Thursday, April 29, 2010

Food Network Fridays: Ina Garten!

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I am going to do a series every other Friday called "Food Network Fridays!" Watching the Food Network is a great way to learn how to cook, and it's just darn entertaining.

Every other Friday I will showcase a Food Network host, as well as provide a fun drinking game to help you get to know the show!




This week, it's time to get "back to basics" with Ina Garten.

Ina Garten, more commonly known as "Barefoot Contessa," is neither barefoot nor a contessa. Rather, she is a middle aged, overweight woman who lives in the Hamptons with her beloved husband Jeffrey and a closet full of oversized denim shirts. She also happens to bear a striking resemblance to Nathan Lane.

Watch as Ina cooks up delicious food for Jeffrey and her myriad homosexual friends with an assortment of fascinating careers in the Hamptons (windmill repairer, florist, and more!)

So go ahead, grab some "good rum," and spend your weekend getting to know the Barefoot Contessa.



Shows:
Barefoot Contessa


Pros:
  • There is something very appealing about Ina's lifestyle. Don't we all want to have a lovely house in the Hamptons with a garden so nice that people tour it? And a plethora of homosexual friends with whom to enjoy beach parties?
  • Ina's relationship with her husband Jeffrey is quite sweet. He makes her laugh, and she makes him roast chicken every Friday night. They appear to have a dream marriage at their age.
However, I did record a hilariously awkward clip from an episode where Ina shares a sexually charged moment with one of her undoubtedly gay friends. You could cut the tension with one of Ina's $100 knives! My favorite part is at the end when T.R. appears to sneak a peek at Ina's considerable rear end when she turns to leave.

Sorry for the poor recording quality...as Ina would say, make sure "the volume is turned up!"


video

  • Watching Ina is like watching your favorite aunt cook her special recipes. Her voice is always calm and soothing, and her show is like a delicious dose of gourmet Valium.

Cons:
  • Ina has too much damn equipment that it intimidates me from even attempting half her recipes. Who else but Ina can afford a food mill, both automatic and manual citrus juicers, a giant standing mixer, and a pantry full of gourmet ingredients?
  • The awkward and unnecessary scenes in which we have to watch Ina drive her BMW into town to converse and nervously giggle with the local butcher and/or florist and/or wineseller. We know how to grocery shop, biyatch!
  • Ina's complete and utter lack of a wardrobe. For all her Hamptons riches, the woman seems to only own three shirts: her giant blue button-up, her giant black button-up, and her giant denim button-up, with the only variation being whether or not she chooses to pop her collar.


Ina Garten Drinking Game:
  • Take a drink every time Ina asks a rhetorical question, including but not limited to: "How bad can that be?", "How good does that look?", or "How easy is that?"
  • Take a drink every time Ina says "fabulous" or "perfect."
  • Take a drink every time Ina engages in white, wealthy, East Coast snobbery, including but not limited to: over-pronouncing French ingredients, referring to vacationing abroad, spending obscene amounts of money on hydrangea arrangements, and more!


  • Take a drink for each stick of butter Ina uses in her recipes.
  • Take a drink every time Ina has a bizarre reason for hosting a party, such as her friend finishing restoring a historic windmill.
  • Take a drink every time Ina refers to an ingredient as "good" (i.e. "Add two tablespoons of good vanilla" or "half a cup of good mayonnaise"). What the hell constitutes good mayonnaise anyways?
  • Take a drink for every awkward super close camera shot of some random mundane task, such as Ina turning on the stove burner or cutting a piece of butter.
  • And finally, take a drink every time Ina and Jeffrey share a tender moment:




By the way, mad props to foodnetworkhumor.com for some of these pictures and the video above...great website!

Give Barefoot Contessa a try and let me know what you think. Cheers!

Grilled Pork Chop with Blackberry Reduction



Woooo-eeee! That sure does sound fancy, don't it?

IT'S NOT.

It looks fancy, and it tastes fancy, but it is super easy to make! I promise! This legit takes about fifteen minutes to make.

Boneless pork chops are a great source of lean protein and make a nice change from chicken or fish. I never ate pork growing up (JEW) so it is my forbidden fruit....and speaking of fruit, pork goes great with it!

(Cue Peter Brady saying "Pork chops and applesaaaaaaauce")




In this recipe I grill my pork chop on my handy dandy Foreman grill, but you can use an outdoor grill if you'd like, or you can just cook it up in a pan (sear in a bit of olive oil about 3-4 minutes on each side til it's done.)

Enjoy!


Ingredients:
  • 1 boneless pork loin chop
  • 1 shallot. Shallots are great...sort of like a cross between onion and garlic, with a nice mild flavor.
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. seedless blackberry preserves. You can also use raspberry or really any other kind of preserves, but blackberry pairs great with the wine and balsamic vinegar.
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar. This cuts the sweetness of the wine and preserves really well.
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish. You can use 1/2 tsp. of dried thyme if you'd like, but fresh is better!
You can also use this sauce on chicken or beef...it's just that versatile! Takes hardly any time to make, too.


Directions:


Turn on your Foreman grill to let it preheat, making sure to ignore the nasty crust I left at the bottom of my drip tray.

Peel your shallot and mince it up.




Heat a small saucepan to medium high and melt your butter. Add your minced shallot and cook until translucent.




Add your wine, balsamic vinegar, and thyme leaves. Stir and let cook for a couple minutes to let it reduce and thicken (you might wanna turn down the heat a bit so it doesn't burn).

This would be a good time to put your pork chop on the Foreman, as it will only take a few minutes!





Add your preserves and mix them thoroughly into the sauce, breaking up any large globs. Let it simmer and reduce while your pork chop finishes grilling.





Remove your pork chop from the grill. Don't cut into it right away! Let it "rest" for a few minutes while your sauce thickens...this helps the juices get back into the meat so it stays nice and moist (that's what he said?)

For presentation points, slice it at a bias (fancy term for at an angle) once it has rested.





Once your sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, it should be done! Drizzle it over your pork chop, garnish with some sprigs of fresh thyme, and go hog wild! (Get it? Har har har)







Monday, April 26, 2010

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli



Another title for this post could have been "World's Easiest Side Dish." Now, many people think of broccoli as the flavorless and/or mushy steamed traumatic veggie of their childhoods. Watch as this baby is subjected to broccoli for the first time:





However, roasting the broccoli does magical things. It makes it crunchy and full of delicious, almost nutty flavor that is further enhanced by the parmesan cheese.

This healthy, tasty side dish also makes for a great snack. My roommate and I eat this stuff like it's popcorn. We have even been known to roast up some of this broccoli as drunk food... THAT'S how good it tastes!

This is super easy to make, so go ahead, give broccoli another chance.


Ingredients:
  • 1 bunch of broccoli
  • Grated parmesan cheese. Grate it yourself if you can, but the kind in the plastic canister is fine, too.
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • Pepper
If you notice, I don't really have amounts for any of the ingredients. That's because you can pretty much eyeball how much seasoning and cheese you need based on how much broccoli your bunch yields.


Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the broccoli and cut the stalk away from the florets (the nice bunchy part at the top).




Most people don't realize you can eat the stalk too and end up throwing away half their broccoli! Just peel the stalk with a peeler or a sharp knife to get rid of any leaves and to take off the tough outer peel. I just said "peel" a lot. Peel, peel, peel.

Anyways, it should go from looking like this....




...to this!




Slice up the stalk into thin chips. These are actually my roommate's favorite parts, as they become nice and crispy in the oven.

Cut up the florets and put them and the chips onto a baking sheet covered with foil for easy cleaning. Drizzle with olive oil and season with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat evenly.





Pop the pan into the oven for about 25 minutes. The broccoli is done when it has become nice and browned around the edges. About five minutes before it's done, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and toss to coat evenly, and put it back in the oven to finish roasting.





When the broccoli is done, put in on a plate or bowl, top with some more parmesan, and enjoy!





Do YOU have any recipes for easy vegetable side dishes? Have you replaced pizza and Chinese food with roasted broccoli as your drunk food of choice? Let us know!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Indian Spiced Chicken with Lentils



Are you sick of eating the same old flavors? Tired of eating out and always having Mexican or Italian? Why not spice up your life with Indian food!

Indian food is a delicious and usually very healthy option. However, many people have a fear and/or hatred of Indian food. They think that it is strange, smells funny, and will cause them indigestion. In fact, look what showed up when I Googled "indian food funny":




It doesn't have to be this way, my friends! I found a fantastic recipe for Indian Spiced Chicken with Lentils in a South Beach Quick and Easy Cookbook. I adapted the recipe to account for the fact that I am a complete wimp with spicy foods.

This recipe is easy, full of interesting flavor, and makes enough for 2-3 meals. Go on, give it a try. I dare ya ;)


Ingredients:
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast. This recipe can easily be adapted for vegetarians by skipping the chicken and adding more cauliflower.
  • 2 cups frozen cauliflower florets. No need to thaw.
  • 1/2 can light coconut milk
  • 1 can low sodium chicken broth. Obviously if you are making this vegetarian, use vegetable broth!
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice. This was not in the original recipe, but I feel like it adds a nice brightness of flavor.
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic, divided
  • 2 tsp. curry powder, divided. Feel free to add more if you like it hot, but this is right at my personal threshold.
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • Olive oil
  • Parsley to garnish. Optional.
Yeah yeah, this has more ingredients than some of my other recipes and takes more time. But it is a nice change of pace, and like I said, this makes enough for at least a couple meals. Worth it!

Directions:

Peel and dice up your onion. Reserve half for the chicken, and put the other half in a small saucepan with some olive oil over medium high heat.

Let the onion cook for a couple minutes until it becomes soft and translucent. This is known as "sweating the onion." Not really sure whose bright idea it was to call it that, cause it makes me think of body odor. GROSS!




Once it has sweated, stir in 1/2 tsp. curry powder and 1 tsp. minced garlic.





Pour in 3/4 of your can of chicken broth and your cup of lentils into the saucepan. Stir to combine and cover with a lid. When the liquid starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium so it is at a simmer (small, occasional bubbles instead of rapid big ones).





Now, just fuhgeddaboutit! The lentils will take about 35 minutes to become tender, and the chicken only takes about fifteen minutes to make. According to my calculations, that leaves you twenty minutes to do whatever you want! In this time, you can:

A) Set the table if you have guests arriving for dinner.

B) Watch an episode of Family Guy on your DVR.

C) Drink. **


**DISCLAIMER: Stacy Chudwin assumes no liability if you get drunk and burn your house down.


Now, back to work! Time to make the chicken while your lentils are simmering away. Cut up your chicken breast into bite sized pieces and throw them in a large sautee pan with some olive oil at medium high heat.




Once the chicken is slightly browned on the outside (but not cooked all the way through), remove it from the pan and put it on a plate to hang out for a few minutes. Add the rest of your onion, garlic, curry powder, and ginger to the pan. Stir to combine.





When the onion has sweated and the spices are nice and fragrant, pour in the half can of coconut milk, the rest of your broth, the lime juice, and the frozen cauliflower.





Let the mixture cook and reduce for a couple minutes, and then add your chicken back to the pan. Mix it into the sauce, and let everything simmer at medium heat until your lentils are done. The lentils are done when they are nice and tender and don't taste like you are eating small discs of cardboard.




Pour the lentils in a bowl, top with the chicken and sauce, and garnish with the fresh parsley. Dig in!






Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stacy Eats Her Words (and Quinoa)

I have confronted the enemy, and I have lost.

If you harken back to my first post ever on this blog, I asked the following question:

"Do you like to eat healthy in general but despise words like 'tofu' and 'quinoa' and those who use them?"

For me, the answer had always been yes. I grew up in a steak-and-butter household where the world of organic hippy healthfood was scorned. As I have gotten older I have begun to embrace healthier eating, but was never quite able to overcome my fear of scary foods like tofu and quinoa.

Last Wednesday, I faced those fears.

At my apartment complex, two lovely ladies from the Durham Whole Foods came to deliver a vegetarian cooking demo. Many of our residents are woefully unable to cook healthy foods for themselves, so Whole Foods came to the rescue!




I was personally excited to learn about some other meal options that DON'T revolve entirely around meat (I'm pretty sure every single meal I eat involves at least one dead animal), but you can imagine my horror when the menu for the demo included both tofu AND quinoa!!





Amy and Katherine of Whole Foods made it their mission to teach us that these foods were not only easy to make, but surprisingly delicious. They pulled up their bootstraps and got to work!




Skeptical doesn't even begin to describe how I felt, especially as the Whole Foods specialists began to explain the process of pressing tofu. I even got to try a little cube of raw, plain tofu, and it tasted like a squishy, cold packing peanut.






HOWEVER, once things got going, I was taken aback by how delicious these strange foods could be. The Whole Foods specialists showed us how to make baked tofu, how to cook quinoa, and how to whip up a super easy potato leek soup.

For the tofu, we cut it up into little cubes and then my roommate helped toss it with some Whole Foods Cajun Seasoning.




Then we just put it on a baking sheet with some cooking spray and popped it in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Super easy, and it tasted SO different when it came out! Tofu is like a flavor sponge: it has no flavor of its own, but it absorbs whatever you cook it with. And if you bake it, it becomes nice and firm, not soggy.

While I don't think this will necessarily replace meat in my diet, it could be a tasty snack to have every once in a while.





After the tofu, it was time for the quinoa (KEEN-wa). Don't say "kwin-oh-a" or you will sound like a fool.

My boyfriend got roped into helping with this, but if anything, that should serve to demonstrate that ANYONE can cook this stuff. I legit have never seen this boy cook before in my life, and he was able to turn this....




....into this!




Okay, so it still looks sorta creepy. But the quinoa ended up being the surprise star of the night. It's a grain that is CRAZY healthy for you (it is a complete protein with all your amino acids, high in fiber, and cooks faster than rice!)

It has a nice texture too...a little crunchy burst sort of like caviar, but minus the fish egg taste, of course. You can mix it into pretty much any food you want (salad, soup, pasta, etc.)

My roommate and I immediately proceeded to buy some quinoa from Whole Foods that night! I was literally eating my words.

Some other things we learned that evening:

The joy of boxed broth:





The joy of spinach:





And, sometimes Whole Foods specialists double as paparazzi:





Over all, it was a fun evening and everyone learned (and ate) a lot.


Stacy's Final Thoughts (Jerry Springer style):


I guess this is the typical case of not judging a book by its cover. For years I judged tofu, quinoa, and other similar foods as gross healthy stuff that couldn't possibly taste good. It just goes to show you that you can't knock a food til you try it!

Thanks to Amy, Katherine, and Whole Foods for converting a non-believer ;)

Have you tried tofu, quinoa, or any other crazy foods? Were they better than you expected? Post and let us know! And if you want more info and recipes involving tofu and quinoa, check out the Whole Foods website!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Strawberry Glacee Pie



I know what you are probably thinking:

"Dammit Stacy, I told you I can't cook! You expect me to bake a pie? A pie with a FRENCH NAME?!"

Good news, folks: my Strawberry Glacee Pie involves NO BAKING and only has five ingredients!

This recipe makes for a healthy, pretty, and refreshing summer dessert. It's like a lower calorie, easier version of strawberry shortcake!! I found the recipe online years ago and have been making it for my family ever since. Enjoy :)


Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of strawberries

  • 1 graham cracker pie crust. They sell these ready-made in the baking aisle! They also have reduced fat ones to save some calories.
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup Splenda. You can use real sugar if you'd like. You can also enjoy adult-onset diabetes, but I wouldn't recommend it.

  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch

  • Whipped cream for topping. Optional. But so delicious it's not really optional.

This is a super easy dessert and is a great make-ahead option. It lasts in the fridge for a few days and is definitely a crowd pleaser!

Directions:

Slice up one of the packages of strawberries. Cut the tops off, and depending how thick they are, either slice them in half or thirds.

Then line the pie crust with as many of them that will fit. Let your inner OCD tendencies run free as you attempt to make pretty patterns while maximizing your berry to crust ratio!



With the other package of strawberries, cut the tops off and roughly cut the berries into smaller pieces to facilitate mashing (cutting them in half is just fine) and throw them into a mixing bowl.

When deciding which package of berries to use, feel free to use any mushier, janky looking berries for this step since they will get mashed up anyways.




Pour your water into the bowl with the berries. Using a potato masher, mash the berries into a pulp. Imagining your ex or little sibling's face can sometimes help. Work out that aggression!

If you don't have a potato masher, you can use any other kitchen implement to get the job done, but it won't be as fun or easy.



Mix in the Splenda (or sugar) and the cornstarch. DO NOT FORGET THE CORNSTARCH. One of my former roommates did and ended up with a watery mess of a pie. Also, make sure to add the cornstarch now while the mixture is cold so it doesn't get all lumpy.

Pour this mixture into a saucepan.



Turn the heat to high and let the mixture come to a soft boil (meaning it occasionally bubbles up.) Stir frequently to prevent burning. This should all take around 5-7 minutes, and you will know it is done when the mixture becomes thick, darker, and glassier looking.



Let the mixture cool for a few minutes so it isn't scalding hot. Then pour it into the pie crust over the layer of berries, smoothing it out so it's even. Put in the refrigerator for a couple hours until it has cooled and solidified.



Put on a plate and top with whipped cream. Easy as pie! (har har har)



Do YOU have any healthy, easy dessert ideas that sound fancier than they actually are?


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Food Network Fridays: Sandra Lee!

One of the best ways to learn how to cook if you are a beginner is to watch other people cook. You can either peep into strangers' kitchen windows, or you can watch the Food Network!




I can't even tell you how many people I have converted to this channel. There is something oddly soothing about watching various personalities cook for you, and there are some really great tips. Every show offers gems of cooking advice buried under the humorous idiosyncrasies of the host, and it's up to you to separate the useful from the crap!

To introduce you to the awesome and surprisingly entertaining world of the Food Network, I am going to start a series called Food Network Fridays. Every other Friday I will showcase a different show on the Food Network for you to set your DVR to record.

And, to make it more fun for the weekend, I will also include a handy dandy drinking game each time to help you get to know each show!

This week, I am going to start with Sandra Lee. Her recipes are so easy and un-chef-like that they are perfect for a beginner cook. Bottoms up, everybody!




Shows: Semi-Homemade Meals and Money-Saving Meals.

Pros:
  • Sandra's recipes are super easy to follow.
  • Sandra somehow manages to be a MILF even though she doesn't have any children!
  • Sandra loves to drink. In fact, she appears intoxicated for much of her shows.


Cons:
  • Sandra's recipes are so easy they are barely recipes. It's more assembly than it is cooking.
  • Sometimes her recipes are horrible. Observe as Sandra tries to choke down one of her own drink concoctions, a heinous mixture of lemonade, heavy cream, and vodka:
  • She designs hideous abominations called "tablescapes" in which she gathers up as much cheap crap as she can from the craft store to transform her kitchen to match her recipe theme. Viewers, beware.



Sandra Lee Drinking Game:
  • Take a drink every time Sandra says "super, super simple russipe!"
  • Take a drink every time Sandra forces her sister's children to appear on her show or refers to herself as "Aunt Sandy."
  • Take a drink every time Sandra uses a seasoning packet and talks about how it is full of lots of great flavors.
  • Take a drink if Sandra's shirt matches her kitchen equipment matches her drapes.
  • Take a drink for every tablespoon of Cool Whip Sandra uses.
  • Take a drink every time Sandra say "rrrrich and duhLISHus!"
  • On Money-Saving Meals, take a drink every time Sandra's math just doesn't quite seem to add up right.
  • And finally, take a drink every time Sandra takes a drink. It's cocktail time, everyone!

Did you give Sandra Lee a try? Do you have any other additions to the Sandra Lee drinking game? Feel free to comment, and have a happy weekend!