Thursday, September 29, 2011

Am I lactose intolerant?!

I've never been a fan of drinking straight milk. Milk always needed to be served in a latte, with cereal, or some Hershey's syrup. However, I love all dairy products; particularly yogurt and cheese. I didn't realize just how much dairy I eat until recently. I've been experimenting with vegetarian/vegan cooking, so my dairy intact went WAY down. Pretty much to none really.

I had not thought much about the lack of dairy in my life until I grabbed a pumpkin latte a few days ago. I wasn't more than 4 sips in when my stomach went crazy. It was so crazy I thought that I had some bad milk and didn't drink the rest. The next day I ate some pizza at a friend's house and the same thing happened...Now I'm considering going to a food allergist to see if I'm allergic to lactose or something else. Anyone have any experience with lactose intolerance? Or any remedies to helping with the symptoms? I don't think I will miss milk, but I would really miss cheese...and ice cream...and cream sauces...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stovetop Popcorn

My last post got me thinking....I wonder how many people just pop a bag of microwave popcorn when it is so easy to pop your own on the stove top! I mean, nothing beats the taste of fresh popped popcorn, and it's even better when you can control the oil/seasoning.

Here's what you need:

Popping corn (~1/4 cup), vegetable oil (not olive oil though!), & seasoning.

Medium saucepan with lid

That's it. See, making popcorn isn't so hard!

The trick to popcorn perfection is high, fast heat. You want to turn the stove to a little more than medium-high (I put mine on the "8" of my stove), but not all the way to high.

Pour a little oil in the bottom of the pan. I like to use around 1 tablespoon, but you can use less/more if you want.  You really do need some sort of oil though to keep the popcorn from burning or tasting stale. Add 3 or four kernels of popcorn to the pan and put a lid on it. These are your "test" kernels. 

Once these kernels pop, you know that the oil is the perfect temperature (and not too hot!). Immediately pour in the rest of your popcorn.  I use 1/4 of a cup, which makes a little less than 3 cups of popped corn. Once the kernels are in the pan, put a lid on it. The trick to keeping the popcorn from burning depends on a few factors:

  1. Do not walk away from this pan for any reason!!!
  2. Gently "shake" the pan to keep the kernels moving/swirling around 
  3. Just like with the microwave, when the popping stops for more than 3 seconds, remove the pan from the heat 

When the popping stops, carefully pour the popcorn into a bowl, season and enjoy. Just be wary of any renegade popcorns that may pop at you as you pour. Personally, I use the lid of the pan to shield myself from any flying corns.

I can eat this entire bowl all by myself....but feel free to adjust the amount of uncooked kernels based on how much you will eat.

Here are some of my favorite seasoning ideas:

  • black truffle salt
  • parmesan cheese
  • cinnamon & sugar (2 parts cinnamon to 1 part sugar)
  • salt and pepper

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Black Truffle Sea Salt

Have I said how much I love anything with black truffles??? No? Well, I'm quickly becoming obsessed. It all started when I went on vacation to Seattle, WA earlier this summer. Truffles thrive in Washington state, and I found an awesome little shop by Pike's Place Market to try oils, salts and seasonings. A few months ago, my obsession really bloomed when I went to Graffiato and had a truffle pizza!

The problem with truffles is that they are super pricy and do not fit in the everyday budget. Have you gone to a fancy restaurant and ordered black truffle mac & cheese? I have and let me tell you it's not cheap! (but totally worth it...please order it once in your life.)

So to add a little truffle flavor to my life, I bought black truffle sea salt. Let me tell you, a little of this stuff goes a long way! The guy at the store suggested sprinkling it on steamed veggies, mashed potatoes, or even adding it to little mayo for a nice dip. What do I like to do with it? Sprinkle it on popcorn! Popcorn is the perfect base for a salty seasoning and lets you really taste rich, truffle-goodness.

Don't like truffles? Try other gourmet seasonings! The trick is to buy these specialty flavors in small containers, and to only use them on special occasions. This little jar cost me $10, but I've had it for almost a year and really haven't used much. That is because the flavor is so robust and rich that I don't need a lot to make an impact.

So if you want to spice up your everyday recipes, why not head to the fancy spice shelf at Whole Foods or any other specialty store and pick up a small bottle of exotic seasoning? By keeping quantity low and flavor-impact high, you get a great return on your gourmet investment!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Caprese on a Stick

Looking for a simple, last minute appetizer for a Labor Day picnic or cookout? I love these little caprese salads on a stick.  They are super easy to assemble and look so pretty on the plate!

Simply grab a container of cherry tomatoes, mini pearl mozzarella, basil, and toothpicks. To assemble, I first put on the tomato, then the basil, then the mozzarella. This keeps the basil leaf from falling off!

Sprinkle with a little salt, pepper & olive oil and you're good to go!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sauteed Mushrooms

Yeah, yeah, I know it's been a long time. Let's just say life is a bit crazy right now. But you know what's not crazy? A simple lunch of sauteed mushrooms and brown rice. Yum! I didn't really feel like cooking this morning, but since this dish takes all of 8-10 minutes to cook, its faster than fast food!

Since it's just me in my apartment, this recipe makes one serving. However, you can always make more. Just remember what Julia Child says....don't crowd the mushrooms!!! If you're making this for more than one person, I would go ahead and make two pans or two batches of mushrooms. That way your mushrooms have plenty of room to spread out and get delicious.

Sauteed Mushrooms
Serves 1
  • To start out, pour olive oil into a large skillet (1-2 turns of the pan or approximately 1-2 tablespoons). 
  • Throw in one large clove of minced (chopped) garlic, and turn on the heat to medium-high. 
  • Once you can start to smell the garlic (a minute or so) add 1/2 a container of mushrooms (sliced) to the pan. Don't know how to slice or clean mushrooms? I can help you there...Or if you're lazy like me today, you can buy them pre-sliced.
  • Sauté, gently moving the mushrooms around in the pan. After the first side of the mushrooms start to brown, go ahead and add a few sprigs of rosemary. 
  • Brown the mushrooms until they look like this:

  • Where's the salt and paper you say??? Hold your horses! Salt pulls out the moisture in the mushrooms. So if you want your mushrooms to brown (and not be a mushy, liquid mess) wait to season the mushrooms until after you have browned them.
  • Serve on top of brown rice, and you're set! I actually season my rice with a touch of salt and pepper, but the seasoning on the mushrooms should be enough as well.

Have a great labor day weekend!!