Most people young and old love milkshakes! I am certainly no exception to that, but for years have stayed away from this frozen treat most of the time due to the unhealthy nature of ice cream, milk and sugar. What if you could cut out the ice cream and most of the sugar while still having a fantastic tasting shake? Well look no more because I give you the amazing no ice cream milkshake! Yes deep in the Fast and Furious test kitchen I have developed the oh-so-versatile no ice cream milk shake that will rock the foodie world! You would not know in a blind taste test that this contains no Ice cream!
This milkshake can be made with whole milk , 2% milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or combination of any of the above with excellent results. It can be made with frozen cherries, frozen strawberries, frozen peaches,
frozen raspberries or a combination of the above. It just takes three simple ingredients, a decent blender and a bit of creative experimenting to see which combination you like best.
If you don’t drink alcohol, or are fixing it for children just use vanilla extract, orange extract or similar flavorings. If you do drink alcohol try it with different liquors like:
Frangelico, a hazelnut liquor that would work well with peaches.
Apricot brandy would go well with peaches, or a mix of peaches and strawberries.
Bailey’s Irish Cream, would go well with just about any frozen fruit combination.
Chambord, a raspberry cordial would enhance a raspberry milkshake.
Lemoncello might be nice with a strawberry, or peach shake if you love lemon.
Depending on your blender this will take 1-5 minutes to blend properly. You may have to stop the blender, and stir with a spoon once or twice, and may need to add more milk or booze to get the consistency you desire. There will be variables in the ratios you use but the basic recipe is this:
2 1/2 cups frozen fruit, see note
1 cup of milk, 2%, whole, almond or coconut
1 ounce of booze, liquor, cordial
substitute booze with 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or appropriate flavoring
Add all ingredients to the blender and blend to desired consistency.
Makes 2-4 servings.
I have used cherries with Grand Marnier for this recipe, but have also used a combo of raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries with Grand Marnier that tasted great!
If you are not driving after consuming this you might even want to kick up the level of the booze a bit:)
It rained lightly all day yesterday which is a good thing when you are trying to get seeds to sprout. I was looking out my second story window this morning at my raised garden beds wondering if any of my seeds sprouted overnight from last weeks planting. It was too great of a distance for me to tell for sure, but I thought I saw something green so I went out for a look. Sure enough I have several little Arugula sprouts showing off that they have beat out the other seeds for the honor of who sprouts first. I suspect my lettuce crop will show up next and then the beets and basil. Last but not least will probably be the peas of which I planted extra this year since they taste so good and grow so well here in the Spring.
If you haven’t planted a crop this year it’s not to late! Even if you think you don’t have space for such farming think again. Check out the concept of square foot gardening, vertical gardening, and container gardening, where most anyone can grow a bit of produce on their own. Here’s a link to the University of Maryland’s “Grow it, Eat It” article to get you started:
Here’s a bit from their article of one of the benefits to using these methods:
Better control over growing conditions (water, sunlight, nutrients) can lead to higher yields with less work than a conventional garden (10 sq. ft. can produce 50 lbs. of fresh organic produce).
With these types of gardening almost anyone can grow their own vegies and fruit. Just get on out to your favorite garden shop or big box hardware store and load up on the items needed for your space. You could even grow your own mushrooms if you want, but that’s an indoor crop.
Speaking of mushrooms, I made Grilled Portabella Sandwiches last night, and boy are they good! They are just about as hearty as a burger, and super yummy. When you put them on a bun with sauteed onions and bell peppers topped with jalapeno jack cheese it makes a substantial sandwich. Served up with a side of potato salad, or cole slaw, and chips it makes a great summer lunch or dinner meal.
What about the time it takes to marinate the portabellas? Forget that time consuming step, because yours truly, the Fast and Furious Cook has come up with a way that produces a great tasting mushroom without marinating it. This recipe takes all of 15-20 minutes to prepare and cook. Give it a try and see if you agree that this is a great way to eat great tasting food that is quick, healthy and simple. And get that garden planted because Spring is here!
Grilled Portabella Sandwich
4 large portabella mushroom caps( about 4 inches across)
4-5 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil
your favorite steak seasoning salt
1 cup sliced onion
1 cup sliced bell pepper, red or green
1 tablespoon olive oil
To clean the portabellas pop the stems off the mushroom caps, then rinse them with cool water, and wipe the top of the cap only with a kitchen towel. Set aside to finish drying.
Saute onions and peppers in the plain olive oil and season with steak seasoning.
Cook on medium low heat until soft,(about 15 minutes).
Brush top of mushroom caps with garlic infused olive oil then invert on a cutting board or other surface and drizzle the rest of the garlic infused oil on the insides(gills) of the caps.
Dust with the steak seasoning on both sides and grill cap side down/ gill side up for about 8 minutes, see note. Flip caps and cook for about another 6 minutes gill side down. Flip once more and divide sauteed onions and peppers on the gill side and top with cheese.
Continue cooking for about 1 minute until cheese is melted.
You can cook the mushrooms in an oven broiler, but if you do it works best to have a baking pan and rack combo the lets the mushroom juices drain. When using an outside gas or charcoal grill you don’t need to worry about the juices draining except that with charcoal the juices will put out some of your coals if your mushrooms are good and fresh!
Most steak seasonings work well with this recipe as they contain salt, pepper, garlic, onion and other herbs and spices that work well with portabella mushrooms. One of my favorites is McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning blend.
I like to use jalapeño jack cheese, but use whatever is your favorite cheese. I think manchego, cheddar or swiss would be good too!
Due to a heavy travel schedule the last three out of four weeks and a computer crash I haven’t posted my usual once a week recipe. I’m glad to say the computer has been fixed and I’m up and running at full speed again!
I just came home from a lovely ski vacation in the Colorado Rockies Sunday night, and it’s great to be home in time for Spring! Never mind the fact that it was snowing when we landed in Baltimore as I’m sure it’s time to plant the garden and welcome in the warmer weather that is forecasted this week. While on vacation I had time to read the book Grain Brain by Dr David Perlmutter. It’s a very interesting book about how gluten messes with our brains by causing surges in blood sugar which in turn causes inflammation in the brain. That inflammation in turn causes Alzheimer’s and Dementia according to the good doctor.
Now I don’t know if the good Dr. is right on with his findings, but it does make for an interesting read. What is really interesting is his view on low fat/high carb diets. He promotes a diet low in carbs and fairly high in healthy fats like:
He also says eggs are healthy to eat often. This seems to go in an opposite direction from current health guidelines, but then this morning on national public radio I heard a story on the low fat/high carb diet being unsuccessful in combatting heart disease. The story:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/03/31/295719579/rethinking-fat-the-case-for-adding-some-into-your-diet featured an interviewed with Walter Willett from the Harvard school of public health. Willett’s study was submitted for publishing but not accepted because it flew in the face of popular thinking at the time.
The story went on to say the healthy fats are butter, olive oil, nuts, and avocados. There seems to be a trend reversal in the works for our diets. You never know for sure with these kind of stories though. After all it has to stand the test of time, but it does confirm what Dr Perlmutter is saying about healthy fats and carbs. So in the interest of science yours truly is testing Dr Perlmutter’s diet plan to see if I feel any better on this diet. Not that I feel sick mind you but I am interested to see if the diet brings about any positive changes in my health. Especially the mild to moderate headaches I have had for years several times per week.
So far the gluten free diet plan that includes many things I have eaten sparingly previously has gone well. I have been eating eggs two to three times a week instead of oatmeal and toast for breakfast. I have brought butter back into my diet more than once a week, and have eaten a bit more meat than usual. I have noticed a decline in the occurrence of headaches and digestion has been better with a few exceptions.
It does help that gluten free products are gaining space in grocery stores so I’m not having much trouble staying gluten free. The only time I ate any gluten I know of is at dinner in Denver last week on of the items on my plate was cauliflower with a bread crumb topping that I was able to scrape off mostly.
In the near future I’ll be posting gluten free recipes that I aim to make attractive to those who need to avoid gluten as well as those who don’t. It will be interesting to see how far this gluten free diet goes as research uncovers the truth about gluten in our diets. After all you can’t believe everything you read. Remember when margarine was healthy!
To start out my gluten free recipes I give you a cream of asparagus soup that even if you can tolerate gluten you will love this simple yummy soup. It came out great in testing using 2% milk, but if you use whole milk it’s even more rich and tasty.
Gluten Free Cream of Asparagus Soup
1/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 cups water
1 cup 1/2 inch diced peeled red potato
14 ounces fresh asparagus cut in 1 inch lengths, see note
1 1/2 cups milk, 2% or whole
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
optional, 1 vegetable bullion cube, or chicken bullion
In a 2 1/2 to 3 quart pot sauté onion and celery in 1/2 cup of the water for seven minutes stirring once or twice. If you have never done this water method of sautéing, don’t worry as it’s easy.
Add the rest of the water, potato, and salt/ bullion if using and bring to a boil. As soon at it reaches a boil reduce heat and simmer for seven minutes covered.
Add asparagus, and white pepper, cover and cook for ten to twelve minutes covered stirring once halfway through.
Turn off heat and add milk. If using a tabletop blender, carefully add soup and blend in two batches if necessary. I prefer to use an immersion blender and blend it on the stove top. If eating soon, reheat to just a simmer and serve.
One pound of asparagus with the tough end cut off will yield about 14 ounces of tender asparagus.
If using a vegetable bullion cube or chicken bullion cube cut salt in half to 1/4 teaspoon.
Today I am back in the kitchen after a four day trip to Monterey, California to see my nephew. I really enjoyed the redwoods in the hills above Santa Cruz, and the beach too. where he took us. It was great to bask in 75 degree weather before coming home to a high of 30 degrees with winds up to forty miles an hour. I believe it’s about the coldest day this winter when you figure in the chill factor. Where oh where is Spring?
I have been super busy all day but found time on my trip to the bank and post office to get groceries for a couple of projects I had in mind. I wanted to bake more kale chips even though it’s not a typical fast and furious recipe. The secret is to do kale chips when you are hanging out by the oven to turn the chips halfway. The most work is cleaning and seasoning the chips which took me about 15 minutes. After that it was 30 minutes in the oven and now I have great tasting kale chips for the next few days unless they are munched in one session of mad munchies fever!
As for the recipe it is simple. Wash, dry and cut into chip size pieces. Drizzle about a tablespoon or two of olive oil on the chips that are spread out on a sheet pan. Sprinkle your favorite seasoning salt, or plain salt on them. Grind some fresh pepper on them, or use something fun like red pepper, or jalapeno powder. Toss them around in the pan almost like tossing a salad to distribute the oil, salt and pepper. You can even rub in the oil a bit while tossing. Pop in the oven at 300 degrees.
Turn the chips and arrange so they are not touching after 15 minutes in the oven. Rotate the pans at this point. Turn heat down to 250 degrees and cook until crisp(about 15-20 minutes) then remove from oven to cool. Now you have great tasting, healthy kale chips for lunches and snacks. They go great with red wine!
So give slow food a try if it fits your schedule, it’s worth it once in a while.
Here is another fast and healthy recipe from my kitchen to yours. It must be Spring because daylight savings time kicks in tonight. Not to mention it’s sunny and warm out today too! Pretty soon us vegie gardeners will be outside planting lettuce, beets, kale, peas, cabbage, and broccoli. Broccoli is one of my favorite healthy green vegetables to eat. I like it in stir frys, salads, casseroles, just steamed, and in soup. I have been thinking of making up a recipe for a gluten free cream of broccoli soup for all the gluten intolerant folks out there to enjoy. Most cream of broccoli soups contain roux, which contains flour. I figured that if I cooked potatoes with the broccoli it would thicken the soup quite well. So into the Fast and Furious test Kitchen I went and developed this gluten free cream of broccoli soup that so many gluten free folks can eat. You don’t have to be gluten intolerant to like this soup. The rest of you can give this a try too! It’s fast and easy, as well as healthy. You can try it with coconut milk to make it a Vegan soup, or lowfat milk to make it low fat and healthier. Please leave comments so I can continue to improve my recipes. Without your input I don’t know how well the recipe works in your kitchen.
Cream of Broccoli Potato Soup
1 1/4 pounds fresh broccoli
1/1/4 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
2 1/2 to 3 cups vegetable stock
1 3/4 to 2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
Optional, 4 ounces of grated colby or mild cheddar cheese
Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes and put in a bowl of cool water until needed.
Trim broccoli and stems. Cut tops into golfball size florets and chop the stems.
In a 4-5 quart pot with a lid bring potatoes to a boil in vegetable stock. When it comes to a boil reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes covered.
Add broccoli stems and cook for 4 minutes covered simmering.
Add broccoli tops and cook 4 minutes. Stir and cook 2 more minutes or until potatoes and broccoli are just tender.
Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, and lesser amount of milk and blend in a table top blender or use an immersion blender.
Taste and add milk, salt or pepper if needed.
Return to heat and bring it to a simmer just before serving.
Top with grated colby or mild cheddar.
Vegetable stock varies a lot, and you might not need to add any salt depending on how salty your stock is. I used a recipe from the Moosewood cookbook for my vegetable stock.
Chicken stock can be used also.
This can be a very thick soup or thin depending on how much stock and milk you use.
I am but the conduit from which many chefs and cooks speak through me in the language of great food. Yes it was great learning old school cooking from my mom, grandmother and aunt, but I really put together my cooking skills when I worked at over thirty restaurants. I am so fortunate to have some natural ability with food, and cooking but the most important aspect of my culinary journey is my passion for learning more about cooking great food. Without all the great cooks and chefs that have taught me over the years you would not benefit much from my writing as I could not have done this on my own. Unless that is all you wanted to read about was scrambled eggs, and hamburger recipes. That is not to say I was a pushover when working as a young cook! I was a young lad of 27 when I worked at the famous Brown Palace in Denver. It was there that I told the sous chef I thought the head chef’s mornay sauce sucked. He jokingly asked me if I’d tell that to the head chef to which I replied “of course”. Mind you this was a kitchen where to get to sous chef status you had to be working there for about 25 years back then in 1982, and the chef had been there for over 40 years.
I continued to move around the restaurant world and ended up working at the Trans Alpen a restaurant no longer in business where I cooked with a couple of young chefs from the CIA(Culinary Institute of America). One of them went to the New York State school, and the other went to the Napa, California school. These two chefs were constantly in a friendly competition to see who was better. I learned so much from these fun yound chefs while working there. Lessons like every main course needed a sauce of some type to bring life to the plate and palate. The visual as well as the taste factor must be considered before devising our specials for the night. I still remember well some of the dishes we cooked there.
For learning soups my best teacher was the US Coast Guard where I was required to make a soup from scratch every day for over two years. When you live with a crew of 30 guys day in, and day out you don’t give them the same soup too often. I learned that soups should change with the seasons, and I cooked up hearty soups and stews for the cold winter months, and lighter soups for summer. After more than two years of this soup journey I felt like I could make soup in my sleep! Along the way I became enamored with soup and it’s ability to make people happy on a cold day. With this very chilly winter we are having I have developed more new soups than ever to add to my original recipes database. This sweet potato soup is already one of my favorites this winter. It’s fast, simple and healthy as well as delish! I hope you give it a try and please leave comments on how it turned out.
2 tablespoons olive oil oil, or garlic infuse olive oil
1/2 cup minced onions
1 cup chopped celery
1-2 4 inch Portabella mushroom caps with the stem removed
2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 1/2-3 cups water
1 1/2- 2 cups milk, or coconut milk for Vegan
1/4 teaspoon thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
optional, omit salt and use 1 1/2 teaspoons Better Than Bullion chicken base
Sautee onions in a 3 1/2 or 4 quart cast iron pot on medium low heat for 5-7 minutes in 1 tablespoon of the oil then add celery and cook for 5-7 more minutes stirring often.
While onions and celery are cooking using a checkerboard like pattern lay the mushroom cap gil side down on a cutting board and cut the Portabella mushroom into 1/4 inch pieces. They will be about an inch long, but that’s ok.
Sautee mushroom pieces in a saute pan with a bit of salt (1/4 teaspoon), white pepper (a dash), 1 tablespoon oil, and thyme if using. Stir mushrooms every 2-3 minutes and cook until well done, and a little crispy. This takes about 12-15 minutes.
When celery and onions are soft add sweet potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper and water. Increase heat to medium high and when it comes to a boil, lower heat, cover and cook at a simmer until sweet potatoes are soft(about 15 minutes).
When potatoes are soft turn heat off and add milk. Use the full 2 cups if you want a thinner soup. Blend with an immersion blender or tabletop blender until nicely pureed.
Stir in Portabellas and taste to see if it needs more salt, or pepper. If it’s too thick just thin it out with some more water or milk.
Note: 1/2 cup chopped carrots added with the sweet potatoes are a nice addition.
2 pounds sweet potatoes
1-2 portabella mushroom caps
milk, either cow’s milk or coconut
Optional, Better Than Bullion chicken base
Yesterday I went to a mushroom talk and cooking demo to highlight pom pom mushrooms, aka lions mane and other strange names like monkey’s head. The studies showing health benefits are many and varied, but what I found most interesting was studies showing that pompoms helped with MS, Parkinson’s disease, reducing cholesterol, improving liver function, ailments of the stomach and digestive tract, and inhibiting cancers and tumors. That’s a lot of health benefits from one little mushroom!
What I like is they taste good and are quite different from most other mushrooms in texture and flavor. The cooking demo showed us how well pom poms work in a faux crab cake. If you slice them about one inch thick and then just pull the slices apart into one inch clumps they resemble crab bits. Then you saute the pompom bits on high until browned a bit and cool. Use them like you would crab in your favorite crab cake recipe and you have a yummy meatless faux crab cake with many health benefits.
I had already planned a crab cake dinner for last night so I thought I’d just try this faux crab cake thing alongside the real thing, but when I started to prep for dinner I found that the crab I had bought the day before had somehow ended up in the freezer so I was lucky to have the pom poms to use instead. I cooked them up the way Alan Kaufman had shown us to use them at the Phillip’s demo and mixed them into the Old Bay Seasoning crab cake recipe. I won’t say that it would fool many people into thinking it was real crab, but it was delicious and quite similar. Pom poms can also be used in place of veal and lobster in many recipes with good results. I hope you can find these golf ball sized wonders of the mushroom world and give them a try.
With all these cold and snowy days this year hot comfort food is welcome more than the past two winters. I keep coming up with new original recipes for the blog to keep you warm and eating healthy through the cold and crappy weather most of the country is experiencing. Now you could find tofu enchilada recipes on a google search, but it wouldn’t be these. I like to put a hot and happy feel to many of the dishes I create and chipolte peppers in adobo sauce make this recipe a winner. It’s also fast and simple for those who don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen.
Should you think tofu is just too weird a substance to use in Mexican food think again. Tofu lends itself to this type of seasoning quite well, and if you want it more meat like just get the extra firm tofu. It’s certainly more healthy for you than CAFO(concentrated animal feeding operation) pork/beef that most Americans would be eating in their enchiladas. Served with beans and rice it’s a meal you won’t walk away from feeling hungry. I also like to serve it with sliced avocado and fresh cilantro sprigs for color and taste. For a bit more protein and taste I top them with roasted shelled pumpkin seeds just out of the oven.
As for the enchilada sauce it whips up in 15 minutes, and is easy to cook at the same time as the filling as long as you start the sauce cooking first. I hope you brave souls that are trying to eat healthier give this a try and please leave comments on this or other similar recipes you are trying. Until next week stay warm and think Spring!
1/4 cup minced white or yellow onion
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil, or regular olive oil
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika, or hot paprika
1 15.5 oz can tomato sauce
1 chipolte minced, optional
Saute minced onion and garlic in oil for 5-7 minutes on medium low to low heat stirring often.
Add rest of the ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes on low heat uncovered stirring about every five minutes. If you have the time simmer for thirty minutes.
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 15.5 oz can tomato sauce
1 can chipolte peppers in adobo sauce
1 yellow or white onion
Fast and Furious Feisty Tofu Enchiladas
2 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil, or regular olive oil
1/3 cup chopped yellow or white onion
3/4 cup chopped red or green bell pepper
12 oz firm tofu, drained and dried a bit
3/4 teaspoons cumin
2 tablespoons salsa(like Pace Picante Chunky)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded cheddar and jack cheese
6 inch corn tortillas
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Saute onions in oil in a saute pan on medium heat for three minutes stirring often.
Add peppers and cumin and cook for seven minutes on medium low stirring occasionally.
Add tofu, and salt. Cook five minutes stirring carefully so you don’t break up the tofu too much.
Add the salsa and cook one more minute stirring just to incorporate the salsa.
On a countertop or cutting board assemble corn tortillas and fill them with approximately 1/3 cup tofu filling, and cheese. Roll and place close together in a 10-12 in square baking dish. Top with sauce, cheese, and bake at 375 degrees for about ten minutes to melt cheese.
You can also use banana boat shaped baking dishes to bake two enchiladas per person in.
Makes 4-6 enchiladas, and is easily doubled.
1 white or yellow onion
1 green or red bell pepper
12 oz firm tofu
Pace Picante salsa chunky style
8 oz shredded cheddar and jack cheese
6 inch corn tortillas
roasted shelled pumpkin seeds, optional
I was recently presented with a challenge to write a menu for a cooking class at Phillips Mushrooms I’ll give in May featuring a Mexican themed menu using mushrooms. Now most of us would never think that Mexican food and mushrooms go together, but I can assure they do. The problem is most of us north of the border have been raised on the belief that Mexican food is taco, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos,fajitas, and not much more. I am glad to report that there is about 99% more to Mexican food than most of us were led to believe.
If you are ever in Chicago’s O’Hare airport with some time for lunch or dinner be sure to try Tortas Fronterra by chef Rick Bayless. Amongst many great choices on the menu is a mushroom dish called Roasted Garlic Mushroom Torta (sandwich) that is one of my favorites. Chef Rick incorporates mushrooms in the menus at most of his restaurants including a Silky Almond Caldo(type of soup) at Xoco with woodland mushrooms.
Today to further my research on Mexican food with mushrooms I dropped in on my friends at R&R Taqueria(seen on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives) to see what they could teach me about using mushrooms with Mexican recipes. First up was a blended mushroom and chicken quesadilla. It was so good I would have eaten the whole thing except they wanted their two employees to get a taste also.
Next was Grilled Portabella Fajitas with onions and bell peppers. This was my second favorite, and I was surprised how the portabella mushrooms made a great meat substitute. When seasoned with R&R’s fajita seasoning this dish just didn’t need meat. A little salsa roja and some cheese made this a winner.
They also tried mixing Oyster mushrooms with pork carnitas, but I thought the pork overpowered the mushrooms. Just for fun I gave them some Maitake mushrooms to saute with onions and garlic so they could taste this type of mushroom for the first time. they liked it and thought it might fit into there future daily special menu as some type of taco.
So armed with this knowledge I tested a new original appetizer today using a tweaked guacamole recipe to stuff white mushrooms with. The result was a silky smooth guacamole with hidden nuggets of pan roasted organic frozen sweet corn that went down nicely, even without a cold beer to chase it with. Come summer the beer would go quite nicely with this appetizer.
Like most of my recipes, this one is also fast, simple and healthy. It takes about 20 minutes from start to finish to make the guac and stuff the mushrooms. Since spring is just around the corner this would be a great treat for a weekend at home happy hour sitting on the patio with your favorite beverage and a comfy chair, or for Cinco de Mayo too! Give it a try and let me know what you think by leaving a comment even if you don’t try it.
Guacamole with Pan Roasted Sweet Corn
1/2 cup frozen sweet corn kernels
1 teaspoon garlic infused olive oil, or plain olive oil
1 ripe avocado
1 teaspoon minced onion
1/4 tomato salsa, or minced fresh tomato
1-2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sour cream, optional but makes it smoother and creamier
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeno, optional
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, optional
In a small saute pan add garlic infused olive oil and brown corn on medium heat for 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool while you prepare the guacamole.
Scoop avocado out of shell and place in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add everything but the corn and mix until most of the lumps are gone. I just used a fork to mix and smash it.
Add corn by stirring just until it’s mixed in well.
Note: I like this with chips or stuffed mushrooms with. If stuffing mushrooms use just under golfball sized white mushrooms with the stem removed. Fill the mushroom with the guac and top with an olive slice or a fresh cut jalapeno ring and serve chilled, but don’t prepare too far ahead of time or the guacamole turns brown.
Thanks to Phillips Mushrooms for supplying the mushrooms for recipe testing and this post!
The roads outside my home are white. Not with snow, but with salt from combatting all the ice, and snow we have had recently. Just a week ago I was enjoying a great vacation in Spain where we didn’t see snow. Then we came back to reality and one week’s worth of below freezing temperatures with some nights below zero. Yikes!
Maybe we should have stayed just one more week?
Spain is an amazing country. Sure they are going through financial pain and unemployment is a huge problem especially with the young folks, but it’s still a great place to visit. Some of the things I learned on my latest trip are that Spain has the largest wine growing region in the world, with 2.89 million acres. It is the most mountainous wine producing country (this according to the book “Wine”, by Andre Domine). They also have some great beaches on the Mediterranean Coast. Unfortunately I wasn’t there for beach weather. It rained six out of the seven days we were visiting, which was a bit unusual. At least it only rained a little each day. On our one sunny day we made it to the beach in Valencia and had a nice walk in the sand and surf. It was a great respite from the rain. Any country that boasts great beaches, mountains, food and wine is tops on my list of places to hang out.
I also think Spaniards are about the friendliest Europeans I have met compared to the French, Brits or Italians. In Madrid when we got off the metro to go to a flamenco performance we were stumped by the map in the Metro station. A young family of four got off at the same stop and saw us staring at the map with that lost look, and asked if we needed help. They were kind enough to walk with us two blocks to make sure we knew where the Flamenco venue was even though they had a crying two year old with them.
Food and wine are very reasonable at numerous tapas bars and restaurants. Spaniards love to eat out and there are lots of foodie choices in most cities and towns. Madrid has a population of about 3.2 million according to Wikipedia and Tripadvisor.com list 5,930 restaurants. Little ol’ Denver, Colorado(where I’m from originally) has a population of around 2.9 million and sports only about 2,448 restaurants on Tripadvisor.com.
May I be so bold as to say Spain is a foodie paradise!
On our trip we started in Madrid for one day, then went to Granada for two days, then back to Madrid for one night to cue up for the high speed(185 mph!) Renfe train the next day, then Valencia for two days, before retuning to Madrid for one more night before heading home. In all of these places we found outstanding restaurants and tapas bars.
In Valencia I went to the huge Central Market. I wished I had a place where I could have cooked at, but we were in a hotel. I was blown away by the abundance of vegie stands, fish stands, fruit stands, olive and olive oil stands that all sported great looking groceries. The freshness of the seafood and the variety of fish and shrimp had me taking a lot of pictures, as that’s about all I could do with the seafood.
One of the olive oil stands had free samples where I dipped bread bits into many types of tasty oil. I held off buying any as I still had one more train ride to go before flying home from Madrid and olive oil is heavy stuff. I did buy some yummy dried and roasted fava beans as well as Mediterranean pistachios to bring home. I didn’t do much other food shopping until I got to Carrefour a huge grocery/department store from France that has locations all over the world. It was the biggest grocery store I have ever been in, and I bought a bunch of olive oil, rice and saffron to bring home.
In Madrid there was a different type of mercado. The Mercado de San Miguel was an old iron and glass building that housed a bunch of food and drink options. We bought tray full of seafood tapas from one of the stands then got a plate full of olives for just one euro to go with it. There were several wine bars to choose from and we tried the goods from two of those. We bought a nice cod croquette to go with a glass of white wine that was delish! If you are ever in Madrid I hope you can check this place out. It’s just off the Plaza Mayor, and fairly easy to find.
My favorite food stop on the trip was in Valencia where a friend of a friend recommended Navarro restaurant for paella. It was so good we went back on our last day there to have a different type for our last lunch in Valencia. You can see my review on tripadvisor using this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187529-d993266-r191597981-Navarro-Valencia_Valencia_Province_Valencian_Country.html#REVIEWS
The funny thing was that as good as the paella was we were the only ones eating it both days we ate at Navarro. Everyone else looked like they were locals, and I guess they were there for the other items on the menu like the amazing seafood and salads. We had the vegetarian salad for a starter both days we went there. It had three types of lettuce, several chopped vegies, as well as olives, tomatoes, sliced beets, avocado and grilled tofu. It was the best salad I have had in Europe!
When I got home I was determined to make paella in a way that you my dear readers could make also. Knowing that a paella pan is a rare thing in American kitchens I tested my recipe in a saute pan and a enameled cast iron dutch oven. I think the cast iron cookware worked best and would recommend that type of pot if you have one. This one pot meal is prepped and cooked in less than 45 minutes making it a great dinner item.
To make it easier for you to make paella in your kitchen I’m having a giveaway of:
one bottle of Spanish olive oil, one bag of Bomba rice and a small jar of saffron, all of which I bought in Valencia. One lucky reader will receive all three to make paella in their home. Just leave me a comment of your favorite rice dish and you will be entered in the giveaway. Good luck and happy eating!
Paella, fast and furious style
1 cup of Bomba rice, or Uncle Ben’s original converted will do
2 cups stock, chicken or vegetable see note
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh garlic minced
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
1/2 cup cut green beans
1/3 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen lima beans
1/3 cup chopped tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron, see note
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
In a saute pan or enamel cast iron pot saute onion, red bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil on medium heat for 5-7 minutes stirring until onions are soft.
Add rice and cook one more minute stirring to coat the rice with the oil.
Add the spices, salt if using, lima beans, all but 1/4 cup of the stock and turn heat up to medium high stirring once or twice to distribute the stock. Once it comes to a boil reduce heat and cook for eight minutes uncovered.
Stir in tomatoes and green beans and cook for five more minutes at a low simmer.
Add peas, stirring one last time, and cook about five more minutes at a simmer until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is just barely cooked through. You may need to add the rest of the reserved stock at this time.
Stir to fluff it up a bit and serve with a nice salad, bread and olives for a Spanish type meal.
Serves two, but is easily doubled to serve four.
This is a good vegan or vegetarian meal if you use vegetable stock. If you want meat add 8 ounces bite sized raw chicken at the beginning when the onions, garlic, and bell peppers are sauteeing. Chorizo, shrimp, and rabbit are good with this also.
Saffron is considered one of the most expensive food ingredients in the food world, but you only need a little and a small jar(.7 grams) of saffron threads bought at Trader Joe’s will only set you back $5.99. This small jar would make about three to four batches of paella thus costing you about $1.50 for a paella that serves four. You can also buy it on Amazon.com for about $12.50 for 2 grams plus shipping.
I like to grind my saffron threads in a mortar and pestle like my friends from the middle east taught me instead of buying ground saffron.