Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Fresh brussel sprouts, straight from the refrigerator

Cleaned and cut

Happy little brussels roasting in olive oil with black pepper
Brussel sprouts appeal to me in many ways: the way they look - they're small, round, and green - the way they grow - they grow on a stalk! - and most of all, the way they taste. Growing up, my family was definitely all about the meat and potatoes but we always had to have vegetables at dinner. My dad's favorites were spinach and brussel sprouts so we had those frequently. Even though they entered the house frozen and were reheated by being boiled, I grew to love brussel sprouts. I have to accept this, my parents didn't know any better. When I finally tried fresh brussel sprouts for the first time, my life was never the same (I have also come to accept that enjoying good food is a more dramatic experience for myself than it is for other people). Z and I made balsamic-glazed brussel sprouts and red onions with Z's delicious yellow rice. It was the sexiest dish we ever made. When I find the picture, I will share. I will also share the recipe for balsamic-glazed brussel sprouts because I think I have referenced it only a million times. What I am trying to get at is try fresh brussel sprouts, especially pan-roasted brussel sprouts. There is something about being lovingly coated in olive oil and being caramelized that makes magic happen. Some folks like to roast brussel sprouts in an oven. This works, too. Cooking them on the stove-top is still my first choice.

P.S. I haven't tried this recipe in a non-stick pan. I have always used Z's heavy metal pans. They hold the heat really well and I know I can get some browning or caramelizing to take place in these pans. I don't know that I would get the same result in my non-stick. Whatever you have, use! You're still cooking yummy vegetables at home, you can't go wrong with that! Also, I add some of the black pepper to the pan as the brussel sprouts are browning because I think pepper tastes a little                                                                                        different when it's been cooked but you season                                                                                        them the way you like.

Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Fresh brussel sprouts
Olive oil
Peeled and chopped garlic (optional) and however much you like (I think the more the merrier)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chili flakes or a dash of cayenne if you like a little heat

  1. Prepare fresh brussel sprouts by washing the outside, if you so desire. Make sure they are dry when you cook. When shopping for brussel sprouts, I prefer the smaller brussels and I like to get them all as close to the same size as possible. I like to peel off the outer layer of leaves. This can be time consuming but it's what I like to do. Cut off stem. Cut brussel sprouts in half. To keep everything relatively the same size, I slice the great big brussels into thirds.
  2. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.
  3. Place the brussel sprouts cut side down in the hot oil. I suggest tongs. Turn the heat down slightly.
  4. Cook until browned to desired color, turn over (tongs work great), and turn down the heat a little.
  5. When almost done cooking and the pan isn't so hot it will brown the garlic, add the salt and garlic. 
  6. When finished cooking, season to taste with salt, pepper, and chili. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We're Still Here, I Promise!!!

Good morning, Friends!

I haven't forgotten about you! I even have been cooking lately and have a couple of recipes to share, I just have to write out the riveting and charming (I tell you, I'm not great at getting sarcasm across) commentary. If you are lacking Cheap not Frugal Eats commentary in your life, I have a Facebook page that has some stuff that hasn't been on the blog, it's just little thoughts here and there that I thought I would share.

These last two weeks have been the busiest I have had in months and months. Keep in mind that I live a privileged life where for the past while I only work when school is in session and then, only during the school day. I am usually in bed reading by 8:30 and lights out well before 10. So, having orchestra rehearsals for the past week that didn't get me home until 10:00 has been a little challenging and doing this thing called working. It's a little foreign to me.

The business wasn't the worse part. I have been having an anxiety problem. When I get nervous, my weird and uncomfortable mannerisms and quirks are exasperated. Z has sure been enjoying himself. First, there was the orchestra concert that we have been preparing for that by the way, was great. I was excited and nervous about how I would do that I was losing sleep over this thing for the two weeks prior, we were playing Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, after all. Even though I play in a section with at least nine other amazing people, I wanted to rock my part.

Plus, an organization that I volunteer for was having a huge fundraising event that I was a part of. It went wonderfully because there were so many wonderful and talented people working on it.

In the midst of all this, we were hosting a get-together for our friends at our place because two of them who moved away to Alaska - nothing against Alaska except that it's ridiculously far away - and the gang was going to be together for an evening. This was the good kind of anxiety and excitement. I exhaust myself when I get excited. It was awesomely fun and great to see them.

Then, the bit of news that has me the most nervous: my first holiday with Z's family and the first time meeting some of them, including his grandparents that he really likes. For the past month, I have been freaking out about what to make and bring, what will best show off my cooking skills but still be appetizing to the most people. If someone is having me over for dinner, I would like to be bring my hosts a small present, whether food or wine. I didn't think wine would be appropriate so it was food. Finally, I decided I make nothing that will last a five hour car ride that doesn't compete with the things Z's mom and grandma make. So, the food anxiety is gone but I've still been nervous about the holiday. I just want everyone to like me. On the other hand, I have been looking forward to this like nothing else. Family plus deep-fried turkey plus other yummy food plus getting to spend Thanksgiving with Z = I am excited beyond belief.

Have a safe and wonderful holiday and don't forget to enjoy your food as much as possible!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Back to the Coconut Lime Cupcake

I have been really obsessed with this cupcake, similar to the way I am obsessed with my caramel sauce. I don't want blow you over with this one or surprise you too much but I had a thought. I know, pick those jaws up off the floor. Last night, while I was daydreaming (is it daydreaming while you're laying in bed waiting to fall asleep?), I realized why I was so obsessed with the cupcake. I had no idea cupcakes could be that good. It was that simple. My world was rocked and I'm making sense of it again with the new information and new experiences I have. That's all. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Most Amazing Cupcake in the World

I am not a cupcake or cake person. It's just not my favorite, I tend to prefer pie and pastries. I had the best cupcake I have ever had or imagined ever having. It was baked wonderfully but the flavor combination was exquisite. It was coconut and lime with cream cheese icing. I had no idea that coconut and lime went so well together. A local lady who is making the deserts for an upcoming event also made the cupcakes. As I am thinking about sharing this, I am realizing how weird it is that I don't have a picture, I don't know who made it, I don't know much about anything  except that I had a life-changing cupcake that involved coconut and lime.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Millet Salad

Ahhh, millet salad. I love it! It's simple, fresh, and reminds me of my little home. Combining some grain with vegetables and a light vinaigrette is not too original but I came up with my millet salad all on my own. My favorite veggies to add to my millet salad were on sale this week so I thought it was the perfect time for millet salad.

Let's talk a little about millet. First of all, millet tastes good. It has a very mild taste that's slightly nutty. Secondly, millet is super cheap, at least in part of the world. I haven't bought some in months but in the spring I think it was $.42/pound at Winco and $.72/pound at Fred Meyer. A pound of millet goes a long way. I think of millet as a great foray into exploring grains (or in this case, that may be unusual to you. I think it's a great starter grain because the taste is approachable and it's quick cooking compared to some grains. I had always seen millet in the bulk sections I frequent and was curious about it but never bought any until last spring and fell in love. I was reading an autobiography, The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend by Phoolan Devi, Marie-Therese Cuny, and Paul Rambali. Very powerful but for our purposes here I won't digress but say read it. Phoolan and her family grew and ate lots of millet. I was curious about all this millet so I did a little research. The only thing I knew about millet at the time was that millet was mostly considered bird food in the states. Turns out, millet is a major food source for some parts of the world. So I don't know that much more but that opened my eyes. I asked one of my friends who had recently discovered they were allergic to gluten and were exploring lots of grains about millet. Turns out, they really enjoyed millet! She used it cooked and also ground as a flour. The next time I went to the store, I got myself some millet. I had no idea what to do with it. Millet salad was the creation!

This is one of the recipes that you can vary the filling according to what's in season, on sale, or what you like. I kept this one pretty simple. Okay, I forgot the beans. I lost my mind and wasn't thinking. What I was probably thinking was that spinach was on sale and I was going to eat my millet salad on a bed of spinach and was distracted. I have made millet salad with fresh grilled corn and grilled anaheim peppers. Bell peppers are a great addition, as are navy beans or garbanzo beans, avocado, cilantro instead of parsley, carrots, radish, and scallions. I speak from experience, I've made millet salad with all of those things.

I have a big, fat secret for using raw onions and other pungent ingredients in something like a salad. It's such a secret that I only found out about it by making someone else's recipe that's posted on the internet. Okay, it's not a secret and it's not my idea. But it's brilliant! I love The Choosy Beggars and love their recipe for Sweet Potato and Navel Orange Salad. Make it! They make the dressing and let the onions, garlic, and jalapeno sit in the dressing for at least a half-hour. The acid works magic on these things and they come out milder and won't overpower the other ingredients, especially the onion. It's crunchy and delightful! In the case of my millet salad, I put a couple tablespoons of rice vinegar in the bowl and threw in the diced onion, garlic, and jalapeno. I feel so strongly about this that I daydream about serving my onions to Scott Conant on the Food Network show, Chopped. Whenever he is served raw onions, he has a fit. I get it, raw onions aren't everyone's favorite thing. I happen to love raw red onion and think this marinated onion would win him over.

Onto the recipe. I like my millet al dente for this recipe. I cracked the lid,  more than just a little. I think 15-17 minutes works for the cooking time. With this, babysit the pan and keep trying it until it's the texture you like. After it's cooked, I take the lid off, and place the pan on a cool burner, stirring occasionally to release some of the heat while evaporating the remaining water. When I made the vinaigrette, I just added enough lemon juice until the salad reached the moisture level and tartness I wanted. I used bottled lemon juice which isn't as strong tasting as fresh lemon so I could add a lot more. If using fresh citrus juice, always zest the fruit first and add that to the salad. You're getting the most bang for your pennies. Here's the recipe for this week's version of millet salad. I didn't put amounts of anything because I would change it according to how much each item was on sale that week. What can I say? I'm cheap. Enjoy!

Millet Salad

2 cups millet
3 1/2 cups water
lemon juice, to taste
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
vinegar (rice vinegar or white vinegar)
garlic (minced finally or grated)
salt and pepper, to taste
dash cayenne

  1. Cook millet with the water, between 15-20 minutes, depending on desired texture. Less time = more crunchy. Crack the lid on the pot to let steam escape. After cooked, remove from burner, take off lid, and let cool.
  2. While millet is cooking, prepare onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Put in dish with two tablespoons or so of vinegar and let marinate.
  3. Combine cooled millet with marinating vegetables, olive oil, and remaining ingredients. May be served immediately or allowed to sit before serving.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bacon Chocolate

I've been talking a lot about bacon lately: bacon pizza and now, bacon chocolate. I am okay with that. I tried chocolate with bacon (and alderwood smoked salt!) for the first time over the weekend and wanted to share my thoughts. Z got a bar of Vosges Mo's Bacon Bar for Christmas. We're too cheap to buy chocolate this nice ourselves. He's been saving this chocolate bar to have with a nice bottle of Saint-Esprit Cotes-du-Rhone (I don't know how to add the symbol thingy over the o) that we've also been holding on to for a very long time. Perfect pairing for the chocolate, by the way!

I was very concerned about the bacon chocolate being good. I have heard lots of folks say how much they enjoy these kind of chocolate bars, so I thought it wasn't too scary, right? I had no idea if it would be a strip of bacon in a chocolate bar. The bacon turned out to be tiny little pieces in the chocolate. That was nice. The chocolate itself was delicious. I don't have the vocabulary to describe chocolate. What do I say? The flavor profile was complex, yet approachable. I tasted the chocolate notes with just a hint of the sweat of the people who harvested the cacao. I just know that it was yummy. The first bite was a little porky, which was a little strange but I don't judge how I like something by the first bite, I'll give it three to really decide unless it is something unworldly delicious or nori or fish sauce, which there is no hope for me ever liking. My favorite part was the smoked salt. Oh my goodness! The salt and the chocolate was amazing! I had never had salt and chocolate together before, either. I live such a sheltered and deprived life. Sarcasm is not my strong point, so I hope it's coming across clearly. Totally recommend chocolate and salt! I haven't even tried caramel and salt. I've heard that's amazing, too. What is this world coming to? 

My chocolate bar, the Ghirardelli Intense Dark Midnight Reverie (86% cacao!), was a present from Z. We love dark chocolate, the darker the better is our standby. This bar was awesome. We tried some, then he put away the chocolate and left town a couple days later. And I couldn't find my chocolate. I was convinced he had taken my chocolate with him, just to be mean. It's how we show our love for each other, after all. Finally, I asked him where it was and the world was better. I like this chocolate even more now. It's super dark and has that nice bitter chocolate taste. Some super dark chocolate I've had, tastes grainy but this is super smooth. It has more of a lighter chocolate feel in the mouth with the intense taste of chocolate with 86% cacao.

I couldn't leave out something about being frugal. I think spending a few dollars on a really good bar of chocolate occasionally is well worth the money. It's delicious and because it is a few dollars, I get to try lots of different kinds and brands. A bar of decent chocolate and a bottle of wine (thank you Grocery outlet) can make for a cheap date night. Enjoy!


Saturday, November 6, 2010

My True Love

Oh, Market of Choice challah, I love you so much. And I have proof. Earlier this week, I got a call to be at a school for the morning, in addition to the afternoon. In order to be on time, I had twenty minutes to get myself together, take care of the cat, pack a lunch, and make a mug of coffee. I am a breakfast person. There was no time but as I was about to dash out the door, I remembered the two challah rolls left. I stuffed the bag into my purse, planning on enjoying some challah during the students' recess. That didn't happen and I totally forgot I had amazing challah sitting in my purse. So lunch rolls around, I'm just about to rip open my package of instant oatmeal when I realize I have challah in my purse in the classroom. I inhaled/gasped like an American Dream staff person carrying my large double bacon pizza with extra sides of ranch was tripping and falling in slow motion (that's the best analogy I could come up with, I'm sorry). The point was, it was loud and dramatic and I did it in front of other people. They thought something was wrong! Why yes, something was wrong! There was challah in my purse that I could be stuffing into my round, squirrel cheeks. I quickly explained that I had challah rolls in my purse and that I should eat those for lunch instead of instant oatmeal then I dashed out to retrieve my rolls. As I was leaving the room, I heard someone say, rather dryly, "Those must be some good challah rolls." Oh yes, my friends, I had the best lunch there.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Date Night = Bacon Pizza

Bacon pizza. Do I have you drooling yet? How about, amazing pizza with chewy garlic crust AND deliciously thick bacon that cost $11.95 (from 7:30 pm to close) and that includes a fountain soda. Here's a napkin. Oh yeah, there's also 17 microbrews on tap. I think you need a tablecloth size napkin, now.

A few weeks ago Z and I celebrated our anniversary! As much as he tries, he just can't get rid of me. And he tries pretty hard sometimes. Anyways, we didn't want to do anything too extravagant since he was leaving to catch a plane at like 3 the next morning. We went to our go to spot: the American Dream Pizza near campus (the downtown American Dream doesn't have this special). Look at that gorgeous pizza! The first picture is Z showing his approval with both our HUB Ipas. In addition, we get some ranch on the said ($0.25 for a little cup). Their ranch is amazing. That's all I have to say about the ranch, it's that good.

True to our frugal ways, Z bought the pizza and ranch, I bought the beers, and we split the pizza in half so we each could eat what we wanted to for dinner then have leftovers. For us, this large pizza provides us each a huge dinner, breakfast/lunch the next day or two, and a couple of pieces to freeze. Cooked pizza freezes fantastically. I stuck a couple of slices in a plastic bag (when they're cold), get out as much of the air as I can, and stick it straight into the fridge. When you want to eat it, pull the pizza out of the bag, put it on a microwavable plate, and microwave until the desired temperature. I'm sure it would reheat just fine in the oven if that's what you prefer. Just make sure to label the bag so each person knows whose pizza is whose. If you're curious, the one on the right says Princess Peppadew. If I were a fruit or vegetable, I would so be a peppadew.

I can't even think of some ridiculously verbose way to describe the deliciousness that is this pizza. I just know in my soul it's amazing and wonderful and makes for the perfect date night. I'm not even going to sully this post with suggesting you take a portion of your restaurant dinner home to freeze for another night (ziploc freezer bags work wonderful and can freeze flat, making for efficient freezer storage). That's all.

-Ace of Peppadew

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Caramel Sauce Success

I made caramel sauce and it wasn't an accident that it turned out! For me, homemade caramel sauce is one of those things you know it's going to be tasty but the finished product is great beyond my imagination. After failing at my last attempt at making caramel sauce, here, I had many conversations with the awesome Chef Steph who suggested Cardamom Glaze for the Orange Bread. We spent lots of time talking about each step I took and what I could do differently next time I tried making caramel sauce. Thank you, Chef Steph! Here are the things I did differently and a link to the recipe I used.

  1. I increased the amount of water to 1/2 cup. I think one of the problems I have had was not dissolving the sugar so some of it would start to caramelize and some of the sugar was not up at a high enough temperature and would begin to crystallize.
  2. Before I tried making caramel sauce for the first time I read lots of reviews and suggestions. Some folks said it was important to use cane sugar and that you might not get the results you want with beet sugar. This time, without even thinking about it, I used the sugar that was in the pantry. It was store-brand sugar. I'm sure it was beet sugar. It worked just fine. It reacted the way I was expecting.
  3. I mixed the sugar and water in a bowl first. Then, I added the sugar and water mixture to the pan. Stephanie also mentioned to make sure the sugar was dissolved before it boils. I thought to mix it in a bowl.
  4. Before even turning the oven on, I measured the cream and let it sit out (I add the vanilla to the cream so I don't to measure anything after I add the cream to the sugar). By the time I added it to the sugar, the cream was almost room temperature. Using room temperature or slightly warmer cream was something else Stephanie the Pastry Chef highly recommended.
  5. I set the heat higher, too. I started out a medium heat and increased it slightly when the sugar started to bubble. I think this made a huge difference.
  6. I have no idea if this made a difference but I added the cream in thirds, not far apart.
  7. When you add the cream to the sugar, a lot of steam will be generated and it is really hot. Please be careful! When you pour in the cream, don't have your hand or any fingers over the pot because the steam might burn you.
  8. I used heavy whipping cream, just like I did in the failed attempt. It wasn't anything to do with the cream that made my sauce not turn out. By the way, Market of Choice has an awesome deal on heavy whipping cream. The one cup cartons were $.95 (I think I remember correctly) and the pint was $1.83.

I'm sorry I don't have step-by-step photos of the process. Once the sugar starts cooking, the whole things starts to move fairly quickly. Once the sugar is caramelizing and turning brown, it moves really fast. I hope these tips and suggestions are helpful. Enjoy!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Caramel Sauce Teaser

Being a food blogger is so rough sometimes. I had to take a picture of my pie while the light was decent. I didn't think about how the seasons would affect me. In this part of Oregon, there are two seasons: summer and the rest of the year. The rest of the year, where it is drizzly and gray, and there isn't much light. Oh my. What to do with a slice of delicious pear pie drizzled with caramel sauce? Eat it, of course! Sorry, Z. There's still some in the fridge.

Oh by the way, I made caramel sauce. It is absolutely amazing and delicious. Z loved it!!! I love watching people enjoy my food. He provided lots of entertainment. In a couple days, I'll share my experiences making caramel. I need to catch up on some Young and the Restless before orchestra rehearsal. Enjoy!