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Food for the Game & Love for the Food

As many of you may know the Super Bowl is next weekend AND as you may also know, the best part of the Super Bowl is THE FOOD. Okay the commercials are pretty fun, the game is cool, family, friends but c’mon…the food is the best part!? Pizza, tortilla chips and guac, chicken wings, potato chips, nachos, queso dip, I can go on and on. So of course I will be watching (i.e. stuffing my face) the game next Sunday! Any event that allows me a week in advance to begin a conversation with “let’s talk menu” is an event for me. This is exactly what I did yesterday, started planning the Super Bowl menu.

Here’s what will be causing me to miss the best Super Bowl commercials and the play of the evening next Sunday:img_4599

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp appetizers is making a comeback after being a hit during the football game on Thanksgiving. This time, however, they will be accompanied by a cilantro dipping sauce. People expecting to see the good ol’ buffalo chicken wings will absolutely forget about them (forever) after they taste these shrimp babies.img_5332

Mini Baked Empanadas will be sitting front and center when the game begins. I’m prepping these a day before since that can be an event of its own. Last time I made these they were amazing in their full empanada size so I imagine they will be even better when limited to only a few bites. For the filling I will attempt a cuban style picadillo using ground beef, pepper stuffed green olives, raisins, green bell peppers and spices. I’ve never attempted this filling, but I’ve had it many times at my favorite cuban restaurant. Wish me luck!fullsizerender-19

Ceviche is something I love to make during summer months because it’s refreshing and super easy. My dad taught me how to make ceviche and his is the best I’ve ever had so I’m letting him take that dish. All we use to make this is fish (any white fish works), cut in small pieces, lime juice (I like to use a lime/lemon juice combo), chopped tomato, onion ( I prefer red onion), cilantro and salt. My dad doesn’t know this, but I also use a little of paprika just to give it another layer of flavor. You can make the ceviche the same day, but my dad recommends letting the fish marinade in the lime juice over night. I’ve prepared it with much less time than that and can tell you that after about 40 minutes it’s pretty darn good! Once you strain the juice from the fish (otherwise it’s too sour), add salt and the chopped ingredients. Mix and sprinkle some paprika and start dipping your tortilla chips or better yet have on a tostada the way it’s meant to be had (not on game day).img_5337

Braised Brisket Loaded fries, is something I’ve been wanting to make for a while now. Since I’ll be totally over-eating I want to rescue some calories by baking the fries. I know, I know, but I’m going to make a paprika seasoning to make you forget the fries are baked and it will be absolutely delicious! I’m also going to make an cilantro chimichurri to add some freshness and some pickled onions for pizzazz, texture and pretty color. Okay, you can’t have loaded fries without cheese, so yes I will be using some cotija cheese to keep them light, but also very flavorful. Keep a look out for this picture, it’s going to be kind of amazing!img_5028

Baked Oysters Rockefeller, recently inspired during my trip to New Orleans, will be something I will be making for the first time. I’m a little nervous because I’ve never baked oysters in my life, but considering I use my oven quite often I’m sure I can figure it out (right?). My goal is to reproduce my favorite baked oyster from The Royal House in NOLA with a spinach, bacon, wine? and cheese? Well, as you can see I will be tasting as I go to make sure it turns out just as good as the ones I had in NOLA. I can’t wait!

Okay so I know you’re probably asking yourself where the game food is, right? I mean, what’s with all this fancy stuff? Bring out the potato chips and crack open the cheese dip. Well here’s the thing. This year one of my resolutions was to stop eating packaged foods and cook more (#cookmore). So I will be making everything from scratch. It’s just so much better to eat things we actually make and avoid all the artificial preservatives and extra pounds of salt and sugar found in packaged foods. So, I hope you share the love for clean, home cooked meals because this year is going to be filled with ’em!

Now that we have a plan, menu, strategy and incredibly delicious visuals. Let the games begin!

 

 

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Miss Your Grill Marks in the Winter

img_5197As I vacationed in New Orleans over the holidays I came to realize how much I missed having the option to have something grilled when I ordered at a restaurant. While I had an amazing time trying foods like fried alligator, fried dough varieties and fried oysters, I must say I immensely missed my grilled salmon, chicken, veggies! So, when I got back early this week all I wanted was some grilled chicken tacos (because I also missed having mexican food!)

Since I don’t have a grill at home, and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to use it during the winter rainy days I came back to, I got a little creative at home. Have you ever heard of liquid smoke? Well if you haven’t it’s a liquid that you buy that is highly intense in smoke flavor. It’s very potent by itself so the key is using it in small amounts (a little does plenty) and incorporate it when you want to take your food to that level of smokeyness. In my case, there were 3 things on my agenda (crave list) as I prepared my first meal back home. One, to have salad (MY GOD I missed fresh greens!), but I’ll get to that later. Two, grilled chicken (no more fried food please!), and three to use the dried pasilla chilis that I have been wanting to get into lately. So, here’s what did:

I took a dried pasilla chili and a garlic clove and boiled in about 2 cups of water. Once it was soft (about 10 min), I placed the chili, garlic and a little bit a water (excluding the seeds) into a blender and made into a pure/sauce. I used some of the remaining water to water it down a bit.fullsizerender-17

I cut up 2 chicken breasts into small slices (fajita style) and season with salt and pepper. Then I took some of the pasilla chili sauce and poured over the chicken. I poured about 1 table-spoon of liquid smoke and combined the sauce and liquid to make a marinade for the chicken. Let that sit for 30 min.

Using a grill mark cast iron skillet (you can also use a Panini press) I lightly drizzled some olive oil and I brought it to med-high heat. I place the chicken on my skillet and let the chicken cook evenly on all sides. [Make sure you don’t immediately turn the chicken so you give the skillet enough time to make its marks]fullsizerender-18

While that was cooking I turned my attention to my side. I wanted to make a salad, but also incorporate some of that grilled flavor. So, I sliced some white onion sautéed on a small pan until the onion was soft and a little black around the edges. Set that aside.

 

Now for the side salad.

In a plastic container I placed mixed greens, chia seeds, toasted flax-seed, chopped tomatoes, feta cheese and a dressing I made using turmeric, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I toss my salad by closing the container lid and mixing it by shaking the container to allow all the ingriendts to mix. Only the lid wasn’t secured enough as I began to shake the container, half of my salad completely flew across my kitchen and all over my (startled) face.

After a few seconds of shock, wiping my eyes from a turmeric dressing mess and removing spinach from my hair, I pushed forward and started again. Nothing was going to come in between my side salad and I, I’d come too far! Second time around there was no raining salad in my kitchen so I was able to plate it, cut up some avocado on top along with the charred onions. It was perfect!

So there, after being a little shaken up, I warmed up some corn tortillas, spread some of my pasilla chili sauce, then the chicken, and some chopped onions cilantro. Since it’s the new year and recently came back from a trip where I pretty much ate my way through each street in New Orleans, I figure it’s a good time to get back on track and focus on healthy eating and home cooking. I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Happy 2017!

 

 

 

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Fall Inspired Cauliflower Fried Rice

img_4699This week was a tough one, but I can always count on cooking (and food) to make things all better. On Friday night the ingredients in my refrigerator were all indicating chinese food. Sometimes though chinese food can feel  too heavy and even unhealthy. So, I decided to go with my chinese food inspiration and make fried rice with a special twist, cauliflower. Yes, and I decided to use fall veggies to make my chinese food inspired dish. It turns out Trader Joe’s carries packaged rice cauliflower. I bought with the goal of making a cauliflower fried rice dish. I hadn’t got around to it though because I ran out of carrots just the other day and these of course are absolutely necessary to make fried rice…or are they? I was stumped for a moment, until I locked eyes with a sweet potato! I think you can imagine how this night was going to end, right? Here’s what happened.

I took that sweet (talkin’) potato and chopped it up in small cubes to simulate the carrots. img_4695On a pan drizzled with olive oil I sauteed the potato cubes with garlic and chopped yellow onion until the cubes were tender and the onion and garlic was cooked down. I then added the peas and cauliflower rice. (By the way, you don’t need to get the packaged cauliflower rice. You can easily make this using a food processor. Just cut up the cauliflower in small pieces and break down in processor until they resemble rice). Cook the veggies for a few minutes and add soy sauce (the soy sauce will replace the use of salt so taste to make sure it is to your liking!). img_4696

Now push all the veggies around the pan to create space in the middle (see picture). This is where the egg will be scrambled. img_4697Once it is mixed the veggies and egg together. You will see the rice will start taking form. Chop the green onions and add just before you remove from heat. This will allow the small pieces of green onion to still be crunchy and give you that nice bite. Yum!

Sometimes it’s nice to not have to do too much for dinner, especially when you’re starving like I was when I got home.

Here are the ingredients that made this come together so beautifully:

 

  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1/2 sweet potato, cubed
  • 2-3 cups of cauliflower rice (if you have a food processor you need 1 cauliflower head)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp. chopped yellow onion
  • 3 green onions
  • 3 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • olive oil

*The mandarin chicken in the background is from Trader Joe’s. There are 2-3 things in their frozen section that I would recommend and this is one of them. Especially to compliment an easy and quick dish such as this cauliflower fried rice. I hope you enjoy!

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The Breakfast Hot Dog of My Dreams

If you’ve ever been to a concert or sporting event (at least in California), you’ve enjoyed a bacon wrapped hot dog afterwards as you’re walking to your car. Right? If you haven’t, make a mental note and next time you see the small stand with the guy grilling bacon wrapped hot dogs, stop and have one (or four!). You will not regret it, I promise. 
Just a few weeks ago at a family gathering, they made bacon wrapped hot dogs. I was so excited because I absolutely love these and yes, maybe I was salivating a just little. I guess you had to be there. The buns slathered with sour cream (stay with me), ketchup over the crunchy bacon wrapped hot dog, chopped tomatoes and white onions on top with one more small dollop of sour cream (Mmmm). In my opinion there is no need for mustard or anything else. These ingredients together are absolute perfection. My mind, much like my hot dog, was wrapped up in deep thought as I was savoring each bite. I couldn’t focus on the chatter around me. Right there and then I had an amazing idea, breakfast hot dogs?? [angels singing]. How can I make a hot dog that will produce a breakfast party in my mouth with one single bite? Was it possible?? Yes!

This week my taste buds attended that breakfast party and the feedback was: success. I had so much fun putting this meal together, although the wine could have played a part, but it was mostly the cooking. I used chicken hot dogs, wrapped in bacon and cooked in a pan until the bacon was mostly cooked. Then I popped in the oven (325 degrees) until the bacon was nice and crispy. I used multigrain buns, which I also popped in the oven until they were warm and had slightly crispy edges. The over easy egg is probably the most important component of this dish because you want that yolk to be runny so when it pops it spreads all over the hot dog and in between the bacon (YUM!). I slathered some sour cream once the buns were done, snuggled the hot dog inside, positioned the egg on top, popped the yolk and chopped some green onions. I added some raspberry-habanero jam to give it that slight sweetness you get from a well rounded breakfast bite and it was delicious. Great for breakfast, brunch or even lunch and dinner if you’re like me and can have breakfast at anytime!