Friday, June 29, 2012

Greek Veggie Wrap

I am going to tell you a story about my journey with food.

Let's start with my parents.  Growing up, especially when I was young, my mom did a lot of cooking.  She made all the 80s and early 90s favorites like beef stroganoff, tuna casserole, swiss steak, tuna salad, cream chipped beef, meatloaf, roasts, goulash, etc.  But my mom is also 50% Italian, so she also made family recipes like huge vats of homemade marinara with ribs, meatballs, and sausage, stuffed artichokes, salads, sausage and peppers, stuffed peppers, stuffed squash, etc.  Like most families at that time, mine was influenced by popular food culture and marketing.  I think we were all brainwashed into thinking that buying fresh produce was somewhat of a luxury.  Therefore, we ate plenty of canned veggies.  Did the cream of mushroom soup thing.  Plenty of velveeta.  Margarine happened (it is healthier, duh!)

But my mom's core food knowledge was real food.  My family definitely followed the pre-made, packaged, canned food trend, but didn't stray too far and for too long from the real stuff.

My dad also did a lot of cooking.  I remember him making things like drip beef sandwiches, chicken and dumplings, stir fry, etc.  Also, I think for a good 5 years of my life, my dad ate a large, fully loaded salad for dinner.  Every night.  And I share many of my dad's taste buds.  We both like spicy food and now that I am an adult, I realize I share my dad's lack of a sweet tooth.

As a result of mostly positive food influences, I was never in too bad of shape with my general food knowledge.  Especially since my extended family and friends have taught me a lot too.

However...I, too, fell for much of the crap (aka "food") out there at your typical large supermarket.  When I went off to college and started 100% feeding myself, I started with what I knew.  Diet drinks and Sweet N' Low were a part of my regular diet.  Thought it was healthy.  Once I came to my senses and stopped (it was easy), I started noticing it was in EVERYTHING.  Anything labelled "light", which at the time, I thought meant "light on the sugar".  For example, light yogurt, I thought just had less sugar...but no, it just had fake sugar.  I was so mad.  Furious.

And probably my saddest realization was "coffee creamer".  I bought it thinking it was just cream.  Like what comes from a cow.  At one point I was looking at my Coffeemate bottle and noticed it said non-dairy.  WHAT!?!?  Non-dairy?!?!  That is when I decided to start seriously looking at labels and not be tricked again.  This was about 10 years ago.

As I have been continuing to grow my food knowledge and trying more and more types of foods and recipes, I (like so many others) have come a long way.  I never thought I would eat homemade granola for breakfast (and not be able to buy it from the store...)  I never thought I would prefer whole grain wraps to white wraps.  I never thought I would eat a pound of beans each week and only eat meat on occasion.  I never thought I love kale and other dark greens.  I never thought I would be such a...hippie.

Ok, that is a lie.  I always hoped I would.

The point is...I started out with a good relationship to food.  With reasonable knowledge.  With a decent diet.  But it wasn't easy to sort through all the crap that is thrown at us at the grocery store.  You almost have to have a PhD in Food to understand what food trends to follow and what marketing is actually true.

This is the reason that you should never let any package tell you what is good for you.  If food needs to convince you to eat it, they are probably lying.  Have you ever picked up a head of broccoli and pondered whether or not it will do your body any good?  No.  Broccoli has dignity.

Everyone has a journey with food.  I just thought I'd share mine.  Maybe you are at a different stage in your journey.  And I hope you are enjoying it!  :)  My journey is partly being recorded on this the archives hold my deepest and darkest secrets.  Don't get too excited though.

Now, here is another "burrito" for you.  This time, I went with a Greek-ish filling.  We have baby spinach, a warm chickpea mixture, a greek salsa and some feta cheese all wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.  It is summer in your hand.  I will remind you one last time (ha...), buy the feta that comes packed in a liquid.  It is about 7 times better.

Greek Veggie Wrap

2 14.5 oz. cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ tsp of coriander (heaping)
a pinch (or more) of cayenne
½ of an English cucumber, diced
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
¼ of a medium red onion, finely minced
handful of kalamata olives, chopped
2-3 tbsp of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1-2 tbsp of white/red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
1-2 tbsp of olive oil
2 burrito-sized whole wheat tortillas
feta cheese, crumbled
several big handfuls of baby spinach
salt and pepper

Prepare the bean mixture:  put the chickpeas, coriander, cayenne, salt and pepper, and a good splash of water in a skillet.  Cook over medium high heat until water evaporates.  Taste, adjust seasonings and repeat process (add more water, cook until evaporated, taste), until desired texture is reached.  I usually do the process twice.

Prepare the Greek salsa:  combine cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, olives, parsley, vinegar, and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare wraps:  warm a tortilla over an open flame, the microwave or in the oven.  Put a healthy layer of baby spinach down.  Top with bean mixture, feta cheese and salsa.  Wrap, burrito-style. 

(Servings:  2, Prep time:  20 min., Cook time:  20 min., Difficulty:  Easy) 

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:  

Shanon (taste):  8/10
Scot (taste):  7/10
Effort:  2/5
Dishwashing Effort:  1/5

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Arepas with Black Beans and Guasacaca

In case you were wondering, I am not an edible arrangement kind of person.  If you did gift me one, I wouldn't be mad.  I would probably think  you read this and were playing a joke on me.  But then there is a chance that you were being serious, in which case, I probably would just pretend I liked it.  But honestly, I think that is the most ridiculous successful business out there.  I don't like my food to be shaped into objects.  Plus, those arrangements are weird.

Speaking of gifts, this was Scot's birthday dinner this year.  After returning from a trip to Puerto Rico, we were inspired to have a latin-ish meal.  Yes, I know arepas and tamales are not Puerto Rican.  But the whole time we were in Puerto Rico, Scot kept expressing his desire for corn based goodies.

I don't recommend this particular menu unless you want to be in the kitchen for 10 hours and eat dinner at 11 pm.  But it was delicious.  In addition, I made some cupcakes:

They were ridiculously good.  I used this recipe from smitten kitchen.  I did 1/3 of the cake recipe, and halved the marshmallow filling and chocolate ganache.  It was the perfect amount for 12 cupcakes.  These photos were taken right after I filled and frosted them.  But they taste best if they are refrigerated and the ganache hardens.  I should say: they taste AMAZING after that happens.  The best way to fill is to cut out a little piece out of the top and put in some of the marshmallow filling (or even better, use a piping bag).  Then spoon over some ganache, chill and serve.  I also tried filling with ganache and topping with the marshmallow frosting, but I prefer the opposite way.  The last change I made was I used all bittersweet chocolate.  This was for Scot after all.

Yes, these are basically hostess cupcakes that take two hours to make.

Back to the arepas.  Scot did say, "this is my favorite thing I have ever eaten".  I am pretty sure that isn't the first time he has said that.  If you have never gotten the opportunity to try arepas at a Venezuelan/Colombian restaurant or in SA, you must make these at home.  They really aren't hard to make.  The arepa itself is incredibly straight forward and simple.  With the sauce and the filling, it is a lot of different things going on, but each component individually is very easy.  Also, the guasacaca sauce can be made ahead of time.  And arepas can be filled with whatever you want: meat (shredded, cubed), any cheese, seafood, beans, a chicken salad type thing, chiles, sweet potatoes, plantains, etc.

Arepas with Black Beans and Guasacaca
adapted from use real butter

2 cups harina PAN
2 1/2 cups warm water

1 tsp salt

2-3 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
more oil for cooking
avocado, sliced

14.5 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp of pureed chipotles in adobo
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

guasacaca (see below)

Place the harina in a large bowl and add the warm water, salt, and vegetable oil (we used 3 tablespoons). Gently fold the mixture together until the moisture is roughly evenly distributed. Set the dough aside for at least ten minutes. The longer, the better. Meanwhile you can make the guasacaca (see below). When the dough has sat long enough, mix it together with your hands and moosh out any lumps between your fingers. Make sure it is uniformly mixed. Begin to form patties approximately 1/2-inch thick and 4-5 inches in diameter. You want them to have a uniform surface (avoid cracks) and to be relatively even in thickness. Using a paper towel or brush, apply a thin layer of vegetable oil on a flat pan like a cast iron skillet or something flat (NOT a non-stick pan). Set over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, place a few patties (like 3 or however many will fit without crowding) on the surface. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on your heat and pan) until the bottoms begin to crackle and pop. Check the bottoms for doneness – when they are lightly golden, flip them over. After another 5 to 10 minutes, check the bottoms for doneness. They should be lightly golden and when you tap the arepa, it should be slightly springy. Remove from heat. If you are making a lot, you can keep the cooked arepas in a baking dish in a low oven (like 250°F) until you are ready to serve.   This recipe makes 6 five-inch arepas. 

In the mean time, place the black beans, pureed chipotles in adobo, salt, pepper and some water in a wide skillet over medium high heat.  Cook until all the water evaporates and until beans reach desired texture.  Add water and repeat as need.  Taste and adjust seasonings. 

Slice the top half of an arepa open along the seam with a butter knife. Carefully scrape out some of the moist filling from the entire interior (you can save it to eat later with butter). When the arepa is hollowed out, fill it with avocado, black beans, cheese, and guasacaca.

(Servings: 6, Prep time: 45 min., Cook time: 45 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Guasacaca (guacamole salsa)

1 onion, peeled, topped, and cut into eighths

1 avocado, peeled and pitted

2-3 tablespoons of white or rice wine vinegar (more if necessary)

1 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and cored

2 cups fresh parsley

2 cups fresh cilantro
salt to taste

3 tbsp vegetable oil

Place the onion, avocado, vinegar, garlic, and jalapeño in a blender (or food processor) and purée until smooth. Add the parsley and cilantro and purée until smooth. If it is too dry and won’t blend, add more vinegar and push it toward the blade with a spoon or a spatula between pulses. Add salt to taste and then add the oil last.

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  10/10
Effort:  5/5
Dishwashing Effort:  5/5

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Black Bean and Guacamole Burritos

Burritos in the daylight.  

I make guacamole a lot.  Especially lately.  And every single time I make it, I profess my love for it.  It might be my current answer for, "What is your favorite food?"  And when we eat it with chips, we have been buying these black bean tortilla chips.  I don't get them because they are healthy, I just love those chips.  And they come in a reasonable sized bag.  

Also, we have been cooking up a batch of beans and eating them throughout the week in various ways.  It is a nice thing to have around.  And it is a really easy ingredient to make various dinners from.  Still haven't perfected the bean making process, but you can't really mess it up.  

This burrito is a combination of black beans, brown rice, queso fresco, lightly dressed greens and guacamole.  I rated it a 10/10 of because it is everything it needs to be.  And we have had it three times in the past week.  

Try brown jasmine is very good.

Try this brand of whole wheat tortillas.  Not all whole wheat tortillas are created equally.  Whole Foods Boulder makes some amazing burrito sized whole wheat tortillas (in house).  But don't get the 365 brand or the generic whole foods brand...not good.  

Also, queso fresco is amazing and I love it in these.  But with the guac, you could easily leave the cheese out.

Someday I should consider shooting in such a away that avoids AC units and cords in general.  It's art guys.  

Black Bean and Guacamole Burritos

2 cups cooked black beans (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
1 tbsp pureed chipotles in adobe sauce
2 cups of cooked brown rice
2-3 ounces of queso fresco
1 avocado, seed and skin removed
1 lime
1 small tomato, squeezed lightly to remove some juice and diced
¼ of a small red onion, minced
handful of cilantro, chopped
1 tsp of light oil
4 large handfuls of spring mix or baby spinach
2 burrito sized whole wheat tortillas
salt and pepper

Prepare guacamole by mashing the avocado together with some salt and the juice of half the lime.  Add the diced tomatoes, minced red onion and cilantro and mix to combine.  Taste, adjust seasonings and set aside.

In a skillet over medium high heat, add black beans, pureed chipotles in adobo, and enough water to allow the beans enough liquid to simmer in.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to boil and simmer until all the water has evaporated.  Taste, adjust seasonings, and repeat process of adding water and simmering off until you reach the desired texture.  Add brown rice, mix and set aside over low heat until ready to assemble burritos.

Combine the juice of the other half of the lime, salt, pepper and 1 tsp of light oil.  Add in the spring mix or spinach and toss to coat.

Assemble the burrito:  Start by warming one tortilla to make it more pliable (either over an open flame or in the microwave wrapped in a damp towel).  Mound up half the spring mix or spinach, top with half the rice and bean mixture, crumble on half the queso fresco and top with half the guacamole.  Wrap it up burrito style.  Repeat with remaining ingredients to make a second burrito. 

(Servings: 2, Prep time:  25 min., Cook time:  20 min., Difficulty:  Easy)

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  10/10
Scot (taste):  9/10
Effort:  3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  2/5