Monthly Archives: May 2011

Finally – Quinoa!

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I wonder if you recall my past post on my desire to cook the now-popular quinoa. My only trouble with cooking it was the high prices it displayed every time I sauntered their way in the grocery store. Luckily for me, while I was on my lunch break from my job the other day, I stopped by Jack’s, a store that sold bargain…well everything. I believe it had been a 99 cent store in its previous life but it flourished into branches of 99 cent stores and bargain centers.

While I was scouring the goods for something worth my money, my eyes caught an aisle, filled with white and red quinoa. Apprehensively, I checked the price – $4.99! I grabbed it and paid for it before I could change my mind. Deciding against the white, I went for the red – thinking it would create more of a visual appeal. It is gluten-free and obviously wheat-free – thus deeming it safe for my little love to consume.

This past Monday was Memorial Day (a Happy Belated Memorial Day by the way). I was sitting in my room, my very air-conditioned room, when I was stricken with hunger. Even though I was craving some hearty burgers, I was lazy (once again) to go out and buy the ingredients for them. Instead, I seized the opportunity to make my quinoa.

Seeing that it was a hot and humid day, my quinoa would be transformed into a cold salad of some type that would not sit heavy in my stomach but still be hearty enough to keep us full. So…

Ingredients (this is purely based on what I had at home):

  • A box of red quinoa
  • 3/4 of a medium red onion – diced
  • 1 carrot – peeled and diced
  • 1 large tomato – diced
  • Oil (olive oil is preferable but I ran out and used vegetable oil)
  • A head of garlic
  • Garlic powder
  • Half of a lime
  • A tiny splash of red wine vinegar
  • A tiny splash of red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • Capers
  • Parmesan cheese.

Procedure:

  • First off, I wanted to make garlic-infused oil. I poured maybe a cup of oil into a sauce pan and gently heated it for about five minutes.
  • I took it off the heat, allowing it to cool down slightly while I roughly chopped up most of a head of garlic.
  • I slowly added the garlic into the oil. I added the red wine and the vinegar and covered it, allowing time for the garlic to steep into the oil.
  • Meanwhile, I brought water to a boil. Follow the instructions in the box. Mine was a cup of water per serving. After the water came to a boil, I added some salt then added my quinoa.
  • I lowered the heat to a simmer and covered it, allowing it to cook for about 15-20 minutes or until “the spiral germs appear” (as it says in the box). I will admit something, it looks…odd, almost like worms squirreling its way to the top or like roots germinating but it is what it is.
  • When it was cooked, I strained it and left it there to cool.
  • Meanwhile, after chopping up the onions, carrots, and tomatoes, I added some oil into the same pot used to cook the quinoa and sauteed the trio until they were softened. I also added some of the garlic that had been soaking in the oil.
  • I added the quinoa in slowly and incorporated everything nicely until it looked evenly distributed. I strained the oil and added the oil into the quinoa, making it shine brilliantly. An strong aroma of garlic spread throughout the kitchen. It was mouth-watering.
  • I added salt and pepper to taste, as well as some garlic powder, to further emphasize the garlic flavor.
  • To my plate of quinoa, I added the Parmesan cheese (since my brother cannot have cheese).

It was an interesting flavor – tasted like familiar seeds. The texture and taste of quinoa is something, I believe, would probably be something of an acquired taste but to me, it tasted wonderful – fresh, healthy, and definitely unique.

Red Quinoa!

Beautiful, isn’t it?

I think the only changes I would make (had I not been so lazy to go shopping) would be instead of adding Parmesan cheese, I would add chunks of goat cheese – it would add a new dimension of flavor, cut through the garlic and onions with a sharp tang of a taste. I think I would want to add something crunchy too, like barely boiled asparagus – it would create a better mouth feel. However, quinoa is my blank canvas and I can hardly wait to continue my journey with it.

Here’s to trying something new everyday 🙂 Enjoy!

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Banana-Coconut “Smash” Cookies

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Oh dear LORD, I have missed this blog. The past couple of weeks have been absolutely nuts with studying, finals, doctors’ visits, mental breakdowns, etc, etc. I also recently traveled to Atlanta, via a long road-trip with my family, to attend my uncle’s one-year death anniversary memorial mass. When we came back, the week was filled with relative-related activities, final wrap ups for graduate school applications, and work.

I honestly was not even sure when I was going to be able to cook for a while and it saddened me. I used to have dance as a release for my emotions but ever since I have “retired” from dancing, cooking served as my palate for my emotions and to carry on my nostalgia. Imagine my rush of happiness when my mother, who had been flitting around the kitchen for days cooking a festive meal for my relatives, came up to me and pleaded me to make dessert (okay, well not pleaded, but I’d like to imagine I saved the day).

My problem was I was lazy and I did not want to go out and buy ingredients for a dish that I haven’t even begun to think of in my head. So there I was, in my ratty pajamas, looking into my open kitchen cabinet, urging my mind to think of something, anything, to save the relatives of the house and serve them a dessert worthy for royalty. I saw shredded coconut, I saw my one can of sweetened condensed milk, I saw bananas, I saw soy nuts.

And I thought…why not just throw them all together and make a platter of blob-shaped cookies and just pray it tastes good (at least edible).

So for the sake of the spontaneity of the moment, I have the ingredients but not the measurements.

Ingredients:

  • A bag of unsweetened shredded coconut
  • A can of sweetened condensed milk
  • Brown sugar
  • Flour
  • Mashed bananas (I used two)
  • Soy nuts
  • Dried cranberries
  • Vanilla extract.

Procedure:

  • I mashed the bananas with my hands on a separate bowl and left it aside.
  • In a separate bowl (a large aluminum bowl), I combined the coconut, flour, sugar, soy nuts, and cranberries together.
  • Then I added the milk, vanilla extract, and the mashed bananas and mixed thoroughly.
  • On trays lined with aluminum and greased, I took clumps of the cookie “dough” and mashed it down to undefinable shapes.
  • I popped them into a 350 degree oven for about 20-22 minutes or until the bottoms were golden brown.
  • When they are done, let them cool, harden a bit, and bon appetit!

You know…they felt like soft cookies, they did not crumble, and they did not taste bad. I am not a huge fan of bananas so I could only handle two cookies but I sincerely liked them. The flavors were reminiscent of the banana-coconut fritters that my mother used to make frequently in the past. Additionally, I am pleased to share that my relatives thoroughly enjoyed the cookies. By the time of their departure, when I was hoping to sneak in a cookie for breakfast, I was happy to see that the cookies have ran out (happy but a little bitter as well, ha-ha).

Banana-Coconut "Smash" Cookies

The name was a collaboration of LaM’s and my crazy, creative minds.

I think…if I were to make this happy accident in the future, I would add a layer of caramel on top – transforming the flavors to be similar to a banana foster – a dessert that would be such a hit with Terra Recycled.

This goes to prove that an accident in kitchen could just be one happy and delicious one.

Italian-o!

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I have a friend – a very close friend of mine. Whenever he and I get together, we would almost always go out for Italian food. He was an extremely picky eater and Italian is one of the very few cuisines he likes and even then, his choice of dishes are few. Anyway, we went out for Italian so often that I soon got tired of it. I am the type of person that likes a little variety in my food (in case you couldn’t tell). Even living in an Indian household, as much as I love Indian food, eating it all the time is really not my cup of tea. To give my friend credit where it is due though, he does try once in a while to venture out of his comfort zone and try other types of cuisines like Greek food but he usually came back to the Italian (mind you, he is Indian! But perhaps he is an old Italian man reincarnate).

These days, I rarely see my friend because he lives in a different state for school. But he will be coming back to New York relatively soon for the summer vacation. I am pretty excited. Funnily enough, I suddenly had the craving for Italian food. Maybe in some strange way, this is conditioning? I began to start imagining the best Italian food I have ever had. There were quite a few. The two that came to mind was this one place in Poughkeepsie called Amici’s. They were a little more expensive than usual but my God, it was definitely worth it. The last time I dined there had to be around two years ago so I don’t really recall what I ate. The other restaurant that pops up from my memory is Yonkers’ A&V Family Restaurant – an extremely small mom-and-pop eatery that has the best selection of sauces to go along with your pasta. The best part about the place (besides the actual food and the atmosphere) was that it was cheap!

As a tribute to my sudden desire for Italian food and my friend’s obsession with it (since he is also an avid reader of the blog – Thanks, Al!), I decided I am going to make some Italian food and only hope to make the grandmas of Italy proud. However, I wanted to make something I never really had nor made before. I was always the typical Italian eater – had something that was absolutely festooned with cheese like lasagna or stuffed shells. But this time, I wanted to try out something with chicken. Combining my love of chicken and lemons, I thought I should try out chicken piccata. I was not entirely sure of the specifics of the recipe so I actually looked it up. The sauce looked simple enough and I would add my own “flair” by also adding in mushrooms, capers, and red bell peppers. Chicken is always simple for me. I also thought, since this was something my younger brother cannot have, I will make my homemade mashed potatoes with scallions and garlic – made with rice milk.

Ingredients for [My] Chicken Piccata:

  • Chicken breasts (regular or thin ones – I got both) – the amount depends on how many you’re serving. My family eats a lot and we like to pack some for lunch so I made a lot!
  • 1 can of reduced sodium chicken broth
  • White wine (about a cup or so, whatever you would like)
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • A half pack of baby portabello mushrooms
  • Half of a red onion – diced
  • As much minced garlic as you want
  • 2 tablespoons of capers
  •  1 cup of flour
  • 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil

Procedure:

  • The recipe called for the chicken breasts to be flattened out by hammering whatever life it has out of it. Instead of making scary noises, I decided to just go ahead and buy the already thin chicken breasts. Those that were still thick, I just halved them length-wise to make it thinner.
  • I marinated the chicken for about an hour or so with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.
  • Meanwhile, I chopped up the onions, mushrooms, and red bell pepper.
  • I mixed together, on a clean plate, the flour, the garlic powder (be careful not to confuse it with garlic SALT), and the cheese.
  • The recipe called for one egg and breadcrumbs but I didn’t want to make it unnecessarily heavier so I thought the oil from the marination process would be enough to help coat the chicken. After heating up some oil in a large skillet, I floured the chicken lightly and placed it on the pan.
  • Cook all the chicken thoroughly. I am a bit paranoid, I cut into the deepest part of each chicken to make sure it was not pink before I transferred it onto another plate.
  • When the chicken was all done, I added more oil to the pan and then added in the chopped onion and the garlic until it was softened.
  • Then, I added the wine, lemon juice, and chicken broth, scraping up the bits and pieces of the chicken pieces that were left behind.
  • I let it go for a while, watching the flavors marry together and become one.
  • After a while, I added the mushrooms, the diced bell pepper, and the capers. The capers were salted so I had to rinse it out first before adding it to the sauce.
  • Some time had passed and the sauce didn’t seem to be thickening so I added some cornstarch. I know the sauce is typically supposed to be a little runny but I dislike runny sauces (or curries for that matter).
  • The recipe didn’t call to do it but I added the chicken back into the sauce so it could have the double duty of flavoring the sauce as well as letting the sauce penetrate through, allowing it to stay moist and flavored.
  • I did not add any salt at this point because the sauce was seasoned enough but I did add some pepper.
  • After about 20 minutes, the dish was done.

The mashed potatoes did not take as long as the chicken did – probably because I did this so many times, it became like second nature to me. Which is probably why I did not measure out most of anything for this dish…

Ingredients:

  • 8 or 9 Russett potatoes – peeled and diced
  • Rice milk (or whole milk or even cream)
  • Scallions
  • Minced garlic
  • About a tablespoon of sour cream
  • Salt.

Procedure:

  • I peeled the potatoes and chopped them up in medium-sized pieces. The idea is to increase the surface area of the potatoes so they cook faster.
  • I started them in a pot of regular water and brought it up to a boil. That is really important to do! If you just add them to boiling water, the potatoes will not cook all the way through!
  • Meanwhile, I chopped up a few stalks of scallions.
  • Boil them until they are fork-tender.
  • After draining the potatoes, mash them up with your nifty masher while adding in the milk, minced garlic, and scallions. To make it tastier, add a few dabs of butter in there too.
  • Serve immediately – it is best when fresh and piping hot.

The chopped potatoes soaking in water...

The final dish!

Now…the chicken piccata – it was good, but it wasn’t GREAT. The recipe sounded great, it really did but I suppose the actual execution wasn’t all that fantastic. When I tasted the sauce while it was bubbling, it was a little too tart for my taste (which is saying something since I love lemons). To try to balance it out, I added a bit more chicken broth but it was still too sour. So I left it alone, thinking there was nothing else that could possibly be done. However, when paired with the chicken, it actually tasted good. Also, the addition of the red bell pepper complimented the sauce and the chicken so well – it was a great “creative flair” decision. The mashed potatoes (left a LITTLE chunky for my own preferences) was the real stomach pleaser. My brother ate a big bowl of it in five minutes! It is safe to say he likes it!

The dish came out well. However, if I were to make this in the future again (which in the near future, I probably would not), I would make it less sour, more gravy-like, and add more of my own style (but then again, it wouldn’t be called piccata, right?). There was so much sauce leftover. I’m going to use that sauce later in the week to make pasta with it. How suddenly versatile!

My stomach is still doing its happy dance though…

So here’s to you, Al! I can’t wait until you get here already and we go out to yet another Italian restaurant! 🙂

UPDATE: Soooo…the chicken tastes SO much better when it’s been sitting for a while! When I had the chicken for lunch the next day and the day after, it was amazing! I suppose the sauce needed time to sit and get even more delicious as time goes on…like aging wine!