Quick Rice Fry Lunch

I hate the way my mustache smells after eating pizza.  And I just trimmed this morning, too!  You’d think if it were short enough this wouldn’t be a problem, but somehow the grease finds its way there.

I’m sorry, I know this is definitely stoking your appetite to eat something appealing.  Lets switch gears here while I share my quick and easy recipe for fried rice lunch goodness.  My stomach was grumbling at work yesterday and I only had a few random ingredients with which to work,(cooked brown rice, a jar of homemade spicy pickles w/ onions, fresh almonds, etc) but together they turned out surprisingly tasty.  Here’s what I did:

Rough chop a handful of almonds and toast on medium heat, shaking often until fragrant.  Set almonds aside. Put 3-4 teaspoons of olive oil in frying pan and warm on medium.  Add half a cup cooked brown rice, stirring occasionally for one to two minutes (some of the rice may jump out of the pan, so be careful).  Toss in quartered homemade spicy pickles and onions (and a little pickle juice if you like), the almonds, 1 packet soy sauce (I prefer a non-MSG soy like Kikoman) and 1 teaspoon strawberry jam (Mine is with rosemary*) for a hit of sweetness.  Stir until combined and hot, but don’t leave too long as jam/soy sauce will start to stick/burn to pan.  Serve and Boom!  Quick fried rice!

I know it may not sound appetizing, but I was verysatisfied, and I realized its all vegetarian. Its amazing how good toasted almonds can make a dish taste.

*There is a local merchant here who makes jams and such under the name New Forest.  She has some of the best I’ve tried and you can find her online.  Look it up, her Orange Marmalade is like no other.

Panzanella

What do you do with half an Everything Bagel, a slice of homemade bread (thanks coworker’s husband for being a food god who likes to share), Olive oil, Italian seasoning and 1 pear and 1 orange that you forgot to eat earlier in the week?

Panzanella!

Cut the bread into bite sized squares (about 1″x1″) and toast until browned but not completely dry

Mix olive oil with seasoning, salt, pepper and a little vinegar if you have it.

Slice orange and pear into bowl.  Top with bread and drizzle oil over top.  Mix and enjoy.

May need extra oil for dipping if the bread gets too hard.

A nice, and out-of-the-ordinary treat.

Chicken Guiness Stew

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Somebody brought us a 6-pack of Guinness for a gathering a few weeks back and with all the beer I already own, we found it difficult to drink our way through it.  After seeing a post on Facebook of an acquaintance making Guinness Pot Roast, I felt it was time to get cooking.
Had 1/2 a roasted chicken in the fridge so I went ahead and browned each side in almond oil, then put the chicken in the crockpot.
In the chicken/almond oil grease I cooked up some diced onion with garlic powder (No fresh stuff available) thyme, basil and a few other random spices including paprika. Stirred this around with worchestire sauce then dumped an entire bottle of Guinness in and brought to a boil while scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all that great browned chicken goodness.
We were woefully low on fresh veggies, but had a few spinach leaves left from a salad so I tossed those into the crock as well.  This was probably unwise as they came out kind of dark and unsatisfying.
Went to the grocer and bought some fresh carrots which I chopped up and added shortly before serving.  Also added a bit of brown sugar (too much it turns out) and a touch of late harvest Gewurztraminer to cut down on some of the pronounced bitter notes.  I’m thinking if I’d had the carrots in from the beginning I wouldn’t have needed the brown sugar, and my lab rats complained that it was a bit on the sweet side.
Served over white rice and roasted asparagus with a Dirtoir from Chateau Rogue (an absolutely sublime dark, maltly beer made in Oregon)
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Next time more fresh veggies and less sugar, but overall it turned out pretty well.

Tomato Cheese Salad

  Yesterday the evening supper was pot roast and while this usually constitutes a one pot meal, I felt we needed something bright & fresh to balance out the meaty heaviness of broth cooked roots.  

As my loyal readers know, I’m a fan of combining disparate fridge dwellers into unique dishes that please (or horrify) the crowd.  Truth be told this salad was a dressing before it was an actual dish. Here’s what I had:
Olive brine. We'd run out of actual olives

Artichoke oil. Out of these too

Both of these ingredients would have been excellent if there were any left, but as you can tell, I had to settle for their flavors and not their fruit.   The main star here was something a little less exotic but no less delicious.   

Chop a few handfuls of these in half, and toss in a bowl with the above ingredients, some Italian seasoning and white balsamic vinegar. For sugar add honey and a few chopped up (& peeled) oranges. Raisins would be good too.  For salt, crumble in a little of this action:Love this stuff

You can add it in big chunks too depending on the consistency you enjoy, just be careful not to overstir. 

Sadly I have no photos of the final dish as it was so enjoyed by the entire house, it soon disappeared.   I did throw some chopped walnuts in for added crunch but if you’re planning on keeping it for leftovers, remember the tannic acid will start to imbitter the dressing, so another nut may be better, maybe cashews?

This is a very wet salad so follow the title of my blog to help sop up all the goodness. Otherwise throw onto a panzanella and go wild. 

Sweet shepherds pie

  
My wife had a brilliant idea for all that leftover sweet potato mash post-Christmas.  We love ourselves a good shepherds pie and lacking traditional mashed potatoes, opted for the sweet variety.  

I was uncertain about this but, holy smokes, this dish is a winner.  Here’s what we did.

-brown 2/3 lbs ground sirloin in a large, high-sided pan.  Season as you prefer. We used fresh sage, thyme & Rosemary with salt & pepper and a few shakes of mccormicks hamburger seasoning.

-add 4 sliced radishes (plus chopped leaves), chopped kale (stems & leaves), 1/3 cup sweet corn, 1 large green heirloom tomato. 

-to the pan add 1 cup or so of brown gravy. (Leftover is fine; we used an instant mix from Ahhh Bistro)

-spread a layer of sweet potato mash in the bottom of a greased casserole dish.  Add meat & veggie gravy mix.  Top with another layer of sweet potato mash.  Top with fresh pepper. 

-bake in 400° oven for 20-30 minutes or until top is toasted.

  
The surprising standouts in this were the radishes & their leaves which added a nice peppery counterbalance to the spicy/sweetness of the mash and  the green tomato which is good for more than just frying.  Serve with a green salad or on its own for a warm, hearty winter-time meal.

Fried spice bread with Caramelized bananas

  
A friend brought over a loaf of holiday spice bread which was good but a tad dry.  This morning I gave it new life.

  By pan frying the bread in coconut oil with a little salt it turns into a rich, buttery cousin to French toast.  The coconut oil adds a light sweetness with nutty overtones & the salt helps to balance it all out.  
Feeling ambitious, I used the same pan (drippings & all) to sauté some bananas as a topper.  

  I added just a tad of maple syrup which caramelized nicely in the pan.  
  Voila!  A breakfast fit for kings!

Winter Warmer

When I was a kid my Godmother used to make me a traditional Portuguese drink called a Gemada.  Her recipe was always pretty straightforward: Warm milk, dash of cinnamon, dash of vanilla, a lot of sugar and 1 egg yolk.  Stir this all together and would have the most rich, comforting drink to ward of chills and bring forth the seasonal cheer.  To hear her tell it, there were many different versions and variations on this drink depending on your geography and in many cases your family lineage.  Some involved port wine or brandy and would use heavy cream instead of milk or a whole egg instead of just the yolk.  At any rate, for 8-year-old me, her recipe was one of the greatest elixirs I’d ever encountered.

It was these early memories that struck me on a rainy day-off recently when I felt the sudden urge for a comforting holiday drink, and having recently purchased a rather large quantity of Egg-Nog (another childhood favorite) I tinkered around a bit and came up w/ this:
Ingredients:

1/2 cinnamon stick

2 allspice

3 cloves

1 tsp sugar

1 or 2 dashes Vanilla extract

1/4 cup boiling water

2/3 cup Egg-Nog

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a mug and let steep for 10-20 minutes.  Remove the spices, add the Egg-Nog then heat (I used my microwave) to desired temperature.

Smooth & Soothing!

For those of you looking for a more adult themed version, an ounce or two of brandy, rum, gin or even bourbon would do well in this.

Best enjoyed by a crackling fire.

Veggie Lasagne

The lady of the house mentioned a want for lasagne and having never actually prepared lasagne before, my mind began to whir.  Spent some time on Pinterest looking up various recipes, and then followed her lead as this is one of the dishes she is adept at preparing.

Wanting a light dinner we opted for Vegetable Lasagne.  Had a head of cauliflower in the fridge, half a jar of veggie pasta sauce and a gigantic costco-sized bag of string cheese.  Yes, string cheese.  Turns out it melts really nicely.  Also had some of this which makes a fine substitute for Parmesan:

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From the store purchased:
-Onion

-Orange Bell Pepper

-Tomato Paste (Hunts, but really any will do)

-Zuchini

-Carrots

-Fresh Lasagne sheets

Started by sauteing the carrots, onion and cauliflower in olive oil with a pinch or two of salt.   Once the onions started to brown I pulled them off the heat and set aside.  In the same pan sauteed Zuchini, Bell Pepper, rough chopped garlic cloves and more onion with Oregano.  Before the garlic started to burn I added 1/2 a cup  of red wine (used a red blend from Zenaida, mostly Syrah & Zin, fruity and off-dry) upped the heat until bubbling then downed the heat and added the tomato paste and pasta sauce.  The paste was quite thick so a bit of water and additional wine had to be added to achieve proper consistency.

Some may want to add sugar to compete with the tang of the paste, but I think the wine had enough sugar to hold it’s own.

In this order we layered: Sauce, String cheese (stripped thin), Pasta, Repeat.  On the last row, before setting down the sauce we put thin slices of fresh Zuchinni down.  Then sliced some Kalamata & Green olives up and spread them in with the top cheese layer which also included the Lake Cheese.

In a 400 degree oven, covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 10, a real masterpiece came out.

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The Vegetables were hearty and the pasta soft.  The sauce thick and not too watery, and the olives provided a really nice salty tang to it all.

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Really love how the cheese burned a little around the edges.

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Served with a Rodenbach Grand Cru-Surprisingly good accompaniment to Italian food.  I would have preferred wine but our bottle was done by that point and the Grand Cru served its purpose nicely.

I went back for thirds!

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Brunch at Far Bar

Far Bar is one of my favorite Little Tokyo Haunts.  It has a good selection of rotating craft beer handles, and a very respectable whiskey list.  I love sitting in their hidden alley with the little christmas tree lights giving a nice ambiance overhead.   On top of that, the Happy Hour food deals tend to be tasty and worth the price.

A few Saturdays ago I found myself with a hankering for brunch and with a few hours to kill, I decided to see how Far Bar fared in the day light.  Ordered this mighty beast:

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Veggie Frittata with 1/2 Belgian Waffle & Smoked Bacon.

It was filling and delicious and hit all the right spots.  On top of that, had my first Bloody Ardbeg (A Bloody Mary that uses Ardbeg 10 in place of Vodka) and it was amazing.  Both savory, sweet, smokey and wonderful.  It may be my new favorite drink.

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Coffe Commissary

There is a small chain that popped up recently here in L.A. called Coffee Commisary and the current flame is downright obsessed with it.  She’s particular about coffee so she only goes in for the best, and I must admit, this place may change my mind on the whole coffee thing.

At first I started drinking hot chocolate.

Hot Cocoa, coffee cake & 9-grain muffin

Chai Latte, coffee cake & 9-grain muffin

And their 9-grain muffin is to die for.  Buttery, hearty and with a nutty crunch of which I never tire.

But I’ve moved on to Chai (also very robust and good) and now drinking a few decaf offerings.   Their Cubano (shot pulled with sugar and spices) is really enjoyable and reminds me of the coffee houses I used to love smelling when I was a kid.

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You can track them down here: http://www.coffeecommissary.com/?page_id=1411