Monday, February 26, 2007

Breakfast with the Kids 2

If there is something that brings my children joy, it is helping me "cook". Here is a great image of Sunday morning. We were cooking French toast, on real french bread by the way, and Eggs Florentine! Yum, yum. I have had to alter my cooking in the morning in order to allow small hands and clumsy arms to help. It is great. I feel like a wonderful mother on these days. They are in Zen states when I let them climb on the stool. I am happy to have them, my darlings.

Not the best picture of me, but who cares, it is about my bambinos and cooking! Don't you love Lola in the tights? They are for 3-6 months, she LOVES them. So, what the heck? It is Sunday morning and it is not like we are expecting the president or anything.
Love you all.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chipotle Shrimp = A party at Laura's

There are 3 things I am fairly obsessed with right now; Rick Bayless, chipotle and shrimp. Rick, my man, the man, has never steered me wrong when creating something out of his cookbooks. His brilliant, vibrant recipes are always amazing and fairly easy to prepare. I rarely have to buy something in the ingredient list that is not already a staple in my kitchen.

As far as chipotle, if you have yet to dive into the craze, please, I beg of you, join the crowd. There is a good reason EVERYTHING these days is chipotle. The rich spice and tangy burn are heaven to the taste buds. Of course if you have an aversion to spicy foods, this recipe is definitely not for you. But, I have found when making other recipes with chipotle you can use the adobo sauce and it still gives you the rich chipotle flavor minus the heat.

Shrimp, well, that is a life long obsession!

This past weekend Laura's sisters and mother came into town. She called me days in advance to talk about the menu for Saturday night's get-together. She had already scoped out the chipotle shrimp recipe from Rick's Mexican Everyday cookbook. So, while on the phone with her, we both opened our identical cookbooks and reviewed options. She decided to make Green Chile Chicken Soft Tacos as an accompaniment; the shrimp was to be the crowning glory of the night.
So Saturday night came, we got a late start, but that was not to detour her, the shrimp would get made! Shrimp were ready for preparation, everybody was starving (and a little tipsy); when she went into the pantry to get the chipotle chiles...they were gone. Turns out I had ganked them from her about a month ago. (Yikes, sorry Lar.)

A look of devastation crossed her face, what were we to do? There had been so much build-up about the chipotle shrimp, so much anticipation of the dish; it was if the entire night was pulsing toward the heat of the peppers. Well, as all good new boyfriends do, Tom came to our rescue! Quick as lighting, he hopped in his car and jetted to WalMart at 9:30 at night for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Props Tom, you saved the day. After his swift return, as about as swift as one can be at WalMart, Laura finally finishes the dish.

It was all we had anticipated and more, so much more. The flavors satisfied our craving for newness and for comfort. Laura was able to share her culinary genius with her family and we were blessed to partake in not just a meal, but also a work of art.

This is the first of my blog recipes I have not actually made myself. But I trust Laura as I do myself in the kitchen. Besides, all that were present that night feel as if we were in some way participants in the nights events.

The shrimp is spicy hot, the kind of hot that leaves the corners of your mouth burning just a bit. Worth every single bite, and 10 more if you have enough shrimp for everyone.

Rick suggests you serve over white rice. I suggest you serve with a very cold very dark ale!

Chipotle Shrimp

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferable fire-roasted), drained
2 to 3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo
1-tablespoon chipotle canning sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
About 1 ½ cups fish or chicken broth or water
1 to 1 ¼ pounds medium-large shrimp (21 to 25 shrimp per pound) peeled and deveined, tail on if you wish
About ¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish

1. Pour the drained tomatoes into a blender. Add the chipotle chiles and chipotle canning sauce. Process until smooth.

2. In a very large skillet heat the oil over medium. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute. Pour in the tomato mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Add enough broth or water to achieve a light tomato sauce consistency. Taste and season highly with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon.

3. Add the shrimp to the pan. Cook stirring nearly constantly, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Stir in a little more broth or water if the sauce has thickened too much.
4. Scoop out onto dinner plates and sprinkle with cilantro.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Breakfast with the Kids

As an adult, I have never been a breakfast maker. I say maker because I LOVE to go out and have breakfast. To be served eggs, sausage, and pancakes at some un-godly hour of the day is luxurious beyond imagination. A treat that is usually only worthy when out of town.
As a parent, as with all aspects of life, things change. I now find myself wakened at 6:30-7:00 am by 2 hungry toddlers asking for eggs, wowa joes (that is Lolanese for cereal), and bacon. I pry myself out of bed, and with my kiddos go searching the fridge for new and exciting ways to fill their tummy with food.
I have found myself exploring nutritious ways to feed my family in the morning. My kids love eggs, boiled, scrambled, fried and poached, anyway I fix them they will devour them with out any regard to the usual finicky nature of toddlers. Eggs are easy, quick and can usually be fixed while the much-needed coffee is brewing. The problem is, I can't morally feed them eggs everyday. So, as I said before, I have stared exploring new things to feed them in the morning.
Pancakes! That’s the ticket! Right!? Wrong. They have no nutritional value, basically demoralized, flat, box birthday cake. Doused in sugary syrup and served half cold they serve no purpose for your digestion other then to distract it long enough to create an even more ravenous hunger pre-pancake.
Alas, I have discovered the Hodgson Mill brand of pancake mix. They sell whole wheat (the real kind), bulger wheat, flax pancakes, all with a wonderful taste that excites the very buds that get high on maple syrup. Plus the pancakes they create are hearty and filling. Add frozen blueberries, nuts, and applesauce anything your heart desires, and they are always good.
Just yesterday morning Moses ate 4, yes count them 1-2-3-4 pancakes. Mark could only stomach 3, and he had a slight tummy ache after that. We like to cover them with fresh strawberries and honey, a perfect substitute for syrup.
Having said all that, I come to the posted picture. I am a sucker for the kids. When my parents call on Saturday morning and say they are bringing dounuts and chocolate milk for the kids, I melt. I remember so fondly those days when my dad and mom would throw us in the car early Saturday morning and we would drive to Shipley’s and eat chocolate covered dounuts and chocolate milk till we were sick. Hannah loved the cinnamon twists, a dounut I have grown to love more then any other.
Lola loves dounuts, Moses does as well, but he has a more sophisticated pallet, Kolaches are his favorite.
As much as I want healthy kids, I want happy kids, so Mon-Fri feed your kids Bulger Wheat pancakes, but when Grandma and Grandpa call and want to bring over Shipley’s, say, "Bring it on!”

Musing About a Night out to Dinner

The other night we went out with some friends to dinner. After ordering our catfish and hamburger I was amazed at the price of the meal. I was stunned frankly to be spending $30+ on something that I could not only re-create far better at home, but far less expensive. I had two beers for the price of an entire 6 pack!!!
I know this sounds cheap and silly; after all we did get to go out with friends. And there was no cooking or cleaning. Yet for all the fun we had, I was kicking myself for not spending the $30 more wisely and inviting our friends over to our house for dinner. There is nothing more satisfying then entertaining for your friends at home with a deli shish meal of whatever you happen to feel like cooking. (Of course not everyone believes that Hannah!) I love to cook; I do not find it to be a chore in any sense of the word. I lose myself in my kitchen after a long day of chasing after children and cleaning up tiny toys. It is my time to be alone with my thoughts and my creative juices. They tend to be stifled when changing a foul diaper. In my kitchen my "self" comes alive. To cook for my darling husband is wonderful, but to cook for friends, to share my table, that is my greatest joy.
That same night, after chiding myself for not just living in the moment, enjoying the fact that I was work free, my darling said the most amazing thing. We were asked where we like to go out to dinner. To anyone else it would have been an easy answer. Even for people that rarely go out to dinner, they could have picked their favorite places to eat. But we looked at each other in puzzled silence. "Well", I started, "we like Thai..." I wracked my brain for our favorite places to frequent dinner. Mark, perfect match to me, piped in, "I never feel the need to go out to dinner, my wife is a gourmet chef." He is said it so matter-of-fact, there was no question in anyone’s mind that I was a gourmet chef, least of all mine.
Yea! for my Darling.
I love to go out to eat, but I love to go in to eat even more.
Cheers to all my darlings!

Thursday, February 8, 2007


Yet another fabulous recipe from Passionate Vegetarian! Thank you Crescent Dragonwagon!

Indian food is a culinary roller coaster of joy. To date, I have not had a dish that don't I love. The spices are rich in flavor, exotic and yet, familiar. Familiar of course if you are given to trying new things. Indian is not in any way similar to typical North American cuisine.
If you are looking to start a culinary adventure, dal is a good place to begin. Throughout the Indian subcontinent, a meal is not a meal without dal-a thick, spicy bean stew served over rice.
This is not spicy, but is packed with spices. When cooking this dish, your kitchen will omit smells that are as fragrant as perfume.
I love it, and I think anyone that wants to try new things, will love it too.
One problem you may encounter when making this, is the daunting ingredient list. This is the way I look at it, once you make the initial investment, you are open to cooking hundreds of things you would not otherwise make. All the spices called for here are almost always called for when cooking Indian food. I think, once all these ingredients are in your pantry, you will find yourself looking for recipes that calls for these.
Good Luck.


5-6 Cups water
2 Cups lentils
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
11/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground tumeric
Pinch of cyenne, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-3 cups hot cooked rice

I served with whole wheat tortilla. Put in a 200 degree oven for about 10 min.

Gigi Hamilton's Really Hot, Really Delectable Mixed Beans with a Lot of Ginger

I am not sure who Gigi Hamilton is, but I got this recipe from my Passionate Vegetarian cookbook, and this is the title of her recipe. So I thought for copy right reasons, I better give cred.
Moving on.
My friend Sarah commented the other day that one of her favorite things about my blog was the fact that all my recipes were inexpensive to make. It had not occurred to me, but she is right. I like to cook on a tight budget that tastes gourmet!
Well Sarah, here is another one for you. This recipe makes crazy amounts of food and the cost is right at $6 for the entire thing.
A prerequisite for making this recipe is you must like beans. I personally am shocked when I find people that don't like beans. I could eat them everyday myself, plus they are very good for you, and excellent source of protein.
This recipe is, as she states in the title, delectable! I cannot believe how good a few cans of canned beans can turn out. I would recommend this to anyone, anyone that likes beans of course...
If you are not a big spice head like I am, omit chlile and use mild Rotel. (Most grocers have it)
This recipe makes a large batch, but it freezes well. I can't wait to serve it at a party with Hamburgers, an interesting deviation from the usual pinto beans.

Gigi Hamilton's Really Hot, Really Delectable Mixed Beans with a Lot of Ginger

1 Tablespoon of olive oil
Cooking spray
2 Large Onions, chopped
5 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
1/4 cup loosely packed peeled, grated ginger (yes, 1/4 cup!)
1 small hot chile, seeded or not depending on your wish for heat, diced (optional)
1 can (10 ounces) Ro*tel diced tomatoes and green chiles
2 cans white or navy beans, well drained
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can white hominy
Stems from 1 bunch Cilantro, chopped Cilantro leaves (optional)

1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick Dutch oven, or one that has been sprayed with cooking spray, over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 4 min, then ass the garlic and ginger, and if using, the chile. Saute for about 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and green chile's and cook, stirring often, until heated through.

2. Add all the beans. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 20 minutes. Add the cilantro stems and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

3. Serve hot, accompanied by any cooked grain or bread, sprinkled with cilantro leaves if desired.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

La Madeleine's Tomato Basil Soup

Ok, if you have ever been to La Madeleine,,you should know their soup. It is the BEST soup I have ever had. When I first moved back to Houston I visited La Madeleine a few times, but only enjoyed their desserts and coffee. Michelle introduced me to their soup. I have never been the same. There were days when I dreamt about eating the creamy tomato soup. A few years later I started working at the Houston Ballet, and right down the road was a La Madeleine. Lets just say, I did get my fill.
I don't frequent La Madeleine as much as I used to but I still love their soup. So I was thrilled when Laura sent me the copykat link with this recipe. This recipe tastes EXACTLY like their tomato basil soup. It is extremely easy to make. I would say it serves 6-8 small cups and 5 large bowls.
Serve with shredded swiss cheese.

La Madeleine's Tomato Basil Soup

4 C. (8 to 10) tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped, or 4 C. canned whole tomatoes, crushed
4 C. tomato juice and part vegetable stock or chicken stock
12 to 14 washed fresh basil leaves
1 C. heavy cream
1/4 pound sweet, unsalted buttersalt to taste
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
Combine tomatoes, juice/and or stock in saucepan. Simmer 30 minutes. Puree, along with the basil leaves, in small batches, in blender, food processor (or better yet, one of those handy hand-held food blenders, right in the cooking pan).
Return to saucepan and add cream and butter, while stirring over low heat.
Garnish with basil leaves and serve with your favorite bread.

Natasha's Greek Salad

I love Greek Salad! Fresh and full of good veggies, when made correctly it does the body good. My friend Laura recently sent me a link to a great website, She sent me the link to La Madeline's tomato basil soup. (Recipe will follow this one) I could not wait to try it. But, I wanted a good salad to go along with it. After some exploration, this is the one I chose. It went perfectly with the soup. It can be served for a few, or if you are expecting company, double the recipe. This could not be more easy or tasty.

Natasha's Greek Salad

Created by admin, September 13, 1999

1 bunch Leaf Lettuce
2 Cucumbers
4 large Tomatoes
1 bunch green onions, chop just the tops.
Greek Black Olives ( I used plain black olives)
Feta Cheese
1 part Red Wine Vinegar
1 part Olive Oil
Crushed Garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 pinches Sugar
Chop lettuce and onion finely. Chop tomatoes and cucumbers coarsely about 1/2 inch. Combine and garnish to taste.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Lemon Potatoes

These are perfect when served with the Lemon Greek soup. I like to serve them on the side, with the intent of making them a soup topper. You can eat them any way, and they will be good.

Just remember, if you are using small potatoes not to over cook them. I did that recently and they are not nearly as good as firm potatoes.

Good Luck!

Lemon Potatoes
About 2 pounds waxy red or white potatoes, the smaller the better, skins scrubbed and potatoes cut in half.
1/8 cup chopped parsley
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
The zest of one lemon and the juice of one lemon

1. Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water to cover, turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Turn them down to meduim. Cook at a gentle boil until the potatoes are nice and tender, about 20-40 minutes depending of their size.
2. Drain the potatoes and return to the pot of the lowest heat possible. Add the olive oil, lemon and lemon zest, shaking the pan occasionally, until all traces of the moisture have disappeared, about 5 minutes.
Garnish with parsley and serve with soup!

Greek Lemon Soup

There is this great Greek restaurant in the heart of Houston, in Montrose, called Niko Nikos, They have the BEST gyros and gyro plates. It is often hard for me to deviate from what I know is good on a menu. I try to take everyone I know there, and the more people I take there, the more things I am able to try without abandoning my gyro. Everything I have had from their menu is delightful. From the feta calamari to the spinach and chicken wrap, each dish delights the taste buds. But, the soup, oh the soup is the best thing they serve by far. I say that because I have never tasted anything quite so, perfect to what it should be. The amount of lemon is zesty without being tart, the rice is never overcooked and the smell could cure even the worst cold.

I have been searching for a soup of this kind for some time. I was delighted the other day when I stumbled across this recipe in my How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. It is by no means as good as Nikos soup, but it comes close enough for me. I don’t think there could be an easier more hearty soup recipe. I served it with lemon potatoes, also served at Nikos, my recipe also not as good. But, for something you cook at home, and if you are not Greek, I think you will be proud of yourself. Had I never tasted Niko Niko’s potatoes and soup, I would think this is the best lemon Greek soup ever.

Since the holidays Turkeys have been on sale. I picked up a 10lb turkey and roasted it for dinner a couple of nights ago. Obviously there was tons of meat leftover. I used the body to make stock, and picked the meat off for the soup. The original recipe calls for chicken, which would be good I am sure. Mark and I much prefer Turkey over chicken, so this worked for us. My kids LOVED it. They can't seem to get enough, just thought I would let my kid mommys know.

Good luck. I challenge everyone to make this dish, it is easy, super yummy and a perfect weeknight dinner.

Lemon Greek Soup

6 Cups turkey or chicken stock
1/2 cup long-grain rice or orzo
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 celery stalk, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded or chopped cooked bonless skinless turkey or chicken
2 eggs
3 tablespoons greshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more if desired
Minced fresh dill or parsley leaves for garnish

1. Place the stock in a large saucepan and turn the heat to mendium-high. When it is just about boiling, turn the heat down to medium so that it is just bubbles. Stir in the rice, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, untilthey are all tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the chicken or turkey. Turn the heat to low.
2. Place the eggs in a blender and whir for 10 seconds; add the lemon juice and blend briefly. With the motor running, drizzle in about 2 cups of the hot soup. Pour the mixture back into the soup, stirring, and cook breifly, until the soup is slightly thickend, just a couple of minutes, do not boil. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may add more lemon juice at this point.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Vegetarian Chickpea Burgers

Vegetarian can be a bad word in some circles. Weirdoes, tree-hugger, liberal...all these are stero-types some might associate with vegetarians. Vegetarian cooking, when done right, can open both your kitchen and pallet to worlds of culinary bliss. I few months ago I condemned meat from our kitchen and went vegetarian. It was fun. I found when going strictly vegetarian we ate far more veggies and beans. The kids LOVED everything I cooked. The texture and flavor of vegetarian cooking was very pleasing to their young pallet. I am by no means pro-vegetarian, just pro creativity.

I have since re-introduced meat into our kitchen, hello, it was the holidays! But, I have tried to move our dining experience to be less meat focused and more in the mindset where every dish counts. Everything is not centered on the meat, but each thing on the plate has equal importance to our meal.

Here is a quick, and I mean quick, recipe I found in Rachel Ray's new magazine, Everyday with Rachel Ray. I did mix mine up a bit from the original recipe. Her version was a bit blander, using parsley instead of cilantro. Of course many people do not enjoy the pungent flavor of cilantro, and parsley is the perfect substitute. To add more zest use curry powder or cumin in the mix.

Warning, this is not for the faint of heart. If you do not like chickpeas, or if you are in the mood for hamburgers, this is not the dish for you. This is definitely for people that like to try new things.

Make is what you want! Enjoy.

Vegetarian Chickpea Burgers

One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
* One cipotle chipotle pepper in adobe sauce
2/3 cup packed cilantro
2/3-cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* *4 thin slices of cheese
Dijon mustard, ketchup or mayonnaise, for serving

1. In a food processor, pulse the chickpeas, chipotle pepper and cilantro until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl a stir in the breadcrumbs and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the egg and form the mixture into 8 small patties or 4 large ones. ***
2. In a large skillet or grill pan, heat the oil over med. heat. Cook the burger for 4 min, then flip and cook for 3 min. more. Top the patties with the cheese slices for the last minute of cooking. Serve the cheeseburgers on bun with mustard, ketchup or mayo.

* You can use a can of green chilies instead of chipotle.
** Feta is incredible on these
*** Small patties turn out crunchier but they do not fit on buns. Great for low-carb lovers!