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!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Zucchini

First of all, how do you spell zucchini?

It has to fall in the list of the most-annoying-to-spell words -- like committed, definitely,
gauge, grateful, lightning, maneuver and misspell.


OK -- back to the cooking.

So, yea to something I have actually used in cooking before but have not actually mastered!

I cannot recall the last time I cooked with zucchini. I love the look of it all chopped up. Reminds me of guacamole (another fun word to spell).

Look at that! Look at how gorgeous this vegetable is! So lovely, green and full of character.

Anyway, I had quite a few ideas for the zucchini and settled on stuffed bell peppers.

The idea came to me as I stood in the middle of the grocery store. Seriously. It helped that the grocery store did have these big, bold peppers sitting and glistening in a container right at the entrance of the produce section.

Ah, the best kind of marketing.

I then got it into my head that I wanted lamb. And corn. And scallions.

Why not? A zucchini smorgasbord (ah -- I had to look that one up for spelling). That's what we'll call this.

It literally is stuffed seam to bursting seam with all sorts of gorgeous goodness.

I mean, look at that yummy goodness!

One problem: The zucchini got completely lost in this recipe. You can't even see it in the photos here. So, yes, it looks like I began the challenge item and quit mid-sentence.

But I can assure you. The zucchini is in there.

I began with the bell peppers. I chopped off the tops, massaged them with olive oil and put them in a roasting pan for the oven at about 375 for about 20 minutes.

Then I set in on the zucchini, chopping them up along with the tops of the red bell peppers. Couldn't let those tops go to waste. The garbage can is always hungry but I try not to feed it often.

I then set out on the filling. I tend to go with the staple flavor builder -- garlic and onion. Fresh for both. Once those were nice, soft and lightly browned, I tossed in the mushrooms and swirled that around for a few minutes.

Next, I began cooking the lamb. I forgot to mentioned that I had massaged the lamb mince with some brown sugar, cumin and pepper. I let that sit for about 20 minutes, then set it in a skillet over a high heat. I forgot how much I cannot stand cooking lamb. The fat yield is insanely impressive, and not in a positive way. Skim the fat juices.

Then I tossed in the flavor base and let this cook until it was ready. Toward the end, I added the corn and some scallions, stuffed this into the peppers and baked, again at 375, for about 15 minutes.

I think my favorite thing about this recipe is that it turned out to be quite simple, and yet so-so flavorful. So. Full. Of. Flavor. Want to impress someone for dinner? It's a definite try.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lentils Cooked with Berbere

I have a new love addiction: red lentils.

Lawd! Doesn't matter how many times I have these -- back to back to back -- I love them.

As of late, I have enjoyed cooking them in berbere with chicken stock.

Start with your onions. Chop them up into those nice, little squares and saute until they are glistening nicely and just beginning to turn a little brown. That's when you want to drop in your fresh garlic along with the berbere. When that is nice and and fragrant, add the broth.

Some say soak lentils; some say don't bother. I tend to soak mine for about a half hour.

I then add the lentils to the broth until it cooks down. You can add some cherry tomatoes or tomato paste if you want that rich tomato flavor. I've tried this multiple ways and it always comes out fantastic!

Just cook until the lentils are soft -- but not mushy. I think I stirred mine too much here. That's why it looks like more of a mash. I'm trying to perfect the skill of being able to cook lentils and still have them turn out whole.

That would be a success! Until then, excuse me while I enjoy this bowl!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sharing the Midnight Munchies

Sometimes the best laid meals are not planned in advance.

Don't require a trip to the grocery store.

Don't require a huge deduction from your checking account.

But they just require a little attention to details, care in assembly and a dear, dear friend seated (or, in this case, standing) by your side and enjoying the lot with you whilst both tell goofy and deep stories about life and love.

Those are the best laid meals.

Friday, January 25, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Girl Scout Cookies

Girl Scout cookies?

Girl Scout cookies.

Yup. You read it right.

What are you supposed to do with Girl Scout cookies?

Well...that's the point of the challenge, right? 

I tried to think up a recipe that would turn Girl Scout cookies from sweet to savory. I thought about stuffing them in chicken and pork with cheeses and vegetables. I thought about browning them in a skillet and serving them atop grilled mushrooms. I thought about using them like one would use Panko, the lovely Japanese breadcrumbs.

I even played with the idea of going sweet. I though about making peanut butter ball pops sprinkled with a dusting of smashed cookies. With little bows on the sticks. Awww...

But then it hit me: I don't like Girl Scout cookies.

Folks, I don't like sweets of any kind most of the time. No, the vast majority of time. And one taste of these Trefoil cookies and it was even more readily confirmed.

And so, as an afterthought, I made these ricotta-topped crostinis with honey and Girl Scout cookies. Interestingly, the Trefoil cookies have such a lovely, warm, buttery smell! I was so impressed with the scent. But they were too-too sweet. And so it didn't help having crostinis with honey included. I also added crystallized ginger to one to experiment further. Yeah, no -- still not a fan.

Ah well. I can add this to the Oops category. Onward and upward!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cranberries with Roasted Chicken

Never knew I loved cranberries until Thanksgiving came around.

Seriously -- who eats cranberries? ...funny-looking little fruit.

But look at me now! Huge fan of these sweet/tart little ruby bits of heaven.

And you know me. I have to take something generally presented as a sweet and turn it into a savory dish. Here I present roasted chicken with cranberries served with a side of bean sprouts stir fried with mushrooms, green onion and garlic. 

For the cranberries, I boiled them in brown sugar until the little ones began to burst at the seams. Some of them turned to mush quite quickly, but this was no bother. It gave me a sort of cranberry sauce. I wish I'd added something like cumin or a bit of cayenne to the cranberries to give them a hint of something new.

It's not your holiday leftovers, but it's not bad either!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Funny-Looking Doughless Quiche

I love my rice, bread, noodles and heavy cheeses, but I sometimes find that I am in no mood for heavy carbs.

I have made a doughless quiche before. The dish is so simple to make. Pick out your ingredients. Mix them. Bake them. Enjoy. 

This post is mostly about the technique and presentation.

I recall seeing the bundt pan sitting toward the back of the cabinet, all by itself. I rarely use it. So I opted to use it to make this quiche.

In a bowl, I added six eggs along with sauteed onions and mushrooms and cooked bacon. I also added salt, pepper and fresh parsley. I then buttered the pan liberally and added the mix, cooking it on a head of about 350 until it was set.

Not bad -- but I did overcook it a little too long having not considered the heat conducting power of the pan. I cooked it for about 35 minutes -- could have gone with five minutes less, or more. It is funny looking -- yes -- but tasty.

Friday, January 18, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Split Peas

Week number two in the challenge and the chosen topic: split peas.

I have never cooked or eaten split peas before. I'm not a huge fan of much anything in the legume family. Never been.

Also, it's quite difficult to make any food item that comes in the color of green or brown look appetizing. 

But that's the point of this group -- to challenge ourselves to think more broadly and deeply about our culinary feats. To, actually, turn our everyday cooking habits into feats. To take the time to think, to question, to inquire, to explore and experiment in the kitchen.

So, yes, back to the split peas.

As soon as the item came over, I knew one thing for sure: There is no way -- not a way -- that I am making a split pea soup. That's what everyone, like, everyone, does with split peas, right?


I had to do a little reading. I learned that split peas are quite literally that -- peas that have been split. They also are closely related to lentils (love them!) and beans (hate them!).

So, what to do?

I thought about making a dip and serving the split peas with crackers or pita chips. But the thought of it all just sounded strange to me. I was still learning about split peas, and I imagined they would carry the consistency of hummus (also not a fan). 

What about making a bread or cake, I thought. Then again, I knew nothing about the flavor of split peas. I wasn't sure if they would taste earthy, sweet, shallow, tart -- nothing to go on.

Then I had it -- a tortilla! I would make split pea tortillas!

First thing was to soak the split peas. I read that you can soak lentils and rice when making a bread-like food, so I began working with this concept in mind. Before work, I let the split peas soak with jasmine rice in a huge bowl of water.

When I came home I found that the rice was so, so soft, but the split peas were still muscle bound!

Ah well.

I set out the ingredients:

Pretty basic, I know.

Meanwhile, I prepped the chicken. I figured that if the split peas had to be fed to the trash can, I would still have at least one edible thing in the house.

While the chicken thighs were roasting in the oven, I sauteed up some onions and got a few cloves of garlic prepped.

Then, I set to work on the split pea mixture.

After removing the water and rinsing the peas and rice through, I put them in a blender along with the onions, coconut milk, some spinach I had wilted, mustard, ginger, a little bit of cumin, onion powder, a few pinches of salt and cayenne.

I did reserve a little bit of the rice and split peas and simply boiled the mix, just in case things didn't quite work out with the original plan.

I then proceeded to haphazardly blend this glop. I did add a tad bit of vinegar because I added way too much cayenne. Ooh! My mouth was on fire.

And there it was -- a green batter.

I took out a skillet, added some olive oil and poured in the mixture. I realized this much later -- the batter was too-too thick, so I ended up not with tortillas, but like a split pea pancake! 

Yup. You heard it here first, folks!

...wait, wait...

Actually, no -- I just Googled that and many-o-folks have actually made split pea pancakes.

But this was fascinating to me. I did consider adding flour, but it didn't seem right to do so. And it turned out to be a good omission because the batter did fluff up. I think it must have something to do with the rice, and not the split peas; maybe it's the glucose in the rice? *shrugs shoulders* If you know, message me below. 

In the end, the flavor was quite nice. I think it needed a bit more coconut milk and maybe a bit more onion to round out the flavor and thin the base out a bit.

I got to share the meal with a friend, who simply enjoyed the pancake (yep, that's what we'll call it as no better name came to mind). Interestingly, I found that I was less fond of the pancakes, though, and more fond of the rice and split pea side that I had simply boiled with a little bit of onion powder and salt. Interestingly, I am still trying to find the words to explain the taste of split peas. They are mildly nutty, I suppose, with a very slight sweetness. I think they could actually work quite well in a bread or a cake. Idea for next time, eh?

The plated result:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Mint Leaves

Remember the Challenge Item group that kept me busy for, like, all of 2010? Well, we've got another one started! With the start of this week, I along with my group members committed to a year-long food challenge item.

And the first choice: mint leaves.

I have been waiting so long for this very moment: that a group of female foodies (yep, a group full of ladies) would come together, bound by the love of kitchen cookery and cooking. I have wanted to feel challenged and to feel drawn to the kitchen in a warm and slightly competitive way.

*Side note: I cannot wait to see what this group will bring! It's such a diverse group of interests and palates that I am sure to learn, grow, develop and struggle through this process. Those are all the things I have wanted and needed in my connection with the kitchen.

So, back to those mint leaves.

I wasn't sure what to do. Mint leaves in the winter?! *Full disclosure: this was my challenge item. Tee hee.

I thought about making a chutney. Actually, I really wanted to make a chutney. Then I thought about a mango salsa. Then a syrup with a hint of mint. Then back to the idea about salsa.

And that is where I took it:

I began with the food processor. I removed the mint leaves from their stems and did the same with cilantro. For this, I used two small bunches of mint and a nice tear of the bunch of cilantro. I then added about five garlic cloves and five full scallions -- even the white parts.

Quick go in the food processor along with a tiny bit of water and some olive oil.

I then cooked the shrimp and prepped some roasted tomatoes with garlic. Into the tortilla it went, and there you have it.

The mint concoction was very strong. I mean, very. You see that picture up above? That was WAY too much of it! I had to halve it. But that's good! That means it will be around for some time.

What was it like? Well, very minty, but not so minty that you felt like you were biting into a York Peppermint Patty while standing on a mountain top.

No, no, no. Nothing like that.

The taste was sharp and swift. There was so much flavor and, yet, it did not linger. It paired so well with the shrimp and the tomatoes, which was unexpected and amazing. Will I make this again? Certainly, but during the warmer months.

Return for more! This is a weekly challenge on rotation, so this should be an entertaining year! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bacon and Cheese Pinwheels

Oh, bacon.

I never would have considered myself a huge fan of bacon. I am not especially drawn to eating pork, no matter the cut. But bacon.

Did you know that if you fry a few strips of bacon, let them sit in paper towels until the towels have soaked up the fat then add crushed up bits of bacon to puff pastry (along with sharp cheese, carmelized onions and a little garlic salt) you get an amazing and filling appetizer?

This is a quick, easy crowd pleaser. Need I say more? My family was thrilled!

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