Friday, June 28, 2013

Make Your Own Taco, Ranch and Dry Onion Soup Seasoning Mix

Did you know that you can make your own Taco, Ranch and Dry Onion Soup Seasoning Mix? Yes, you can! Plus, you’ll get more, save some bucks, it’ll certainly taste better and you’ll cut out nasty additives. Additives?!

Oh yeah, additives! I recently took the time to look at the ingredient list at the back of a taco seasoning mix and I was appalled to see all kinds of nasty additives, among them: maltodextrin, corn syrup, carbometylcellulose and my own personal enemy monosodium glutamate (MSG). Like everyone else, I sometimes have to reach for convenience foods or shortcuts to get dinner on the table. But by doing this, not only am I sacrificing money and taste, I am also sacrificing my health. MSG is something I react to very badly, from extreme fluctuation in blood pressure and swelling to migraines. So when I realized how toxic these mixes were for me, I set about making my own mixes.  And you know what? I think mine taste better, I certainly get a bigger quantity and I get to control how much of each spice or herb goes into my mix … in other words customization!

Taco Seasoning Mix

2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Sweet Smoked Paprika
½ Teaspoon Onion Powder
½ Teaspoon Garlic Powder
½ Teaspoon Dried Oregano

The Fork Ran Away with the Spoon: Later Today


Later today at The Fork Ran Away with the Spoon, how to make your own seasoning mixes. Skip those expensive, additive laden envelopes and see how easy it is to make your own.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Fork Ran Away with the Spoon: Israeli Couscous with Roasted Tomatoes & Olive Sau...

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Tomatoes & Olive Sauce...: A Two for Tuesday Recipe: The Hub has never been a fan of couscous, yet we recently had it in San Francisco and he seemed to like it. The catch was that he chowed down on Israeli couscous and not the Moroccan variety.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Tomatoes & Olive Sauce


A Two for Tuesday Recipe:

The Hub has never been a fan of couscous, yet we recently had it in San Francisco and he seemed to like it. The catch was that he chowed down on Israeli couscous and not the Moroccan variety.  If you aren't familiar with couscous, it's basically a pasta made from semolina.  These are three varieties I am most familiar with;
  • Moroccan, small semolina grains that cook quickly 
  • Israeli, small round "pearls" about the size of a peppercorn, longer cooking time
  • Lebanese, a bit larger than Israeli and about the size of petite peas, requires longer cooking time

Personally, I love any of these variety of couscous but never make it because I end up being the only one eating it. Now that the Hub had found one he liked, I was on a mission! So I picked a bag up at the grocery store and developed this recipe. The tomatoes and garlic take on a deeper flavor as they roast, and the olives offer that nice tang that completes the sauce.

For Sauce:
2 pints of red grape* or cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Olive oil to drizzle
1/2 head of garlic left unpeeled, cloves separated
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 of chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
1/4 cup of black and green olives, sliced

Cheesy Cheese Stuffed Meatballs

A Two for Tuesday Recipe:

Meatballs are my go to recipe. They are comforting, versatile, delicious, a crowd pleaser, easy and fun to make. It's one of those recipes that requires a lot of hands on work, which to me, is what makes cooking fun! Who needs frozen meatballs when making them fresh is cheaper than buying the pre-packaged stuff and it's fun! I find this recipe to be versatile because the meatballs are vert tasty on their own, but can be paired with basically any sauce to make a great meal. I have paired it with the obvious tomato sauces (delicious by the way), cream sauces, barbecue sauce, slow cooked, anything! You can also omit the stuffed cheese part to have an even more basic meatball that will take you a long way. A few tips for the recipe: for the onions I use my mini food processor instead of mincing them by hand. Why? When you whirl them through the food processor the onion releases their juices that adds a nice flavor and moistness to the beef. I do the same thing with the garlic and believe it or not to the basil. I do this so the basil is the same uniform size, that way no one gets one huge bite of basil. As for the cheese, the day I made this recipe I had exactly this in my fridge, Polly-O string cheese, because my boyfriend enjoys it, so I incorporated the cheese in one of his favorite meals and viola! You can use mozzarella cheese instead or whatever cheese you'd like. This recipe has become a classic in my home already; it's a home run. As I mentioned, it's a crowd pleaser and think about it, who doesn't like meatballs?? Enjoy! 

Makes about 24-28, serves 4

1 lb ground beef
2 eggs, beaten with 1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 cup panko
1 small onion, minced or grated
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
1 1/2  - 2 Polly-o string cheese

Two for Tuesday

Introducing the new Two for Tuesday section at The Fork Ran Away with the Spoon! Eryka (my daughter and blog contributor) and I will be serving up two recipes for you on Tuesdays.

Sometimes they may relate to each other, and be able to "cross over", other times it'll be a recipe we just can't wait to share with you! We hope you enjoy this new section and as always, please feel free to leave your comments or thoughts.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mango-Pineapple Jalapeño Chutney

With mango season in full swing and a basket full of mangoes, picked fresh from my Godmother's mango tree, there is no shortage of yummy recipes to concoct. I am not big into sweets but I do love savory and sweet combinations. I've had this chutney in mind since I saw my first jalapeño pepper springing to life and turning into a deep fiery red on the plant. Luckily, I had mangoes and one petite pineapple on hand right when it was time to pluck that fiery little gem. Use it on anything you can think of ... yes, even ice cream ... I recommend vanilla!

Makes one 1/2 pint

2 tablespoons hazelnut oil or canola oil
3 shallots, halved and cut into half moons
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 mango, peeled and diced
2 small slices pineapple, diced
1-2 Jalapeños or to taste, seeded, and finely chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Plums Roasted in Balsamic and Ginger

How many times do you buy fruit and it just never seems to ripen properly? Or worse yet, even when it does ripen it's bland and flavorless! What do you do ... eat it anyway, throw it out, feed it to your neighbor's dog?

I don't know about you, but with the high cost of grocery items, especially fruit, I can't afford to be throwing money away in that manner. Besides, I truly feel guilty when I throw out food or don't utilize as much of a food product as I can. When fruit is bland and flavorless, I turn to roasting them! Yes, that's right ... I roast my fruit. And when I do, guess what I get? Dessert!  Roasting takes bland fruit to "elegant as hell" dessert levels! The syrup, roasted fruit creates, rivals any chocolate syrup you can squirt over ice cream, or any granola or plain fruit you sprinkle over yogurt. The syrup, let me tell you about ... The syrup. It's thick, rich, it's sweet with just the right amount zing and a lovely, deep, jewel tone. And then there's the fruit itself! If fruit had a "make over" show, this would be it, drab to fab in under 45 minutes.

Serves 6

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup sugar 
1/4 brown sugar
1/4 water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1" piece of ginger root, cut in half and smashed
6 plums, halved, pit removed
Sugar, to sprinkle over top

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!


Hope all you special dads out there are enjoying your day. The Hub and I are grilling burgers just for us two and enjoying the afternoon with a couple of ice cold brews. Cheers!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Simple Roasted Cauliflower

It doesn't get any easier than this! Now, easy doesn't mean flavorless, on the contrary, as the cauliflower roasts, the flavors deepen and become almost sweet. I know a lot of folks out there probably say they don't like cauliflower but give this recipe a try, I think you'll change your mind. You can even puree, once roasted, for a carb free "mashed potato" like aside dish.

1 head of cauliflower
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat over to 475 degrees

Breakdown the cauliflower into florets, but not too tiny, keep them substantial.
line a sheet pan with foil (for easy clean-up). Spread cauliflower over sheet, drizzle with olive oil, making sure each piece gets a drizzle. Don't skimp on the drizzle! Salt and pepper to taste. Shake pan or use clean hands to distribute olive oil and salt over the cauliflower.
Place in oven for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 375 and cooks for an additional 20-30 minutes, depending on how caramelized you want your cauliflower.

Serve with ... anything!  ENJOY!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Coming Up this Saturday ...

Mom, Dad and, yup, that's me!
I've had a few emails asking when I will be posting  my parent's recipe for Authentic Cuban Roast Pork.  The wait is almost over ... Look for the full recipe this Saturday, June 15th.  My parents, Aida and Eloy, are no longer here, but I can't help to think that they would be ecstatic knowing that their recipe was shared with so many folks. Whenever I make Cuban roast pork, I feel they are right there cooking alongside me, looking over my shoulder, probably gasping if I add or don't add enough of any one ingredient. So many of my families best memories where eating around the table in my parents kitchen, laughing, talking. It is no wonder that my brother and I, to this day, love having big, loud family dinners. I hope you visit this Saturday, and make and share this absolutely fabulous and ridiculously delicious recipe. It does take some prep but  it is so worth the time invested, I promise!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sweet and Tangy Pickled Vegetables

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers? If Peter Piper picked a peck of ... OK let's stop here, enough with the tongue twister. Tongue twisters are complicated and confusing, but this easy, sweet, tangy and slightly spicy recipe for pickled vegetables isn't! No complicated canning or processing, as it goes straight to your fridge. Delicious over meats, other vegetables, salads, tacos, sandwiches, as part of an antipasto platter,  or on its own ... the uses are only limited by your imagination.

1 medium onion, sliced into half moons
1 medium red union, sliced into half moons
1 large carrot, thinly sliced on the diagonal
5-6 radishes, peeled and thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler
4-5 cachucha peppers, chopped, including seeds
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5-7 whole peppercorns

In a small stainless steel pot, over medium high heat combine and stir vinegar, sugar, salt pepper flakes and peppercorns.
Boil for 1 minute so that sugar dissolves completely. Take off heat and set aside.
In a 1 quart jar (recycle your paste sauce jars!) layers your vegetables, like a lasagna. Pour in pickling liquid. Cover and let cool to room temperature. Store in fridge.

Recipe notes: 
It is best to allow the jar sit undisturbed, in the fridge, for a week before using, as this allows the flavor to deepen.
This is not a hot pickling, it does have a minimal kick at the back of the throat from the cachucha peppers and the red pepper flakes. You can amp up the heat by adding  more red pepper flakes or adding hotter peppers, like jalapeno, scotch bonnet or even thai chili peppers.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Spectacular Sunday and What to Expect in The Week Ahead

It's Sunday and for the first time since The Hub and I got back from San Francisco (May 21st) it's not raining! A dear friend of the family, George, is in town from Colorado and we haven't seen him in about 10 years, needless to say we are very excited!  Like my family, George is a Cuban-American and of course we are treating him and his daughter to a Cuban Feast. What makes up a Cuban feast? Authentic Cuban Roast Pork, Cuban Black Beans, Yucca in homemade Cuban Garlic Mojo Sauce, and Flan. Recipes coming up this week! It's going to be a spectacular day because in the end there is nothing like celebrating with family and friends and delicious food!
I hope you all have a spectacular Sunday. Peace.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Easy, Yummy Roasted Carrots

Yesterday was errand day for me. I had so much to do, had not planned dinner, and then 4 o'clock rolled around and I was still on the road. I had no desire and certainly no energy to put together an elaborate dinner, it just wasn't happening. I drove to my local supermarket, headed straight to the deli and picked up a rotisserie chicken. My eternal life saver, well maybe not my life, but my sanity for sure.  As soon as I got the chicken, I started thinking sides and went straight to the produce section. I am one of those people who really likes going to the grocery store (except on the weekends). I LOVE to look around, see what's new and on sale and most of all for inspiration! The baby cut carrots were on sale and then bingo! I knew what I was going to do with those orange little nubs. This recipe makes the carrots addictingly good, they are divinely sweet, tangy, tender and the more you eat the more you want. They are so easy to make and best of all prep time is about 2 minutes!

Serves 2-4

16 oz of baby cut carrots
2 - 3 tablespoons Olive oil
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Honey
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Place carrots in an 8x8 baking dish. Drizzle olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and sprinkle salt and pepper over carrots, making sure that all carrots are covered by shaking the dish around to distribute seasoning evenly or use your hands (that's what I do). Salt and pepper to taste. Place in preheated oven for 45 - 50 minutes or until fork tender but not soggy. As the carrots roast, check on them every 15 minutes and stir around, so that all sides get that gorgeous caramelized color.

Serve with anything you like, these carrots are ridiculously delicious! ENJOY!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tuscan Seasoning Mix - Two Ways

A few month ago, I watched a travel & food show on Tuscany and the herbs, spices, flavors and aromas of the Tuscan region and was inspired to create my own Tuscan Seasoning Mix.  I truly believe that all seasoning mixes are based on a taste preference to a particular herb or spice. You may like more basil and less rosemary and yes, it's quite all right to change anything to suit your palette. After all that is what eating is all about ... your palette! The mix that I developed features a dry and fresh ratio. And by that I mean, that a portion of the mix you can bottle (for up to 6 months) and the other portion uses fresh herbs, which I think adds an extra layer of freshness and "bounce" to the mix. But I know not everyone has fresh herbs available, so I've also included an all dry mix further below.

8 teaspoons dried oregano
4 teaspoons sweet smoked Spanish paprika
2 teaspoons ground fennel
4 teaspoons granulated garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt

Place all ingredients in a coffee grinder, and grind until its a fine powder. Transfer to airtight container or spice bottle. Add fresh rosemary, thyme and basil, to capture and infuse the flavors of fresh Tuscan cooking.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

As Seen on TV... Are You Kidding Me?

Did you know that some of those "As Seen on TV" kitchen products are actually pretty decent? Okay, stop! Before you click off on this page, hear me out.  I am not a sales or spokesperson, just a curious individual.
My daughter (a.k.a. the Kid) and The Hub love those "As Seen on TV" commercials. In fact, they both say the same thing, if they win the lotto, they are going to buy whatever "As Seen on TV" products they want to try out, just for the heck of it. I use to just laugh it off, until one day I saw the commercial for the Pasta Boat. It caught my attention because there is nothing that I just hate more than filling a pot with water, lugging it to the stove and then lugging a pot that now weighs even more and has boiling water in it, back to the sink to drain.  Plus, my thumb muscle thingy (yup, I said thingy, that's the official medical term for it) sometimes just gives out for no reason and I can lose my grip on what I am holding.  I don't know about you, but having a pot of boiling water just tumble on over me just doesn't tickle me pink!  Anyway, I digress. So I told my daughter I wanted to get the Pasta Boat, and instead of a kindred spirit, she laughs and makes fun of me. I was flabbergasted, speechless even, here's the "As Seen on TV" enthusiast just giggling away. A few months later, guess what I got for  Christmas from The Kid? Yup, the pasta boat! And the results? I have to tell you, I was surprised at how well it worked.  No more lugging boiling water, no big pot to clean, no strainer to clean, no heat in the kitchen. Simply said ... it works. Guess what? A few months later The Kid got one too.
What other "As Seen on TV" kitchen gadgets do I have? The Titan Peeler. I always wanted a julienne peeler, and when I saw the commercial for it, I knew eventually I would get one. I found and bought a julienne peeler made by joseph joseph for about $3 on clearance at Home Goods and it didn't feel comfortable when I used it. Cool design but I didn't like it, the grip was off. I couldn't figure out how to move the blades around, put it back together, I just couldn't be bothered. I've never been good at nor had the patience for puzzles! Finally, I got the Titan Peeler at Bed, Bath & Beyond. It came with a regular peeler, the julienne peeler and the slicing board attachment (great for slicing truffles, garlic, ginger). Both peelers feel comfortable to the grip and peel effortlessly. The julienne peeler is exactly what I was looking for. I didn't have to lug out the food processor or loose a digit on the mandolin. It's great for small or even large julienning jobs, but mostly I wanted it for small jobs, where all I had to wash was one little peeler. In case you are wondering, nope, I don't have a dish washer, my kitchen is small but efficient and I can't justify sacrificing the cabinet space.

The point of all this is that you never know where your new favorite kitchen gadget will come from, sometimes it will come from the most unexpected place ... like an "As Seen on TV" commercial. You just never know. Cheers!

Monday, June 3, 2013

What the Heck is Kohlrabi?! Check out this recipe Stir-fried Chicken and Kohlrabi

On our most recent trip to San Francisco, The Hub and I did a lot of window shopping at countless produce, meats and seafood markets in the Richmond and Mission districts, as well as at the farmer's market behind the Civic Center. On our last day in SF, the Hub being the awesome man he is, insisted we do a little take home shopping trip. So we went back to the Richmond district and bought a variety of fruits and vegetables that we really wanted to try back home. One of those vegetables was Kohlrabi. If you've never had kohlrabi, it tastes like a combination of cabbage, turnips and even parsnips. It is great in salads and for pickling, but I wanted to try it in its cooked form. Yes, I can get it here in South Florida, but I certainly can't get it for .97 cents! You just can't beat that! Here's the recipe I came up with using kohlrabi. The Hub had seconds and that usually means ... it was darn good!

Serves 2- 4

For the Marinade:
1 pound chicken thigh, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 cup sherry
1 tablespoon mirin

In a large bowl mix all the ingredients for the marinade together. Allow to marinate at least 1 hour but much better overnight. When ready to cook, remove chicken from marinade and pat dry. Reserve marinade for the rest of the recipe.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Craving Crusher Mini-Meatloafs in a Luscious French Onion Gravy

I've been craving, oh yes CRAVING, a homey, rich, onion and beef gravy laden meal since we got back from vacation. I just didn't have the taste buds (or the energy) to make it. Bronchitis has a away of making everything taste one of two ways; bland and extra bland. But as the week progressed and the meds started working, food became flavorful again, my taste buds were finally coming back to life. And I knew exactly what I wanted. My taste buds were dancing, singing even, as I put my much craved meal together. Was it good? Hell no! It was fantastic and hit the ravenous craving that had been making itself known since we got back.

Serves 2-4

For the Mini-Meatloaf:
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion finely grated
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider apple vinegar
1 egg beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt & pepper

Mix all the ingredients for the mini-meatloaf into a bowl using your fingers to avoid compacting the meat which will toughen it. Split the meat into 4 quarters and form small individual mini-meatloafs. Place in fridge for 30 minutes to cool and firm.