March 29, 2009

Salade Niçoise

I recently returned from a spring break trip to Florida to build a Habitat for Huge Manatees, and I had a serious craving for healthy food.  Two twenty-four hour drives led to a lot of not-so-healthy eating.  We knew we had a problem when on day two we found ourselves in line for McDonald's breakfast complaining that the McDonald's we went to for breakfast the day before was so much faster.  I don't typically eat fast food unless it comes in the form of a Jimmy John's sandwich or Chipotle salads, so it was pretty sad that in a one-week period I ate McDonald's twice, Taco Bell, and Wendy's.  I also had my first Chik-fil-a experience.  And then there were the conch fritters, fried calamari, and fried alligator.  Those were all in one sitting.  I'm kind of surprised my heart is still beating.  

This is my friend Elizabeth and I on what I believe was our second trip to McD's.  We were waiting for Matt to come pick us up after he opted for Burger King breakfast.  And he calls me high maintenance...

We planned our driving so we could spend the first night in Nashville and enjoy some barbeque.  The people at our hotel recommended Jack's in downtown Nashville, and I enthusiastically second that recommendation.  

I got the pulled pork plate with mac n' cheese and coleslaw.  I now want to move to Nashville.  I could definitely eat barbeque every day for the rest of my life (okay, I would also require frequent doses of Mexican food), listen to live country music, and buy a bedazzler.  From our two hours spent in downtown Nashville, we learned that a bedazzler is a must.  I should also probably invest in more denim and dig out all of my camo clothes from my Carhartt-loving phase of high school.  Yes, we saw bedazzled jean jackets and a bedazzled camo baseball hat.  I love Nashville.  

Enough with the fried food and bedazzling (btw, blogger recognizes "bedazzling" as a word, but not "bedazzler").  I promised you something healthy.  I realize this isn't the most original recipe, but it is delicious and worth making.  

Ingredients (makes 2 entree salads):

2 tuna steaks
2 eggs
1 cup green beans
15-20 cherry or grape tomatoes
8 small potatoes
1/4 cup olives (Niçoise or a mix)
1 tbsp capers
Mixed greens
2-3 tbsp dijon mustard
2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar
4-6 tbsp olive oil

Start out by hard boiling the eggs.  I took this picture because I though the freakishly large egg was funny.  It's like the queen bee of the carton.  

These are the potatoes I used.  You could also use small new potatoes.  

I boiled more than necessary so I could have some leftovers.  Boil them until a fork goes into them without much resistance.  

Snap off the ends of the beans, and break them into about 1" pieces.  Rinse the tomatoes.  

Peel the eggs once they're cooked.  

Then slice them.  I took more pictures than necessary because I got some new plates and bowls earlier in the day, and I was excited to take some pictures with them.  My clumsy boyfriend broke one of my new plates a month ago, so I had to go to Pier 1 to replace it.  When I got there I found out that the store is closing so all of the dishes were 10% off (or 20% off if your cashier makes a mistake and he decides it's easier to just let it be), so I picked up a few new bowls and plates.  

Here are the capers hanging out with their big brothers, the olives.  

Rinse the greens. 

Rub the tuna steaks with a little olive oil, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  

Cook the tuna in a pan or on your trusty George Foreman for 5-8 minutes.  

While the fish is cooking, make the dressing.  My mom gave me this handy dressing bottle, so I mixed it up in there.  It says champagne vinegar, but I used red wine instead.  Whatever kind of vinegar you have sitting around should be fine.  

Give it a shake, and you're good to go. 

Here's the tuna sitting on one of my new salad plates.  Lovely, aren't they?

Pile up some greens, pour on a little dressing, and arrange the remaining ingredients on top.  If you have some leftovers you can pile them into a baguette, pour yourself a glass of wine, and pretend that you're in France.  Bon apetit! 

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March 28, 2009

Crab Artichoke Dip

After experiencing two restaurant versions of hot crab dip, I decided to make my own.  Back in December Matt and I had some tasty crab & spinach dip at Stella's Fish Cafe, and earlier this week we had crab & artichoke dip at A1A Ale Works in St. Augustine, Florida.  I basically did what I would for spinach & artichoke dip, but I used crab instead of spinach.  

1 bag frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1-8oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1-6oz. can crab
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1 tsp. celery seed

See that milk?  Didn't use it.  I thought I might need a little liquid, but once everything was mixed together the milk wasn't necessary.  

Thaw the artichoke hearts.  If you're using canned ones, drain them well and squeeze out extra moisture. 

Combine the artichoke hearts, cream cheese, and sour cream in a food processor.  Add in some salt and freshly ground pepper as well.  

Pulse until it looks something like this.  It doesn't take long.  

Drain the crab, and make sure there aren't any nasty bits in there.  

Stir the crab into the cream cheese mixture. 

At this point I decided to add a little celery seed.  Chives would also be nice, but I didn't have any on hand.   

Along with the celery seed, add about 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.  

Scoop the mixture into a greased dish.

Top with remaining Parmesan and breadcrumbs.  

Bake at 325 until bubbly.  

Serve with crackers, crusty bread, or chips.  

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March 18, 2009

Chili with Beef and Turkey

Yesterday was the annual MJF Chili Cookoff at school - something I've been anticipating since I reached the bottom of my last bowl of chili a year ago.  It's a fundraiser to bring in grant money for one of our lucky classmates who lands a summer job through the Minnesota Justice Foundation.  More importantly, it's an excuse for a bunch of law students and faculty to show off their chili cooking skills.  Maybe I should get my priorities straight...

I'm a little indecisive, so I went back and forth trying to decide what all was going to go into my chili.  My indecision got the best of me, and I ended up using both beef and turkey and both kidney and pinto beans.  I think it turned out pretty well, although sadly I did not win.  The winning chili was very delicious and very deserving of its honor.  Now onto the cooking!

Here's a list of everything, more or less, that went into it:
4 celery stalks, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalepenos, chopped
1-1/4 lbs. lean ground beef
1 lb. ground turkey
2 cans kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
2-28oz. cans diced tomatoes
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 bottle of beer
6-8 tbsp. chili powder
1-2 tbsp. cayenne pepper
3-4 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. oregano
2 tsp. onion powder
Salt & pepper to taste

Start out by chopping the carrots and celery into fairly small pieces.

Whoa, action shots!  I got a little tripod while my parents were visiting, so I can take sweet pictures like this.  

Remember when I said to chop them into fairly small pieces?  "Fairly small pieces" can be interpreted liberally.  

Next up: jalepenos.  I decided to leave the innards with the outards this time because I was going for a pretty spicy chili, but feel free to leave them out.  

Are you jealous of how uber cool I am with my pink apron and plastic bag covering my hand?  Thought so.  

Extreme close-up on the extreme heat.  

Chop the onion.

And the garlic.  I also chopped up a shallot that I had sitting around.  I'm about to leave town for a week and it would otherwise go to waste, so I thought I'd throw it in.  

Everything is chopped and ready to meet up with some hot oil.  

Before you start cooking, add a little of the spices to the meat.  

I started to think that I had way too much meat, so I made a hamburger and a turkey burger and threw them in the freezer.  

Cooking time has arrived.  Add the onion and garlic to a large pot with a little oil.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the onions soften a bit.  

Then add the meat, and cook it completely.  I don't know much about Mad Cow Disease, but I know that it is something you don't want to get.  

While the meat is cooking, rinse and drain the beans.  

By the time the meat was done cooking there was a fair amount of juice that had accumulated in the pot, so I carefully poured most of it out.  

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste.  

And throw in some of the spices.  I add them all little by little - especially the chili powder and cayenne.  Just keep tasting it throughout the process and add more as needed.  

Add the chopped carrots, celery, and jalepeno.  It's important to add the carrots and celery towards the beginning since they take the longest to cook.  

Have you ever seen such a colorful pot of chili? 

Finally, add the beans and the booze.  Or if booze isn't your thing you can add some water or chicken broth.  I started out by pouring in half a bottle of Newcastle, and then I slowly added more whenever I thought it needed a little more liquid.  

Let it slowly simmer away until the veggies are tender.  And check the spices again before serving.  

You're a winner to me, chili.  Whoa.  Let's pretend I never said that.  I need to go to bed.  It's been a very long day.  

I made some mini pb sammys to go with the chili.  Aren't they cute?  

FYI - I probably won't be posting for the next week or so.  In 5 hours I'll be on the road to Florida for my spring break.  Woo!  Panama City Beach!  Girls Gone Wild!  Ok, maybe not.  We'll be in some small down building a dream home, and hopefully spending our down time laying on the beach.  And eating some BBQ in Nashville on the way.  I can't wait.  

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