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flinstone-sized lambchop, quinoa, asparagus

flinstone-sized lamb chop, quinoa, grilled asparagus

For dinner tonight, I made a Flinstone-sized lamb chop from Lindy Grundy. I put a spice rub on the lamb chop and grilled it on both sides and then finished it in the oven. For the quinoa, I cooked it following the instructions using homemade chicken stock instead of water. For the grilled asparagus, I… you know… grilled it. Delicious! The quinoa was rich and amazing. I loved the lamb chop, but it was so hard to eat.

brownie & vanilla ice cream

brownie & vanilla ice cream

I was craving a sweet treat so I baked some brownies. I learned how to bake, as a kid, because it is so easy to whip up a delicious dessert just from pantry items and because I have an incredible sweet tooth. I started with this brownie recipe from Epicurious. Weirdly, I didn’t have a metal bowl or a brownie pan. I have been so focused on cooking since I moved to LA that I had neglected baking tools. Now at least I know what to buy next time I am creeping around Surfas jonesing for something to buy.

my healthy dinner - shrimp, black beans, spinach salad

my healthy dinner - shrimp, black beans, spinach salad

The whole reason I got involved in endurance sports in the first place was to continue eating any old food I like. And I sure like a lot of food. I recently joined the cult of Crossfit and there is a lot of talk about nutrition and eating clean. I am definitely not going to start eating the Paleo diet, but I was thinking that it can’t hurt to try my hand at cooking healthy during the week.

So for tonight’s dinner, I kept it simple and healthy. I made my family’s Cuban frijoles negros recipe. Then I just sauteed some shrimp with some extra sofrito (onion, garlic and peppers) from the black beans and served with rice and a spinach salad. I made the black beans last night after a crossfit class and I was so tired by the time they finished cooking that I may have forgot some finishing steps. Even better than being healthy; the meal was delicious, simple and super cheap. If only I had time to make dry beans every day.

By the way, my crossfit workout included handstand pushups, sumo deadlift high pulls and hang power cleans. What the heck am I doing? If you are my dad, please don’t comment on that question.

roasted short ribs, potatoes, brussel sprouts, & salad

roasted short ribs, potatoes, brussel sprouts, & salad

It has been a while since I posted about food. Today I spent some time walking through the Brentwood Farmer’s Market and I picked up a bunch of random ingredients that caught my eye. I  got some grass fed short ribs, brussel sprouts, leeks, beets and two boxes of Thin Mints.

For the short ribs, the guy from the farm place gave me a recipe his wife loves. Of course, I looked at the list and said, “yep, got all of that.” I got home and started to prepare the short rib recipe, which calls for the ribs to be cooked smothered in sliced onion (it is like Waffle House up in here) and realized I didn’t have any onion. Oy vey. So I sliced up leeks and shallots and didn’t so much smother the ribs as gave them some friends to keep them company.

I also cooked a bit of bacon, crumbled it, and cooked sliced brussel sprouts in the bacon fat. I saw a great video yesterday about how to cook bacon the right way. Following the advice, I cooked it over low heat for about 20 minutes and flipped often.

SInce the ribs took 2.5 to 3 hours to cook, I roasted some little potatoes and beets in the hot oven to keep occupied. WIth the beets roasted and short ribs still going, I started making a gigantic salad with my homemade pickled onions, carrots, hearts of palm (me gustan los palmitos) , artichokes, corn, tomatoes. Overall it was nothing amazing, but it is so nice to pull together such a big dinner with a few ingredients and pantry supplies. If only I could remember to keep myself in onions.

Middle Eastern Chicken Pot and Butter-Nut Quinoa

Middle Eastern Chicken Pot and Butter-Nut Quinoa

One thing that has struck me recently is the sheer number of different ingredients I have in my kitchen. If I need vinegar, I can choose from white wine, champagne, sherry, balsamic, apple cider, and even raspberry. I have been trying to save a bit of money so it makes sense to choose recipes that use things I already have around the house. I am not a fan of Rachel Ray, but her recipe for Middle Eastern Chicken Pot and Butter-Nut Couscous uses chicken thighs (cheap), pine nuts, dried fruit, cumin, coriander, olives — all of which I have. I replaced the couscous with quinoa to add an educational element to the recipe. I haven’t ever eaten quinoa much less cooked it. Of course with all my clever planning, I forgot that I didn’t have any paprika so I added a bit of cayenne pepper instead.

What can I say? It is not the most glamorous or photogenic recipe, but it is affordable and easy for a weeknight. And for me, it provides meals for days.

strawberry preserves on cracker

strawberry preserves on cracker

As if learning to cook wasn’t enough, my friend Kendra recently got me excited about canning. It turns out, canning isn’t all scary and filled with botulism. Botulism can’t exist in highly acidic environments so there are lots of good recipes you can safely preserve. For a starter, Kendra suggested this recipe for Strawberry Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar & Black Pepper. She said it wasn’t as overly sweet as some of the other strawberry preserves. Canning is really meant to preserve extra in season fruits and vegetables so I would like to say that I had an abundance of strawberries laying around, but I didn’t. I made the preserves using a pint of strawberries from the CSA, two strawberries from my garden, and the rest from the grocery store. The jelly made a great dessert with just a hint of pepper.

jars of jelly

jars of jelly

I only opened one jar and I am going to hold off opening the others for a taste of summer in the bitter cold of the Los Angeles winter. I think pickled cocktail onions might be next.

strawberry brown betty ingredients

strawberry brown butter betty ingredients

The strawberry brown butter betty recipe on Smitten Kitchen is a great pantry recipe. If you have butter, white bread, strawberries, sugar, brown sugar, panko bread crumbs and lemon; you can make a strawberry brown butter betty in no time. You use regular white bread as the crust and brush browned butter on it. The just fill with a strawberry mixture and bake.

strawberry brown butter betty

strawberry brown butter betty

The resulting dessert is delicious and not too sweet. You can try different fruits and whip up cream as a topping. Really the best part is the brown butter crust after it has been baked. I had never made brown butter before, but now I want to try it on everything.

potato leek soup

Potato Leek Soup

To further my study of French cooking and because I never know what to make for dinner, I decided to make the first recipe in the first chapter of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, potato leek soup. Perfect, I love potato leek soup. I went to the grocery store with my list of ingredients. Hmmm… potatoes… leeks…. That can’t be right. I also got heavy cream and chicken broth, in case I missed a few steps.

It ends up, you make potato leek soup by simmering 1 part sliced leeks to 1 part of diced potatoes in water for an hour and then mashing them up. You can finish with heavy cream, but you can also just use butter. I thought it tasted great with neither, but since I bought heavy cream why let it go to waste? It also shocks me that I enjoyed a vegetarian soup. I always thought that soup can’t actually taste good without a meat stock base and this recipe could easily be vegan.

I can’t really say this is a pantry recipe because you have to have leeks on hand. Although I suspect that after a few more weeks of French cooking, I will always have shallots and leeks in my kitchen.

shrimp and broccoli

Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp

The best advice my brother ever gave me was to keep frozen shrimp in my freezer because I can always take it out and brine it in some salty water while it thaws and make a delicious dinner. I guess shrimp is always frozen on the shrimping boats anyway so there is no harm in letting it freeze a little longer in your home. As long as you have some olive oil and garlic on hand, you always have the fixins for some dinner.

When I first moved to LA, I had a completely empty pantry. Not knowing where to start; I made sure I had basics like frozen shrimp, salt, garlic and olive oil. One tired weeknight, I decided to make Melissa Clark’s Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp from the NY Times via The Wednesday Chef. The only problem being that my spice pantry was bare. I tried to make it anyway just using garlic, salt and olive oil; which is basically a completely different and less exciting meal.

The second best piece of advice my brother gave me was to go buy spices. I did and retried the recipe with cumin and hot chili powder and coriander. What an absolutely delicious and easy weeknight dish. I file this one under pantry and weeknight and it makes me happy.

Bouchons au Thon

Bouchons au Thon

My sister introduced me to Bouchons au Thon two summers ago. I thought she was crazy for making them and quickly renamed them Tuna Cupcakes. The recipe is from Orangette’s blog. Molly (Orangette) recreated it from one her French host mother invented in her capacity as a Flexipan and Silpat saleslady. It ends up, Orangette’s French Host Mother should be in the silicone product hall of fame. Not only are Tuna Cupcakes completely delicious, but they are easy to make and you find most of the ingredients already in your kitchen. The most amazing part, your love of Tuna Cupcakes will require you to buy a silicone muffin tin. Trust me, it is worth it. Pair them with a salad and a baguette and weeknight dinner is served.