Monthly Archives: May 2010

So, I’ve always been messy…

I love cooking because of my mother, no question. Here’s a photo of me “helping” her in the kitchen when I was just a little one.

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Orange Basil Mojitos, Bruschetta and Mexican Rice

Yesterday we were heading to a friend’s house to cook out and get the munchkins together, so I decided to whip up a few things (at the last minute, after grocery shopping, making us 30 minutes late). That being said, it only took 45 minutes of hustling to make these three things!

Mojitos
Daniel fell in love with mojitos when we were in Nicaragua and he’s been talking about them since (he’s finally found one he likes at Cafe Habana in Royal Oak). The first one he had in Nicaragua accidentally had basil in it instead of mint, but he loved it. A couple of weeks ago, I had regular and orange basil mojitos at a bridal shower (my kind of shower!) so I decided I’d whip up some orange basil ones myself to take to J and V’s house yesterday.

I grabbed a few things at the store and hoped they were what I needed, then came home and a quick Google search helped me find a simple recipe. I tripled this recipe (but only doubled the sugar and it was still a bit too sweet), which made one pitcher of mojitos. But here’s the original recipe:

1 c. orange juice
1 c. white rum (I used Bacardi)
1 c. club soda
1/2 c. sugar (again, I’d maybe go light on the sugar)
a good handful of basil, torn into small pieces

Mix until sugar dissolves and enjoy! I normally don’t love super sweet things, but this was pretty delicious and refreshing. Dan wasn’t feeling it though… Guess I’ll have to try to make regular ones next time. One of our hosts liked them too (Thank god. He’s got half a pitcher to polish off this week!)

Bruschetta
I grabbed a baguette at the store and whipped up some quick bruschetta. I have only made this a couple of times and it’s been years, but I figured it would be easy enough and is usually a crowd pleaser. (And it had to be better than the version we had at a certain Royal Oak restaurant on Valentine’s Day, so I figured it couldn’t be that bad).

I chopped up 4 firm Roma tomatoes into a relatively small dice, added a couple of tablespoons of finely diced white onion (leftover from Mexican rice), about
1 1/2 Tablespoons of minced garlic, a good handful of chopped/torn basil, a little salt and pepper and drizzled with some (1 Tbsp? 2?) basil oil I recently got as a gift (normally, I’d just use olive oil).

I mixed it up and it probably sat, marinating for about an hour before it was eaten. We sliced the bread (1/2″ thickness is what I was going for – the thicker it is, the harder it is to eat without making a mess – and it’s already hard enough!) Top the bread with the tomato topping and there you have it. The possibilities are endless with bruschetta – you could put just about anything in there and I think it would be good.

Mexican Rice
One of my goals for 2010 was to use my cookbooks and stacks of cooking magazines. So, when I was reminded that we were going to V and J’s for dinner, I pulled out my stack of Vegetarian Times magazines and grabbed all editions from the springtime. I found three salad recipes involving beans or corn, etc., that sounded good and made Daniel pick one (perhaps so I can share the blame with someone if it turns out terrible? I don’t know…)

He said, “Everyone likes stuff like that right?” so we went with Mexican rice, from the March 2008 issue.  The only thing I did differently was use white onion instead of green onion, because I forgot to buy green onion at the store. Oh, and I doubled it. Totally unnecessary, for the record. Especially for four people…

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. instant brown rice
1 c. frozen corn
1 c. frozen peas
8 green onions chopped (about 1/2 c.)
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbsp.)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 c. boiling water
salt and pepper
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (optional)

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice and saute 3 or 4 minutes, or until it begins to brown.

2. Add corn, peas, onion, garlic, cumin and oregano, and saute 1 minute.

3. Put tomato past in a 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to make 2 cups and stir to combine/dissolve paste.

4. Pour tomato paste water into rice mixture and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

5. Remove from heat, fluff with fork and add beans if you are including them (I did — it was good!)

Nutritional info (without beans I think) according to VT for 1/4 of this recipe: 190 calories; 6 grams protein; 4.5 grams total fat (0.5 grams saturated fat); 32 grams carbs; 0 mg cholesterol; 427 grams sodium; 5 grams fiber; 5 grams sugar.

Vegetarian and Vegan Arepas

Angela made vegetarian and vegan versions of arepas for the Mexican-inspired cooking club we had in March, which are cornmeal-based cakes (they are referred to as “bread” but for some reason I think they are “corn cakes” in my head).

She took the vegetarian version from the New York Times, veganizing it by swapping out soy milk for the milk and chopped spinach for the cheese.  Both versions were delicious, especially topped with the chunky avocado salsa she made. My squeeze and I both had a couple as leftovers the next day and they were just as good!

The vegan version is on the left (along with vegan jalapeno poppers) and the vegetarian version is on the right (with vegetarian poppers). The avocado salsa is in the middle!

Here is the recipe she used:

1 c. yellow cornmeal, finely ground

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

1 c. milk

2 Tbsp. butter, more for serving, optional

1/2 c. fresh sweet corn kernels, or frozen kernels, thawed

1/4 c. chopped scallion

1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

1 small serrano or jalapeño chili, seeded and minced, optional

3 Tbsp. corn, canola, grapeseed or other neutral oil

1. Put cornmeal in a large bowl with salt and cheese. Put milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until steam rises, then add butter and stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir into cornmeal mixture until a thick batter is formed. Fold in the corn kernels, scallion, cilantro and chili if using.

2. Let batter rest until it thickens into a soft dough, about 15 minutes. Gently form 3- to 4-inch balls from mixture and flatten with palm of your hand to a 1/2-inch-thick disk. (You can cover and refrigerate disks for a few hours if you like.)

3. Heat oil in a large skillet and cook arepas, working in batches, until golden brown, about 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 minutes on other side. When all arepas are cooked and cool enough to handle, carefully slice them through the middle. If desired, serve with butter or stuff with beans, vegetables or sour cream.

Yield: 8 to 12 arepas.

Vegan and Vegetarian Baked Jalapeno Poppers

It’s only taken me about six weeks to finish posting the delicious that was the Mexican/Latin-inspired Cooking Club, Episode 3, but I’m determined to get caught up and keep some new stuff coming!

I got as far as the Michelada, a deliciously unique and salty drink I met in Nicaragua, and Amy’s really delicious soup.

Not long before this gathering, I received a recipe for baked jalapeno poppers and went for it. I decided to make vegetarian and vegan versions and I really liked both! Depending on the minute, I really couldn’t decide which was better…

In place of regular cheese, I used soy cheese (which does have the milk byproduct casein in it, so it’s technically not vegan. But soon I’ll get my hands on the new Daiya I’ve been hearing so much about and that all will change…)

So, here’s the recipe!

(P.S. Take your contacts out before you work with jalapenos. Just sayin…)
12 fresh jalapeno peppers
6 oz.   softened cream cheese or Tofutii Better Than Cream Cheese
1 ½ c.  shredded cheddar cheese or veggie/soy cheese
2         large eggs or egg substitute (I used a flax seed/water mix)
2 Tb   milk or almond/soy/rice milk
1 c.     fine breadcrumbs
½ c.     all-purpose flour

1.  Halve the peppers lengthwise and remove stems and seeds. This always makes my always-dry hands really raw. SO, if you have latex gloves or even a Zip-Loc baggie you can use on your hands, not a bad idea.

2.  Mix the softened cream cheese/Tofutti, cheddar/soy cheese and any seasonings you desire (I threw some salt, pepper, garlic powder and maybe one or two other things in. You could toss in some bacon bits here too, (most store-bought ones are made of soy!).  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each jalapeno half.

3.  Beat together the eggs and milk in a small bowl or create the flax seed/water mixture.  (I think I mixed 1 Tbsp. of ground flax seeds with 3 Tbsp. warm water. It worked great! This substitute is supposed to work really well in baked goods too).  Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish.  In a third dish place the flour.  Additional seasoning may be added to each dish, if desired.

4. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

5. Roll each filled jalapeno half in the flour, dip it into the egg mixture, and then roll it in the breadcrumbs.  Press the breadcrumbs in to ensure coating.  Repeat the process if necessary to achieve desired thickness of breading.

6.  Place the coated peppers, cut side up, on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake until the filling is melted and the crust is golden. This is supposed to be 15 to 30 minutes. I’d say it was closer to the 30 mark, for the jalapenos to cook a little especially.

Poppers may be frozen in an airtight container and reheated in the oven, though I did that and then made fresh, just to see, and the fresh ones were a little better, but that’s not shocking.

Though they were kind of a pain in the butt to make (though, in hindsight, it doesn’t seem that bad), I’d definitely call these a success! Delicious!

The ones at the front of the plate on the left are the vegan ones — notice how melty the veggie cheese got! (They are on a plate with the vegan arepas Angela made — recipe to come!). The ones on the right are vegetarian.

A Delicious Weekend in the Windy City: Part 2

I’m crumbling under the weight of the blog posts in my mind and on my camera just waiting to be uploaded. After a busy couple of weeks, I’m ready to complete my two-part post on our early April trip to Chicag0, Part 1 highlighting the delicious Handle Bar.

Spending about 48 hours in a city where you know buckets of people, usually means, try as you might, you’re only going to see a handful of them. We did our best to create what Daniel referred to as “epic brunch” and, sure enough, had a fantastic crew come out to Treat on day 2.

I’ve heard really good things about Treat, but never managed to go there during my time in Chicago. Better late than never. Holy crap. One of the best meals I’ve had in Chicago ever. EVER.

I wanted everything and had a terrible time deciding what to get. Of course I started out with a good, strong cup of coffee. Then Megan blew our minds when she pulled two bottles of champagne out of her purse and asked her friend, owner Tamiz, for a carafe of o.j.

So, back to wanting one of everything, I decided the tabled needed to have samosas for an appetizer. They were so good, I insisted on a second order, even though everyone said we had enough food coming. I’m pretty sure they were happy I did. These were by far THE best samosas I’ve ever had. They were so good.

Basically everything everyone ordered was beautiful and, by all accounts, delicious. See what I mean — here’s Daniel’s open-faced veggie sandwich sans cheese.

Many (or most) things on the menu have an Indian twist and it all sound incredible. While the masala French toast, curried gnocchi and tomato korma rigatoni all sound like fine options, I decided to get one each of two different types of savory pancakes.

I got one pakora pancake, made from a chickpea batter with onions, wilted spinach, cilantro and tamarind chutney. It’s was very thin, with a mild flavor. My friend Colleen did the same thing I did and this was her favorite of the two we both tried. Here she is holding hers.

Although I really liked the pakora pancake, I preferred the other pancake we each got. It was a thicker, savory pancake with leeks, roasted corn and a thin Hollandaise sauce.

I wish I could eat one of these every day. Seriously one of the best meals in the history of the world.

But it wasn’t over! We all sat around, finishing off our mimosas and chatting. Stuffed to the gills, in the company of fantastic friends and ready to spend the afternoon shopping before slipping off to the Aragon Ballroom to see Thom Yorke, Flea and the rest of Atoms for Peace.

Once again, Megan has one of the best ideas of all time and sits down to say we have two desserts on their way. Mango creme brulee and an apple tart with black pepper ice cream. I love pepper. But ICE CREAM? Yes. Please and thank you. DELICIOUS.

I can’t believe I never managed to go to Treat (or ever hear of it, though I lived 2 blocks north of it for a couple of months) and I can’t wait to go back — even though it will be a struggle not to order the same delicious things every time I go back!

After the show Sunday night, we set out in search of a late dinner since doors had been at 5:30 and the show was at 7 (must be Thom Yorke is getting a little long in the tooth and gets tired early?)

Practically next door to the beautiful Aragon Ballroom was Ethiopian restaurant Demera, so we waltzed in there. We got the vegetarian messob (where a bunch of food comes out and you all dive in with bread as your utensil) dinner for two, where you pick six different dishes. I don’t remember exactly what we got — a couple of dishes that were lentil- and chickpea-based, one that involved collard greens, maybe one with spinach.

I panicked would not be nearly enough food for four people — but Leah was right. It was the perfect amount. We finished basically all of it, but left happy and full. Again, delicious.

Before we took off Monday morning, we did a little Division Street shopping and stopped by  Milk and Honey Cafe, where I’ve had many-a-good-breakfast. They have amazing granola and oatmeal and a really delicious casserole-style huevos rancheros during weekend brunch only.

I didn’t love the breakfast burrito I got, but only because I’m not really feeling eggs these days. I asked for half the amount of eggs normally in it and kind of hoped there would be extra beans in their place, but it was still pretty egg-laden.

Daniel is somewhat of an oatmeal connoisseur and he loved his. Doesn’t it look delicious?

And a trip to Chicago wouldn’t be complete (at least for Daniel anyway) without stopping by Sultan’s on North Avenue for the best-falafel-of-all-time (though Anita’s Kitchen right here in Ferndale is catching up, I think). They’ve apparently doubled in size from their buffet and cafeteria-style one-room restaurant since the last time I was in there.

I ran in and picked up two sandwiches, then we hit the highway. They hit the spot a few hours later when we got hungry again on our way home. This may have been the best trip to Chicago yet in terms of food, and that’s without going to some of my favorite restaurants. It’s so great to discover new things in a city I still love so much, and made me want to explore Detroit restaurants even more after I got home!