My Favourite Fast Meal

Ok so I don’t cook a lot but when I do, I really do care that it has to be something good. And generally it can’t take too long or be too involved. Because let’s face it, I’m impatient and I always feel like I don’t have enough time to do anything overly involved. Not to say I can’t, but I generally choose not to. However, I believe I have perfected the 15min meal.

So today, I have the day off, it’s the day after Independence Day and I really really wanted chili cheese fries. However, I am also sick and have been feeling on/off like crap all weekend. So I opted for something slightly healthier that really only takes 15mins to cook. (Yes, I timed it, it’s 15mins on the dot.)

This really is my go-to when I want something fast and easy and tasty to make. It’s so ridiculously simple and half the time I have most of the ingredients in the house anyway. (At least, if I’ve gone grocery shopping in the recent past that is.) So here’s how you make it.

Orzo with Spinach, Pine Nuts, Tomatoes and Feta
1 bag spinach
cherry/grape tomatoes (depends on your fancy)
crumbled feta
a handful of pine nuts
1.5tbsp olive oil (I like extra virgin)
Red chili pepper flakes
Crushed basil (or you can substitute all spice for this)

Boil the orzo until it is tender – or to the point where you would typically want to eat it.
In a large saucepan heat the oil until it is quite hot. Add in the red chili pepper flakes and crushed basil (or all spice). Add in the pine nuts. Brown the pine nuts and lower the heat. Add in the spinach. Cook until the spinach is completely wilted. Add the completely boiled orzo. Turn off the heat. Throw in the tomatoes and feta on top. Mix it together and ready to serve.

Broiled Lollipop Lambchops
2 lollipop lambchops
Worcestershire sauce
Garlic salt

Preheat oven to broil.
Cover the lamb chops in Worcestershire sauce and sprinkle garlic salt generously over both sides of the chops. Then place the chops on a broiling pan. Leave on one side for about 7-10mins. Then flip over to the other side for another 5-7mins depending on the size and how well you’d like them cooked through.

These were done for ~15mins, they’re about medium size to keep a great medium rare finish.

A Little Piece Of Heaven

Crème Caramel is simply amazing… or at least in my opinion it is a little piece of heaven. Now I don’t often blog food because well I love food but my mom has been holding our Larousse Gastronomique hostage.

And well it’s really the only thing I cook out of… actually that’s not entirely true anymore, I’ve recently discovered some awesome food blogs. But that’s a very very recent thing, like last 6 months kindof recent so I still haven’t gotten quite into the food blogging yet.

But in some of the most exciting news I could ever possibly get, apparently Amazon has made it such that the Larousse is searchable online!!! No, really I’m not kidding, this book is my bible. I think it is the absolute best way to learn how to cook. Granted it’s not easy and it’s definitely not really a step by step guide, but it is the definition of the grammar of cooking. At least that’s how I look at it.

In my excitement I was talking to my friend, Jess, about it and I promised her a recipe. It’s my take on their version of Crème Caramel. So the first time I made it, I followed Larousse to the letter. But there was one day when I messed up a little but I mean it wasn’t a lot and I figured well what the hell let’s see what it does to the recipe, if it’s awful we don’t *have* to eat it, right? (Granted that goes against every principle my mother raised me to have but you gotta learn somehow, right?) Anyway it turns out that I (and everyone else) rather loved my little accident. So from that day onwards this is how I make my crème caramel.

Crème Caramel (serves ~10-12)
6 whole eggs
6 egg yolks (note you can use the leftover egg whites to make meringues!)
1 quart of whole milk (folks, this is dessert not even remotely healthy, if you don’t use whole milk it simply is not going to taste as good. just trust me, it will be worth it.)
3/4 cup sugar (this you can modify as you get more comfortable with the recipe, I don’t like mine to be super sweet so you might want to use more – the original recipe calls for quite a bit more)
1 vanilla bean (or you could use 2 tsp vanilla extract but the actual pod really does make a difference in flavor)

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. In a medium pot bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla bean. After it begins to boil take it down to a simmer and add in the sugar (taste this to see how sweet you’d like it to be). Allow it time for the vanilla to infuse so you want this to take about ~15 mins. In a large bowl blend the whole eggs, egg yolks. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk. Then gradually add the milk to the mixture, whisking quickly while doing so. Coat the bottom of a souffle dish (or any other bakeware that you’d like to use for this) with caramel.
(To make the caramel – take a small pan and place of very high heat. Pour a good amount of sugar into the pan and wait for it to caramelize. To help speed up the caramelizing process you can add little bits of water to the sugar periodically.)
Now pour the custard you just made into the souffle dish on top of the caramel. Place the dish into a bain marie (water bath) – I typically use a 1.5″ deep pan filled with water and with the souffle dish placed in the water, it’s relatively easy to make a makeshift bain marie without going out and buying something expensive. And place into the oven. Bake for about 30-40mins. You can check to see if it’s done by sticking a fork into the center, if it comes out completely clean then you’re all set – if there is anything at all sticking to the fork keep it in the oven until the fork comes out clean. Once it is done take it out of the oven and out of the bain marie. Let it sit out to cool. Quite frequently I will put it in the refrigerator to let it cool. When you are ready to serve bring out a fresh serving dish and then turn it over onto the serving dish. Also if you just trace the edge of the dish with a knife it’ll make it that much easier for it to slide right out and look just beautiful on your serving dish.

Oh and I just realized this is totally a gluten-free recipe. So all you gluten-free lovers this is just a wee piece of heaven that I happen to adore.

Photo Source

“Family” Dinners

So a couple of friends and I have recently started a little tradition to do “family dinners”. Which is really just three of us that live a couple blocks apart making an effort to get together every Sunday for dinner and some bad TV (or movies) and just hang out for a little bit on a Sunday night.

This Sunday I was particularly excited because my friend, Case, decided to make Corn and Sausage Chowder, which might sound a little odd but is actually quite delicious. Now, Case calls himself a Kansas cooker and I love it cause he just throws all sorts of random stuff in the pot and it just works. He claims he got this from his mother who would make them help her out as kids by finding stuff in the kitchen that they thought would be good in a soup. I adore Corn Chowder but I have never ever made it nor did I have any clue how until last night, which makes no sense because it falls into that Southern Comfort food category which I just adore. Though for some reason I’m more of a French cooker… like my bible is the Larousse Gastronomique, has been since I ever set foot in a kitchen. I do things like souffle and mousse and braised short ribs (which is on the menu for next weekend). It makes no sense coming from an Indian girl born and raised in Texas. You’d think I’d know how to do good Southern Comfort food or at least Indian food. But no, I’ve got nothin’ on either of those. However, you want me to make you souffle or risotto or anything that involves heavy cream, I’m your girl. Example, next week is my turn for dinner and I’m doing braised short ribs in a sauerkraut sauce over swiss chard, crunchy green beans with almonds & garlic and either pureed potatoes or polenta with mushrooms. Oh and lemon souffle with fresh raspberries to finish. (Well ok the raspberries might not be in season, I forget I am not in Texas and can’t get whatever I want whenever I want pretty much all year round but definitely the souffle).

That being said, I was just stunned at how simple, easy and delicious corn chowder is! Now we made enough soup for a small army (note there are only 3 of us eating this soup, we had enough leftovers for the rest of the week for all of us) but here is the recipe as follows:

Corn & Sausage Chowder
1 qt half/half
2 large-ish russet potatoes
3 bell peppers (in any colors you’d like, we had red & green)
1 large onion
1 can creamed sweet corn
2 cans sweet whole kernel corn
2 large sausages
1 bag flour
and any other seasonings you’d like
(feel free to leave out the sausages and add other miscellaneous veggies as you’d like)

Slice one potato into very thin slices and then dice the other one into 1/4″ cubes. Throw the sliced potato into a very very large pot half filled with water and turn on to boil.

Dice all other vegetables and sausage. Put sausage into a large saucepan and brown. Let cook for about 2-5mins. After that add in the onions. Let those cook until they look somewhat clear. Then add in all the other veggies and saute for another 10-15mins. Once the veggies look just tender.

Pour all the ingredients from the saucepan into the pot of boiling water. Add in about 3/4-1qt heavy cream. Add in all the cans of corn.

In a separate bowl mix together water and flour until smooth. As the soup cooks and you want it to thicken add in the flour-water mixture. Repeat this step as many times as necessary to get the soup to the consistency that you’d like – the thicker you want it the more flour-water mix you should add.

Add in salt & pepper generously to taste. We put in cayenne pepper, garlic salt, all spice and something else. But the spices can be just about anything based on what you like and what you want in it. Also I like to think a little splash of beer gives it some good character. Keep on relatively high heat and check on it every few minutes, stir as necessary.

The whole process takes about an hour to make. It’s really not bad and it’s an excellent meal. Especially in the winter when it’s super cold outside. It was pretty perfect for yesterday.

Real Steel-cut Oatmeal

Can actually be found at Jamba Juice, who knew? Certainly not me. At least not until I walked in to my local store this morning (and I love these women, they are just so fabulous – if you are in Chicago you should check out the store at Wells & Madison, they are super friendly and sweet). So my favourite Jamba staff member greeted me with her usual warm smile and today she had something new for me to try. (She is one of the best saleswomen I have ever met). She charmingly asked if I’d like to try out the steel-cut oatmeal topped with bluberries, blackberries and brown sugar. Normally, I don’t try out all the new stuff they promote because I already have enough stuff on their menu that I like.  But today I just couldn’t resist her big smile and tray of new stuff that actually looked really tasty.

Now I tend to be a firm believer that not all things that look good taste good but this time I was pleasantly surprised that not only does this look delicious but the taste matches. Now my favourite staff member did recommend the apple-cinnamon but I’m a bigger fan of blueberries and blackberries, which is what they were handing out anyway so that’s what I ended up getting. But I am super excited to report that I have found *real* steel-cut oatmeal that you don’t have to make at home by yourself! (I don’t wake up early enough to make myself breakfast. More power to ya if you do.)