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!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Almost-Vegetarian Pot Pie Love

Ah, the pot pie -- warm, savory, full. I grew up eating chicken pot pies. I loved the neatly folded crust, the creamy filling, the chunks of soft chicken.

The way in which one eats a pot pie is just as noteworthy.

Some just dive right in.

Others puncture the round crust, then fork the darker round crust into the center.

Some leave the outer crust for last. I'm that kind of leave-the-outer-crust-for-last type of person. But preparing a pot pie in such a manner requires time and diligence -- both of which came in short supply the evening I chose to make my first pot pie.

The recipe was actually quite simple. Actually, that is misleading. I did not follow a particular recipe. I had read pot pie recipes in the past and was quite familiar with the process, so I just winged it. Start to finish, this took about 1.5 hours.

I began with the buttery rosemary potatoes I blogged about before.

Next, I prepped the filling.

I slowly cooked chopped onions in a tiny bit of olive oil. In a separated pot I added the cream of chicken soup (hence it is an almost-vegetarian pot pie), adding some black pepper, dried parsley and onion powder.

When this was prepared -- just warm -- I tossed in the mixed vegetables, which included peas, carrots, green peas and carrots.

I did not bother steaming them in advance, but I did soak them in water to remove the frost. I found that steaming them was completely unnecessary in the end. Then, I added the rosemary potatoes to the mix.

Next, I moved this mixture to a dutch oven. I had already rolled out the biscuits -- yes, I used biscuits instead of making the dough from scratch -- so that I ended up with a single, flat biscuit. This turned out perfectly. I then placed it over the mixture in the dutch oven, slathered it with some melted butter and popped it in the oven for about 35 minutes.

The result: Decadence. 

I did not use any meat, which turned out to be just fantastic!

...but, OK, so the biscuits were good, but not amazing. I really should have mad the crust from scratch. But for a swift, easy meal, this was good enough. I especially believe that the parsley and rosemary were both excellent additions. The filling had the right amount of vegetables and a good texture. I cannot wait to try this again, perhaps adding mushrooms, paprika and garlic.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tilapia with Neighborly Friends

It had been some time since I had made a fancy meal for another.

I knew I wanted to go with tilapia -- because my dear friend is a fan of this particular fish -- and some sort of vegetable mix along with broccoli.

For some reason, I had a mad craving for broccoli. But, really, it's no surprise. Corn and broccoli are, indeed, two of my favorite vegetables.

I think I had the food presentation in mind before I even began cooking.

I began boiling the corn on the cob and then started on the fish.

In a bowl, I stirred together olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon, dried parsley and paprika.

I then marinated the fish in this beautiful mixture for about 15 minutes.

It occurred to me later that I should have picked up some mango while at the grocery store.

It seems this is the common way to make this sort of vegetable-based side dish. 

...then it occurred to me that mango is no longer in season, so no point in that.

Next, I started in on the broccoli. .

I opted to use a broccoli and cheese rice soup, reducing it all the way down so that I would be able to serve it as a side, not a soup. I also added bunches of additional shavings of broccoli to the mix when it was nearly done cooking. In all, I let this cook according to instruction.

Then, I began on the corn-based mix.

This required sautéing onion and red bell peppers.

When the vegetables were ready, I tossed in the shaved corn and added about one tablespoon for butter.

I let this cook for about eight minutes. I then let it cool, tossing in the fresh cilantro and red onions at the very end and setting this aside for the plating.

I waited until everything else was complete before cooking the tilapia, which I pan fried.

Quite delicious and feeling, and with a lovely presentation! The first plated the broccoli rice, then the vegetables, nestling the tilapia directly in the middle.

I was quite pleased, and Jackson said he felt the same.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Steamy, Buttery Rosemary Potatoes

This kind of fell together. I decided to make a vegetarian pot pit. The weather has been cold -- in the 70s. All you East Coast and Midwest readers, don't laugh.

These potatoes -- actually, I only used one -- were made for a vegetarian pot pie I made. But they turned out so well I figured they deserved their own post.

I used Yukon potatoes cut into cubes. The process was quite easy -- I put them in a pot with a steamer, then sprinkled them with garlic powder, dried rosemary and pepper with a very small sampling of garlic salt. Very tiny amount. Midway through cooking, I slathered a tablespoon of butter on the potatoes.

Goodness, I wish I could channel smells through the Internet. That capability is coming, I am sure.

The potatoes were so wonderfully fragrant! And the flavor was nicely rounded out. I recommend using these for stuffing or even a standard side dish. Or, if you have the midnight munchies, this could make a quick, easy meal.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Introduction to a Spice-Centric Mole

Mole is somewhat ubiquitous in the Southwest.

Seriously, we have no shortage of restaurants claiming the best mole. But take my word -- one of the best spots for mole is serve at La Indita on Fourth Avenue. Hands down.

But to make mole at home? What an arduous task. It takes hours upon hours and tremendous care -- along with dozens of ingredients -- to make a great mole.

But, alas, I work full time and am pursuing that doctorate so time can be skimpy sometimes.

...well that, and I don't like chocolate. *Let the boos commence!*

That tidbit aside, I do enjoy the deep, lush taste of mole. I have twice made it at home -- the first time (years and years ago) burning the paste.

The second time it came out nice, but not memorable, apparently, as I have not made mole at home for something like five years.

But when a dear colleague gifted me a bag of Don Pancho mole straight from Mexico -- *squeals* -- I couldn't wait to try my hand again. And I had never used mole in powder form, so this would be a new venture.

I decided to also prepare rice with achiote, onion, chicken broth and frozen peas and carrots. I am not certain why, but I have been on this peas and carrots kick for a good week or so. I highly recommend the El Mexicano achiote if you can get your hands on it. I like most of El Mexicano's products anyway, so no surprise there.

So, I began with the rice.

I used jasmine rice in the rice cooker. In went the chicken broth, garlic, cleaned rice, vegetables and a few dabs of poblano hot sauce. I suspended the achiote paste in a little bit of water. I suppose I could have just put it in the cooker.

Ah well.

And I wish I had used LOTS more of it. I used a smidgen (word used when I do not know exactly how much I used, but know for certain it was a tiny bit). I think a full tablespoon would have been much better! And I should have added a tiny bit of some sort of salt.

As for the chicken -- I went for tights. I thought about using chicken breasts but wanted a cut that had a bit more juicy flavor, plus I didn't have time to marinade the chicken, though I did sit them in olive oil with lime shortly before cooking.

I first browned the thighs in the skillet on very high heat, adding some Lawry's Seasoning Salt. The use of Lawry's is especially important here, as no other seasoning salt will serve as a better substitute.

Then, I tossed in the onions, which I had nearly minced. I then added chicken broth to the mix. I ended up having to add a little bit of water because the broth had begun to thicken, which is not what I was going for at all. I wanted the chicken to simmer for an extended period of time -- in this case, about 45 minutes. This worked out quite well, though, and did not reduce the delicious flavoring I had built before.

I used a saucepan for the mole. The instructions are in Spanish, which was a wonderful treat as I am not fluent in Spanish. Granted, I have picked up some Spanish over the years -- but not enough to read a full set of recipe instructions! I tried typing everything in BabelFish, but that just proved to be an annoyance.

So I winged it.

To the dry and clean saucepan, I added seven or eight tablespoons of the mole. I let this cook slightly, waiting for it to melt down. But it never did. Hum, I thought. I figured that while the mole had chocolate in it, chocolate was not the overwhelming ingredient.

Suits me well!

First thing I noticed, this mole had a different smell than the moles I have had in the past. It smelled faintly of chocolate, but was was more overwhelming was the scent of pepper, or chile. Nice! I added some water and stirred it like mad! I was afraid of it burning, so I stuck to the stove. When it had a nice consistency and was fully fragrant, I set to plating the chicken, pouring a bit of mole over the top.

The mole turned out to lean more toward the flavor of chile and less toward chocolate, though the flavor of chocolate certainly was there. I dressed the chicken with some sesame seeds (could have added more), the rice, avocado, and lettuce and cabbage. Good stuff!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Product Review: Don Pancho Mole

It seems the world is in turmoil, and life is difficult at times, and yet I still find that there is something so beautiful, so pure and endearing in sharing a meal with others.

Also, cooking for oneself remain a critical practice, especially when you have access to *good* food -- nutritious, nurturing and preferably local food.

Cooking at home using basic ingredients and fresh items, I believe, has a great potential to breed discipline and a deep desire to be more selective about the food products you consume.

At least this is true for me.

And so, those are reasons enough to remain devoted to cooking wholesome home prepared dishes.

I miss regularly cooking, and I miss this blog. And, thus, it is with this post that I intend to return to you.

A dear colleague of mine brought back a bag of powdered mole, gifting it to me because she was well aware of my love for cooking.

Don Pancho's mole atocpan is full and densely flavored. But it does not carry the strong chocolate essence I am accustomed to smelling and tasting when I have had mole. Instead, it carries the sharp tinge of spices.

This mole appears to be quite divergent from the mole I am accustomed to having in the southwest -- there is a divergent range of mole sauces and pastes, I have come to realize. This was my first time preparing mole from either a powder or paste.

The produce has an earthy smell and taste to it. Indeed, it looks like beautifully produced soft soil. To the taste, you can capture hints of chocolate, but the chile is overpowering -- especially the ancho.

I do like the product but might add a little bit of oil to the product when producing the sauce. Merely using broth was not efficient to develop the appropriate consistency or flavor.

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