Who's That Girl

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WHO'S THAT GIRL: A higher education obsessed foodie who is documenting her life in the kitchen. I love to cook delicious, gourmet-style foods for those I love and always welcome a challenge in the kitchen. With that challenge comes an impromptu nature. I tend to avoid following recipes to the exact, so you are not likely to find very many posted here. Being that I am a Libra and am learning to be free in the kitchen, the story always goes, "A pinch of this and a smattering of that!" Thank you for visiting -- and happy reading!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Much Improved Stuffed Peppers

The first time I ever tried to make stuffed bell peppers was a total and complete failure. A disaster really. I was using one of those tiny charcoal grills -- the kind that stands only two feet from the ground.

I recall not being able to get the fire started, for whatever reason. It may have been windy that day. It may have been that I was dealing with too-old charcoal. It may have been, quite simply, I didn't know what I was doing.

After all, I did cook the meat and veggies before stuffing them into the raw peppers. I even put foil down on the grill grates. And I couldn't keep the fire going, so I squirted lighter fluid past the peppers and into the grill. Goodness! Mistakes abound!

This time was different.

I didn't use a grill. I only used the kitchen stove and oven. For these peppers, I cut them in half and roasted them for about a half hour to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, I cooked the onions, garlic, lamb and tomatoes (perhaps? Did I use tomatoes?) in a skillet.

Then I stuffed the peppers, sprinkling some cheese on top. This turned out to be totally unnecessary as the dish would have been much better without the cheese. I then put this in the oven for another seven to eight minutes or so.

Much improved from the first attempt at stuffed peppers. This time served with mouth watering corn, spinach and broccoli with roasted carrots. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Yeah! For Achiote-Smothered Chicken Thighs

I have been introduced to a wonderful paste -- achiote. The paste itself is common in Oaxacan dishes. It is fiery red. Almost carnival-like. The type of red a clown would wear while tormenting small children as they cling to the leg of the nearest adult.

I had it for the first at Josephine's, a restaurant in Flagstaff, during Nancy's birthday dinner over the weekend (*Note: If you are ever in Flagstaff, please check this place out!).

Given the color, I might have been turned off. But I wasn't. Not when it smelled like fancy BBQ sauce. Not when the taste was so alluring. Somewhere in between spicy and savory. Not when I randomly saw it at the grocery store when I wasn't even looking for it.

I swear, it secretly lured me to that aisle, whispering something to my subconscious. I plucked it immediately off the shelf.

And, so, last night I prepared the paste with a squeezed lime, soaking the chicken thighs in the mixture and leaving it in the fridge overnight.

Upon arriving home after work, I set the oven to 450 degrees and began to make the rice.

I first sauteed sweet onion, tossing in red bell pepper slices just as the onions began to brown. Then I added the ghee I made last week. It's still so lovely! I also added a couple pinches of salt, tossed in the long grain rice and stirred this briefly before adding water and allowing the rice to fully cook.

Boiled some corn on the cob. That was easy. No butter. No seasoning. None of Bragg's yummy seasoning. *deep sigh* I love Bragg.

I let the chicken thighs cook for about 35 minutes but had a last minute thought to toss them onto this freakin' awesome indoor grill my mother sent me last week! Didn't I tell you my Ma was awesome and thoughtful when it comes to gifts, like my amazing blender.

So, yes -- I put them on the grill, skin down, for about three minutes, just enough to slightly char the skin.


The meat was so juicy and nicely seasoned. Though I could have added more of the achiote paste, perhaps less of the lime.... Hum, conundrum. I wanted more of the spice, but also wanted the chicken to remain juicy. I suppose I could have added a couple slices from a jalapeno. Yes! That would have done it. Well, maybe next time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ghee and Me

The house is full of the fresh, warm, buttery, nutty, toasty fragrant smell of ghee!

...but not purchased ghee -- homemade.

I tasted ghee as-is via a haphazard occurrence. I had to buy ghee for my house blessing in February (long story; don't care to get into the details of it all here -- other than to say the house blessing was very necessary and turned out to be a wonderful, nurturing, deeply spiritual and fulfilling experience).

Well, I wasn't sure what to do with it. So it sat in the fridge. And sat. And sat. And sat. Until I finally decided to try it on a slice of toast.

There is only way to describe how my taste buds felt at that moment -- through interpretive dance.

I was thoroughly impressed at how condensed and full the flavor was. It was much better than any butter I had ever had. Rich and full of round flavors. 

I understood that the process in making ghee was so very, very, very simple.

You merely need a pot, a few sticks of unsalted butter, a flame, a spoon, cheesecloth and a container.And patience. All this to make clarified butter.

Indeed -- it was nothing to making ghee but to be careful that the butter did not cook too fast as the water is burning off.

A residue collects at the bottom of the pan. I did not know what this was all about. And neither did Topee! Look at how nervous she looks in the photo! Some people use the reside, which is burnt bits of butter, for other recipes. I did not  know this until after I had thrown it away, otherwise I might have gotten creative with it.

So, yes -- simple. This required, literally, no effort at all. But I was still quite impressed.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Periodic Indulgence

Goodness, I love a good grilled steak.

And a nice salad to go with it.

And roasted vegetables cooked to the point that the natural sugars bounce around in your mouth.

And gravy! My Nama (materal grandmother) taught me how to make gravy, using soy sauce, flour, oil (I use olive oil) and seasoning.

To be honest, I do not eat steak too much compared to other types of protein. We did not grow up eating steak in my household. Most often, we had shellfish, ground beef or chicken chicken if we were going for the meats.

So, now, I feel that a good steak is an indulgence that I am entitled to have, but most often only on certain occasions.

Like, after having finished a project and having done it well.

Or a romantic evening.

Or after an extremely hard week at work.

Yeah, things like that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hamburger Craving Conquered

Not sure why, but I'd had a craving for a hamburger. This rarely happens. And when it does, I cannot bring myself to stop at a fast food joint. I have to cook it at home.

I used the standard 85/15 beef that I had been holding onto for I don't recall what. I got these nice wheat ciabatta rolls, which I toasted, and potatoes to go along with the huge salad I made. It was my first time roasting potatoes! They came out wonderfully! Much better than french fries.

It was simple and easy with Havarti dill on the bottom along with a sour cream and spicy sauce mixture. And thank goodness for it! Because I had to spent the night finishing up my final paper, due tomorrow. I got it done just before midnight, well after I'd devoured -- and shared with Topee -- my meal.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Star Anise Meets Oxtails

I haven't cooked oxtails in a long while. As it turns out, it has nearly been one full year since I have made them.

The last time I made them was quite different. I stewed them, which has been my typical way. That way, the oxtails were drenched in a heavy sauce.

This time, I cooked them in chicken broth instead and I used -- for the first time, people -- star anise!

I am not sure I have ever had star anise. I had purchased a container of them from Safeway about two months ago only because the store was having an amazing sale on spices. I'd heard of anise. Seen it before. But had not a clue what it would smell like or taste like. I imagined it might be sweet, probably because based on the little knowledge I had of it I knew it came from a fruit.

I first browned the oxtails, then added the broth and a mass of spices and herbs. I then noticed the star anise in the cabinet. I opted to drop one of them into the pot. Just one. And thank goodness too! About one hour later, the house was full of the strong, deep fragrance of licorice.

Now...I am not a fan of licorice, so I wondered if I might have to donate this dish to a neighbor. I kept with the positive thoughts. And about two hours later I was tasting the dish.

I was surprised. It had the essence of licorice, but it did not taste that way. This was such an unusual experience for me as of late. I cannot recall the last time I tasted something so unfamiliar! I was wildly curious and served myself a bowl immediately! 

Oh, why is this an afterthought? I also tried making Crash Hot Potatoes. I did not make them in the same way that Pioneer Woman recommends, but they came out well. Just didn't really match with the oxtails and rice. Ah well, it was a nice, filling dinner no less.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Scones, Revisited


Remember the last time I tried to make scones, which also was my first time?

Yeah, terrible, terrible experience in the kitchen. A total failure! I had to throw them out!

...how embarrassing.

This time I took extra care. I also tried savory scones with jalapenos, cheddar cheese, green onions, garlic powder and salt.

I am quite pleased, though surprised at how spicy they turned out!

The cheese is not very prominent, which surprised me since I used so much. I am not sure why. Perhaps too many jalapenos. That is the prominent flavor, which is fine by me! I love spicy foods so it's not that big of a deal. Though I will have to figure out the chemistry. It nags me a bit that I cannot quite understand why the sharp cheddar flavor was so subdued.


I did drizzle some honey over a few to test out the savory and sweet. Turned out to be a nice touch. 

In the end, I am pretty satisfied, though I certainly will be trying to perfect this recipe. In the interim, I will not be embarrassed to share these!

Favorite Photos, Favorite Dishes

Cabbage and Bacon and Broth, Oh My!

What do you do with nearly an entire head of cabbage that has been sitting lonely in the fridge, waiting and wanting for attention?

While trying to figure this out, there was something deep within me -- some memory, one that was largely unshaped -- calling to me. It also called for cabbage and bacon.
I am not sure the source of this memory, but it told me that the two would meld wonderfully together. The memory coaxed: "Don't you remember eating this as a child?"

To which I responded: "No, I don't remember at all. But, oooh! That does sound good."

I even consulted my mother, asking her if she'd ever produced a soup with cabbage and bacon.

No, she said.

What about granddad? This seems like something he would do.




Alas, I still do not know from where this memory springs. But I decided to make a soup, first sauteing onions when, upon the cusp of caramelizing, I added the bacon and the potatoes that I did not bother to shave. I was being lazy. *tee hee*

I cooked this in a sampling of butter before adding the sliced cabbage, letting it steam for a few minutes before adding broth. I let this cook for about 15 minutes and served it as is. No accompaniments; no adornments. Near perfection! I had three bowls. Envious Topee -- she wanted to share some with me.

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