Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Camarones Enchilados - Cuban Shrimp

Let's talk for a sec about Cuban food, a cusine I never expereinced before meeting Weston (who, as you know, is half Cuban).  In college, I think I only met Weston's parents all of about 4 times.  Why? Because they were all the way over in Maryland (Weston's home state).  I really only ate Cuban food the few times we visited Baltimore to see his family.  Until he got his own apartment and we were able to cook together.  The first labor intensive dish we made together was Cuban Hash - I need to get that recipe so I can make it again for you.  But today we're going to talk about Camarones Enchilados - a yummy shrimp recipe which is super easy to make.

What You Need:

1 bag shrimp (I think that's about 1 pound)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cups fresh parsley
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 jar pimentos, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup salsa
1/2 cup cooking sherry
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
pinch salt and pepper

What You Do:

Saute the onion, green pepper, and garlic in olive oil.  Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 25-30 minutes over medium low heat.  Add the shrimp towards the end.  If the shrimp you're using is raw, cook till it turns pink.  If you used cooked shrimp, you can just throw it in until it's warmed through.  I actually used cooked because I was curious if it would change anything - it didn't.

Serve this over fluffy rice!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Burmese Koswey

Perhaps I should work on my titles - they're not incredibly creative...but the recipes are stellar.  I promise.  

Today I want to share with you a recipe that is one of my favorite.  Hands down.  It's quite impressive, too, because of the toppings. Kowswey (pronounced "kouse-ware") is actually one of the few Indian style dishes served on noodles, not rice.  Egg noodles work best.

Make your toppings: 
fresh cilantro (wash it well so you get out all the dirt)
garlic chips (thinly sliced garlic fried in hot oil)
caramelized onions (thinly sliced onion fried low and slow until they turn dark brown and super sweet)
chickpea powder (don't make this, buy it from your Indian market)

Next, make the curry.  First, add 2 Tbs olive oil to a saucepan and get it nice and hot.  Throw in 1 Bay leaf, one cinnamon stick, 1 tsp black peppercorns, 1 tsp cardamom pods, and. 1 tsp dried cloves.  Fry this until the pods start to pop (WATCH OUT BECAUSE YOU CAN GET BURNED). Turn off the heat, take out the spices, and add 5 cloves chopped garlic and 2 thinly sliced onions (yeah, you need more of them - you should probably use two different pans to get twice as many done). You might need to add some more oil.

 Set those aside, and then fry 1 pound of cubed chicken (chicken breast or thighs) or beef (I like beef chuck myself) until it is almost cooked through.  Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Pour in 1 can of coconut milk and add the reserved onions and spices.  Sprinkle in a little cumin powder and ginger powder (maybe 1/4 tsp). Let this simmer together over medium heat for an hour, adding more milk if it gets too thick.

Serve over rice or egg noodles, and alongside yogurt raita.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Starbucks, I'm Cutting the Cord!

My love of Starbucks dates back to when the chain first started gaining popularity in my sleepy Michigan hometown.  My doctor's office was one of the first to have the coffee shop in its entryway and this turned out to be one the best investments they ever made - at least, that's what my mom says.  Because a Frappechino, my friends, was the only thing that kept her little "girly-pearly" quiet through a prick, a poke, a check-up...anything doctor related.  And so the addiction began.

Over the years Starbucks has become synonymous with "treat" in my vocabulary.  I use the only sparingly - a meeting with friends, a hot day in Michigan, and after moving the Virginia and leaving my comfy, regular life of home, the treat quota has far been exceeding it's financial allotment from my wallet.  I've tried to compensate by only waiting till the craving is unbearable and switching over to iced tea.  Recently, though, I discovered the joys of a new beverage: iced coffee with soymilk and Steevia (I bring my own packets and ask them to put them in).

Drinking this cool beauty I am blissfully happy - but alas the fun is over MAYBE 30 minutes later - if I can last that long, and I'm left with my gift card stub showing I am $2.33 poorer and only received 6 oz or so of coffee with milk.  $2.33.  That's how much a half gallon of soymilk costs.  So I got to thinking... is it possible I can make my very own iced coffee?  Sounds so simple, but actually, there are a few things to remember:

1) Use a smooth blend, something nutty and with caramel undertones

2) Brew your coffee the night before and put it in the fridge- this way it won't melt when the ice hits

3) Proportions are everything - find a mix of coffee: milk: sugar that works for you

So here's my easy peasy recipe for homemade iced coffee.  Now save those Starbucks giftcards for the things you CAN'T make at home - like Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Lattes.

- 4 cups brewed coffee, chilled (I make enough for a couple days but not too far in advance because fresh coffee tastes better than 3-day-old coffee.  Obvi. The kind of beans I used for this was the Archer Farms Caramel Target blend.  A lot of the Target blends look yummy, so I'll prolly be switching this up soon.

- Packets of Stevia, all natural sweetener

- Vanilla almond milk or soymilk

When you're ready to drink, stir together 6 oz coffee, 2 oz milk, and 1/2 packet Stevia.  That's my preference so you can adjust however you like.  I only let myself have one or two of these a week because I'm paranoid about over-doing it on coffee and becoming one of those addicted dental student.

And do me a favor: use a straw and save your perly whites the displeasure of turning murky brown.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Best Thing to Ever Dress a Salad

Y'all are going to love me for this: it's one of my proudest inventions.  A super simple dressing for salad - particularly amazing when paired with a red cabbage salad.  The spiciness of the cabbage compared with the tahini and soy POPs in your mouth.  Soooo good - I've been eating this all week and still am not tired of it.

This dressing actually only has a few ingredients, but the flavors are incredible.

This makes enough for about a 1/3 cup of dressing:

4 Tbs Tahini
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or a chopped fresno pepper
4 Tbs low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup oil (I used sunflower seed)
2 Tbs water

Mix it all together with a whisk and pour over... anything!

*If you find it's a little thick, you can add a little more olive oil and a couple Tbs of water

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tuna Steaks and Pasta

A quick weekend post for you; nothing fancy in terms of technique, but quite fancy when you look at the finished product.  The tuna steaks at Whole Foods were looking mighty fine the other day so I got a 6 oz steak and decided to save it for a special occasion.  I'm not quite sure why a random Thursday night was a "special occasion" but hey, part of living alone is reveling in the randomness of life.  Silly me thought seafood in the South would be cheap, but that was NOT the case with this beauty: $7 for the little piece.  It was good, though - and very fresh.

The tuna was simply seasoned (try saying that 3 times) with salt and pepper then seared on all sides so I got a nice crust on it.  Then I added about 1 Tbs soy sauce to the pan (be careful, it splatters) to give it an extra layer of flavor.

I served this alongside some al dente pasta topped with pesto.  

The next day, I made some more pasta and tried a little experiment.  I have a friend (aka: boyfriend) who likes his pasta a little more cooked than I do so I gutted it out and cooked it longer (past "al dente") to see if cooking time changes the flavor.  It did.  For the worse.  

Sauces taste much bolder and thicker and luxurious when the pasta is cooked JUST enough so they themselves impart a little nuttiness.  I hate to break it to you hun, but I was right: NEVER overcook your pasta.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Eggstra Eggstra - Guest Post By Miss Patti Ramos, RD

I was making egg salad the other day - which I haven't done in literally YEARS - and was thinking about how, in class, we'd just finished going over LDLs and HDLs.  I wanted to add a little nutritive info to my post when the idea struck me to reach out to my dear friend, Patti, who just finished her degree at the University of Michigan.  Patti is a Registered Dietitian (so proud!) and I thought - who better to give you the deets on eggs - and fats in general - than her?

So here's the scoop from the lady herself - recipe follows :)

Hello, from Sheila’s friend, Patti, AKA Miss Dietitian! Sheila asked me to write a guest post for her blog, and I was more than thrilled to do so! I’ve known Sheila since our undergrad days at the University of Michigan. From belly-dancing lessons at our lovely Martha Cook home to bake-dates of all things delicious to painting Ann Arbor-town red with shenanigans, I’ve had so many adventures with Sheila and she is such a wonderful friend to have!

Like Sheila, I no longer live in Ann Arbor, but miss it desperately. After finishing up my dietetic internship through UM, I found myself as one of those good ol’ boomerang kids that Generation Y is so famous for these days. Livin’ in suburbia with the 'rents! Job hunting in our lovely Mitten economy! Volunteering with various nutrition-related endeavors to keep my mind on nutrition and to gain more experience in my field as a young Registered Dietitian.

Nutrition is an interesting field these days because everyone’s nutritional needs are so vastly different. Some of us hold a few extra pounds. Some of us are avid athletes and need mountains of food to maintain weight. Some of us have chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease that require careful dietary monitoring to maintain good health. This is why it is often tricky to give nutritional advice via blog, which I like to think of as a platform where the writer shouts out their knowledge/advice/opinions with a mega-phone to whomever cross their path. The moral of the story is: always consult your own doctor or dietitian to evaluate your individual nutritional situation.

However, let’s talk about today’s topic of choice: cholesterol! That nasty little bugger that our body needs (yes, we actually need cholesterol!) yet so many of us need to limit thanks to our diet, genes, or both. But first, what is cholesterol used for in our bod? Cholesterol helps to make a slew of different hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Cholesterol, with the help of sunshine, is also necessary for the formation of vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium, contributing to good bone and dental health. Without cholesterol, we might all succumb to osteoporosis and our hormones would be all out of whack! What a world that would be!

But let’s talk about the other side of cholesterol and its two types: HDL and LDL. HDL + LDL = total cholesterol level, which should be below 200. HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is dubbed the “good cholesterol”. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is the “bad cholesterol”. We want HDL levels to be >60 mg/dl (that’s milligrams per deciliter, but don’t worry about the units) and LDL to be <130 mg/dl. When we have adequate levels of HDL in our bod, we see a few things: HDL acting as a bad-cholesterol “recycler” and removing it from our body and, therefore, giving us a decreased risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke.

So how can we amp up our HDL and tone down our LDL? Exercise is one of the best ways of increasing HDL, as well as making sure we get “good fats” – that would be unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated count, too!) – in our diet. Sources of good fats are:

-       Nuts and seeds! Like walnuts, almonds, and peanut butter.
-       Cold water fish, like mackerel, trout, cod, and salmon.
-       Plant-based oils. Think olive, peanut, and canola oil.

And as always, even with foods that have “good fats”, it’s important to watch your portion size! Other ways to lower your HDL include not smoking (or quitting if you do smoke) and drinking alcohol in moderation. This means limiting booze to one drink a day for women and two per day for men. And no, this doesn’t mean that you can “save up” your drinks for a week and drink them all on Saturday night…. On the LDL end of things, you can help keep it low by eating foods that are – you guessed it – low in cholesterol! Foods with high amounts of cholesterol are animal products, like full-fat dairy products and higher fat meats like beef.

Which brings us to…drum roll please…EGGS! We’ve probably all heard over and over again that eggs are good for us, but that the yolks are high in cholesterol. Maybe even some of us have heard that we should avoid egg yolks all together. However, for those of you who love an egg here and there, you’re in luck! Egg-consumption recommendations have been changed recently, my friends. Health professionals now say that healthy individuals without high cholesterol levels can consume one egg daily, without the risk of adversely affecting cholesterol levels. This way, you can get all the nutrients that eggs have to offer. Egg yolks are a great source of vitamins B6 and B12 as well as calcium, iron, and vitamin A.

However, take note of the recommendation of one egg daily. That means…if you are eating things like scrabbled eggs, egg salad, or any other mixed egg dish of the like, it’d be best reduce the number of egg yolks in your concoction. For example, try changing your daily three scrambled eggs breakfast to three scrambled egg whites and one egg yolk. Or replacing half the egg yolks with egg whites in your favorite egg salad recipe. It might seem like a drastic change at first, but give it a try. And always remember that healthy lifestyle changes TAKE TIME! Don’t expect miracles overnight.

And on that note, the lovely Sheila has a recipe for y’all: egg salad! I have not tasted her version of the summery treat, but I am sure it is delicious! Feel free to enjoy in moderation and in happy health.

Signing out,
Patti (Miss Dietitian)

Isn't she the best? Loved spending my college days with her!

Egg Salad:

5 boiled eggs, chopped (easiest way is to cover the eggs in a saucepan, let them come to a rolling boil for about 5 min, then turn off the water and keep them in the the saucepan for another 10 minutes - when an egg spins on a counter top, it's done!)
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2-3 Tbs pickle juice (my secret ingredient)
3 Tbs mayo
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
5 mini dill pickles, chopped into big chunks
1 chili pepper, finely chopped (I used some tiny red peppers a classmate grew in his garden, but a Fresno would work)
salt and pepper to taste
5-6 leaves torn basil

Mix everything together and taste to adjust seasonings.  I like mustard, pickles, and W sauce, so I find I add a little more of those ingredients.  The sauce for this recipe is a little runny but I like that - I hate when people add so much mayonnaise that you can't taste anything else, so I use it for flavor and not as a binder. Plus, when you put this on toasted whole wheat bread, it keeps hold everything together. 

As per Patti's post, 1 egg/day is the allotment, so this should hold you for 5 servings - this is why I like to bulk up my egg salad with spicy peppers and tangy dill pickles. It's all about finding ways to cut the fat and add some flava!!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012


It's always a nice surprise to open the fridge and find everything for a recipe I want to make.  This was a really fun creation for me and one I'll be experimenting with sometime soon.

I made my own pasta sauce with a can of crushed tomatoes, oregano, red chili pepper flakes, olives, and sundried tomato bits.  I cooked this down and then added 1 pound of cooked ground turkey.  I also had some cooked chicken hanging around so I cubed it up really tiny and threw that in the sauce as well.

I made a filling with 1 1/2 cups of ricotta and some defrosted (and well-drained) spinach, seasoned with salt and pepper.

The reason this is called LAsghetti is because I didn't have enough lasagna sheets so I cooked some thick spaghetti noodles and used those for the bottom layer.  I suppose this is a cross between baked spaghetti and lasagna...but "lasghetti" sounds so much cooler.

To assemble, lightly oil the bottom of a Pyrex dish.  This will help the noodles crisp up on the bottom - yum! The add 1/2 of the meat sauce, 1 layer of lasagna noodles, all the ricotta mix, another layer of noodles, and the rest of the meat. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

I've started foregoing the cheese in my lasagna - I don't really miss it, either - but if you want some gooey goodness, you can add 1/2 cup Parmesan to the ricotta mixture and top the whole thing with fresh mozzarella.