Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Turtle Brownies for a Total Cutie

Every year, my department at work has a Thanksgiving Potluck, and every year I get the honor of bringing dessert. 2009 was no exception, and this time I wanted something totally rich and gooey and awful for you that everyone would possibly hate me for (because it's so good, but SOOOOOO BAD). When I announced that I would be making Turtle Brownies, one of my co-workers commissioned me to make an extra batch for her to take home, and so being the good friend I am, I did.

This is where it gets hilarious. She took home the brownies and put them away in the fridge, saving them for the weekend. Well that night she woke up to go get some water, when she found her 5-year-old, sprawled out on the couch, with the now empty brownie pan by his side, and crumbs around his mouth. He was completely passed out. Yes, her 5-year-old had just demolished an entire tray of turtle brownies, and food coma'd.

So this year, for his 6th birthday, my co-worker has commissioned me to make him his very own tray of Turtle Brownies. How could I say no to that little guy?!

I've adapted a recipe I found at Kitchen Bouquet. Here is what you need:

1/2 cup butter
1 4oz bar of good dark chocolate
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup slivered almonds
1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk

We're going to turn that SCM into Dulce De Leche, and you can find out how to do that here.

Now follow the instructions:

  1. Melt butter and chocolate together. Stir in brown sugar, eggs and vanilla, mix well.
  2. Add salt, flour and chocolate chips. Stir to combine.
  3. Pour half of the batter into a greased 9 inch square pan.
  4. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and spread Dulce de Leche evenly over top, then sprinklealmonds over the top. Spoon remaining brownie batter on top and smooth it out.
  6. Return to oven and bake for about another 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, cool and cut into squares. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
And beware of sticky little fingers! :)


Friday, August 20, 2010

Whole Wheat Pizza - overpronunciated.

Our roommate, "Dr. Long", has one of the most amazing idiosyncracies ever. She purposely overpronounces her "H" sounds. You know that joke on "Family Guy" where Stewie overpronounces "Cool Whip"? Like, "cool wHip". She does that. All. The. Time. And it's hilarious. Also, rasP-berries. So any time I bring up making this pizza, she goes, "Oh! wHole wHeat?" and I giggle. It's awesome.

She's awesome.

So with that in my head, I embark upon one of my favorite recipes. Whole Wheat Pizza. Specifically, topped with local salame, beautiful fresh mozzarella, and crimini mushrooms. Oh, yeah, and homemade sauce.

Here is what you need for a perfect Whole Wheat crust:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbs. dry active yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt (I use Kosher)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour

Pour your water into a large bowl, add the yeast and sugar, and let science happen! Seriously, if you've never watched yeast activate, it's actually quite entertaining. Basically, you need to let it sit for a few minutes until it all gets foamy. After that, add your olive oil and salt. Mix well.
At this point, start adding your flour, slowly. Start with the Whole Wheat, using a spatula to mix, and then add your AP at the end, until it gets just slightly sticky. At this point, ditch the spatula and use your hands to knead it gently into a nice ball. Drizzle a bit more olive oil over the dough, cover it all up and set it aside for a good 30min.

While your dough is rising, make the sauce!

You need:

12 oz. canned tomatoes (Fresh is fine, but takes longer to cook down)
2 oz. tomato pastea good pinch of kosher salt
a few cracks of fresh ground pepper
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped2 Tbs. fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbs. olive oil

Sauce, well, it's pretty self-explanatory. Start with your olive oil, throw your minced garlic and sliced onion into the pan, add your tomatoes and paste, your herbs and seasonings, and just let it all cook down. Now, I didn't break all my tomatoes down, so mine looked like this:


From here on out, it's just cake. As mentioned above, I used a local salame, fresh mozzarella, and mushrooms. I finished it off with a handful of chopped rosemary.

Cook this guy at 400F until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is golden. You will get this in return:

Ok, I've got to get to eating this now. It's a sleepy Friday, and our "Mighty Boosh" DVD is waiting.


It's been a long time...

Hello Darlings!

I would like to sincerely apologize for the absence of Rick and myself. We have been ever so busy!

There have been birthdays, work changes, gym restarts, and generally, well life got in the way. But do not fear! I am back, and ready for action. I have some super incredible recipes ready for this weekend, including homemade Paneer & Roti, my "world-famous" whole wheat pizza, and a special picnic lunch for a special day at Stern Grove.

Oh life, you do funny things to us sometimes, but that can't stop me from my one true love - Cooking. (Sorry, Rick.)


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sofrito -or That Thing Rick Puts in All the Puerto Rican Stuff


If you, or anyone in your household doesn't like cilantro, turn around and walk away. Seriously, this is very cilantro-intensive and includes an herb that is like Super-Cilantro. If you understand this, you may proceed.

***********************END WARNING*****************
Tomorrow I will be taking on the cooking duties, I kind of insisted, really, since we had a lot of chicken and a lot of rice, I thought that I would attempt to adapt my mother's arroz con pollo (literally, "chicken with rice", for those of you who took French in high school), to our brown rice technique. I'll give an overview of how we cook brown rice tomorrow.

That would be Grover's Special #5, GOP Chairman Michael Steele.

In anticipation of that, and in order to really get the Puerto Rican flavor in any criollo-style dishes I happen to make, I thought it would be a good idea to make sofrito. Now, like a lot of Hispanic culinary terms, sofrito means different things to people from different places. In Puerto Rico, it is a green-tinged, savory, slightly spicy cooking base with the consistency of a pesto or chimichurri.

Generally, you add a heaping tablespoon or two to the pot whenever you make beans, or a sauce, or meat, or a flavored rice (arroz guisado) or, well, pretty much anything with more than three ingredients.

The only way to make this stuff, by the way, is in batches. Its simply not possible to make just a little. This recipe will yield about three cups. That will easily get you through a few months - I'll talk storage later. For now, on to the recipe:

1 small yellow onion
1 medium green bell pepper
5 small sweet red or orange bell peppers*
10 cloves of garlic
1 large bunch of cilantro - approximately 30 or so stalks
1 bunch of culantro (also known as Mexican coriander, recao, ngo gai, or eryngium foetidum) - approximately 15-20 leaves
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon fine-grain salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 fresh ground black pepper

*If (and that's a big if) you are in an area where you can find aji dulce, use 10 of those little guys instead. I can't get those in SF, so until I get my window box with a few seeds shipped from PR, I'm using sweet peppers.

Honestly, there's really only two hard parts to this recipe.

The first is actually getting your hands on the culantro - it's relatively hard to find. Your best bets are either Asian Groceries that cater to Vietnamese cooks (it's a common garnish for ph) or Hispanic Groceries in areas with folks from the Caribbean or the northern coast of South America. I found it at Manila Oriental Market on Mission Street, and I've seen it at Berkeley Bowl in Berkeley.

The second difficult bit is the prep of the herbs - well, not so much hard as really freaking tedious. First, you want to thoroughly wash and drain the cilantro and culantro. Then, with care, pick the leaves apart - you want to have as few stems as you can. Culantro basically looks like an oversized, saw-tooth grass with a tougher stem running through the middle from top to bottom. So with those, you should shred the leaves by hand, discarding as much of the stem as possible. The cilantro is the real grunt-work. That's a few hundred leaves on those stems there, and you want to pick them all off. I can't make this clear enough: NO STEMS.

Also, I hope you like the smell of cilantro, because things will be getting aromatic up in here.

Once you have that done, wash the peppers, and peel the onions and garlic. Next, to chopping. No need to dice, you just want to get all the veggies down to a size where you can fit them easily into a blender. I cut them all down into eighths, (well, the little sweet peppers got cut into fourths).

Now you're all prepped.

First, toss in about a third of your onions, and set the blender to grind. Grind for about ten seconds until you get a nice little onion slushie. Then add a third of the garlic, grind. Then a third of the peppers, and a third of the small peppers. What you want is to add a little of each at a time, and make sure that they're fully ground down before you add the next veggie. At this point, you should start getting something resembling a very fine yellow-green salsa.

Now add the olive oil, 1/4 tablespoon of salt, and 1/3 of the cilantro and culantro. Grind for about a minute until the entire mixture is nice and smooth.

Open up your blender, spoon the mix down from the sides with a spatula, and start adding ingredients again, another third, in the same order: onions, garlic, green pepper, sweet peppers, cilantro, culantro, a little at a time, grinding until each addition is smooth.

Now add the lemon juice, the remainder of the salt, cumin and pepper. Grind your remaining ingredients in turn until smooth.

When done, you should have a very bright green, pesto-like mixture. The taste should be savory and sharp, resembling a very potent chimichurri, with a slight spicy kick on the end. If it seems just a wee bit too strong to use as a dip, then it's about right.

And that's that. A tablespoon or two added to your cooking at the beginning will help give your dishes a nice little criollo bite.

A word on storage, since this recipe is going to make enough to last your a few months. When fresh, sofrito will probably last you a month or so in the fridge if well-sealed. The best approach is to put what you need in the fridge and freeze the rest, thawing as needed. I would strongly, strongly advise keeping it in an airtight container either way and for God's sake, keep some baking soda in your fridge and freezer.

I've gone on long enough. Tomorrow, arroz con pollo.


Spaghetti with Greens - or - I'm exhausted, let's take it easy.

It's been a really difficult couple of weeks for me. I'm waiting to hear if I got a job that I interviewed for 2 weeks ago. My company moves NOTORIOUSLY slow on these kinds of things, and I've pretty much exhausted myself from the anticipation, so instead of something really time intensive, I've decided to make a really low-key but still delicious and healthy dinner. I love the way greens and pasta look together, so I wanted to make this yummy little number.

What you need:
2 cups whole wheat pasta, cooked
3 cups kale
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 red bell pepper, roasted and sliced
1 tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
2 tbs. chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper


You cook your pasta however you like to. I like spaghetti, and I like it salted and slightly al dente. That's me. You do what you need to.

Once you've got your water on the boil, it'd be a good time to roast up your red bell peppers. I like to do this by slicing up my pepper into strips (removing the seeds and membranes), arranging on a baking sheet, drizzling with olive oil, and broiling them until the skins are black. It just works for me.

After you've got your peppers going, chop up your garlic and sautee it up with a little cooking spray, and add your kale, rosemary, and oregano. Let that wilt, and throw a little salt and pepper into it. Take it off the heat once it has sufficiently wilted, and set aside. You can then use this same pan to toast up your almond slivers, if you feel so inclined.

When your pasta is done, your peppers are roasted, and your greens are wilted - mix them all together with a tablespoon of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Easy, healthy, and delicious.

Calories: 319, Fat: 8.5g, Sodium: 51g, Fiber: 10g, Sugar: 5g, Protein: 12g


Monday, June 28, 2010

Stuffed Bell Peppers & a new Camera!

My new camera came in the mail today! It was the one thing I felt I was missing in "blogging", and now that I've got it, I can effectively photograph meals for you, my dear readers. So today, in honor of this new acquisition, I have created a delicious, low-cal stuffed bell pepper dinner. Nom. Nom.

The players:
2 red bell peppers
1/2 lb. stew beef
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbs. chopped fresh oregano
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp. paprika

salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup kale
2 spring onions 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp. grated parmesan

First things first, you want to marinate your stew beef. I started this last night before bed. In a plastic baggie I mixed the garlic, paprika, oregano, and lemon juice, then threw in my stew beef and coated it well. Popped that in the fridge for some overnight marinatin'. The next morning, I threw the mixture into my trusty ol' crockpot, with a 1/2 cup of water to break it down, set it to low, went to work and let it do its thing. I loves - LOVES - my crockpot. It is my favorite magical device. Mom never used one growing up, so I never really knew the joys of crockpot cooking until I bought my own a few months ago, in anticipation of making a sweet-ass mole. Well.. I haven't made mole yet.. but I've made a ton of BBQ in that thing, and it's AWESOME. BACK TO THE DINNERS!

After getting home from work, I drained the water/fats from the beef, and shredded it up using a fork. I added my cooked brown rice to this, and then sauteed my kale, a clove of garlic, and some spring onions in 1 tsp. of olive oil, and tossed 'em in. Mixed it all up with a tbs. of chopped fresh rosemary to kick up the flavor. I then loaded my red bell peppers with the mixture, threw a little parmesan on top, and a drizzle of olive oil on that. I then wrapped my dish with foil and popped it into a 400F oven for 15 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, I removed the foil to let the cheese crisp up.

For a side, I steamed some farmer's market haricots vert, and yellow zucchini. A little salt, a crack of pepper.. so good! This was a big hit for me and Rick. Good good times. And lookit how purdy!!!

Calories: 484, Fat: 14.6g, Sodium: 52g
, Fiber: 8.3g, Sugar: 5.7g, Protein: 32.8g


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pinapple Grilled Chicken with Black Beans & Rice

ALLISON: Yes! It is our very first recipe post. Welcome to it.

Tonight on the menu, Pineapple Grilled Chicken with Black Beans & Rice. Look at that. Holy balls that looks awesome, amirite? Well, it was a little time intensive, but super worth it. Lately, Rick has been on a kick of rediscovering his "food roots" and really diving into the dishes of his Puerto Rican upbringing. He's been making some ridiculously good beans and rice, so I thought we should pair that up with some pretty chickens. (I like to pluralize chicken)

Your Ingredients:
1 8oz Chicken Breast
1/2 cup Pineapple Juice
5 pineapple rings
1 tbs. Honey Mustard
1 tbs. chopped rosemary
1 tbs. chopped fresh oregano
5 or 6 cloves of garlic
1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup dry black beans
1 bell pepper
1/2 tsp. olive oil
1 jalepeno
1/2 onion
3 bay leaves
1/4 can tomato paste
as much water as you cook rice and beans with
salt & pepper, of course

So what makes this so time-intensive? Dried beans. Yeah yeah yeah... from a can is so much easier.. but dried are so much more rewarding! Also, not full of sodium! So pretty much, you're going to have to soak those puppies overnight. Nothing to it, just soak in some cold water.

While you're getting that ready, making a marinade is easy enough. We used a combo of pineapple juice, oregano, rosemary, garlic, and honey mustard. Yes, it looked like vomit. I know that's not supposed to be appetizing.. but it smelled most unlike vomit, and quite delicious.
Yeahh... soak those chickens. I actually only used one breast, which we butterflied later. It cuts down on the calories, and really, a whole chicken breast is about 8 grams, when 1 serving is only 4 grams. So 1 breast, 2 people. It should marinate for at least an hour, but we like the overnight thing. MOAR FLAVORZZZZ.

flavorz. i haz them.

So on to actual dinner time.

RICK: Very first thing you're going to want to do is get those beans started. Pour the murky, dark, Kraken-esque contents of the bean bowl into a strainer (there are times we'd want to save that water, this is not one of those times).
"Unleash the Kraken!"

The thing about these beans is that I'm trying to approximate Caribbean flavors - there's still a lot of specialized ingredients that I'm still on getting, so it's not 100% accurate. But it's a mighty fine approximation, and all with readily available ingredients.

While the beans drain, seed and de-vein the jalapeno and bell pepper and peel the onion and garlic. The garlic and jalapeno should be minced, but you'll want to slice the onion and bell pepper into thin strips.

Pour half a teaspoon of olive oil into a saucepan on medium heat. Once you have a little heat in the saucepan, sautee the vegetables with a half teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of dried oregano (or tablespoon if it's fresh) and salt and pepper to taste. Toss frequently to avoid burning the garlic - what you're looking for is for the onions to caramelize and the bell pepper to soften slightly. It should be about five minutes, but I advise eyeballing it.
You should really be able to get a good whiff of garlicky, oniony goodness at this point. You're probably also going to have a little black on the bottom of the saucepan. This is when you add 40z tomato sauce - essentially you're doing two things: deglazing the saucepan with the tomato sauce and making sure that the vegetables are all evenly coated with sauce. NOW you can finally add those beans. Toss in three bay leaves and stir well.
Add two cups of warm water, stirring as you pour. You want to be sure to A) cover the beans with water completely and B) blend everything well. Bring the beans to a boil, then simmer uncovered. Now remember, because these are dried rather than canned beans, they will need more time to cook through. Simmer at least forty minutes - though at forty minutes they'll still be rather firm. If you prefer a softer texture, like I do, then sixty minutes should be closer to your benchmark. At that point, they'll be fairly smooth and creamy and just beginning to fall apart.

Now's a good time to get the rice underway. It's gonna take a lot less time than the beans, but a lot more time than the chicken.

ALLISON: I like to call them CHICKENS.
RICK: But it's only one breast of chicken.


RICK: Plural?

ALLISON: I like plurals.
RICK: Um, yeah. So, the chicken/s is going to take a lot less time than the rice, so it's a good idea to get that underway while the beans are simmering. White or brown, whatever method you use, it's going to be between twenty and forty minutes, so it falls right in between. We prefer brown rice, and I'll get into that in detail in the next post. You want to take over, babe? You know, with the chicken/s?

Now, note that we said to use the pineapple juice. That's because when you make the marinade, you want to set the actual pineapple slices aside. We'll be grilling those before the chicken (CHICKENZ), to get them nice and caramelized AND we get some nice flavor charred onto the grill pan (or outdoor grill if it's not balls cold where you live).
Preheat that grill pan to a medium high, then hit it with cooking spray. Once the pan is nice and hot, you'll want to grill each side of the pineapples at least five minutes - basically watch for a good char. Take them off the grill, sprinkle them with coarse sea salt and set them aside.

CAREFULLY place each half of the chicken breast right on the same spot you grilled the pineapple - the grill will be hot and you WILL get some spatter. Since you butterflied that breast, it's going to be fairly thin, requiring only three minutes or so per side to cook through.

And that's it. You're done with the chicken, more or less. For best results, top the chicken with the pineapple slices, cover with foil and let the meat rest for five or ten minutes.

And there you have it folks... YUM.

Remember, this was our first post, so be gentle! :)



Serving Size 356 g

Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Total Carbohydrates
Dietary Fiber

Vitamin A 45% Vitamin C 148%
Calcium 11% Iron 42%
Nutrition Grade A
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Monday, June 21, 2010

Posting the first.

Well helllooooooo friends!

For about a year now I've been trying to get my act together to start up a food blog. Why? Because that's pretty much all I do. I cook, and I listen to music, and that's about it. I mean, what does a girl have time for in the evening after her 9-5, right?

Well, I never really had a "schtick" before, you know? "Ya gotta have a gimmick!" And, well, honestly, food blogs are a dime a dozen these days, but you know what I had never found - a blog about making really high-end gourmet "foodie" foods with a low calorie count and high nutritional content. Diet food is "boring", but something that myself and Rick (my boyfriend and part-time poster to this blog) have started working on is making diet food that you actually want to eat. And that isn't just you know.. raw oats or whatever.

So. Here you will find:

1) Low-cal meals that taste/look like fancy pants, butter-soaked, gourmet contraptions
2) Nutritional information FOR those recipes
3) Snark.
4) Probably some nerdy references. We're nerds. Deal with it.

So, WELCOME! Step into my office, baby.