Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Collard Greens

I don't know if you've noticed, but I've been trying hard to incorporate new/different vegetables into my dinner plans.  One that I have not tried is collard greens.  Besides knowing that it is a lyric in the Veggie Tales theme song, I wasn't too knowledgeable on ways to cook it.  I must say, it was an interesting experience.  The leaves were tougher and more bitter than I thought they would be. Nonetheless, I made it work and it turned out to be something I will eat in place of the usual broccoli.

Another ingredient that has become a new "staple" in my kitchen is, brace yourself, bacon fat.  Yup, that's right. I said it. The queen of Extra Virgin Olive Oil has found something new to sautee food in.  As delicious as it is, nothing will EVER take the place of extra virgin olive oil.  The reason I dub bacon fat a "staple" is because every time I make bacon (every weekend) I figured I can save the fat and be resourceful rather than throw it down the sink. I used an old (and cleaned) pickle jar to store the fat in the refrigerator. I use a small spoon and scoop it out just as if it were spreadable butter.  It's been great so far! I've used it in a crock pot of green beans, and this recipe.   With all that said, I'm sure you can see that it is more of a southern-American ingredient, but I am happy to use it (in moderation)!  Take it from me folks, don't knock it till you try it!  

1 bunch collard greens, washed and chopped
2 tbs bacon fat, solidified 
1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs sugar, granulated
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Chop greens into bite size pieces
2. Sautee onions, garlic, bacon fat, and olive oil over medium-high heat on the stove

3.  Once onions are translucent, mix in the collard greens until they have shrunk 
3. Add sugar and continue to stir every minute or so
4. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the greens are of a tender consistency 

Serve hot and enjoy this fun, easy and positively delicious side dish!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Parmesan Spaghetti Squash

OK, I know I've been a raving fanatic about spaghetti squash, but I'm here to tell you it's only going to get worse from here.  I just baked the squash for the first time (as opposed to zapping it in the microwave) and may I just say? YUM!!!!  Ladies and gents, tis the season for squash so head over to your pumpkin patch (or orchard as my husband likes to joke) and pick up a few of these. In my accidental experience, these puppies last quite a while. They also tend to blend in with the back of the white refrigerator.

This recipe really satisfied my savory craving tonight. I wanted something creamy and rich without the, well, creamy and rich part.  Serve this alongside a main protein and voilĂ , you have a meal that is fun, easy, and positively delicious!

1 spaghetti squash, the smaller, the better it will cook
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, smashed 
2 tbs parsley, dry or freshly chopped
3 tbs unsalted butter

1. Spear the spaghetti squash evenly around the surface 

2. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45-60 minutes, or until it is easy to cut through
3. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds with a spoon, and shred the flesh with a fork to create the spaghetti consistency
4. In a large round skillet, melt the butter with garlic and parsley. Then toss in the rest of the ingredients and continue to toss the squash to mix the ingredients and prevent the consistency from getting mushy
5. Serve warm and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kale Chips

Ever crave crunch, salt, and a constant chewing motion? Unfortunately, potato chips is the first staple that people go to to remedy this horrible yet inconsistent syndrome.  Ladies and gents, I have a solution. KALE CHIPS!! I'm sure you've heard about this fad.  Everyone's talking about it on the streets, and if you haven't heard about them yet...You're probably crunching on your potato chips too hard. Kale chips are extremely easy and FILLED with essential vitamins. As you all know, I prefer to eat healthy but am a firm believer in "everything in moderation!".  Here's a contradicting statement, no moderation is needed for kale chips. Brian and I literally ate a whole bunch worth within the span of two hours.

So rather than peeling open a bag of potato chips during your next Friday night film, take the short time to make this fun, easy and positively delicious recipe and munch away knowing that you're actually benefiting your body.

1 bunch kale
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1. Wash the kale and lay it on a paper towel to dry. Be sure to dry it well because excess water on the leaves will prevent them from getting crunchy in the oven
2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

3. Use scissors to separate the leaves from the stem and cut the leaves into bite size pieces

4. Place the kale in a large bowl and drizzle olive oil over it before tossing. Sprinkle some salt and make sure it is evenly distributed
5. On a large baking pan covered with parchment paper, spread out the kale so that it isn't overlapping and place it in the oven for about 7 minutes
6. Take the kale out, toss it in the pan to turn over the leaves and put it in the oven for another 7 minutes or until it has a crunchy consistency

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Julia Child is My Hero...

So I know that it's very cliche to make Julia Child my culinary hero, but let's be real, it's the truth!  If she is even the slightest bit similar to the Julia Child portrayed in the movie Julie & Julia then I can honestly say that we would be best of friends in another world. If you haven't seen the movie, (you best get on that), she is a woman who has just passed her middle-age point and has no idea what to do with her life. She tries to take on several different hobbies but does not gain a sense of satisfaction from them. She finally gives in to her passion for eating ("check!") and goes to culinary school, which at the time was dominated by men ("Check!").  She not only succeeds, but she blows everyone out of the water.  She goes on to taking a chance and putting all she has in her famous cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which to this day, is considered a staple of a thriving kitchen.

"So how do you relate to Julia Child", you say?  Well, I have an extreme passion for eating, I work in a world flooded with men, and I am taking a lot of risks in the culinary world (you'll find out what those are soon enough).  Although I am at a prime age of 24, I refuse to waste any time with my passion for cooking. The last thing I want to do is look back on these years and say "I really wish I did more with my passion". Forget that.

So all of this thrives off of my new purchase, a dutch oven! "What is a dutch oven", you say? It is similar to a Le Creuset (lay-crew-say) which is an extremely heavy pot used to braise and slow cook savory meals. The slow cooking technique, mixed with the tight suction of the lid creates an extremely flavorful dish which is worth every hour. Yes, I said hour. This is what Julia Child uses for a good portion of her meals, one famously being her Boeuf Borguignon.

I purchased mine at Sam's Club for a reasonable price.  This dutch oven is a bit more economical but still gets the job done!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Christina's Quinoa Salad

I have a confession to make. I went to the gym today (first time in months) and managed not to break a sweat. No, I was not standing in a corner, yes I burned calories, and yes, I do think it was better than sitting on my butt.  For those of you who frequent the gym and are judging my "laziness"-- I felt quite accomplished even getting myself to step foot in that claustrophobic joint, infested with grunting men attempting to carry the weight of their car on their shoulders. It was such a disappointment that I might just take up running...and we all know how I feel about running.

Have you ever felt like you had to sacrifice a decent meal if you decide to go to the gym or do an activity after work? I once asked my friend how she is so regimented with her workouts and her response was, "The nights I workout, I know I am going to sacrifice a hot meal".

If that doesn't make me run from the gym (at least I'd be running) I don't know what will. Key word above is Sacrifice.  As you get to know me more, you'll know that one thing I will never cease to slack-off at is cooking. I am diligent and motivated by it.  And let's not forget the immediate reward following the hard work.

That all said, I have found a dish that does not take a long time and won't leave you feeling like you have to make another trip to gym to balance out your calorie intake. It is filled with fiber, protein and vitamins. Did I mention it's fun, easy and positively delicious?

2 bell peppers, chopped (try to use different colors
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1-16oz can of chicken, drained (*V- you can leave this out and add an extra can of black beans)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black olives, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups dried Quinoa
3 cups chicken broth (to make vegan, substitute chicken broth with water or vegetable stock)
3 cloves garlic, pressed or smashed
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tbs salt

1. Combine quinoa, dash of pepper, and broth in a pot and cook it over medium heat with the lid closed on the pot. It should take about 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it
2.Once the liquid has fully absorbed, pour the quinoa into a heat-safe salad bowl
3. Combine the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and stir well.

4. For best results, refrigerate for an hour prior to serving.
***If you have time, save the salad for the following day. It tastes even better after it has marinated for several hours****

Bon Appetite!