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Tilapia…Sweet, Sweet Tilapia

23 Jun

It’s been a while since I’ve experimented with anything new in the kitchen. Work routines have me clinging to my idiot-proof staples in desperation. I simply don’t have the time or energy to do anything creative these days. While at my little “gourmet” butcher shop this morning, I happened to pick up some fresh tilapia. I usually just throw it in a dish with lemon, butter, and garlic to bake, but I thought I’d give my favorite new website a go.

Have you been to www.supercook.com? If you haven’t, you must stop whatever you’re doing and go right now. It’s a recipe search engine where you input the ingredients you happen to have lying around the house, and it’ll suggest recipes only using what you tell it you have. I told the search engine that I have a pantry stocked with goodness (thanks to my diligent couponing and stock-piling) and nothing fresh in the fridge beyond the fish, and here’s what it gave me. (Warning: you’re about to salivate all over yourself. Get a napkin or something.)

  • 2-4 tilapia filets
  • 1 c. crackers, crumbled (I used Ritz Whole Wheat)
  • 1/2 c. breadcrumbs (I used Panko because I’m a snob.)
  • 1 t. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground pepper. (the barefoot contessa would remind you to use “good” pepper, the bitch.)
  • 1 stick butter
  • Parmesan cheese to taste

Directions:

1. Melt butter. Put aside.

2. Mix breadcrumbs, crushed crackers, and seasonings in a shallow, wide bowl.

3. Coat fish in butter. Dredge both sides in the dry mix.

4. Place fish in foil-lined pan.

5. Drizzle the remaining butter and dry mix on top of the fish, then sprinkle the Parmesan over the filets.

6. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Amazing. Purely amazing. Even the kid devoured it. =]

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OMG Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff

9 May

I found this recipe on Pinterest. It looked easy and idiot-proof, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Holy shit, was it yummy! Pterodactyl and Buddy had seconds, and the leftovers fed those two for lunch the next day. Dear readers, I’m honored to share with you our newest dinner staple.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 lbs stew meat
  • 2 cans Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup (or sub one for French Onion)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 oz. block of cream cheese
  • A couple dashes of: garlic salt, paprika, black pepper
  • Egg noodles (I like the curly ones)

Directions:

1. Combine soup, water, onions, Worcestershire sauce, and spices in Crock Pot. Stir.

2. Add beef. Stir.

3. Set Crock Pot to low and cook for 8 hours.

4. Right before serving, cube the cream cheese and add it to the mix. Turn the Crock Pot on high and stir for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles according to package directions.

6. Serve Stroganoff on top of the egg noodles. Tell your family to worship you.

Idiot-Proof Crème Brulee

24 Apr

In our community, we have this nifty little kitchen store/cooking class establishment. They lure you in with discounts on their products and all-you-can-drink wine and beer with your cooking class, which is how they convince you to drop $50 per person. I wonder if it’s wise to give people chardonnay AND sharp knives, but I haven’t heard of any cooking class fatalities yet.

I’ve taken a couple of these cooking classes with both Buddy and Daisy. It’s pretty nice: they provide you with ingredients, and you get to cook with top-of-the-line kitchen gadgets, while a team of volunteers clean up after you (in exchange for whatever food you cook that night.) Even though I’m not a big sweet food fan, I made this Crème Brulee with Buddy at one of these classes, and it was so amazingly awesome that I was inclined to share:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 teaspoons granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300◦
  2. Put cream in saucepan, and stir over medium heat until just before boiling. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla until blended.
  4. Add hot cream to the mixture SLOWLY (otherwise you’ll get sweet scrambled eggs.)
  5. Place 4 ramekins in a hot water bath and fill them with the mixture evenly.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes. The custard should be mostly set but the center should jiggle.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 day.
  8. Sprinkle each custard with sugar until you can only see a layer of sugar. Torch until caramelized.

Black Bean Salsa – Violet-style

20 Apr

Coming from a family of foodies, the vast majority of my recipes have been passed down to me from my parents. Anything I cook, my parents prepare better. It’s hard carving out one’s own culinary identity when every recipe in one’s repertoire came from Mom or Dad. I never had my own contribution to the table until I stumbled upon this black bean salsa recipe, which I modified and made my own. It was a huge hit with my family; it’s fresh, it’s low-fat, and it is absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled and chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Tobasco sauce (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Combine all ingredients except lime juice and seasonings in a bowl. Stir. Squeeze the lime into the mixture, stir. Add salt, pepper, and Tobasco, stir. If you want to make this into black bean guacamole, add the avocado in the beginning.

Serve with tortilla chips and a smile.

Chicken Kitchen Reveals its Secrets!

17 Apr

Chicken Kitchen is culinary crack.

I mean it.

For those of you who don’t have a Chicken Kitchen near you, let me give you the low-down: freshly grilled chicken, served straight up with sides or in a rice bowl affectionately known as “Chop Chop.” While you have a variety of choices for sauces to top your Chop Chop, those of us “in the know” choose the curry sauce. It’s not your typical Indian curry. It’s very American-ized and mild. My mom and I experimented with our own renditions of the Chop Chop Curry Sauce. The yellow rice/chicken/veggies part was easy, but replicating the sauce proved difficult.

Until recently, we didn’t have a Chicken Kitchen in my neck of the woods. I went without. I was sad. Oh, we briefly had a location nearby, but the stupid yokels in my town preferred the Moe’s next door, and Chicken Kitchen met an early demise. Right before they closed down, I asked the manager to give me the curry sauce recipe, and he so kindly obliged. I made it, and it was a perfect, identical replica of the store-bought stuff. Happy Violet!

**Disclaimer: If you read my “I hate mayo” post, you may be a little confused as to why I’m offering you a recipe containing mayonnaise. This is THE EXCEPTION. I have to pinch my nose shut and close my eyes while making this sauce, but it’s worth it in the end.**

Curry Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 TBSP light mayo (ew.)
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 TBSP water

Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Whisk thoroughly. If you want it thicker, use less water. If you want it thinner, use a little more.

Want to make the rest of the Chop Chop to go with the sauce? (As opposed to eating it with a spoon…because that’s just tacky…gulp.)

Ingredients:

  • Yellow rice
  • Cooked chicken breast
  • Veggies: lettuce, tomato, onions, peppers…they all work well. Use your favorites

Directions:

  1. Place the cooked yellow rice at the bottom of  your bowl.
  2. Layer diced chicken breast on top
  3. Layer veggies on top of that
  4. Cover with curry sauce.
  5. Be happy.

Real, Authentic Caesar Salad

15 Apr

I bet you got all excited when you read the post title, didn’t you? I bet you LOVE Caesar Salad, huh? Order it every time you go out? Get those cute little bags of lettuce + Caesar salad accoutrements at the grocery store?

I’m sorry to shed light on your ignorance, but you’ve been fed some bullshit. (Both literally and figuratively.)

Real, authentic Caesar Salad is not creamy. Know those bottles of white dressing in the grocery store? That’s not real Caesar. Real Caesar salad is an oily, fishy, cheesy nom nom. You’ve most likely been duped. Unless you’ve watched a chef fix Caesar salad tableside, you’re probably getting some cheap lettuce, bagged Parmesan cheese, and bottled salad dressing on your plate.

This, my friends, is REAL Caesar Salad, courtesy of the Irreverent Reptile.

Ingredients:

  • 2 head of Romaine lettuce. (Pull the leaves apart from the spines. They’re just bitter and flavorless.)
  • 8 tablespoons of EVOO
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 or 3 anchovy filets, mashed. (But the anchovy puree in a tube works just as well, and it’s a bit easier to store.)
  • bread, cubed, for croutons (Don’t be cheap. French or Cuban bread works best.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 block of Parmesan cheese, grated

First, the Croutons:

  1. In a small pan, heat some EVOO on medium heat
  2. Throw some garlic salt or garlic powder in the EVOO if you feel like it.
  3. Toss in croutons. Cook each side for about a minute.
  4. Remove from heat and drain.

Now, for the Caesar Salad:

  1. Mix EVOO, garlic, mustard powder, lemon juice, S&P, and anchovies in a large bowl. Kind of grind it down with your spoon. You want everything to mix together well; mash it if you have to.
  2. Coddle the egg: in a small pot, bring water to a rapid boil. Throw the egg in there for 20 seconds. Remove it and immediately place it under cold running water to stop the cooking process. This kills any harmful bacteria without removing the yolk’s binding properties.[edit: while this method allegedly eliminates the harmful bacteria, Daisy and Violet do NOT guarantee it. We have no empirical evidence to prove that coddling the egg will protect you completely. If you have any reservations about potentially coming in contact with bacteria found in raw eggs, please omit this step.]
  3. Separate the egg yolk from the egg white. Put aside.
  4. Toss lettuce into the large bowl. Add the coddled egg yolk, toss some more. Add croutons and Parmesan cheese. Toss some more. Enjoy.

A Home-Grown Gazpacho Lover

12 Apr

A native Floridian, I naturally gravitate toward any meal that is a) healthy, b) fresh, and c) summer approved. Know how you cold-climate people love your heavy soups and stews in the dead of winter? That’s how we feel about cold dishes during the summer. It’s almost therapeutic.

My father has been making this amazing Gazpacho forever. It’s amazing. It’s healthy as shit. It’s inexpensive to make. It can be a side dish or its own vegetarian dinner. It’s fun to make this for picnics, BBQs, potlucks, etc, and convince people that I’m this incredible gourmet. If they only knew how easy it was to make, they’d stop peppering me with compliments, so let’s just keep this secret to ourselves, k?

Ingredients:

  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped.

(Quick, here’s how to effectively peel a tomato: boil some water. Drop the tomato in for 10 – 15 seconds. Pull it out and drop it in an ice bath. Skin comes right off!)

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, skinned and chopped
  • ½  green pepper, seeded and chopped.
  • 24 oz. tomato juice (V8 will work just fine.)
  • ½ cup EVOO
  • ¾ cup red wine vinegar
  • Tobasco, Salt/Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Place the veggies in a blender with 2 cups of tomato juice. Puree.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the puree, EVOO, vinegar, Tobasco, and remainder of tomato juice. Stir well.
  3. Chill and serve.

My “Fuck You, Mayo” Potato Salad

9 Apr

I fucking hate mayonnaise. I call it “Satan’s Semen,” which kind of upsets Daisy, who doesn’t mind the condiment. I hate anything with mayonnaise in it. Try to trick me: slide it in and see if I won’t catch it. I will. And then I will hate you for making me eat it.

I’ve avoided most potato salads like the plague, since it’s nearly impossible to find a good one that lacks the unavoidable binding ingredient. But then one day, my step-mom came to the rescue and procured a yummy potato salad that was MAYO-FREE. I rejoiced, since I love potatoes and felt that my mayo prejudice was preventing me from enjoying something I would otherwise love. Since I inherited this recipe, I’ve made some adjustments to Violet-ize it. Hope you enjoy!

This one’s for all of you mayo-haters out there…

Ingredients:

14 small, red boiling potatoes (don’t peel ‘em. The skin is half the fun!)

8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/3 cup finely chopped green onion.

1/3 cup finely chopped celery

1 c. Ranch dressing (Just go for the full-fat kind, ok? Don’t pretend like you’re going to save fucking calories by using the low-fat kind. You’re not. You’re just sacrificing flavor. Don’t be dumb.)

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

S&P to taste

Directions:

  1. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil until they’re tender – about 20 minutes or so.
  2. Drain and cool the potatoes. Halve them.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine potatoes with all the other remaining ingredients and gently toss. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

And when you receive hundreds of compliments on your fabulous potato salad, advertise the fact that it’s mayonnaise-free. Take that, Hellmans!

Violet’s Hummus – as easy as a fat girl on prom night!

6 Apr

There’s really no point in buying pre-made hummus from the store. There’s all sorts of processed shit in there, and for the same price, you can buy the ingredients and make it yourself. I’m not going to spend time explaining the benefits of making your own hummus. You know what they are.

Recipe courtesy of the Irreverent Reptile.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups canned chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons Tahini paste (available in your grocer’s “ethnic foods” aisle. This shit never goes bad. Once you buy it and store it in the fridge, you can make your own hummus for months to come.)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, Tahini paste, lemon juice, and garlic. Turn on the machine. While the machine is running, drizzle the EVOO slowly. Season with salt and pepper.

It goes without saying that you can customize this recipe to meet your tastes. Like it extra garlicky? Add more garlic. Like the “sun-dried tomato” flavor you can buy in the grocery store? Just add a few sun-dried tomatoes! Same goes for black olives, feta cheese, red peppers, etc.

There are a few ways you can serve this. The classic stand-by is with warm pita bread. It really doesn’t get much better than that. Bagel chips and pita chips work well, too, but I don’t like to crunch with my hummus. For those of you on low-carb diets, carrot sticks and celery sticks are a yummy option.

Beef Stew of the Gods

2 Apr

One of the staples of my childhood dinners was Mommy’s Beef Stew. We’d eat it for dinner a few times per month, and it was one of the few meals she could make that would appease all of us. (My little brother refused vegetables, and Mom was only eating poultry and fish for a long time, so it was hard to find meals that made all of us happy.) Several years ago, Mommy passed the recipe down to me. Happy Happy Joy Joy! With my own home to run now, I make this beef stew several times per month.

Somehow, Daisy didn’t know I had this recipe. We were talking on the phone the other day, and she reminisced about my mother’s delicious beef stew. When I told her that I had the recipe and was willing to share, she actually cried tears of joy. In honor of Daisy’s successful first attempt at this dish, I’m going to share it with you, Lovely Readers. It’s easy as shit, delicious, and makes so much that you can enjoy leftovers the next day!

Ingredients:

  • Flour and Salt/Pepper (to dredge meat)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (heretofore referred to as EVOO. Thanks, Rach!)
  • Stew Meat, cubed
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • Potatoes (I usually do 1.5 per person, so if you’re cooking for two people, use 3 potatoes, etc)
  • Carrots (same as above)

Directions:

  1. Pour flour in a bowl. Season heavily with salt and pepper. Dredge the stew meat in the flour mix.
  2. Drizzle the EVOO in a large pan or Dutch oven and turn stove to medium heat. (If you’re going to toss in chopped onion or garlic, now’s the time to do it.)
  3. Brown the meat for a few minutes. Stir regularly.
  4. Add tomato paste and broth. Stir some more.
  5. Turn the heat down and simmer the concoction for an hour. Fucking stir. That’s what I always mess up; I under-stir and burn shit. Please stir.
  6. Add the potatoes and carrots. Simmer for another hour. And for the love of all things holy, FUCKING STIR!
  7. Serve when meat is tender and potatoes fall apart with a fork.

You’re welcome.

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