armadillas


Leap Year

There are moments in life when a girl just needs to watch a chick flick. It’s the truth, I tell you! Such movies may be cheesy and sappy and might fill our heads with unrealistic romantic notions and all that nonsense. But on a rough day when the world seems against you and nothing is going the way you had planned or hoped and you’re just filled with lots of confusion, a little chick flick can brighten the day a bit. There’s nothing like a chick flick to lighten your heart. My flick of choice today is Leap Year. Not one of my top ten movies for sure, but who can resist a rugged Matthew Goode playing an Irishman? Between the accent and the beard and those wonderful hazel eyes (though I think they’re really blue), my worries melted away in Ireland. Plus, I have a soft spot for lanky men. Oh, and his character is a chef. I think all my everything on my list has been met. Yup!

Ah, nothing like a man that knows his way around the kitchen. I’ll try not to swoon over his chicken stew. Anyway…enough about all that. Another thing that can brighten up one’s day is some mint. Especially when that mint is pureed with some lime and some mayo in a food processor and drizzled over succulent fish tacos. Mmm

I remember the first time I discovered fish tacos. It was the summer after freshman year of college and my best friend and I decided to go visit his mom in good ol’ cali. Santa Barbara to be exact. I can’t remember what we did that day, but his mom and her roommate decided that we were going to cook up some fish tacos. What…? I didn’t think I had heard correctly. Did they say they were going to put FISH in my taco? Now, at this point in my life I was not the adventurous eater that I am today. Fish certainly was not a menu option for me. Ever. Gross. They were trying to kill me. It just had to be a conspiracy. But I did not want to be rude and reject the graciousness of my hostess. So I figured I would take a bite, push the thing around my plate a bit and claim to be too full to eat anymore. To my great disappointment, I ended up eating two tacos. Turns out I liked fish after all. The fish tacos were absolutely fabulous! I was converted as soon as that first bite hit my tongue.

Fast forward a couple years and I discover Aarti Paarti and her FISH TACOS. I’m telling you, in this recipe it’s not even the fish I care about. The mint mayo absolutely makes this dish in my opinion. Something about the mint mixed with the lime just pacts the perfect punch of flavor for my taste buds. I’m drooling now as I type. Here’s her video if you care to watch:

Yum yum yum and yum. There aren’t enough yums in the world to go around! I love Aarti. She’s so adorable. I want her hair. My curls are never so tame! Okay, let’s get cooking!

Back in college, we used to have family dinner nights. I miss those nights. As you can see, sometimes the menu changed

Recipe courtesy Aarti Sequeira

Ingredients:

Fish

  • 4 white fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Mayo

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 lime
  • 8 mint sprigs
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Of course, we need tortillas too. As far as toppings go, I like nice crispy cabbage. I may or may not have added some pickles. I love pickles. I blame Aimee

(Borrowed your pic. Hope you don’t mind!)

But you can use whatever taco toppings you want! So first thing’s first. Mix up your spices! That would be the coriander, chili powder, and garlic powder, plus a few shakes of salt and pepper. And the cinnamon. I almost forgot

Mix the spices with the olive oil so that you have a nice little marinade. Slop all over fish in a large bowl. Leave it be for 20 minutes or so

While that bit of magic is happening, we can make the mayo. I like mine served chilled so it’s best to do it before we cook up the fish. Add mayo, garlic, mint, cumin (toasted for a few minutes on the stove top if you like…I skipped this step), juice from the lime, and some salt and pepper into the food processor. Pulse until smooth. Presto done! How simple can you get? Pour your minty concoction into a bowl and stick it in the fridge

Set your skillet on medium heat. Place fish into non-oiled pan and cook for roughly three minutes per side

That’s it! Chunk up you fish with a fork and get ready to assemble. Slather your tortillas with the mayo and lay down some cabbage. We also whipped up some coleslaw to go on the side

Oh boy! Am I excited for these. Bad day shmad day. Do you know what else makes you leave your worries behind? Looking at old photos of your friends doing a crazy dance while you were cooking

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Seeing pink

WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER

Actually, it was a steak dinner. A very delicious steak dinner if I do say so myself. It was juicy and meltinyourmouth tender. Never have I experienced a steak like this before. I don’t know if it was the marinade I used or the cooking method, but a sun is on the horizon. I’ve always been a white meat kind of girl, whether that be pork or chicken, but I think steak might start appearing on the menu a little more often. Who ever would’ve thunk I could be converted!

So, let’s start from the beginning. Almost a year ago to the date, the boyfriend’s grandparents send him some steaks in the mail. Some Omaha steaks. Ooooh, yeah (said in a deep deep voice- draw it out!). Even I was excited, and I don’t eat a lot of red meat. Plus, the steaks came with a wok (though I’m not really sure why…), which I thought was pretty cool at the time- by the way, I’m in the market for a new wok. But all that is beside the point. My point is, those babies have been sitting in our freezer a few days shy of a year now. Sure, we cooked a couple when we first got them. Who lets steak go for that long (cough cough- us apparently)? Well, we still had two left so I pulled them out and set them in the fridge to thaw. Then today, I put them on the counter to warm up a little bit. Truth be told, I didn’t mean to leave them on the counter. I just got preoccupied. But we can say it was our intention!

Alright, now I had these steaks to cook and no idea how to do it. The weather outside was hotter than Florida and there was no way in hellfire that I was going to fire up our little grill. Nooooo noooo. I’d probably end up cooking myself, considering my cool temperature preference. Send me out in snow, not blazing heat. I supposed I could have done it on the stove top, but every time I tried to picture that, I imagined grease popping everywhere and the steaks burnin’ to a crisp. Some cooking methods I just don’t have down yet and simply cooking meat in a pan on the stove top is one of them. That left the oven. But I’m pretty sure we cooked them in the oven last time and I can’t remember a thing about them. Obviously, it wasn’t a meal to remembered. I was determined to do better this time.

After a little research, I discovered two genius things. The first, was a recipe for Korean Barbecued Flank Steak by Rachael Ray. We had beef tenderloins, not flank, but the marinade sounded too good to pass up. And I had a bag of stir fry veggies in the freezer. Sounded good to me. The second thing I discovered was a site called The Kitchn with an article on how to broil steak. Find it here I never thought about broiling steak before, but Lord was it good! It was like cutting into butter. And the flavor! I don’t use a lot of Rachael’s recipes, but this one is for keeps. For sure. I think the boyfriend may have made some threats about me not writing it down. Yes, it’s that serious.

Anyway, enough blabbering from me. Try it yourself. This steak will speak to your soul (which is obvious by the length of this post!)

Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray

Ingredients:

2 tbs grill seasoning ( I used Szeged steak rub)

1/4 soy sauce

1 tbs honey

1 tsp red hot pepper flakes

1 tbs garlic, minced

2 tsp sesame oil

2 beef tenderloins (or any cut of your choice)

Okay folks, this recipe is SUPER easy. That’s mostly because the marinade is doing all the work for you. And then the broiler will finish the rest. All you have to do is listen for the timer! To make the marinade, whisk together the grill seasoning and pepper flakes into a medium bowl.  Add the honey and oil

Whisk in the soy sauce and garlic and that’s all she wrote! Did I say easy, or did I say easy?

The aroma alone is enough to set your tail wagging. Or I suppose your booty shaking?

Such bad lighting! That’s okay. No biggie. Now, here are those tenderloins I was talking about. They sure do look awfully dark. Hopefully we won’t die from eating them. They have been in the freezer, after all

I’m inclined to rinse my meat so that’s exactly what I did. Then I submerged them in that bowl of marinade and left them on the counter to become the lovely things that they became. This took maybe 10-15 minutes. However long it took me to decide to boil some water for some noodles. We were serving stir fry on the side, remember?


If you want to make stir fry, too, all I did was boiled up some egg noodles and cooked up my frozen veggies. I didn’t make my own stir fry sauce. I felt the marinade for the steak was sufficient enough. I was lazy. It happens more frequently then you know

Spicy spicy! Mix it all together (pictured somewhere above)

I don’t know when I became such a hardcore carnivore. As a child, I followed my mother and my grandmother’s suit and always ordered my burgers/steak/what-have-you well well done. No pink please. Now I like the pink. Medium-rare is just fine for me, which means the steaks will take no time under the broiler. Ten minutes tops. But if you want yours blood-free, add a few extra minutes on there. To each their own! So, turn on your broiler! I actually had a broiling pan. You’re gonna want to spray it down with PAM. Or you could rub it with some olive oil

For medium rare, broil on the first side for 5 minutes. Oh yeah, make sure your oven rack is relatively close to your broiler. I heard it recommended about 4 inches. Mine was probably around 6 inches away from the ceiling of my oven

Then flip! Cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest. If you’re really concerned that it’s not cooked to your liking, I suppose it’s okay to make a little cut to see. A little released juice won’t kill us

Oooh nellie, does that look good. Just look at it! Look at those juices!

Ah, perfection on a fork. I’m still in shock! Hope you were as impressed as I was. This steak right here is marriage worthy, I tell ya!

Tijuana

 

 


A rebel in my kitchen

As much as I love cooking, it sure is nice every once in awhile when someone else decides to cook for me. Who doesn’t love to be pampered for a change? Me, me, me! That’s right. Tonight I had every intention of stepping aside and finishing the last several chapters of American Gods by Neil Gaiman whilst someone prepared me a date-night-at-home dinner. Yup, relaxation called to me from the couch. I contemplated pouring myself a mug of vino. If I had a face mask handy, it would have been all over my face. So there I was, book open, ready to finish the last page of my current chapter….when I was called to the kitchen. Grudgingly, I flipped my book down.

That was my first mistake. I should have just stayed in the living room and let a certain someone do things however they intended to do them. Then, once my dinner was ready and being served, I would have enjoyed every last bite without complaint. Alas, this is not what happened. I was called into the kitchen and once entering, there was no turning back.

Can I admit something? I’m a bit of a control freak. Now hold on just a minute before you get your panties in a bunch and start fussing at me. Does it make it better if I say I”m only a control freak in the kitchen? I can’t help it. I walk in there and see someone fiddling around and this uncontrollable urge to take over kicks in. I try to fight it. I tried to fight it. I was all set to turn heel and work on my self control. But then I was politely asked to saute some spinach. There was my second mistake. I should have refused. It’s easy enough to throw some oil, garlic, and spinach in a pan on medium heat, right? Of course it is! I could have simply shouted some helpful tips from the other room. But no, I agreed to help, and I could feel the maniac monster begin to stir inside me. Gulp!

So, there we were in the kitchen, him draining the lasagna noodles from their boiling bath, and me discreetly (with very suspicious eyes) watching him as my spinach began to wilt. Shame on you, Tijuana. Shame shame shame! BAD LLAMA! Before I knew it, I was directing traffic, dropping instructions, and like some kind of jittery addict, moving in on the action. It was bad. I had to keep reminding myself that I was not the chef and that someone was kindly cooking me dinner. All I was supposed to do was saute the spinach!

But that’s how this rebel lasagna, as I fondly call it, has come into being. It was completely winged by my companion (who had never made lasagna before) with most of my helpful/annoying tips ignored. It was a good thing, too, because the lasagna was pretty darn tasty. A little saucy perhaps, but perfectly cheesy with a surprising kick from the sauteed spinach and pepper flakes.

Ingredients:

  • Lasagna noodles (he did three layers of three)
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • 1 bag spinach
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 jar tomato sauce
  • 15 oz tub of ricotta
  • 1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese (or an Italian blend)
  • A few dashes of crushed red pepper flakes
  • A few dashes of Italian seasoning (we didn’t have any so just mixed up some basil, oregano, and parsley)

First thing is first; set a pot of water on the stove top and wait for it to boil. It’s best to do something else in the meanwhile or else your water will refuse to do anything. Let’s saute some spinach! Set a saute pan (or whatever kind of pan you have) on medium heat. Drizzle in a couple tablespoons of the olive oil. Hit that hot oil with your garlic!

Smells so gooooood! Now add the espinaca. I love that word. It’s so fun to say!

If you appreciate hot stuff like me, be generous with the crushed red pepper flakes. Can you see them?

I know it looks like a lot of espinaca (ahem spinach), but don’t worry. It will wilt down into deliciousness.

Once it looks too tempting not to eat right then and there on the spot, remove from heat and set aside

By now, your water has begun to boil. Salt it up real good and add a splash of olive oil. That’s something my dad always did. It helps prevent the noodles from sticking together into a caboodled mess.

You’re only going to cook the noodles halfway since they will continue to cook in the oven. Remove from heat and drain

Now time for the layering…which involved lots and lots of photos. Start with a layer of noodles in your baking dish, casserole dish, whatever kind of dish you plan on using

Layer of sauce please (this might have been where I started barking out directions, however much ignored they were)

Layer of shredded cheese

Look! Crazy fingers added another layer of noodles

Um, more sauce?

Oh, we need to mix the ricotta with the Italian seasonings. Someone decided to just do it in the ricotta container. How innovative. Man after my own heart!

We also decided to implement a freezer bag and pipe our ricotta

Once you’re done piping out ricotta cheese, add another layer of shredded cheese. You can never go wrong with cheese!

Oh man! Layer of spinach. Heaven! The kids will never know until it’s too late. Anyone remember that episode of Arthur?

Finally, add the final layer of noodles. My nerves rivaled poor Mrs. Bennet’s by this point

Spread remaining sauce over top layer of noodles. Sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese over sauce. Hit everything with a dusting of Parmesan. Eh, add an extra dusting for all your hard work. Your oven should be preheated to 375 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes

When your timer starts a-dingin’, crank  your oven up to broil and let the cheese get all bubbly and maybe even a little burnt looking if you share my sense of taste

Thanks my lover (Sookie reference!) for such a fabulous dinner. It sure was yummy. The only way I can think of ending such a wonderful evening…is by snuggling on the couch and watching The Emperor’s New Groove. You know, now that it’s on my mind. I guess the book is just going to have to wait til tomorrow

Tijuana


Oh, Costa Rica

Today was one of those rainy days. I live on the east coast and tropical depression Beryl (is that what it’s called) made its presence known. The sky was grey, rain pattered against my window nonstop, and my yard was flooded. Obviously, I decided it was a good idea to stay in. But my day was far from dreary. There are so many wonderful things you can do on a rainy day. For example, you can snuggle in bed with that book you’ve been meaning to finish for over a month now. Or you can curl up on the couch and watch a new movie from Redbox. Best of all, you can take a nice hot shower and then spend the rest of the afternoon walking around the house naked. Rainy days are rad!

(A market in Heredia)

What is my favorite part of rainy days, you ask? Stick-to-your-ribs food! You know what I’m talking about. The kind of food that speaks to your soul. Like chili. Like banana french toast. Like baked ziti. Like arroz con pollo- that’s rice with chicken for those of you unfamiliar. Ah, arroz con pollo! What a relationship the two of us have. You see, a couple years ago I spent part of my summer studying abroad in Costa Rica. Though I had the opportunity to experience some pretty tasty dishes (had the best fish I’ve ever tried), it would be a lie to say that my meals were varied. If I never see gallo pinto again as long as I shall live…I will die most satisfied. Arroz con pollo was a rather prominent guest in my diet that month as well. For the longest time, I’ll admit, I was pretty keen on leaving arroz con pollo in Costa Rica where it belongs. But all this rain today has reminded me of that summer down down south in Central America (June is part of their wet season- it rained every afternoon like clockwork) and arroz con pollo tugged a little on my heart strings

(This is gallo pinto with toast, fruit, and coffee)

Now, the recipe I’m about to share is not authentic arroz con pollo. It’s an easy concoction I whipped up with ingredients I already had on hand. I’m not above using substitutions and taking shortcuts. It makes things a little more interesting!

(My mamatica served some bomb guacamole on the side of her arroz con pollo!)

Ingredients:

  • Skinless, boneless chicken tenderloins
  • Mojo marinade
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Green bell pepper
  • 1 Red bell pepper
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 pks Sazon
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
  • 1 can diced/crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf

Marinate chicken in Mojo. This step isn’t really necessary. If you like, you can just season your chicken with salt and pepper. But this entry is about using what you have on hand and I just so happened to have some unused mojo in my fridge. So I popped that bad boy open!

Meanwhile, chop bell peppers, onion, and garlic. I cheat and use pre-minced garlic. Saves me a little time and my hands don’t smell for days. Try not to slice your thumb off, which is exactly what I tried to do. Fortunately, I was not successful and a band-aid saved the day

Drizzle olive oil into a deep pan, preferably a dutch oven of sorts, set on medium-high. Toss in your chopped veggies and garlic and listen to them sing! Cook until everything starts to soften

Then add salt, pepper, and the 2 packages of Sazon (which can be found in the International or Mexican aisle of your local grocery store). This is what it looks like

Now add the marinaded chicken, cubed into bite size pieces. If you like, you can precook the chicken and shred it into the pot

Once the chicken looks about halfway cooked, add the can of tomatoes. At this point, you can also add the bay leaf

Pour in the wine and let bubble for a few minutes. Next, add the chicken broth. Bring to a roiling boil. Now add the rice

Finally, turn heat to low. Cover your pot and leave it alone for 25-30 minutes. Now, I know you’re going to be tempted to check on your little pot of gold, but it’s best if you don’t. This is because once you open that lid, you’re going to be tempted to stir everything together. That would be bad. That would be very bad. Stirring will not give you good arroz con pollo. It will give you sticky arroz con pollo- that’s sticky rice with chicken…not quite what we’re going for here. So, step away from the pot, head toward the living room, and watch the latest episode of Girls. Have a glass of some leftover wine while you’re at it!

See?! And you doubted me. Well, go ahead. You can give it a little stir now. Then scoop yourself a bowl and continue your afternoon HBO marathon. Bring on the next rainy day (probably tomorrow)!

Pura Vida!

Tijuana


Cow Tongue

No, this entry isn’t really about cow tongues. I’m not entirely sure that I’d be inclined to try a cow tongue, or any type of tongue for that matter. But today I did notice that I have a slight obsession with tongues. Well, with my own tongue at least. There I was sitting at my computer perusing Facebook for a decent profile pic (is that what it’s called?) to post here, when a pattern in my poses began to emerge. It seems I have a ferocious tendency of poking my tongue out…especially when within close proximity to food. Rather than chuck this up as some weird, freaky habit, I’ve concluded that it is indeed a survival mechanism. I just haven’t figured out what kind of survival mechanism yet…

Look! Here I am sticking my tongue out before making Chicken Fried Steak

Yup, and that’s me holding a turkey. With my tongue out. Needless to say, I know how to keep a dinner party classy

Anyway…besides my tongue obsession, I’ve also recently become obsessed with The Pioneer Woman. I  want her life! Live out in the country? YES! Live on a working ranch? YES! Husband that wears chaps? YES PLEASE! Oh oh pick me, pick me! Wouldn’t that be just divine? (insert longing sigh here). I haven’t been following her blog for very long (didn’t even know she was famous and had her own Foodnetwork show until about a week ago), but I’ve already tested out a few of her recipes. I think the appropriate term might be Pioneer Goddess. Her food is m mm mmm! Tonight I was inspired to make a slightly tweaked version of Marlboro Man’s Second Favorite Sandwich. It just might be my #1

You must please forgive the quality of my photos. My poor camera suffered a tragic accident some time ago and has yet to be replaced. Now I’m left with only the lowly quality of my trustworthy cameraphone. We make do, my friends, we make do!

Alrighty! Let’s start with some ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (mine were also already thin sliced)
  • Lemon Pepper Seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash)
  • Baaaaacooooooooooon (that would be bacon)
  • Colby Jack Cheese (but any cheese of your liking would do, I’m sure)
  • Lemon juice (because I really really love lemon)
  • Pepper (to create our own pepper bacon since all I had was unpepper bacon)
  • Sandwich buns (I bet kaiser rolls would work out better)
  • Basil (I just happened to have some on hand)
  • (Maybe this entry should have been titled “parenthesis”)

(The basil and pepper are not pictured. Oops!)

Cook up the bacon on med-low! My chicken was still slightly frozen, so I had to give it a little bath while the bacon was sizzling away. And yes, I did add my own pepper

Sizzle sizzle sizzle sizzle

Originally, I was only going to cook half the pack…but the temptation to snack was too strong. Measures had to be taken and future breakfasts had to be sacrificed for the greater good of my taste buds. Look! You can kinda see the pepper

This is my dash-ified chicken and leftover bacon grease (hmmm, perhaps breakfast can be saved with biscuits and gravy? Nah, I don’t think so). I didn’t  pound my chicken flat because, frankly, I was a little lazy. Plus my breasts were already thin sliced. That counts, right? Note to self, invest in some wax paper

Pop chicken into slightly bacon-greased pan. I also added lemon juice here. Then some more later. And maybe even a touch more at the end. I’m telling you, I’m a lemon addict!

Can you smell it? Your kitchen has been transformed into heaven. Between the bacon and lemon pepper, I’m not sure which one smells more heavenly. When the time is right, flip chicken over and begin layering with bacon. What a marvelous idea!

Now add cheese and cover until everything is nice and bubbly. I swear my mouth is watering.

Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Patience, fellow foodies, almost done!

Assembly time! I tore up some of my basil and put it on my bottom bun.

Like lemon, basil is another great love of mine so I might have sprinkled some more on top, too

Oh, baby! You need to stop whatever it is you’re doing right now and go cook this up. It is the bees knees. The corn was pretty good, too. Nice and fresh!

Thank you Pioneer Woman! Gee, I want her cookbook soooo bad. I really love her step-by-step recipe guides. If only all cookbooks were so helpful, not to mention colorful. Now let’s talk about blogging for a second. I don’t think I like my theme very much. The color is nice and bright, but the page is so narrow. I’ll work on it folks. Just give me time.

Yay for first entry!

Tijuana