps. I assure you, though, that the added step of blanching before a quick sauté in butter, is so well worth it.

How well worth it, you ask? Well, my meat loving guy literally ate all his vegetables before going for a second helping, before cutting in to his delicious steak. Mind blown! My little guy also finished his broccoli, without coersion. Enjoy!





Vegetable Medley 
feat. Sunburst Squash aka Pattypan Squash aka Summer Squash

I've been so curious about "pattypan" squash, with such a cute name and all. I remember first hearing about them from Chef Guarnaschelli, I think on an episode of Chopped, as a mystery basket item. They are now in Season and quite adorable in this mix of veggies. They are easily subbed by other squash, if you are having trouble finding them at your local market, though. 

1 Head of Broccoli
1 lb Fresh Green Beans
6 Carrots, peeled
5-6 Small Pattypan Squash (sub w/ 2 yellow squash or other similar sized zucchini)
Lots of Water for Boiling
1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
3 Tbsp Smart Balance Butter 
1 Tbsp Minced Garlic


First, you want to do all the slicing and dicing before cooking, so you can time the vegetable blanching later. Nothing worse than cutting up the broccoli, then forgetting it's boiling away... only to find mush when you remember it's on the stove!  Said the absent-minded cook. :)


Okay, so to start, I love doing an "oblique" or "bias" cut on the carrots for this recipe because it allows the carrots to be about the same size across the board. These are fancy terms, but since you are already going to have to cut the carrots, anyway, it's not a big deal. Bias means you'll slice them on a diagonal down the length of the carrot. Oblique means you slice on the diagonal in opossite ways, making a sort of flat topped pyramid. No big deal, just keep the sizes about the same.




Trim the tough ends from the green beans. I like to leave the pretty end on, the sort of curled tip. That's up to you, really. You can cut them in half if they are too long.




With the squash, slice approx 3/4 inch thickness & then in half. 





**KITCHEN TIP ~ The Pattaypan is short and fat, so thus the cutting in half but if you have a regular zucchini, mexican or yellow squash, just slice in to 3/4 in h thick rounds.


In a bowl, sprinkle salt over & toss. Let them "sweat" while you blanch what needs blanching.




The salt draws out some of the moisture that could make everything a little soggy later. You know how I feel about soggy vegetables...






The last thing to cut is the broccoli...cut the florets away from the stem. You can even shave off the tough stem peel, and use the broccoli hearts in large pieces if you want to get crazy. 





With everything cut & prepped it's time to ...

Blanch

Bring a pot of water up to boil. 

Place cut carrots in simmering water for 4 minutes.

Rinse under cool water & set aside in their own bowl.



Heat fresh water to a simmer & drop in green beans for 3 minutes. 

Rinse under cool water & reserve in a separate bowl. 



Heat water again to simmering and drop in cut broccoli; simmer for 1 minute 30 seconds; rinse under cool water & reserve in their own bowl.




Finishing the Dish 
Back to the squash. Now they've had time to release so e of that extra water content.



They dont g blanched, just sautéd.

Squeeze out the excess water & pat dry on paper towels. A good squeeze. Add to a large pan with Tbsp Grapeseed oil on high for 3 minutes. 




Turn down heat to medium high, and flip squash. Add carrots to pan. Swirl them around.
Sauté for a 2 minutes. The squash should be getting nice and browned. 




Add green beans and cook another 2 minutes. 




Add 2 Tbsp of Smart Balance. Once that melts add broccoli, garlic and dash of salt & pepper. 




Cook for a minute or less to heat broccoli through & "sweat" the garlic flavor throughout the dish but not burn.  

Walla! So bright, fresh, vibrant, flavorful and still nice & crisp. Yum!




And the full serving looks like:


Plenty for a crowd!



Until next time....Happy Cooking!!




XoXo







Sunday, June 8, 2014

Celery Seed Transforms A Summer Favorite - Coleslaw!

This is a guest post from Theresa Short, my mom. Her recipes and ideas are passed down to me, as her mother's before, and her mother's mother before that. These family recipes continue to inspire us from generation to generation.



The 100 plus degree temps have arrived in Sunny Las Vegas - time to rest the oven, fire up the BBQ and prepare cool, crisp, refreshing summer salads to accompany our favorite grilled entrees. The beauty of salads, whether leafy greens, fresh cut fruit, salads using jello or salads topped with warm grilled fish, seafood, meat or poultry; "recipes" are optional and imagination is the key ingredient - buy your favorite ingredients and prepare a delicious entree or side salad.

Cole slaw is one of our family favorites, a "recipe" passed through generations and introduced to me by my Grandmother - Grandma Hazel. In her 50's, Grandma Hazel became a professional "cook" on a tow boat, and prepared three meals a day for 12 hard working men who loved her comfort foods and homemade pies, mostly from the recipe book in her memory, rarely from a book off the shelf ... experiment with these ingredients, which can be bought in advance, hold well in the refrigerator and cupboard and can be kept on hand for a quick crispy slaw for your family ... it's a great make ahead dish so you can enjoy being in the pool with the gang and not in the kitchen!



GRANDMA HAZEL'S AMAZING SLAW


1/2 to 1 head green cabbage 
1 to 2 crisp bright orange fresh carrots
1/2 small red onion
Red Wine Vinegar
White or Organic Granulated Sugar (about 2 tsp)
Salt
Pepper
Celery SEED (1 tsp approx.)
Mayo (do not use Miracle Whip)




Rinse cabbage, removing any unusable outside leaves & the tough core around the stem. Breakdown the head of cabbage into quarters for easy chopping. 


For a crisp slaw, chop - for a less crisp slaw, shred. Place in a large bowl and set aside.  

Chopped cabbage keeps without getting too soggy



Peel carrots, rinse and pat dry - using peeler, peel small shreds of carrots into the bowl of chopped cabbage.



Mom shredding carrots via the peeler method. Dig in for a thicker cut, lighter for a thinner cut. Easy Easy!

Chop red onion into very small pieces and add to bowl. Mix well. 

*As we made the slaw together, Mom pointed out that you MUST make sure to mix all your veggies before adding the dressing, it gives it that extra little touch of pizzazz.


Just add right into the cabbage, as you go

Add a few "shakes" of red wine vinegar, a little sugar, a few sprinkles of salt and pepper, a teaspoon of celery SEED and a dolop of mayo. 

*I need to stress the importance of something here...my mom warned against the use of miracle whip in place of mayo. I must agree here. In no scenario should you try this recipe with Miracle Whip. You have been warned.


Celery Seed is the star of this recipe...a necessity for the best texture and flavor



Mix well. The onion, vinegar and sugar will chemically react with the other ingredients and become an amazing "dressing" 




Mom suggests making in the morning to be served that afternoon/evening for perfect slaw

Taste as you go along and prepare the slaw to your liking - a little sweeter, add sugar - a little tangier, add vinegar. ENJOY FOR SEVERAL DAYS IF REFRIGERATED!





A summertime favorite topped off with fresh Sangria!



~Theresa Short



Every once in a while, I will post articles & recipes from guests - whether friends, family or someone with a great story.

I want to say a big THANK YOU to my mom for sharing this story and recipe. Family recipes inevitably have stories and memories attached rich in history. I always say, it's our stories that connect us. A little back story about my Great Grandma. My Great Grandma Hazel was a survivor. Born in 1913, she survived the The Tri-State Tornado in 1925 at the age of 12... it was then and remains to be the deadliest tornado in US history. My mom told me the story of how Grandma Hazel told about her school at that time. It was obliterated in that tornado, so with no school to attend at the age of 12, she went to work. She went through multiple surgeries throughout her life from eyes to knees and everything in between. She survived a shotgun ricochet in her 50's, the shrapnel embedded in her arm for the rest of her life. She was a breast cancer survivor. Her last battle was with Dimensia, which she beat for a very long time. She was a tough lady, and she could cook, too! It's these stories that run through us, connect us and inspire us. 
Until next time....Happy Cooking!
XoXo

If you have an interesting family recipe or story to share, please share in the comments. I'd love to read about it!! :)  I always say it, but our stories connect us & I am a curious little squirrel.