Saturday, September 02, 2006

It's Good to Be Back Among the Cooking

After Thursday’s long day, though, we enjoyed dinner at El Mexicano, our town’s only restaurant. It’s the antithesis of the chain restaurants like El Torito, and most of the dishes are “authentic” Mexican. Others aren’t really authentic, like fajitas, but they taste better than the fajitas I’ve had anywhere else. My favorite meal is the fajitas camaron, or shrimp fajitas, made with lots of onions, peppers, and tomatoes. I get it every time I’m there, since DH is allergic to shellfish and I don’t make them at home. DH tries different things each time, such as the combo # 1 with a shredded chicken taco, a bean tostada, and a cheese enchilada, or the gordita–a thick corn tortilla topped with meat, beans, and everything else in the world. Thursday he got the torta, which is really a steak sandwich, and the meat was pretty tender.

Last night we ate at home, but I didn’t really cook. DH grilled some bratwurst, and I make tomatensalat, or tomato salad. It’s really quite easy and quick to put together.

Tomatensalat (Tomato Salad)

3 T olive oil
2 t “brown and spicy” mustard
2 T cider or red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
3 medium tomatoes, halved and sliced (this is also good with halved cherry tomatoes)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and stir to mix. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Serves 2


Ice Cream Rant

We went to the commissary today at March Air Base. While I love going there since I save about 35% off the prices at the supermarkets, they didn’t have any quality ice cream there. All they had were that new “slow churned” crap. Even the no-sugar-added was “slow churned.” “Slow churned” means that they’ve added even more air, so they can use less milk and cream. REAL ice cream melts into a liquid with the consistency of milk or cream. This new “slow churned” crap melts, if you could call it that, into a mess with the consistency of whipped cream. It doesn’t even lose the air. The advertising idiots think that if they call it “creamy” we’ll think it’s better. It’s not. Don’t buy it. Either spend more money and get the quality stuff (Häagen Dazs, for example), or make your own. I decided to make my own this afternoon, since I could fiddle with the recipe and reduce the sugar. What I ended up with today was outstanding. I started with the Coffee Ice Cream recipe that came with my ice cream maker, followed their suggestion of substituting a little cocoa for some of the espresso, and used part Splenda. This is sooooo good!

Mocha Ice Cream
low sugar

3 c half-and-half, divided
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c Splenda granular
1 T powdered cocoa
2 T espresso powder
1 t vanilla

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the half-and-half with the sugar, Splenda, cocoa, and espresso until sugars and powders are dissolved. Add vanilla and the remaining half-and-half. Turn ice cream machine on and pour into freezer container. Freeze 25-30 minutes and transfer to a freezer-safe container. Put in freezer for another couple of hours to ripen.


Lunch was a variation of a bagel sandwich I had at a shop near Cal State, San Bernardino. Theirs used sliced avocado, but I didn’t have any. This one used some jalapeño bagels I had in the freezer from Bruegger’s Bagels.

Jalapeño Bagel

2 jalapeño bagels, sliced in half horizontally
2 T cream cheese, divided
1 tomato, halved and sliced
1/4 c shredded cheddar or jack cheese, divided
canned jalapeño slices to taste (don’t use fresh–they’re too hot!)

Spread bagel halves with cream cheese. Top with tomato slices, cheese, and then jalapeño slices. Bake at 350˚ 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serves 2.


A few months ago, Joe of Culinary in the Desert, now known as Culinary in the Country, made some tempting Cinnamon Bread. I just had to try it, since I had some cinnamon chips in my cabinet waiting for a great recipe. The only change I made to Joe’s recipe was that I used half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. My husband devoured this loaf, leaving me to fight him for the two slices that I enjoyed. He said it tasted like his favorite cinnamon rolls. So I definitely have to stock up on more cinnamon chips and make a lot more of this recipe!

This is Joe’s original recipe:

Cinnamon Bread
from Joe of Culinary in the Country

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup cinnamon chips
2 tablespoons sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon, can use more or less to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, yeast, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, butter and egg. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, beating until smooth. Cover and let the batter rest at room temperature for 1 hour, then stir in the baking powder and cinnamon chips with a wooden spoon.
Preheat oven to 350˚. Scoop the batter into a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. In a small bowl, mix the rest of the cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle the top of the batter with cinnamon sugar. Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the bread from the oven, let it rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then tranfer it from the pan to a rack to cool completely. This bread slices better when you wait for it to cool down some.


While the east coast is getting tons of rain from Hurricane Ernesto, we’re having another heat wave. When it gets warm up here, I don’t want to heat the kitchen up, plus cool food is refreshing. So, tonight’s dinner was a cold couscous-chicken salad, plus a spinach-apple salad. I’d never made the couscous salad before, but the spinach-apple salad is one I used to make often when our son was living with us.

Lemon Couscous Chicken Salad

1 1/4 c water
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 c edamame, thawed
1 pkg. Near East Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil Couscous
1 1/2 c chopped cooked chicken (2 small half-breasts)
juice of 1 lemon (2 T)
1/2 t lemon peel
1 T dried parsley

In a large skillet, bring the water, oil, edamame, and contents of the spice pack from the couscous mix to a boil. Stir in the couscous, chicken, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Add parsley and fluff lightly with a fork. Chill well and serve cold. 4 servings

Spinach-Apple Salad

3 T vegetable oil
3 T raspberry or red wine vinegar
2 T honey
dash salt & pepper
about 3 cups fresh spinach (about half of a bag)
1 crisp apple (Fuji, Gala, etc.), unpeeled, cored, and sliced
2 T sliced almonds, toasted

Combine first 5 ingredients in a jar; cover tightly, and shake vigorously. Chill thoroughly. Remove stems from spinach; wash leaves thoroughly, and pat dry. Tear into bite-sized pieces. Toss spinach in enough dressing to coat, reserving remaining dressing. Place spinach on serving platter. Core and slice apples. Toss in reserved dressing, and arrange on spinach. Sprinkle with almonds. Makes 3-4 servings.


cookiecrumb said...

Whew. So, are you up for a meme tag? Come see; it was my Aug. 30 post.

Patti said...

I made some of that Cinnamon bread of Joe's here while back. It is very good!
Some of these dishes look awesome! Thanks for posting!