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!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sweet Peppers Stuffed with Lox and Cream Cheese

So the cured salmon I made and thought turned out to be a colossal failure has turned out to be quite lovely.

I found that after having sat in the refrigerator for 24 hours, the salmon had a more subtle and less salty flavor. Hum... so curious, that is.

I wanted to try and hold on to some of it longer than its shelf life, which is about five days, I believe. So I mixed an ample portion into a bit of soft cream cheese.

I found that the lox cream cheese is actually very tasty stuffed into roasted sweet peppers. The roast brings out the sweetness of the peppers, which melds well with the slightly salty flavor of the lox cream cheese. Drizzled with a little bit of mole colorado that I landed while attending the Tucson Food Swap just recently, this made for a perfectly flavored meal.

Also, I experimented with a dab of I did of pesto on a couple of peppers. Nope. Overkill. Wasn't even remotely necessary.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Meat and Veggie-Filled Hotdish

I had never heard of hotdish or hot dish or hottish -- I am still not sure the correct spelling or punctuation -- until a co-worker mentioned it at a staff retreat.

She is from the midwest, and has fond memories of the dish.

To me, is like a shepherd's pie without the mashed potatoes but tater tots instead.


Actually, this is now reminding me of that wonderful shepherd's pie I made a while back. That was pretty nice, but not something I choose to eat at the moment.

In fact, I didn't eat this hotdish either.

Anyway, what I gather is that the hotdish is a type of baked casserole. It's nothing like the type of casserole I grew up eating, which tended to have chicken and something like carrots and a creamed soup or pasta with ground beef -- think Hamburger Helper

Actually, we did enjoy our Hamburger Helper growing up. I can't quite recall the ones we tended to eat, but I vaguely remember a cheesy macaroni and a pasta beef of some sort.

But something changed as an adult. I lost interest in a huge way.

But something snapped once last year while walking down the aisle with Hamburger Helper box. I saw one with tuna on the cover. Tuna? Have you ever had a tuna casserole? At that point I never had, and had never heard of such a thing. I decided to check out the box and it's nutritional information. I immediate thought: "I can rock this without the insane amounts of salt." Without the box, I made it at home and nearly fell over in my chair with the first taste!

But here I am, making hotdish...or trying. As with everything that I have no experience in or knowledge of, I set out to the Internet.

A Google search yielded disparate results, and rightfully so. One think I understand about casserole dishes is that they can be just as varied as our various nationwide regions. 

I opted to go for a ground beef casserole with cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups and a ton of vegetables. OK, that is an exaggeration. I went with corn, peas, carrots and green beans.

I then topped off this heaping mass with tater tots. I was told that there is no hotdish without the tater tots. Goodness, I cannot even remember the last time I'd purchased tater tots.

I understand that it is customary to also add shredded cheese. I went with cheddar cheese.

At work the next day, the dish was a hit. I made a pan at 9-by-13 and by the day's end there was only 1.5 servings left.

What a compliment!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Squash and Zucchini Salad

I wanted something light, but flavorful.

Browsing the fridge, I came upon the zucchini and squash I had purchased a couple days earlier and a small cut of leftover cabbage.

The noddling began.

I began with the onions, sauteeing them in a little bit of olive oil.

 I added some garlic, the added the rest of the the vegetables and a bit of chicken broth.

I even tossed in some of those delicious meaty mushrooms that I have come to love so much. I also added a tomato for good measure. Besides, it was going bad so I had to use it.

When the lot was cooked through, I added a dollop of sour cream and a little bit of cheddar cheese along with a few snips of cilantro.

You know what, it tasted like calabacitas -- kind of. A light and easy version of calabacita. One day soon I will have to make the real thing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This is Bliss: A Tomato-Mango Salad

Sauc-ay! That's the best way to describe this salad.

I'll call it The To-Mo (like "tow-mow").

And so simple.

You cut up some mango. Then some tomato. Along with some red onions. And a few basil leaves. Toss this together and there you have it -- a sensual, saucy tomato mango salad.

This would be fantastic for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a midnight snack. It also would do great for a office food share or for a potluck in the heat of summer.

I prepped this for a visit with a dear friend of mine.

No sugar or salt necessary.

Yep -- this salad does not need to be dressed at all, just eaten in a hurry because, trust me, you are not going to want to share your bowl with anyone else!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Salmon -- Five Days Later, It's Cured!

Home-cured salmon? Who would have thought it would be this easy.

But, not going to lie folks, I was distraught when I opened the package containing the fish.

The Cling Wrap was easier to remove than it was to put on, as detailed in a post last week, and as each layer slid away from the block of fish, I became all the more thrilled to see what was inside.

I imagined gorgeous flat slabs of salmon, glistening with droplets of lovely oil sitting atop the soft flesh.

Alas, I've read too many cooking magazines.

So I nearly screeched when, to my horror, I washed away the cure and found the two ugliest pieces of salmon seen in human history.

In. Human. History.

I thought I would have to write this off in the same way that I did the sad scones. Remember the sad scones?

So what did I observe?

Well, the salmon filets were curled at the ends and slightly speckled.

They looks as though the had not endured a cure, but a chemical bath instead. And they were tough to the touch. Not like leather, but not like the plushness I had expected.

I sat them on a plate and pondered: Should I try and smoke this? Bake? BBQ? Toss into a salad?

I put the salmon, uncovered, into the fridge and walked away.

Returning a bit more than one hour later, not much had change. *shaking fists to the air* But I decided to take a taste anyway.

So, yes -- salty. I cured the salmon a day or two too long. But the flavor is actually quite nice! I ate a few slices with slices of onion and found that the balance was perfect. So I won't be eating the lox with capers as expected. It holds the same saltiness that would be expected if a couple of capers had been added anyway. And, interestingly, it looks on the inside exactly how I expected it to.

Now comes the fun part! How to eat and share the lot within four or five days.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Low Carb Brocolli Slaw Stir-Fry

When some of your favorite foods are Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, the lifestyle shift to fewer carbs can not only be challenging, but downright aggravating.

While I no longer have the intense carb cravings that marked the first three or so weeks of the shift, I still think fondly of sushi rice, pearl rice, vermicelli, rice paper, 

Gone are the days of nigiri -- those lovely beds of rice blanketed with fresh, raw cuts of fish. Or dim sum. Oh, dim sum -- beautiful, assorted, bite-sized rice noddle rolls and rice flour wrappings full of delicious beef, pork and shrimp. Or jasmine and basmati rice, slathered with luscious curries. And what about injeri topped with spinach and cottage cheese, or doro wat with a boiled egg? 

I think I'll turn myself into a corner now.

No, but really. I am proud of this lifestyle change. It comes with tremendous discipline and high amounts of preparation around meals. Thus, when I craved stir-fry, I had to make it without the noodles or rice.

I found that bean sprouts proved to be a great substitute for the starch/carbs. And, really, I  didn't miss the carbs at all. The trick is in making sure there is a solid flavor foundation. I started with a ginger sautee with the shrimp. I also cooked an egg omelet in a little bit of butter. Mixing all the vegetables together with the protein, I included sesame oil and ponzu and sat blissfully with my bowl of yummy goodness.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Topee: My Kitchen Companion

Interesting. I believe Topee has a very highly selective palate.

Say I'm preparing a nice, round salad full of greens, tomatoes, feta or goat cheese and shavings of brocolli and carrots. She sits silently on the sofa, staring lazily in my direction from time to time through her half-open eyes.

But if I'm roasting chicken, or baking a filet of salmon or handling a sautee of garlic and onions -- there she is. Right underfoot. Sitting in the middle of the kitchen. Staring up at me with the same wide-eyed wanting affection as Puss in Boots.

"Good" food addicted opportunist!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cheese-Filled Sweet Roasted Peppers

Sweet stuffed peppers so striking that even the camera stammered? Appears to be so.

I took something like 60 images of these stuffed peppers in progress and, for some reasons, the photos came out less than adequate.

I blame it on the utter gorgeousness that exuded from these once crunchy now delicate and still sweet peppers.

Ah, good times in the kitchen.

It took about 1.5 hours to prepare these peppers. I massaged them with olive oil and roasted them in the oven for about 45 minutes. I thought they might take much longer to cook, considering their small size. But consider this a chemistry lesson. Remember the Little Engine that Could, or the question: If you drop a five pound bag of metal and a five pound bag of feathers, which would land first? This kitchen experiment totally reminded me of those two things.

After roasting, I gently cut open the peppers, then stuffed each with cuts of mozzarella or Havarti cheese.

Back into the oven for about 15 minutes. Then, they were ready for eating. Eating. Ha! What a funny word. It took me a while before I actually began eating.

I was mesmerized by these beautiful tiny peppers. I pulled them within inches of my eyes and studied their gleaming textures. The soft, wrinkled skin gently enclosed lovely pillows of melted cheese. The skin of each pepper, slightly charred, had such gorgeous texture.

And the smell! I wish I could digitally transmit the smell of these wondrous cheese pockets! The scent was all together alluring. I cannot pinpoint an actual smell that serves to describe the scent. I can only offer an emotion: The exuberant feeling of fists-pumping-to-the-sky success.

Yep. That description is as close as it gets to the real thing. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Product Review: Klinker Brick's Old Vine Zinfandel

Klinker Brick is the reason -- the very reason -- why I drink wine today.

I had the good fortune to meet Steve, the winemaker, during a trip to Lodi, California a couple of years back. I had grown very fond of zinfandels, finding that the deep, smoky oak flavor spoke to me on a level that I could not understand.

I had found the Old Vine Zinfandel on a fluke -- visiting RumRunner in search of a gift for a then-friend. I didn't drink wine at the time. Not even casually. The fellow who helped me was sweet. I told him that I needed a deep red at no more than $30, believing that a $30 bottle of wine fell to the "cheap" end for a gift. It was what I could do at the time.

But he pointed me to this lovely bottle, which was going at under $20. I thought he was trying to throw me under the bus. Less than $20 for a gift? The scandal!

However, I knew nothing about wines. So amateur was my understanding that I wasn't even aware that there was a highly vibrant wine region in the central and northern regions of California.


That was about five years ago.  I had no interest in trying the wine that night, but with urging, took a sip. Then, I was catapulted into a new dimension. No, seriously. It's true.

My whole perspective changed. I remember standing in her kitchen, staring at the floor after my first sip. I can't recall my thoughts, but I remember what I felt: It was as if my whole being had opened up. And why not. This was a brand new, uncharted world for me. At the time, I viewed wine as elitist. I could not comprehend even the culture surrounding wine, or the customs the followed.

I realized in that moment that wine was something more. It was about deep emotional connections, about sharing, about being in your senses and with yourself. About going slow and being attentive to color, flavor, taste, smell, feeling.

Until that point, I had not quite felt that way about anything I had consumed. I may have enjoyed food. I may have enjoyed drink. But it did not consume my wholeness in such a way is that small taste of Old Vine Zinfandel did. To this day, I love the nose, which is full and deep. The balance of the wine is just amazing, matched only by Klinker Brick's Old Ghost, which is absolutely amazing. Amazing!

So, when I met Steve, I felt humbled. I was meeting a skilled mastermind. A man of allure. A man of great tenacity and skill. I had many questions and listened and listened to him talk. I was surprised to find that he was such a graceful and gracious man, much like his wine. To this day, I still have his number on speed dial.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lox Attempt No. 1

Curse you Cling Wrap!

Nothing like opening a fresh box of Cling Wrap, grabbing the lip of the roll and standing there in surprise as it unexpectedly rolls across the kitchen floor, bunching itself into a monkey's fist.


After I successfully got a nearly flat spread of Cling Wrap laid out, I topped it with my cleaned pieces of salmon and proceeded to begin the curing process.

I felt I were doing a naughty deed -- drenching soft, succulent cuts of salmon in a mixture of kosher salt and brown sugar.

My first attempt at making lox at home.

Weighing in at about 1.5 pounds, the cost of the salmon was about $10.

Nice, modest price!

In town, you can order a lox lunch for nearly that exact price. But the lox typically comes with a boring bagel, a few shavings of a red onion, a small sampling of capers and three slices of tomatoes. Oh, and don't be mistaken. It's not like you get an ample mound of lox. Only about three slices.

Yep. For $8? Not today.

I felt I could do better. Tightly wrapped in Cling Wrap, pressed down with a couple cans of beans and one can of soup, and strapped down with one of my belts, I can't wait to see how this turns out in four to five days.

Tune in later this week, and wish me luck! I hope my belt doesn't disintegrate during that time.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Strawberry Mango Smoothie

Goodness, Jamba Juice has its smoothie-making process down!

It took me about a half hour to make myself a smoothie. Granted, there was a lot of cutting, peeling and measuring to do. And, yes, this also was my first time ever making a smoothie at home. Despite the extended time, it was well worth it.

I actually had my first Jamba Juice smoothie only about two weeks ago. My mother raves about this place. Their smoothies are fresh, filling and relatively inexpensive.

But I have not cared much for smoothies until now. I just had not seen the attraction. I always thought of smoothies as these chunky protein laden masses of flavorless gunk.

Jamba Juice proved me wrong.

On my first visit, I went for the Mega Mango. Isn't that an awesome name. Reminds me of the lottery -- but lottery winnings for the mouth.

It's a blend of mangoes, strawberries, pineapple, orange juice and something that Jamba Juice calls a juice blend. Very nice, very delicious.

But I later found out that these things are packed with carbs and sugar. Packed! Boo!

But on the bright side, they also contain a hefty amount of fiber and also Vitamins A and C.

But, really, given the carb count and sugar content, I will not be going regularly.

I opted to try these at home.

Now, I am all about the nutrition and low carbs, as I have previously discussed.

I already knew that the mere fact I was incorporating mangoes meant trouble. On the carb scale, this light, luscious fruit weighs in very heavy.

But given that I was making this for lunch, dinner and an evening snack, I let myself skimp a little.

The recipe was simple: Two mangoes, about a half cup of strawberries, about a half cup of low-fat, plain yogurt and a little bit of orange juice (I eyeballed it). I did not add any salt or sugar, but I did put in a small bit of vanilla extract.

I put all of this in the blender, then topped it off with ice. 

And what a deal! My blender actually has a "smoothie" setting.

I let this blend for about 20 seconds or so. Turned out I had to add a bit more ice and strawberries for flavor. 

I also added a fiber boost in the amount of about 1.5 tablespoons. 

The yield was insane! This produced about 24 ounces of ice cold, fruit-filled smoothie. I had an 8 ounce cup for breakfast, and another 8 ounce cup for lunch. I have a bit left over for the evening and maybe even some for breakfast tomorrow!

I like the flavor. Thank goodness for the yogurt and orange juice, which contributed to the thickness and flavor of the smoothie.

The vanilla extract also seemed a smart addition. It simply added another layer of flavor and a gentle sweetness to the lot.

In all, I'm a fan. Interestingly, the strawberry flavor did overpower the mango even before I added the extras. I went ahead and added about five more to help round out the flavor, which it did, creating a better balance. And while I wish the smoothie had been a bit more thick, it didn't matter. It became strangely thicker the longer it sat.

I can't way to play and experiment with other fruits and also vegetables.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Product Review: Emperor's Kitchen Organic Whole Shiitake Mushrooms

Wow. These mushrooms were pretty amazing. If you can get your hands on a bag of Emperor's Kitchen Organic Whole Shiitake Mushrooms I highly recommend them.

I found these at our local co-op. I have no memory of ever using dried mushrooms. In fact, I couldn't see the point.

But I couldn't pass these up.

I mean, goodness! Look at that lovely label. So alluring. So inviting. Bold red and orange hues. That's what got me from the start. Turning my head and taking one step back in the aisle, I noticed "USDA Organic" in bold on the front. Turning my body toward the bag, I was struck by the size and complete roundness of these gorgeous mushrooms.

There was no time for courtship. I slipped the bag into my handbasket, and we were off to explore the world of culinary delight together!

Thus far, I have used them in that fake boeuf bourguignon and the pasta-less pasta. I also tried them raw (*Note to self, and others: Never, ever do that. Ever).

The mushrooms give off such a wonderful, deep smell. Now, we've been told that mushrooms should never smell. It wasn't that kind of smell. It just smelled like, well, shiitake mushrooms. Deep, heavy and full of earth.

And when cooked, these are crazy-insane meaty. These plump heavies taste almost like a cut of beef. Seriously. I could have had an entire bowl of these mushrooms all alone, teeming in a pool of sultry broth.

Actually...I might just do that.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Boeuf Bourguignon, or Beef Soup?

You can always tell when an animal was treated with care.

Not only was this cut marked organic and grass-fed, but the meat was also soft and had a beautiful earthy fragrance and a non-incandescent hue.

I was set to prepare an easy beef bourguignon (I adore Julia Child, and miss her humor and wit -- thank goodness for archived footage!).

Actually, let's call this fake beef bourguignon, shall we? The only thing this dish has in common with beef bourguignon are a few comparable ingredients. 

Ah well. Some day I will prioritize the full, what, two or so hours required to make that wonderful signature dish. And what luck! Winter is coming.

For the fake version,  I used an assortment of vegetables -- bell pepper, mushrooms, onion and carrots -- along with basil and a little bit of oregano. I also used garlic and broth.

Really, there was nothing to this recipe.

I pan seared the cuts of beef, then slow cooked them in the broth for about one hour, adding the ingredients in order -- carrots and garlic first, then a bit later, the onion and bell peppers along with the herbs and lastly the mushrooms.

In the end, the beef was tender and succulent and the vegetables were wonderfully cooked. It tasted close to a stew. Yes, a bit too hot for the summer months. But it was wonderful preparing this meal, and turned out to be such a treat. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Product Review: Shamrock's Cottage Cheese

What an imagination.

I remember that, as a child, I seriously though cottage cheese was the fungal festering grounds for mushrooms. Yep. I thought that the mushrooms of the world could not grow lest the "mushroom seeds" were nestled in a teeming vat of this bumpy cheese.

Where on earth did I get that idea?!

As an adult, I know better -- and I've even come to love cottage cheese with the Arizona original Shamrock Farms being one of my favorites. My others are the Trader Joe's brand and Knudsen Family. I should do a taste test one day!

Anyway, I love the consistency and flavor of Sharmrock Farms' cottage cheese. It's not too-too creamy and it's not overly heavy, though it can be a filling snack. In fact, don't be surprised if you find me standing in the kitchen at midnight, spoon in hand, reaching for the container.

Shamrock's curd is somewhat large and the flavor is just slightly sweet with the hint of an enjoyable tinge -- another reason why I love it. I tend to eat my cottage cheese straight up. OK -- it's not like it evokes flavors like butter or honey, but it is pretty good.

...hum...now I am wondering what it would taste like with butter or honey.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Haddock and Stir-Fry Bean Sprouts

 Oooh, a culinary mashup!

Haddock and bean sprouts seem to have nothing in common. That was my thought. But do keep reading.

What would do you do when you get a couple of nice haddock fillets from the local market (Shout out to 17th Street Market -- I love you!) and have a mean craving for some sort of bean sprout salad?

You mix it up and call it a night!

That's what I did. The haddock was simple: Salt, lemon juice and a little bit of Old Bay seasoning cooked in butter.


I find that I absolutely love haddock, which is quite new to me.

It was only a couple of years ago that I had it for the first time. That was while visiting Maine. I recall at the time thinking that it tasted a bit like cod, but so much better.

Cod is fantastic, but being that I am from southern California, I had only tasted it battered and deep fried. Haddock, on the other hand, seems much more versatile and flavorful than the cod I am accustomed to having.
I cooked the haddock in a skillet, being very gentle with the fish, as it is delicate and sensitive; prone to falling to pieces if handled too roughly.

For the bean sprouts, I began with a fresh shaving of ginger.

 I also added three large garlic cloves. I cut up a green bell pepper for the mix and also some green onions.

I started with the sautee of ginger, adding the bell pepper when the ginger was beginning to think about browning.

Then I added the garlic.

As the garlic began to brown and the ginger was a nice caramel-colored tint, I added the bean sprouts. The last addition was the green onions.

I served the haddock over the bean sprouts along with a few pieces of cilantro. What a meal! It looks so simple, but it had quite a bit going on by way of flavor.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Doughless Pepperroni Pizza

It has been one month -- only one month -- since I have decisively become more aware of my consumption of carbs. In that time, I have worked to incorporate more protein into my diet, along with more fruits and vegetables

It's going very well.

But I was craving pizza. How can you make a pizza without dough?

Turns out that not only is it possible to make a no dough or "crustless" pizza, but you can do so in a way that it is so, so good!

I had heard you could use cauliflower as a "crust." So I set out to the Internet to do a little bit of "research." This is a tried and true method. You can find plenty of recipes online. I was most drawn to "Cauliflower Crust Hawaiian Pizza," largely because of the awesome photos and large fan following.

I did go with some slight alterations.

After preparing the cauliflower, I added it in a bowl of Parmesan cheese, oregano, basil and one egg.

I added the cauliflower in a 9-inch glass dish that had been prepped with butter. With the cauliflower mix in place, I brushed about one teaspoon of olive oil on top. I baked this on 415 for about 15 minutes.

Then, I topped this with pizza cheese, then added a round of pepperoni.

Into the oven for about 15 minutes, and there you have it: A nice, personal pizza for two meals. All told, this took less than 40 minutes to prepare. Now, the cauliflower didn't brown enough, so I might have left it in the oven by itself for more than 20 minutes.

I'll have to play with this recipe a bit. But, in all, brilliant and yum-may!

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