G’s Fruit Agua Fresca

FW (1)One of my friends recently posted a photo of an appetizing pitcher of fruit infused water (water with slices of fruit). It looked SO refreshing that I had to try it. I rarely consume sugary drinks, just plain water. And her pitcher of goodness looked really healthy with a refreshing a touch of sweetness from the fruit. In the Latin community, this is often referred to as “Agua Fresca”.

For my concoction I used the following:

clip_image002 2 large oranges

clip_image002[1] 1 lemon

clip_image002[2] 1 package organic strawberries

clip_image002[3] 1 cup fresh pineapple

clip_image002[4] Handful of cilantro

Just slice it all up, toss it in a pitcher, let it sit for awhile, and enjoy!

FW (2)

This summer, wouldn’t it be nice to have flavored waters in the fridge to make drinking water more delicious? You could use slices of lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, strawberries, raspberries, mint, cucumber, whatever!

Add slices of your favorite citrus to a tall glass of ice water…or try different combinations of fresh ingredients…

clip_image001 Fresh mint is always a great addition to a glass of ice water.

clip_image001[1] Combine lemon slices with fresh herbs in your water…try lemon with mint, rosemary, thyme, or sliced ginger root.

clip_image001[2] Cucumbers are great in water, too! Slice up a large cucumber and add it to a pitcher of water…it’s really refreshing. You can also try cucumber with some fresh thyme added in. Or cucumber slices with lemon or orange slices.

clip_image001[3] If you want a more intense flavor to your glass of water, squeeze the citrus and/or twist the herbs you are using before you add them to your glass.

clip_image001[4] Besides lemons, oranges, and limes, you can try adding other kinds of fruit to your glass or pitcher of water…a small handful of your favorite berries (or mixed berries) is a nice addition to a glass of ice water. Other fruits you can try alone or in combination are: watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, pineapple, grapefruit, grapes, and kiwi.

Last thing — be sure and wash your fruit before putting it in your glass or pitcher…

FW (3)

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G’s Creole Cayenne Praline Brownies

First…YES!!! They were delicious!

Second…YES!!! They were spicy!

The point of this recipe is to get you out of your comfort zone and experience more than just different flavors…textures and spiciness should be be explored as well to really gain appreciation for different foods. Something that really bothers me are folks who immediately criticize some of my more eclectic ingredient combinations as if I committed some kind of culinary sin. Being tied to tradition is understandable, but you should never apply openly harsh and unequivocal personal judgment to foods with which you have never tasted or with which you are not familiar. That is just a matter of respect for the cook/chef.

I share this because this is one of those foods that brought some rather critical comments my way. I’m used to it. I just brush the words off…and allow them to inspire me to take unique flavors to even stranger levels…SMILE!

Anyway, I was encouraged to try this after tasting a slice of Tabasco Cheesecake at a Louisiana restaurant here in Austin. I don’t eat cheesecake, but I had to experience the whole sweet and pepper thing myself. I was amazed! And those who taste my brownies are usually blown away by the flavor , and especially the little tickling finish of cayenne as the chocolate melts in the mouth.

Here is a photo of the recipe I used. It’s the only image I have of it, but it’s enough to get the job done.

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By the way, the Cayenne Pepper was my personal addition to the recipe. Betty Crocker actually has a popular recipe for these, but I was not impressed by it. Once you see the rest of my photos, you’ll understand why.

I decided to go all out and try Ghirardelli’s Dark Chocolate brownie mix…oh my good-good-ness!

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I got really adventurous and added Craisins as well…mmmmmm…

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So here is the finished product…

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Check out the photo album below to see my step-by-step process…

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LATE-NITE SNACK?

Last night…I wanted a ‘sammich’… Turkey Breasts, Black Forest Ham, Smoked Bacon, Provolone Cheese, Vine Ripe Tomatoes, Fried Egg, and Yellow Mustard…AWESOMENESS!!!

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Creole Citrus Salmon w/ Gulf Shrimp & Spicy Lemon-Lime Butter Sauce

6I was looking through some of my photos and came across this dish that I prepared almost 2 years ago in 2010.  I was experimenting, and still trying to get my culinary photography right, but it was a really simple and delicious creation.

Believe it or not, this was a late-night snack. A very simple, extremely healthy, low-fat dish that tasted AMAZING!  I had some Salmon fillets jumbo Gulf shrimp in the freezer that gave me the inspiration to whip up this awesome meal.

Here are the ingredients I used…

clip_image001[20] Atlantic Salmon Fillets

clip_image001[21] Fresh Jumbo Gulf Shrimp

clip_image001[22] Portobello Mushrooms

clip_image001[23] New Mexico Hatch Chiles, chopped

clip_image001[24] Fresh Lemon and Lime juices

clip_image001[25] Cilantro

clip_image001[26] Cajun BBQ-flavored Basting Oil

clip_image001[27] Natural Sea Salt

clip_image001[28] Cayenne Pepper

clip_image001[29] Smoked Paprika



Preparation…

1First,  I seasoned the shrimp, mushrooms, and salmon. Next, I sautéed the mushrooms and shrimp with the chopped Hatch chiles. I squeezed fresh lemon and lime juice on them, tossed them a little,  and set aside.  I then basted the salmon fillets with the Cajun BBQ basting oil, and pan fried until done…about 2-3 minutes on each side.

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For the sauce I added about 4 tbls butter to the salmon pan, keeping the remaining bits of scrapings from the fish. I threw in about a teaspoon each of the lemon and lime juices, a shake of sea salt, and a hefty dose of cayenne pepper…BAM!!! I used a whisk to emulsify the mixture as
much as possible.

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That’s it…I put it all on a plate and chowed down! Rolling on the floor laughing

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OH…I served it with Lucky Duck Sauvignon Blanc wine…$3.97 @ Walmart!!!

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G’s Chinese Egg Foo Yung

IMAG1049I tasted an Egg Foo Yung dish from a local Chinese restaurant here in Austin, and for the first time I realized that I CAN COOK THIS. Foods that I typically might enjoy at eateries, I always learn to prepare myself…and I NEVER eat them in restaurants again. This is one of those dishes.

Egg foo yung, also spelled egg fu young or egg fuyung, is a Chinese American dish based on a Shanghai classic dish called fu yung egg slices. You could call Fu yung egg slices one of the earliest omelets in existence, invented long before the French coined the name omelet. Fu Yung translates as lotus flower, and the original dish generally combined egg whites only, minced ham or chicken, and was either pan or deep-fried.

Chinese chefs in the US are primarily responsible for egg foo yung as we know it now, and the dish was first likely prepared in the 1940s or early 1950s. The name of the first inventor is now lost, but the invention of the dish could have occurred in any restaurant specializing in Cantonese cuisine. Quite simply, modern egg foo yung uses the whole egg in most cases, producing an omelet, or egg pancake, to which a small amount of meat and vegetables are added.

Suggestion among culinary historians is that initially, egg foo yung was deep-fried. This is an uncommon practice today, and pan-frying much as you would an omelet, is more common. The basic shape doesn’t have to be perfect either, egg foo yung can be somewhat rumpled, folded into squares, or almost resemble scrambled eggs. Brown sauce or sauces with soy sauce are added giving the dish a notable “Chinese” flavor. Further, the dish almost always includes chopped green onions, either incorporated into the eggs or garnishing the top.

So here is the basic recipe that I used, but of course I added my own unique “G SPOT” touches to it…

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions
  • 1/4 cup minced bamboo shoots or 1/4 cup celery or 1/4 cup shredded Chinese cabbage
  • 4 water chestnuts, minced
  • 1/3-1/2 cup slivered cooked ham or 1/3-1/2 cup chicken or 1/3-1/2 cup pork or 1/3-1/2 cup minced shrimp
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 -3 tablespoons peanut oil ( or other cooking oil)

Foo Yung Sauce

  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Mix eggs, vegetables, meat and soy.
  2. Heat 2 tsp oil in a 4-6 inch skillet over moderate heat for 30 seconds.
  3. Add 1/3 cup egg mixture and fry as you would a pancake until lightly browned on the bottom, turn over and brown flip side.
  4. Keep warm (but do not stack), while you fry remaining pancakes, adding more oil if needed and stirring egg mixture before adding to pan.
  5. Foo Yung Sauce: In a pan, heat broth, soy, sugar and vinegar.
  6. In a bowl, blend cornstarch and water.
  7. Add to sauce and cook, stirring, until sauce bubbles and thickens.
  8. Serve with hot Egg Foo Yung.

Very simple recipe…and VERY delicious. To mine, however, I added a little Red Curry powder to kick it up a notch. I also added fresh ginger to give it a little more zest. I did use shrimp, but I forgot to add them to the eggs. So I added them to the sauce instead. Give it a try…you will enjoy it…trust me!

Oh, I also made a quick Miso Soup with vegetables…I’ll share that recipe later Winking smile



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…and here is a variation on the gravy that is sweeter and prepared with cornstarch. If you know what you want to taste, just have fun with the flavors…ENJOY!

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Old Rotterdam Cheese Melt on Asiago Bread

So simple…so VERY delicious…

001I am old school, and I like grilled cheese sandwiches. But in my “older” age I like to enjoy them every so often with a gourmet flair. So I recently purchased a wonderful cheese…Old Rotterdam Gouda Cheese. It is essentially a Dutch Gouda cheese that has been aged for several years. Aged Gouda is a flavorful, pale orange cheese made from cow’s milk. After the sweet and salty cheese ages for several years, it develops a slight butterscotch-like flavor. It is an ideal cheese to enjoy with wine, particularly when paired with red varieties.

002I also had a loaf of Asiago Cheese bread in the pantry. Asiago is a type of Italian cow’s milk cheese which ranges in texture from soft to hard, depending on the type of Asiago. The cheese is commonly used in kitchens all over Italy, and has spread to other parts of the world as well, where it has become popular in its hard form grated over pasta, pizza, and other similar dishes. Asiago has a characteristic tangy flavor and scent which many consumers greatly appreciate, and can be found in most markets. Cheese Bread refers to any bread that includes cheese or upon which cheese is topped. In its loosest definition, most pizzas would fall into the cheese bread category since they are topped with cheese, and some even contain cheese in the dough. Traditionally, cheese bread is really bread with cheese baked inside it, which can give a burst of flavor to any bread. The Asiago variety is AWESOME!

What I did was slice the Asiago bread into 1-inch slices, sprayed my pan with butter-flavored cooking spray, and browned one side of two of the slices of bread. To the browned side of one of the pieces of bread I added a slice of white American cheese, topped that with some of the grated Old Rotterdam cheese, and placed the other slice of bread (browned side down) on top of the cheese. I sprayed the pan again, and browned both side of the sandwich until the cheese was all melted and gooey…TA-DA!

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You can do this with any cheese that you like…be adventurous…try it Open-mouthed smile

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Key Lime & Lemon Pasta w/ Marrakech Chicken

77cb137dda77f5fcf19645b86894e2cb_largeSometimes I take inventory of all the food ingredients I have in the kitchen and whip up something using items before they perish. That is a really fun thing for me to do. For this dish I wanted something light and citrusy since I had key limes and lemons that I needed to use. I also grabbed some homemade extra-wide egg noodles and fresh chicken (legs & thighs), along with traditional Moroccan seasonings.

I absolutely love Moroccan foods. Moroccan cuisine is extremely diverse, thanks to Morocco’s interaction with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Moroccan cuisine has been subject to Berber, Moorish, and Arab influences. The cooks in the royal kitchens of Fez, Meknes, Marrakesh, Rabat and Tetouan refined it over the centuries and created the basis for what is known as Moroccan cuisine today.

Famous_moroccan_spices_by_33xiTSpices are used extensively in Moroccan food. Although spices have been imported to Morocco for thousands of years, many ingredients, like saffron, mint and olives, and oranges and lemons, are commonly grown in Morocco. Common spices include karfa (cinnamon), kamoun (cumin), kharkoum (turmeric), skinjbir (ginger), libzar (pepper), tahmira (paprika), anise seed, sesame seeds, qesbour (coriander), and zaafran beldi (saffron). Common herbs include mint and ‘maadnous’(parsley.)

IMG_0599One of the coolest and most flavorful ingredients used in Moroccan cuisine is Preserved Lemon. Preserved lemons are lemons which have been pickled in salt and their own juices. Preserved lemons are a staple in Moroccan cuisine and provide a distinct flavor plain lemons can’t recreate.

Now, I did not have preserved lemons, but I incorporated the citrus flavor with the Moroccan spices to create a very exotic meal.

MY INGREDIENTS:

clip_image001 Homemade egg noodles (extra-wide, store bought)

clip_image001[1] Roasted artichoke hearts

clip_image001[2] Red, orange, & yellow peppers

clip_image001[3] Fresh chicken (legs & thighs)

clip_image001[4] Sea salt

clip_image001[5] Fresh cream butter

clip_image001[6] Cumin

clip_image001[7] Grated cinnamon

clip_image001[8] Coriander

clip_image001[9] Saffron

clip_image001[10] Hungarian Paprika

clip_image001[11] Ground roasted ginger

clip_image001[12] Turmeric

clip_image001[13] Ancho chili pepper

MY PREPARATION:

First I boiled and drained the noodles according to the directions on the package, and transferred them back to the pot. I then added to the cooked noodles 3 tbls of butter, the juice of 2 key limes and 1 lemon, a small jar of the roasted artichoke hearts, sea salt (to taste), and 1/4 water. Before serving I added the sliced peppers and some fresh chopped green onion.

For the chicken, I boiled it first for about 15 minutes. The only reason I did this was because I had no idea how I wanted to prepare it…no rhyme or reason. The whole Moroccan thing came about when I looked in seasoning cabinet and started grabbing all the “exotic” stuff and adding it to the water. I kept the Moroccan theme going by draining the chicken and finishing it off in my cast iron skillet with 4 tbls butter and the juice from 2 lemons. As I said above, I didn’t have preserved lemons, but the taste was still very authentic.

The cool thing about this dish is that you need very little salt to season it. The citrus flavor of the key limes and lemon in both the noodles and chicken, as well as the strong flavors of the other spices, easily compensate for less sodium.

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