Friday, January 21, 2011

Week 8: Irish Stew

Wewt, two posts in a week! I was going to post this one earlier, but I needed to get the pics from my friend's camera (I had to use his... I forgot mine -__-;;)

I decided to channel into my Irish roots and make me some good, hearty Irish stew!! For those of you who don't know: Irish food usually is a very "meat and potatoes" kind of food, so don't expect to get your dose of veggies with this recipe :P But on a cold, hungry day, this kind of hearty stew hits the spot :D

Here's the recipe!!

Quick synopsis!

Rating: 4/5
Cost: less than ~$25 bucksss
Difficulty: a little difficult, especially if you're not used to working with hot grease
Eat it again?: YESSS
Allergies: if you're allergic to meat and potatoes, I cry manly tears for you.

So I didn't make a ton of changes to this recipe, but I probably should have lol. Usually when I look over recipes, I try to substitute less healthy things with more healthy things. This time, my brain was on autopilot and I just bought and cooked it just like the recipe told me to- and this recipe is definitely not healthy XD I didn't realize until I was cooking the onions and garlic in bacon grease that this recipe was probably not very heart/health/cholestorol/fat/life friendly. xD Whatever it tasted awesome. The changes I did make were I substituted the lamb with pork (couldn't find lamb shoulder) and I used about half of the meat suggested. This recipe calls for way too much meat. Use about half of the suggested amount if you want a stew. Use the whole amount if you want pork shoulder with sauce :P

Quickly, before I start, lemme just give you a couple healthy alternatives to the recipe (NOTE: these tips have not been experimented with and may deter from the taste):
-use low fat bacon, turkey bacon,or low sodium bacon
-do not cook the shoulder, onions and garlic in the bacon grease. Dump the grease (in a safe container!) and use oil instead.
- use less meat and more veggies!
-try to cut off as much of the pork/lamb shoulder fat as possible- the shoulder is a pretty fatty part of the animal.
-skim the excess fat off the top of the stew when its simmering

I don't think I made a ton of mistakes while making this, if any at all. The recipe is fairly straight-forward. The only thing I'd worry about is working with hot grease and bacon fat. If this is your first time cooking bacon, please be careful! The bacon grease gets very hot and it makes a very sizzly sound when you cook it, so it can be intimidating. If the grease starts to pop at you, turn the fire down or take it off the flame for just a little while. The oil should not pop in your face. If it does, rinse off with cold water immediately to avoid permanent burn marks or semi-permanent pain. And since bacon is made of pork, its important to cook it thoroughly. Raw pork is bad news!

Also, bacon grease is totally great to cook with if you want a nice, rich flavor. It really shows when you make this recipe. But if you wanna be healthy, dump it.

The flavor of the stew was really good!! I was pleasantly surprised. It was perfect over rice on a cold day :) I was not skeptical that it would taste good (the recipe had enough fat in it to float a small island, and fat = flavor), but I was skeptical that it would feel very gross and fatty going down. Actually, it didn't at all! After simmering it for the time suggested in the recipe, all the flavors just kind of worked together and made a very hearty stew. :)

The stew supposedly tastes better after a few days of sitting in the fridge, which makes it even more awesome! I'll definitely be making this a lot during the winter :) Thank you for watching over my cooking experiment, old, Irish ancestors of mine!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Week 7: Ham Fried Rice

WHOA OMG its been a long time since I posted- sorry! Thanksgiving break + finals week + winter break put me on a pretty long hiatus. But alas, I've had my glorious blog in my mind the whole time! I actually finished H a long time ago, I just did I yesterday, and I'm gonna do J tomorrow!! I'm on a roll :D

So ham fried rice! This will take up one of my "get out of jail free" cards (Chinese food is so ubiquitous its super easy to choose). I've used up Italy and China... hmm lol I hope I can find enough countries to keep up!!

Anyway, It's a super simple recipe. Seriously. It's fried rice. Guess what you do. You fry rice. OMG APOCALYPSE

So here's the recipe:

Rating: 3.5/5
Cost: pretty darn cheap... around 15 I think?
Difficulty: easy peasy
Eat it again?: Probably, but I'd rather have Asian meats :P
Allergies: there are eggs in it and ham... so if you're allergic to eggs and ham (sam I am [herp Dr. Suess humor]), or have some religious affiliation that stops you from eating these things, beware!!

So really nothing too special about this recipe. I just needed to make something to feed a bunch of people, so this is it. I've never made fried rice with American ham before (I'm used to using Chinese cha shu and lots of other Chinese meats). I was a little skeptical, but it actually turned out quite nicely!! Though, admittedly, I burned it a little bit :P I shouldn't have burned it, but I was so worried about keeping it hot for my friends to eat that...well yeah it got a little out of hand xD

I didn't do anything differently from the recipe, except I fried the egg in the wok beforehand and just threw everything on top when the eggs were about half done (as to not overcook the eggs). It really doesn't make a difference with Chinese cooking- just throw everything in and it'll all cook itself eventually XD

So yeah- sort of a boring post to start out the new year xD But tomorrow will be much more interesting!! Tomorrow is: Irish stew!! Totally awesome :D

Friday, November 19, 2010

Week 7: Ginataang Manok (chicken in coconut milk)

So after last week's disappointment, I went back to mah Asian roots hoping for some yummy foodstuffs. Even though this dish is Filipino (and I'm not Filipino), I know I needed something Asian. I've been craving food from the east- believe it or not, Davis isn't exactly known for its array of awesome ethnic cuisine (but we do have a lot of sushi buffets!)... so here came Ginataang Manok!!

Here's the linkage:

And the overview:
Rating: 3.5/5
Cost: less than ~$20 bucksss
Difficulty: not that difficult :)
Eat it again?: probably!!
Allergies: nothing really haha

I only made one real change to the recipe, which was the coconut milk. I was like, SCARED to use regular coconut milk cuz its SOOOO FATTY and I've been munching on chocolate all week xD so I found this awesome light coconut milk at Trader Joes (huzzah for the TJ that opened in Davis!! I love love love that place) that its a LOT better for you. Granted, it probably takes away from the creaminess, but I'm not really one for white, creamy things in the first place (go ahead, insert your dirty thoughts here), so the light coconut milk was a double plus. I also used chicken thigh meat as opposed to just a big 'ol chicken.

The recipe pretty much went as planned. I cooked/fried the ginger (which is something I've never done before). Uhhh really not much to say about how I cooked it. Except that when I had to half-cover the skillet to let some of the steam come out, well... I couldn't find a cap big enough to cover everything, so I kind of had to half-ass it all weird... but I think the outcome was the same :)

For anyone who wants to try this recipe, make sure to add SALT to this recipe! The coconut milk kind of just swallows the salt and makes it go away, so don't be afraid to be liberal with the salt. With that being said, don't dump a frickin salt mine into the recipe. Also, if you like a little kick like me, I'd recommend adding some chili flakes on top :)

I'd recommend this dish because it makes quite a bit, and its super easy- just serve with rice, and you're golden!! If you're watching your weight, however, I'd think twice xD coconut milk is sooo fattyyyyyy

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Week 6: Feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew)

Wassup fellow foodeaters! :D Sorry I went out for a week- I actually made this recipe last week, but failed to update until right now :( I finished this week's food, as well, so I'll probably make a post about that one tomorrow :) but for now, lets focus on Feijoada!

I was debating between this dish and Fajitas... fajitas are a LOT easier to make, super quick, and yummy :) a perfect dish for a college student! But, me being the overachieving Asian that I am (sometimes overachieving... mostly underachieving), I decided to challenge myself and make the black bean stew instead. After finishing this recipe, let me just say I wish I made the fajitas T_T;;

Here's the linkage:

And the quick review:
Rating: 2/5
Cost: less than ~$20 bucksss
Difficulty: not that difficult, but takes patience T_T
Eat it again?: nope. :(
Allergies: nuffing I don't think... but there is pork, religious people!! Watch yoself~

I made quite a few changes to this recipe, which may have been the reason it didn't turn out as well as it should have, but whatever. For the soaked overnight black beans, I just bought a can of black beans lol. I'm not gonna soak beans overnight, are you kidding me? And also, I could not find ham hocks for the life of me. Ham hocks are apparently the ankle of the ham. I think something like that would be sold in a specialty store, not a Safeway. :( so I bought porkchops (with bone attached, not smoked). I also used smoked ham instead of regular ham (to make up for the lack of smoked ham hocks) and smoked turkey bacon, not thick-cut regular bacon. I realize this could seriously change the flavor of the recipe, but I'm really not a bacon person, so I took the chance.

Even though I made all these ingredient changes, I followed the recipe instructions on how to cook it. I still reduced (to simmer for a long time to thicken something and "reduce" the volume) the soup for two hours, and I cooked the pork chops for an hour. I used three regular sized pork chops, so I probably got a lot more meat than a ham hock would have given me. This recipe was annoying because the wait was so long, and while I was cooking, the food really didn't look that appealing. Or smell that appealing haha. But whatever, I stuck with it.

One change I did make to the instructions on how to make it was how long I cooked the bacon ham mixture for. I put it in the oven for about 10 minutes longer than suggested so that it could really make things crispy. Make sure to dispose of the oil and junk at the bottom of your pan afterward! You don't want that nasty in your soup >_<;;

My boyfriend ate it and said that it was good, but it wasn't his favorite. Personally, I didn't liek this recipe at all. I thought the flavors were boring and predicable, it had way too much meat in it (which I guess was my fault for adding so much derp), and it was too thick to really call a stew. I had to actually add water to it to make it bearable. And even then it was very thick. If I had to eat it by itself, I would dislike it a lot. Thank god for rice. I swear to god rice just makes everything better.

This recipe is definitely not for the average college kid. As much as I wish it was, the trouble it took to make and the outcome just made it a silly recipe. I am disappoint. :(

Overall, I wouldn't make this recipe again. Even though I challenged myself, the outcome was less than I expected. The soup was not really my thing. :(

Here's the fajita recipe I was GOING to do, but decided against (you should probably just do this one instead XD):

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Week 5: Eggplant Parmesan


*ahem* Moving on....

A friend of mine actually suggested that I make this dish for my "E" week (after he insulted my choice for "D" week lol), and I took his opinion into account. I've never made this before, and I see it all the time on menus at Italian places, so why the hell not? I love me some good eggplant (I love it so much, I forgot to take a picture of the entirely finished product... note: missing corner) :)

This dish is, in case you couldn't guess, Italian. I've officially used one of my "easy recipes" countries (its a lot easier to find an Italian recipe than a lot of other genres of food)... I think I'm running out of easy countries lol. I've done America and Italy... maybe China will be next? Who knows :P I've never had eggplant parmesan before, so I'm pretty excited!

Anyway, lets get to the point!

Here's the link to the recipe, courtesy of allrecipes once again:

And the dealio with this recipe:

Rating: 4.5/5
Cost: less than ~$20!!
Difficulty: Pretty simple dewds
Eat it again?: FO' SHO.
Allergies: nuffing cept Gluten and lots of cheese

I made a couple changes to this recipe, one which was using two eggplants instead of three like the recipe suggests. I'd go with 2. In fact, 2 was exactly enough to finish about 3 layers of eggplant in this lovely dish :D Any more and I don't think my pan would have been able to hold it all lol. The other change was I baked the eggplants longer than 5 minutes on each side. I think I baked them at about 10 minutes on each side (like a couple of people suggested), and I think it really helped to make it awesome :) Crispy eggplant with great flavor? Yes please!

So there was quite a bit of eggplant to work with. I wish I had two baking sheets to bake the eggplant on, but I didn't, so I had to use some kind of random things I found in the kitchen drawer to actually bake all the eggplant in a sufficient amount of time. The dipping in egg and then into the breadcrumbs was easy, sticking them in the oven was easy, pretty much everything was easy! Some people on suggest that I sweat the eggplant (when I first heard the term of "sweating an eggplant," I imagined an eggplant in gym gear sweating and running. Dont' tell me you didn't imagine the same thing). Sweating an eggplant is a process in which you pour salt on the eggplant, wait for 30 minutes, then wash it off. It's supposed to get rid of the natural bitterness of the eggplant (or at least soften the bitterness), but I didn't have enough time to do that, so I just went straight to cutting.

It was just a layering process, a lot like lasagna. Sauce, eggplant, cheese, sauce, eggplant, cheese, etc etc. The last layer, though, I put down the eggplant first, then put the sauce and cheese on top to make it look all pretty :) YEY FOR PRETTY FOOD~ It looks so beautiful, mmmm looking at it is making me hungry for it again xD

This dish was really good! I think next time I'll use a more savory pasta sauce, though (Ragu's sundried tomato and basil was a little bit sweet). I really liked the eggplant and I felt good because it was a baked version of eggplant parmesan (apparently it's usually fried...?) There was a shitton of cheese which I probably could have done without... I really don't think I needed so much lol. I ended up picking a lot of out of my food- partly because I'm lactose-intolerant, and also because I don't want to gain fifty pounds from fatty cheese in one meal XD ITS SO HARD TO LOSE WEIGHT WHEN SOMETHING SO DELICIOUS IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF MEEEE.

I would for sure recommend this dish to any college kid, basically because it makes enough for about 4-5 people (depending on how hungry you are), its pretty cheap to make, and its really easy! All it takes is a little bit of time. I don't think this recipe is as college-friendly as the Dijon Grilled Pork Chops (I'm not sure when I'm going to use Italian bread crumbs again), but overall, pretty amazing!!

This recipe was so good, my boyfriend finally got the guts to ask if he could take the food I make home with him. He said he had been meaning to ask me for a while now, but he felt bad asking me since I made the food with my blood, sweat, and tears. But something about this recipe put him over the edge :D I guess I'll have less eggplant parmesan for myself, but he said he'd take me out to eat a couple extra times! AWESOME TRADES ARE AWESOME!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Week 4: Dijon Grilled Pork Chops

Searching for a good "D" was a little difficult (I kept getting people's names instead of dishes), but once I spotted this awesome sounding Dijon dish, I knew it yelled "AWESOME COLLEGE EXPERIMENT TIME!"

I guess I didn't really think of the country aspect of my experiment when I chose this, so I'm gonna have to be careful and not do too many repeats. Looking at the ingredients, I'm 99.9% sure this is an American dish. USA! USA! (GO GIANTS!!) I don't know if I can argue it's a French dish... xD I highly doubt the French would make a recipe like this lol

Anyway, here's the recipe:

And the low-down:

Rating: 4/5
Cost: less than $15!!
Eat it again?: FO' SHO.
Allergies: nuffing
Religious folks: It's a pork chop, so Jewish people and Muslims, be wary!

So a quick note to anyone who wants to make this dish: please be careful when cooking pork! Its not like beef where you can leave it red inside and still eat it- you've gotta cook pork all the way through!! I was being like, super paranoid the entire time about cooking my meat. If you're ever unsure about how cooked-through the meat is, just cut it down the middle or in the thickest part of the meat and check for redness. If its red, leave it on the grill for a bit longer :P

Okay, so changes to the recipe. Instead of using apple juice, I used orange juice (this seemed like a strange subsitute, but one of the other people on allrecipes did it and they said it turned out fine), I used boneless pork chops, and instead of grilling this and covering it, I used my handy dandy George Foreman grill!! This stupid thing finally came in handy :P I was given a GF grill during my freshman year of college, but we weren't allowed to use any sort of hot or heating things in my dorm room, so I never got a chance to whip it out... UNTIL NOW. :D

This recipe was totally easy, and went by with basically no flaws. The marinade was simple. The ingredients were not confusing. It was so easy. The only flaw i'd say are the RIDICULOUS grill marks that the GF grill leaves on your meat. Seriously, I get that its a grill. You don't need to leave half-inch thick grill marks all over my dinner. Come on now, George Foreman. Stop trying to overcompensate.

I was surprised at how well this recipe turned out! It was really good, albeit the dish was a little bit dry from the GF grill and my paranoia about overcooking. Marinating overnight REALLY showed, and the meat was really flavorful and enjoyable!! I was a little bit hesitant about this recipe because the marinade was very acidic and quite bitter (I tasted it before I poured it all over my meat to marinade overnight), but the bite of the bitterness didn't completely go over to the meat. The simple pork chop dish went perfectly with a side of rice and corn :)

Overall, I would HIGHLY recommend this recipe to any college student, and here's why:

1. Pork chops/pork loin is CHEAP. I was AMAZED at how much cheaper than chicken it is!! I had no idea!! Geez why haven't I been cooking pork all my life lol
2. All the ingredients for the marinade can be used in a regular kitchen (and they're fairly cheap)
Unlike the African stew recipe with its all natural unsalted peanut butter, all the marinade ingredients can be used for a million and one other things. This makes repeating the recipe easy, and cooking other things easy, too!
3. It is SO EASY to cook. Seriously. Even if you don't have a GF grill, just pan fry it!
4. No obscure spices you have to spend a lot of money on, then never use again. YAY FOR USING RANDOM SAUCES AND INGREDIENTS TO MAKE A WINNING MARINADE!!

I'd highly recommend this dish :) I even made myself a bento for tomorrow- look, I made a meat flower! See it? The flower with a stem and a flowerbed? :D :D :D :D :D mmmmmm flowers are so much better when they're made of meat...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Week 3: Cabbage Rolls

Okay, THIS post will have plenty of pictures of the food :)

(this picture is of the cabbage rolls before being covered and put in the oven)

Also, I realize that I'm posting three weeks in three consecutive days- sorry if its a post overload! I won't usually post this much, but I kind of fell behind, so now I'm trying to catch up on all my blogging :D

Cabbage rolls are pretty legit. They're basically this meat and rice mixture wrapped in cabbage. It's like the European version of egg rolls haha. This dish is a Polish dish, but there are other European countries that like to make variations of it (I think the Ukraine and Switzerland has their own version of it, too). So far, I've hit up North America, Europe, and Africa. :)

Once again, this recipe was found on (I really like that website! I'll probably be using it for basically every recipe I try):

Okay, here's the breakdown:

Rating: 4/5
Cost: less than $25
Difficulty: fairly difficult...
Eat it again?: most definitely!!
Allergies: gluten
Religious folks: It's got pork!! Beware!

I was practically drawn to this dish- I think it was calling out to me. For serious. I usually take about an hour to find a dish I actually want to make, but as soon as I saw the cabbage rolls, I knew it had to happen. I frickin LOVE cabbage (not sure why, it must be my Irish side kicking in), and my boyfriend loves meat and rice. This is like the love child of some of our favorite foods :D

I made a couple changes to this recipe. I didn't use savoy cabbage simply because I couldn't find it at my supermarket (wtf is savoy cabbage??), so I used regular cabbage instead. Also, i didn't want to spend the money on the bay leafs (I expected they might be a little bit costly), so I didn't buy them or use them at all. I used wet toothpicks to keep my rolls together (Katamari did not give me enough confidence in my rolling skills). Note that they were WET, so when I stuck them in the oven they wouldn't frickin burn and stuff. Soak them before you use them :)When I cooked the dish, I definitely had some variation in how I rolled them xD Also, I didn't put the cabbage in the microwave (that seemed strange to me), so I boiled them instead. Now that I look back, putting them in the microwave probably would have been a good idea lol.

Anyway, this recipe was really REALLY good. Like AW SHIT I didn't know I could cook something that tasted good! It was a step above the other two recipes I made, I think. I could be biased because of my unhealthy obsession over cabbage, but whatever this dish ROCKED. The flavors were totally there, the meat was really yummy, and it was just delicious :D If I were to change one thing, I would have probably used the spicy pork sausage instead of regular sausage,
but I'm one for spice. :)

Rolling them up was the real challenge, thus the difficulty of the recipe. I tried doing it the Chinese way first- eggroll style. As you can see on the picture on the left, it didn't look that pretty or that cabbage roll-ey XD I think every Polish person in the world is rolling their eyes at me right now. I can't help it- this is how I was brought up to roll things! So yeah my first couple attempts at rolling up the cabbage rolls were basically giant failures. Derppp.

So then I tried rolling them by placing the meat in the middle, and rolling over three sides, then the last one side over all the three sides and placing a toothpick in the middle. This worked a little bit better and created far prettier results. This is what it looked like before I wrapped them up :)

Basically, the difficulty lied in the wrapping. Also, cooking the cabbage was a little difficult for me- I was really worried I was going to overcook it and make it nasty, but I knew the cabbage had to be soft enough to use as a roll.

I'd say that this recipe was well worth it, though :D It cooked beautifully! I covered it and placed it in the oven, just like the recipe suggested, and cooked it for two hours. It seemed like a long time, but whatever, it turned out :D

If you've got extra time in college to make this recipe, seriously, give it a shot. Make all the stuff, then put it in the oven for two hours and study for your midterms. Also, this recipe makes a TON of servings, so its well worth your money! I'm planning on eating these things for several days... probably weeks lol It's great for a family meal with your housemates :D

Below is a picture of the cabbage rolls- I forgot to take a picture of them fresh out of the oven- I was too excited to eat XD