25 July 2014

Italian Marinated Mushrooms

I have wanted to try marinating mushrooms for quite a while, so I was excited to finally give it a shot.  These mushrooms are marinated in a basic Italian dressing, and I put them on skewers for some tasty kabobs.
The dressing has salt, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper flakes.  We kick it up a notch with some fresh basil.
The spices get mixed up with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar.  Cloves of garlic too!

Mushrooms typically come in 8oz packages, and I could only fit about 3/4 of a package in my jar.
Marinate in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours, then they are ready to be served as-is.
Or they can be used to spruce up some kabobs.  I even took a tablespoon or two of the dressing and added it to the meatballs.
Italian Marinated Mushrooms (based on this)
Ingredients:
  • 6 to 8 oz of mushrooms (one package)
  • Fresh basil - ten leaves, give or take a few
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar
Instructions:
1.  Chop the basil.  Mix with the Italian seasoning, pepper flakes and salt.  Take two garlic cloves and smash them with the flat side of a knife.  Mix the basil, spices, and garlic with the evoo and vinegar.
2.  Put the mushrooms in your marinating container - a bag works fine, use something that can be sealed.  Pour the dressing over the mushrooms.  Shake the container to ensure that each mushroom gets fully coated.
3.  Marinate in the fridge overnight, up to 24 hours.  Drain and *serve.

*Can also use the mushrooms on kabobs.  Highly recommended.  Also, the marinade can be used as a regular dressing.
So there's another recipe to cross off my list!  Give it a try.

18 July 2014

Fresh Tuna Ceviche

One of the big perks of being on the coast is fresh fish.  REALLY fresh fish.  We stopped at a seafood place and picked up some fresh tuna.  For the vast majority of my life, I'd only ever heard of canned tuna (and absolutely refused to eat it).  Now that my palate has expanded a little bit, I'll accept canned tuna when used in tuna burgers, but the real treat is tuna steaks.  After a couple jaunts south of the border, what I really wanted to try out was a real ceviche (seh-VEE-chay).
What makes ceviche unique is that the fish is cooked using lime juice - without ever raising the temperature.  Read more about the mechanics of that here.  This must be done using fresh fish or shellfish; the lime juice does not kill the bacteria as the normal cooking process does (and had I known that beforehand, I would have been a little more hesitant about eating this!).

Will someone please call me out on the fact that last week I posted about sushi rolls, and where I said (direct quotation) "you really don't need raw fish to have a good time."  So here's the part where I confess that the sushi post was my I-don't-have-time-to-write-anything-this-week emergency post.  I ran a little short on time and...well, you saw the rest.  But this week is fresh content!  And I still maintain that a good time can be had with or without raw fish.  Also until I started doing a wee bit of research for the blog I was fairly confident that ceviche wasn't actually raw fish, but knowing what I know now explains the paragraph on my "honest opinion" below.  There's a mouthful.  So anyway...
A fresh tuna steak gets chopped up and drenched in the juice (and a bit of zest) from several limes.
Refrigerate overnight and all the pink is gone, leaving a "cooked" fish that's absorbed some lime juice.
Prep the rest of the ingredients: chop up some red or green onion, pepper, tomatoes and cilantro.  Also add a little olive oil and black pepper.
Serve with homemade tortilla chips.
Now, I need to give my honest opinion here.  I have had authentic ceviche a few times and loved it.  I did not love this so much because of the texture of the fish - it still felt kind of raw (I also don't like sashimi for the same reason).  I think that this would have been better with scallops or shrimp, or at least with cutting the fish into smaller pieces.  So take that as you will.  Other potential routes include cooking the fish and adding it to the chopped veggies, or making a vegetarian version and serving it as a salsa.  It's up to you.
Fresh Tuna Ceviche (loosely based on this)
Ingredients:
  • 6-oz tuna steak, raw
  • Juice of six limes
  • Zest of two limes
  • 1/4 c. red onion, minced
  • 1/2 c. green pepper, chopped
  • 2 roma tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Black pepper, to taste
Instructions:
1.  Chop the tuna steaks into small pieces.  Place in a bowl with the lime juice and zest, making sure the fish is completely covered.  Refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours.
2.  Drain off half the lime juice.  Mix the remaining ingredients into the fish.  Serve with tortilla chips, and a lime garnish if you have any left!
Enjoy!

11 July 2014

Sushi Party

Do you wish your friends thought you were clever and fun?  Are you tired of being the "boring" one?  Do you want to be considered a daring gourmet, without all the effort and creativity?  You have come to the right place.  Today, I will teach you how to put on a great sushi party, and trick your friends into making all the food too!
You don't need fancy equipment or raw fish, although there are some things that will make it easier. The best investments are a sushi mat and spoon.  The mat makes it easier to roll, and the spoon is a magic spoon that sticky rice doesn't stick to.

Get some sushi rice and nori (seaweed wrap).  Cook the sushi rice according to the directions on the package.  I don't really like nori that much so I always make "inside out" sushi - the nori is on the inside, so there's less of it.  It looks a lot prettier, too.  I cut my nori in half to fit an "inside out" roll.
On the sushi mat, flatten out a square of rice that is about as wide as the nori is long (as shown above - the nori is the dark seaweed wrap).  On top of the nori, place your sushi filling.
Italian roll:  pepperoni, basil, and tomato.  I just made this one up, but it tasted really good.  Using the mat, roll up your sushi, trying to hold everything tightly together.  The sticky rice should be sticky enough to hold the roll together.  When it is rolled up, move it to a cutting board and cut it up.  I've found a serrated knife to work best.
Okay!  You've made one.  Now you're an expert.  Time to let your friends take over the kitchen and try it for themselves.  Have a bunch of veggies julienned and ready to go so your friends can get creative.
California roll:  crab meat, avocado, and cucumber.  Roll the outside in sesame seeds before slicing.  I used canned crab, you can also get away with using imitation crab meat.  You can set out some fresh or dried herbs for rolling the outside in as well (like dill!).
Whoa, look at how fancy you are!  Have everyone bring a different sauce for dipping.  Soy sauce is a must, along with some wasabi, sweet chili is good, spicy mango is great!  Some pickled ginger will help cleanse the palates, and make you sound just a little bit more interesting.
Edamame makes a great appetizer for those those who just can't wait for their turn to roll sushi.  Add some sea salt and you're in business!
South of the border roll:  jalapenos (de-veined and de-seeded), cream cheese and tomatoes.  Roll it in some fresh minced cilantro.
I hope that gives you some ideas.  Sushi is easy and fun.  You can put whatever you want in it, and you really don't need raw fish to have a good time.  In my opinion, sushi is what you want it to be.  It can be as simple as rolls and soy sauce, or you can add things like edamame and pickled ginger (but you don't have to!).  But I really enjoyed sharing sushi with my friends, and I think they had a good time too.

04 July 2014

Summer Salad

Happy Independence Day!  I'm missing my family today because the Fourth of July is a big deal for us.  I hope you're all having fun today!  Somebody do a firecracker-in-a-can for me.
Today's post will be short and sweet.  This week, these wonderful people passed through town and were able to meet us for drinks:
It wasn't enough time to catch up, but I'm hoping we'll see them again soon.  In the meantime, I've been eating a lot of summer salads lately and this is one of my faves.  I've found that I really prefer salads with tons of flavor - cheese is a must, a fruit and/or nut is a huge plus, and a few veggies and a protein to seal the deal. 
We get a little tropical with some pineapple and avocado, some creamy zing from goat cheese, and a nice cold crunch with green bell peppers and cucumbers.  A dash of freshly cracked pepper, because you won't regret it.
I love the arugula - it's one of my favorite greens - and I've topped it off with some shredded chicken from a bird I roasted last weekend. 
I eat my salads dry, but a tangy lime vinaigrette or lemon-poppyseed vinaigrette would be my top choices for this salad.  Now, in other news, what's up with this tomato flower?  It's at least three times as big as a normal one.  Chernobyl tomato?
I hope everyone has a great weekend!

27 June 2014

June Goals

Well, it's been a month.  Things happened.  I did stuff. 
  • Farmers market.  I went to…three?!  And picked out a favorite.  But there are also some pretty great roadside stands around here.
  • Go house shopping.  Ugh.  We’ve been looking at an average of 2.25 houses per week.  Typically the good ones are off the market within four days of being posted, so even if we move fast it’s still not fast enough. Very frustrating.
  • Make a meal plan for clean, healthy eating.  I did not do this BUT I have been more intentional about food and not counting several restaurant excursions due to visitors, I think I’ve been eating a lot better.  I even skipped the free doughnuts at work today.  Feel free to applaud my willpower.
  • Compile some photos to print out for our families.  Photos taken, yes.  Photos printed, no.  So that needs to get done.
  • First visitors!  My parents flew down, Kyle’s mom and uncle drove down on their motorcycles.  Both were great visits and helped us explore the area and get acquainted with our new locale.
  • Avoid getting sunburnt.  Done!  There was one unfortunate day where I forgot to ‘screen up, but we spent most of our time in the shade so it worked out.  We’ve got a beach day planned for tomorrow though, so there’s still time left in the month for me to fail at this goal!
  • Activities with new friends?  Without getting too specific, goal = achieved.  That being said, making friends is really difficult and talking to strangers – no, scratch that, making conversation with strangers is mentally tiring.  But they will always be strangers unless you have those conversations and become acquaintances and then become friends.
So that was June.  There were strong ups and downs this month, which has become a pattern lately – I don’t think I will ever say that this process (moving, making friends) has been easy, I can definitely say it has been very rewarding.  I am really starting to miss the people that used to be constant presences in my life, but I don’t take for granted the massive amounts of sunshine or the way the wind smells blowing in off the ocean.
Enter July.  It starts with a holiday and ends with prohibitive heat and humidity (or so I’m told).  Here’s my list:
  • Drinks with friends!  You know how some people leave a huge impact on your life with a small gesture?  Well those people are passing through town next week and we’ve got plans to meet up.
  • 4th of July road trip.  Details are being finalized so look forward to hearing more about this at the end of the month.
  • Get photos printed to finish off last month’s goal.  
  • Keep the plants alive!  One of the first things my HR person said to me was “Oh honey, your plants are all going to die – they can’t live in this heat!”  A real positive experience.  Not that I needed extra reason to keep them alive, but now that I’ve been challenged, IT’S ON.
  • More summer clothing!  I picked up a couple things at Goodwill but I definitely need to stock up on some hot weather clothing.     
It's the end of a frustrating week that ended with an equally frustrating trip to the bank where they refused to let me open an account because they couldn't verify my address despite me bringing in a check addressed to my new apartment, plus I've got the lease, water and electric in my name, etc, etc.  And of course they're going to run a credit check on me before I can open an account; I've been handing out my SSN left and right lately, which is going to make financing a house a lot of fun.  Anyone want my social security number?  I'm sure there's very little about it that's "secure" at this point.  Rant over, back to the fun stuff:
Garden exploded!  It's getting so big.  Look at this tomato!
And look at these baby tomatoes!
When our visitors were here, we hit up a ton of tourist attractions, including the only tea farm in North America.
Here's the parents, taking their tea facts very seriously.
And tea, of course.  We tried a few different flavors, the sweetened peach iced tea was my fav.
In addition to tea, we also tried some local spirits and wine.
A week later, our second set of visitors arrived via motorcycle.
We started out at a local brewery.
In addition to bev, we also tried some really good eats!
Shem Creek:  "you're pretty much guaranteed to see dolphins."
So yeah.  That's a ton of photos, but we did SO much while the families were in town.  More photos on facebook!

20 June 2014

Fried Cinnamon Bananas with Honey

Let me lay it out for you.  This is a dessert.  It is simple, it is fast, and it is easy.  And if you regularly have bananas, cinnamon and honey in your kitchen, it will make a great oh-no-I-forgot-dessert-but-I-have-people-over-and-I-have-to-serve-something dessert.  And bananas!  You can pretend it's a healthy dessert.  If you're not yet convinced, then maybe a photo of fried bananas laying in a pool of honey will change your mind.
Bananas: slice.
Cinnamon:  sprinkle (I had a minor cinnamon mishap here, you REALLY don't need this much cinnamon).
Pan: fry.
Bananas flip!
Honey: drizzle.
Fried Cinnamon Bananas with Honey
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
  • Two bananas
  • 2-3 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp coconut oil or butter
  • 2 tbs honey
Instructions:
1.  Slice the bananas to about 3/4" thick (slice on the diagonal to be kind of fancy).
2.  Sprinkle bananas with cinnamon.
3.  Heat oil in pan.  Fry bananas on medium heat until browned.  Flip and fry until the other side is browned.
4.  Place on serving plate.  Drizzle with honey.
So simple and yet surprisingly delicious.  I wish I had bananas right now so I could make this again.