Knife Skills

Do you have all the sharp tools but don’t really know how to use ’em?  Have you been cooking for a long time, but still end up cutting yourself when you’re chopping (Me? Never!)? I came across this short video from Jamie Oliver last night that explains a couple proper ways to slice and dice. I’m a fan of the hand method when mincing. I figured that this video, along with the onion video that I referenced to here, would get every cook well on their way to being confident with sharp objects in the kitchen!

After watching Food, Inc., last week, I decided that one of my goals this year is to cook more seasonally and to shop at the farmer’s markets more. One way I am making this a habit is to turn it into a social event–I’ve gone with friends twice, and we’ve dropped the line with others that we’d be interested in making a date of it.

So, when I came across this Q&A from Michael Ruhlman’s blog, I thought it might answer some questions that I know we’ve posed to ourselves during our forays and that I thought you might have uncertainties about when planning your own trips. What do you think? Will you be going to your farmer’s market this weekend?

Casey’s Grinch Cakes

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If you follow me on instagram, you’ll have seen that I have been making a concerted effort to include more veggies in my breakfast. One of my coworkers, noticing this instagram trend, came into my office the other day to tell me about her latest protein pancake creation: grinch cakes, so called because their green color reminded her of Dr. Seuss’s Grinch. She rattled off the list of ingredients, including spinach, that she had been including in hers, which I thought I could remember without writing down.  Given that I had already been adding spinach to my smoothies, and that even Mr. Little Fish said you couldn’t taste it, I vowed to test out the recipe on the weekend.

Unfortunately, I didn’t remember exactly what she said she used, and my initial batch did not turn out so well. I knew something was wrong when the batter looked closer to a watery smoothie in consistency and spread out across the whole pan when I poured it in.  But one workday morning, realizing I had run out of the morning glory baked oatmeal I had tested (recipe here!) and still had spinach, I decided to give it another go.  This time, I limited the ingredients to just 4 and made three small pancakes instead of 1 large one.  The resulting pancakes were thick, fluffy, and had structure to them. I didn’t notice the spinach taste at all, and, best of all, they were a bright, emerald green perfect for a St. Patty’s Day brunch! Plus, they can be gluten-free and dairy-free! So when it comes down to it, even eating a whole stack amounts to eating nothing more than some oatmeal, an egg, a banana, and a whole ton of spinach. And with a name like “grinch cakes,” I bet even kids would be excited to eat them! How’s that for a weekday morning!

Casey’s Grinch Cakes
Serves 1

IMG_7143Ingredients:

1 banana
1 large egg
1-2 handfuls of baby spinach
1/3 cup rolled oats, gluten-free if desired
Butter or oil, for greasing the pan
Optional: vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Blend together all the ingredients, until a thick batter forms.

2. Heat up a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and melt some butter.
IMG_71303. Pour the batter straight from the blender into the pan into three medium-sized puddles.
IMG_71324. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until bubbles start to form and pop in the batter on the top.
IMG_71345.  Flip the pancakes, and cook for 3-5 more minutes, until both sides are golden brown.
IMG_71356.  Transfer to a plate, and top with your favorite toppings!  I topped mine with full-fat Greek yogurt that I mixed together with some real maple syrup and sliced strawberries!
IMG_7138IMG_7142

 

Casey's Grinch Cakes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 banana
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-2 handfuls of baby spinach
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats, gluten-free if desired
  • Butter or oil, for greasing the pan
  • Optional: vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Blend together all the ingredients, until a thick batter forms.
  2. Heat up a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and melt some butter.
  3. Pour the batter straight from the blender into the pan into three medium-sized puddles.
  4. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until bubbles start to form and pop in the batter on the top.
  5. Flip the pancakes, and cook for 3-5 more minutes, until both sides are golden brown.
  6. Transfer to a plate, and top with your favorite toppings!  I topped mine with full-fat Greek yogurt that I mixed together with some real maple syrup and sliced strawberries!

Shrimp a la Vindell

Growing up, my parents had a pretty clear division of labor when it came to cooking in our household.  My mom, living most of her formative years in Missouri with her large extended family, was more of the holiday chef, cooking recipes that my grandma made at home, likely passed on to her from her mother before her.  Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I always remember my mom getting out this little green recipe box, full of carefully handwritten but well-worn recipes. We would always get a few of the classic dishes from there, although my mom would also put her own spin on things. She runs a tight ship on the holidays, and the comforting and delicious smells and tastes we get every year always remind me that I clearly get my meal-planning skills from her.

My dad was the more day-to-day chef, making the easy and fast weeknight meals. My dad is always experimenting in the kitchen, drawing on his familiarity with Nicaraguan and Mexican food, recalling the time during his hippy days (he came to the US in the 70s) when he “went vegetarian,” and reminding us, often, of his experience working as a cook in a pancake house in Missouri. He is one of those people for whom cooking comes naturally: he always seems to be able to just throw something together–a pinch of this, a dash of that–and have a finished product that is successful.  It’s a skill I have learned to cultivate to some degree, but I envy how it’s a skill that just is for him.

This recipe is one such dish that he just threw together one night years ago, thus why I have called it Shrimp a la Vindell. It’s fast, easy, and healthy.  It’s also versatile–throw it into tacos, eat it with rice or veggies on the side, or wrap it in some lettuce and quinoa for lettuce wraps. From my family to yours on Easter weekend!

Shrimp a la Vindell
Serves 4

IMG_6928Ingredients:

2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 box button mushrooms, sliced thin
1 Serrano pepper, diced small
3 green onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
Optional: one shot of tequila
Salt, pepper, and more garlic powder, to taste

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Once hot, add the shrimp, mushrooms, Serrano, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the pan. Cook until the shrimp are pink (the pan I used was a little too small, so the shrimp were crowded. Thus, I used a lid to help keep the steam in to cook them, but it’s not necessary.)

2. Once the shrimp turn pink, add in the tequila shot if you are using it.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.
IMG_69313. Serve in lettuce wraps on top of quinoa or with veggies on the side!

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Shrimp a la Vindell
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 box button mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1 Serrano pepper, diced small
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Optional: one shot of tequila
  • Salt, pepper, and more garlic powder, to taste
Directions
  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Once hot, add the shrimp, mushrooms, pepper, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the pan. Cook until the shrimp are pink, about 3-5 minutes (the pan I used was a little too small, so the shrimp were crowded. Thus, I used a lid to help keep the steam in to cook them, but it's not necessary.)
  2. Once the shrimp turn pink, add in the tequila shot if you are using it.  Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.
  3. Serve in lettuce wraps on top of quinoa or with veggies on the side!

Pork Chop and Apples

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This weekend was such a tease in Austin.  On Saturday, we had the most beautiful day in a long time.  It was hot enough that if I was outside all day, I probably would’ve gotten a (second) sunburn for the season already.  So, like a good kinda-sorta-Ginger, I stayed out of the sun by watching Captain America in Imax 3d, but then made Mr. Little Fish take me to dinner somewhere, anywhere, with a patio.  Luckily, our favorite neighborhood pizza place is pretty much nothing but a patio, so we spent the evening after the movie enjoying the sun.

But, then, Sunday and Monday came along, and it was rainy and gloomy and kinda chilly again, and today is straight up cold. What’s up with that, Austin?  Winter is (not supposed to be) Coming. I had planned all weekend to make a light, sunny ceviche, and I did (and it was delicious), but I ate it grumpily because my food does not match the weather outside right now (and apparently cooking makes me do things like pay attention to the seasons!).

What does sort of match this weather is this stove-top pork chop with apples dish. Really, it’s a fall dish. Apples are in full season then, and it’s comfort-food-like with a side of mashed potatoes or cauliflower.  But, what I think is great is that this could easily be transformed into a summer dish.  Grilled pork chop and apples anyone? Pork chops are kind of made for the grill, and there are few fruits that don’t benefit from dat charcoal-caramelization.  Unfortunately, I don’t have easy access to a grill, so I’ve forced this recipe indoors, but I would love to hear if anyone decides to try an outdoor variation of it (just through the apple and onions on some foil and throw on grill!)!

Pork Chop and Apples
Serves 3

Ingredients:

3 boneless pork chops
1/2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1.5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 apples (I use one Granny Smith and one Gala for sweetness), cored and sliced
1 onion, diced
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and put a large cast iron or other oven-safe skillet inside to preheat with it.  Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel, and then, brush the chops lightly with coconut oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside until the oven is done heating.
IMG_69782. Remove the skillet from the preheated oven, and place on the stove top over medium high heat.  After a few minutes, lay the pork chops in the skillet, and sear on each side for 2-3 minutes, until the sides are golden brown (NOTE: you may want to turn on your oven vent or open a window, as this produces some smoke!). Remove the pork chops to a plate after they achieve the golden color (don’t worry if they are not cooked; they will cook through in the oven).
IMG_69803. Add the remaining coconut oil to the pan, and add the diced onions, sauteing until they start to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
IMG_69814.  While the onions cook, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and some salt and pepper in a small bowl.  When the onions are soft, add this mixture to the pan, along with the sliced apples.  Cook until apples start to soften, about 5 minutes.
IMG_69845. Add the pork chops back to the pan, and spoon the apples and onions mixture over the top of them. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the pork chops reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit with an instant read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the chops.
IMG_69856.  Remove from oven, and serve the chops with the apples and onions spooned over, and with a side of brussel sprouts to mashed potatoes!
IMG_6986

Pork Chop and Apples
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Serves: 3-4
Ingredients
  • 3 boneless pork chops
  • ½ tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • ½ tbsp brown sugar
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • 1.5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 apples (I use one Granny Smith and one Gala for sweetness), cored and sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and put a large cast iron or other oven-safe skillet inside to preheat with it.  Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel, and then, brush the chops lightly with coconut oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside until the oven is done heating.
  2. Remove the skillet from the preheated oven, and place on the stove top over medium high heat.  After a few minutes, lay the pork chops in the skillet, and sear on each side for 2-3 minutes, until the sides are golden brown (NOTE: you may want to turn on your oven vent or open a window, as this produces some smoke!). Remove the pork chops to a plate after they achieve the golden color (don't worry if they are not cooked; they will cook through in the oven).
  3. Add the remaining coconut oil to the pan, and add the diced onions, sauteing until they start to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. While the onions cook, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and some salt and pepper in a small bowl.  When the onions are soft, add this mixture to the pan, along with the sliced apples.  Cook until apples start to soften, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the pork chops back to the pan, and spoon the apples and onions mixture over the top of them. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the pork chops reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit with an instant read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the chops.
  6. Remove from oven, and serve the chops with the apples and onions spooned over, and with a side of brussel sprouts to mashed potatoes!