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Inspiration: If you need some, open your eyes!

21 Jul

Last night I was at the grocery store after a pretty long day. I was tired, hungry, tired and hungry (uh, wait….okay I already said that….that’s how tired and hungry I was).

I needed to buy something for dinner last night as well as something for dinner tonight, as I’m having a couple of friends over and one is a vegetarian.  I headed over to the cold case where I knew they kept the tofu (just wait to see what I’m making with it! I’ll post the full method tomorrow, after I’ve made it).  As I walked over there, I saw a little “turn style” (not sure what it’s really called), on top of this podium thingy (real specific, Siir’, thanks!)…..

I thought to myself, I wonder why they are selling seed packets next to the tofu?  Right.  That makes sense. So I looked again and realized it was a rotating kiosk full of recipe cards!  And the podium had a reference guide-book on it with divider tabs that showed how to cook every kind of meat and vegetable! I could NOT believe my eyes. Here are some free resources for EVERYONE to use, just sitting there in this little corner. I have been in that store at least 100 times and have NEVER seen it sitting there.

So, of course I took full advantage of what I saw.

Here’s a list of recipe cards I picked up to try:

Grilled Halibut Raspberry Vinaigrette
Chive and Rosemary Filet Mignon
Roasted Cauliflower Gratin
Baba Ghanoush
Minty Watermelon Salad
Brussels Sprouts Vinaigrette
Sweet Ginger Carrots

Tonight I’m making the Sweet Ginger Carrots to go with the tofu and then I’m doing a Kale pesto pasta salad. Can you say YUM?

For the tofu, I’m going to bake it like it’s my crispy baked chicken (the same recipe that I used for my Food Network YouTube Challenge Video) and just sub out the chicken for tofu, and reduce the amount of yogurt so it doesn’t get soggy (I drained it last night).

I’ll show you how I did it tomorrow!

Next time you’re at the grocery store, keep your eyes peeled for these cool, free resources.  Most stores have something of this nature, whether in the deli, butcher counter or produce department.  When you are short on inspiration, borrow some!

Sit back, relax and enjoy: a summer spritzer

20 Jul

When we celebrate the 5 days of summer in Seattle, it’s nice to have a cold spritzer of some sort to relax after a long day.

Yesterday I came up with just the thing!  It’s a vodka and organic lime spritzer.  It was super easy to throw together because I had done a bit of prep last week.  See, I came into a LOAD of lemons and limes and they were pretty ripe.  When a couple went bad without me noticing (and after drinking as much lime water as I could handle), I decided to make some lime infuse simple syrup.

Simple syrup is just that: simple.  For me, it’s equal parts liquid and sugar.  I used organic, raw sugar so it was a little dark, not white. I had a cup of fresh squeezed lime juice and I added a cup of the organic sugar, mixed together and simmered on low until it started to form a foam at the surface.

Now, I could have let it go longer, which would have condensed the syrup, making it thicker. But since I was thinking I’d use it for refreshing cocktails when my friends came over, I decided to keep it pretty thin.  The thickness definitely makes a difference on how easily it combines into other liquids.

I let it cool in the pan, then transferred it to a squeeze bottle and stuck it in the fridge.  I let it sit for a couple of days before giving it a try. It’s subtle, tangy and sweet. Just perfect for a spritzer.

Here’s what I used in the spritzer:

Siiri’s Vodka Lime Summer Spritzer

1 shot (so 1 fluid ounce) vodka
1 shot lime syrup
ice cubes
sparkling water (you could also use club soda, tonic water, 7Up, sprite, etc. just watch the sweetness)

Now, what I did realize is that it could use a little something extra…I’m not sure if it will be a cucumber slice, maybe a bit of cucumber juice (from Paul’s AWESOME Jack LeLane juicer that’s in my kitchen) or maybe some muddled basil. I think any of the above would be good.

This went down scary smooth, kids. It’s light and doesn’t leave your mouth feeling puckered or coated at all!  Just remember, one is enough – enough sugar, enough alcohol, enough to cool you down! Then back to the water….we Seattleites have to hydrate, afterall, it’s hot here!

Summer Treats: it’s the little things…

19 Jul

I’ve got some fun shenanigans up my sleeve for the rest of the summer now that we’re in full swing (can you say MAJOR GIVEAWAYS ALL SUMMER LONG?!??!?!?!?!)  but I have a bit of organizing to do before I launch the first giveaway.

So, for now, I wanted to share two fun things I made over the past week that made my days just a little brighter. Afterall, with all the crazy weather (unpredictable at best) here in Seattle these past few weeks, I need something to pull me through!

First up is this tasty, mid-afternoon treat that pulled me through the remainder of the work day:

This is an iced latte that I made in my office with nothing more than a packet of Iced Starbucks VIA, a frother and a bit of milk (and cold water of course).  Seriously, I love coffee all day long, and on a hot afternoon, an iced latte is right up my alley.  But we don’t have an espresso machine here, or a cart anywhere nearby. So I just made it myself.  I have a cheap frother I keep at the office. This took me less than 3 minutes total. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and it gave me a little pick-me-up that lasted till dinner time! YUM.

That was last Thursday or so…..

Then this weekend, I was running around like a wild turkey for various wedding errands for some friends of mine, and I had just enough time between errands and the ceremony to go home, flip on the Food Network for 30 minutes and relax. Of course I got hungry when I was watching whatever was being made (can’t recall what was on, Nigella I think), so I jumped into action and made a 2 minute guac and devoured it with the basic tortilla strip chip:

You can see I left it pretty chunky. I like it this way, and it’s much faster, less intense prep.  Yes, there’s the chips in the background.  Here’s a better picture:

Here’s how I made it:

Siiri’s 2 Minute Guac 

2 avocados (pretty ripe, almost lost ‘em!)
1 Roma tomato (also really ripe, I’ve been struggling to eat all my produce myself in time)
1 lemon (squeeze the juice right into the bowl before mixing things up)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of smoked paprika
Two pinches of garlic powder (this is quicker than actually chopping the garlic, and this way you don’t get the bitter edge of fresh garlic)
Pinch of either black pepper or cayenne pepper

I used a spoon to scoop out the avocado and mash everything together. A fork may have been easier, but right now I’m all about dish consolidation.  So this was easier for me. I used a knife to chop up the tomato and slice the lemon.

This literally took two minutes to make.

It was actually much better the next day, (okay, so it was last night at like midnight, don’t judge, I walked 5 miles yesterday and got hungry. I know I’m not supposed to eat late at night!) after the flavors had time to meld.

What’s your family or favorite guac recipe?

Onion Dip: when I dip, you dip, we dip!

14 Jun

If you’re too old or young for the reference in the title, then here. That is very 1998, and reminds me of high school whenever I hear it.

And it makes me want to dance, and I love to dance in the kitchen, while I cook. And so, naturally (right?) I want to make this aromatic and rich onion dip that Baking Banter posted. (I CAN’T get enough of them lately, I know!!!!!)

Image credit to King Arthur Flour Company

Here is how they made their version of the onion dip.

I would say my only switch up would be a healthy swap out of the mayo and cream cheese (sorry fatty dairy products….I love you, but the seams on my bikini and everyone at the beach in Bali that will have to see my fat, white thighs? not so much!)

I would, instead, keep the non-fat sour cream, because it’s really not that bad, and that zip it adds is unmistakable, and I would make the rest from (you guessed it) my lady in waiting, non-fat plain yogurt. Strained or not, it keeps it creamy and filling, without a million extra calories that I won’t have time to run off before August.

I may just have to make this over this weekend…and try it out on my subjects, er, friends.

Hummus Remix

11 Jun

Thanks again to the folks over at Baking Banter for posting a quick and easy tutorial for hummus. I LOVE the stuff. And I love it regular, roasted garlic, red pepper or jalepeno, anyway you can make it! (of course that opens the flood gates and there are a ton of other variations you can do as well).

I wanted to post their tasty looking batch and link to their basic hummus, but I also plan to make a batch this week with stuff I’ve got in my kitchen already, except I need some Tanhini (sesame paste).

Doesn’t this look irresistable?!

Image credit to King Arthur Flour Company

Great photography too! What’s not to love?!  Tastes good, looks good, IS good!

NOTE TO SELF: Try this with roasted Cerano Peppers from McPheresons Market on Beacon Hill.

PS: To the 5 readers out there, I have found a great way to enjoy oodles of my dip without oodles of calories. Don’t skimp on the dip, skimp on the crackers! Because summer is right around the corner, I’m using cucumbers, carrots, snap peas, or baby bell peppers in place of crackers.  It helps you get closer to your daily quota of veggies and it tastes great while reducing calories. I’m sure this is a note mostly for the ladies….but guys, no reason you can’t up the anti on the veggies too, right?

Also you can try cutting up a yam or sweet potato, roasting with olive oil, salt and pepper, in the oven on 425 for 25-30 minutes to make sweet potato fries and use those as your dippers! Still healthier and I think tastier than a cracker!

Spring and Summer easy entertainers: Dip it

9 Jun

I just found out that the King Arthur Flour Company has a food blog: Baking Banter.  I am really liking it!

They have a whole series of fun, easy dip ideas I had to share with you for three reasons:

  1. I’m REALLY hungry right now and they make me want to bite my screen.
  2. They’re easy to make and cheap, and you probably already have some of the stuff needed at home.
  3. You can improvise which means you don’t need to necessarily follow the recipe to a T, which is always a requirement for me!

So the first one I wanted to share from their blog is their pesto, made with parsley rather than basil. Don’t cringe yet, it’s actually fresh and green tasting, and still just as satisfying. Check it out:

Parsley Pesto

image credit to King Arthur Flour Company

For the whole post about the method and what they used, check it out here!

Side Kick: Add a little fun to your Friday with – “Sangria Fridays!”

24 May

Yes, it’s super cheesy. and?  What did you expect?

I decided we (by we I mean my co-workers) could use a little pick-me-up towards the end of last week. I wanted to do something fun on Friday, but it turned out more people were available on Thursday, so even though I’m calling this Sangria Fridays, it was on a Thursday.  Don’t get confused.

I wanted a really easy recipe, so I searched for “quick Sangria recipe.”  Of course I found what I wanted on allrecipes.com, love that site!  I thought about Sangria after my mom mentioned it the other day. She had seen Rachael Ray do a recipe and was asking me about a spirit ingredient that started with a “C”, I couldn’t think of what it was, but it did made me want to have some!

Here’s what I ended up using:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Game-Day-Sangria/Detail.aspx

Not exactly sure what “game” this is referring to, and furthermore, not sure what men would be caught dead drinking sangria on game day….doesn’t matter. It was great, and super easy! (you could totally memorize this and therefore, skip using a recipe for future game days!)

In case you don’t want to click through, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients
2 cups lemon juice
2 cups orange juice
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brandy
4 cups red wine
4 cups club soda
ice cubes, for serving

Directions
1.Combine the lemon juice, orange juice, and sugar in a pitcher.
Stir until sugar has dissolved completely.
Add the brandy, red wine, and club soda.
Serve in glasses with ice.

I sugared the rim and added a white peach slice to the edge. I also floated orange slices in the large bowl but they were too large to fit in our slender glasses.

Enjoy!  Or should I say “ole!”

Side Kick: Moroccan Carrot Salad

18 Dec

I have been staring at this blue post-it note on my bulletin board for a few months now…it’s been taunting me like a school yard bully to do something about it since about September.

I couldn’t take it anymore, so I decided to share it with you all!

I apologize that I can’t remember where I got this from…Paul may have emailed it to me from some site or blog or email he received. If you recognize it, let me know please!

You could easily make this with items you have already in your fridge and cupboard…..and that’s the whole point of this blog, right? Giving you ideas for making new things out of the stuff you ALREADY have! There are a couple of ingredients here I don’t keep on hand, but I’ll address that inline.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Ingredients
2 carrots
1 red pepper
1/4 c. minced cilantro
1/2 c. raisens
—–
1/4 c. almond butter
1tbsp. lime juice
1.5 tbsp. tamari (a wheat free soy sauce, it’s also a bit deeper in flavor, but go ahead and just use soy sauce if you have it)
1tsp. honey
1/4tsp. chili powder

Directions
-shred the carrots
-slice the red pepper really thinly (so your carrot and red pepper are almost the same thickness)
-mix the ingredients south of the line break (all sauce-like ingredients) and whisk together (can use a fork if you don’t have a whisk)
-put carrots, pepper, cilantro and raisens into a bowl and pour sauce over top, toss and serve!

Side Kick: Bring on the cauliflower

27 Oct

Okay, so I’m sorry I’ve been a bit out of the loop for a handful of days. It’s not because I haven’t been cooking, because I have. But I haven’t taken pictures because quite frankly, my camera is a piece of trash for anything other than party pics or random “you’ve gotta see this” type stuff.

I can’t stand bad food pictures, which is basically all my site is filled with, save the ones I’m pulling from more professional sites, mags, cookbooks, etc.

So today I was rummaging around and saw this great recipe over on Smitten Kitchen, for Cauliflower. I LOVE CAULIFLOWER! I always have. When Kate and I were little, she only liked Broccoli, and I only liked Cauliflower. I can remember my dad actually finding and buying Broccoflower at the grocery store one weekend. I don’t think Kate or I were very excited, but it served us well!

(Broccoflower)

As Deb puts it, this is supposed to be a hater-converter dish. I don’t know why anyone would hate cauliflower, unless they had it steamed into oblivion as a child….then I can understand. Sort of. I still like it that way.

Here’s the thing: while this dish might seem a bit laborious, as Deb points out, it’s SUPER CHEAP because you usually have most of the items at home, or if you don’t, you can either omit them for a simpler dish, or grab them along with your head of cauliflower the next time you’re at the store.

This would be a great side dish for the Fall, and can be paired with pretty much any protein (don’t use as a side dish to burgers though, okay?)

Thank you, Deb, for a smashingly good looking side dish that will take us from October to February! (I have modified Debs’ version a little, for health. If you want to get the original, please visit her post!)

Cauliflower With Almonds, Capers and Raisins

cauliflower with almonds and raisins

From Smitten Kitchen (Perfect as printed from Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern)

Yield: 4 servings (sure, totally)

1 head cauliflower, trimmed of leaves
1 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons fresh soft bread crumbs (omit if gluten free, or use plain crumbled corn flakes)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons whole almonds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons golden raisins (I had only dark ones on hand, nobody complained)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or Champaign vinegar if you have that instead, or the juice from the capers, separated if you only have that!)
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon
1 teaspoon finely sliced chives

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut cauliflower from top to bottom in 1-inch slices. Place a large ovenproof skillet over low heat and add a half tablespoon butter. When it has melted, add bread crumbs and toss until toasted and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer crumbs to a plate and wipe out pan.

2. Return pan to medium heat and add one teaspoon olive oil. Add almonds and toss until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer almonds to a plate, let cool, and barely give a rough chop; set aside.

3. Wipe out pan and return to medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil and cauliflower slices. Sauté until lightly browned on both sides. Transfer pan to oven and roast until tender, about 12 minutes. (I had to brown my cauliflower in batches, not having enough surface area in my pan, but tossed everything back in to roast it.) Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over low heat, add raisins, vinegar and 1 tablespoon water. Simmer until raisins are plump and soft, about 5 minutes; drain and set aside. In a small bowl, combine almonds, capers, raisins, parsley, tarragon and chives. Season with salt and pepper and toss to mix.

4. Arrange roasted cauliflower on a serving platter. Spoon almond-herb mixture evenly on top and sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs. Serve immediately.

Side Kick: what I did with leftover apples

20 Oct

PICT2107

Remember these? Yeah, I made an apple tart with half of them last week for our dinner at Akash and Marissa’s house.  Well, I had half left, and they were begging to be used.

So, I did. Chopped ‘em all up with my handy dandy apple slicer, tossed ‘em in a cassarole dish.

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Melted some organic pure cane sugar (straight from Costa Rica-thanks Mark) with some water, poured it over to help the apples cook down in the oven.

Set the oven to 375F, mixed up some gluten free flour (like maybe a tablespoon) with a handful of whole oats, a handful of brown sugar and maybe 3Tbsp of cold cubed butter.  Spread that over the top of the apples and shoved it in the oven for 55 minutes in the top third of the oven.

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This is what I got (with the help of Paul and Mike who grabbed some vanilla ice cream with caramel swirl at the store). (again, sorry for the lame picture. I was more concerned with the ice cream melting – in my mouth while I gobbled this up)

So. So. Good.

No recipe, just straight up wingin’ it. You can too.

If you want a more direct recipe, let me know!

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