Wednesday, April 28, 2010

mmt ingredient challenge

In my favorite online community, I've helped launch a monthly creative challenge of sorts, just for fun and 'cause I'm into nerdy things like that. Last weekend, I was finally able to complete my Cooking Ingredient Challenge and I'd thought I share my entry here.

The challenge posed was basically to create a dish or a meal using ingredients from a list of 10 items-- the more included, the better. I ended up using 8 out of the 10 given ingredients in an unexpected Saturday lunch and I'm pretty happy with the results. The "fries" are definitely keepers-- crispy and flavorful without being overly indulgent. I was worried that they'd be limp and flavorless but, I didn't miss the deep fryer at all

Anyway, here 'tis! (With challenge ingredients in bold.)

 Turkey-Avocado Club Wrap
with Sweet Potato "Fries"

For the wrap:


  • medium-sized flour tortillas
  • sliced roast turkey breast
  • sliced swiss cheese
  • lettuce
  • tomato, sliced
  • avocado, sliced, with a squeeze of lime
  • 1-2 slices of cooked bacon
  • mayonnaise, or condiment of your choice
Self explanatory but, just for good measure: spread a bit of whatever condiment you're using in the middle of the tortilla; layer the sliced turkey, swiss, lettuce, tomato, avocado and bacon as you see fit; tuck in the outer edges of the tortilla and roll up your wrap. Slice in half to serve.

Feel free to add in or substitute anything else that strikes your fancy-- some red onion, pickles, chipotle mayo, honey mustard, sliced ham, roast beef or tuna salad would be awesome in this, too.

 For the fries:

{recipe from Body+Soul}

  • 2 sweet potatoes, skin on, scrubbed and cut into 4-inch sticks, about 1/2 inch thick
  • vegetable oil
  • 3 large egg whites
  • Mediterranean spice (oregano & thyme, salt, garlic powder)
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees with racks in the upper and middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and rub with oil.

2. Put sweet potatoes in a microwave-safe container, cover, and microwave 2 minutes. Stir gently, cover, and microwave 1 to 2 minutes more until pieces are pliable. Let rest 5 minutes covered.

3. In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy, add spice mix, and whisk to blend. Working in batches, toss the sweet-potato pieces in the seasoned egg whites, letting the excess liquid drip back into the bowl. Place in a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes, then flip pieces over with a spatula. Rotate baking sheets from front to back and from one rack to the other. Bake until dark golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

You'll have to excuse the odd photo-- I just wanted to snap a quick pic so I could dig in! And now I'm craving those sweet potato fries again... x

Thursday, April 22, 2010

holy matrimony

Its hard for me to believe but, my husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary this week. And what a year it has been! I wanted to celebrate with a homemade dinner reminiscent of our fabulous Jamaican honeymoon: juicy roasted jerk chicken with ubiquitous rice and peas (Jamaica's version of beans 'n rice). Simple enough, right?

I sought out traditional Jamaican recipes.
I researched exotic ingredients and cooking methods.
I spent 2 days prepping-- chopping, grinding, marinating, soaking.
I followed the directions to a T.
And the resulting meal was AWFUL.

Looking back, I was naive to think that I could recreate the flavor of chicken that has been cooked in a specialized jerk pit and smoked to perfection by pimento wood, in my crappy electric stove. Its just not the same. There was something off about my jerk paste as well-- I suspect too much allspice, and no garlic or ginger (neither were in the recipe I used but, seemed to pop up in other jerk recipes I saw). As for the rice, I have no idea what the hell happened. The beans were under-cooked, the rice was over-cooked and the spice level rendered any salvageable morsels completely inedible. I pride myself on being a decent cook and this flavor fail was a major source of shame to me.

My saving grace was a simple fruit salad I found in my search for Jamaican recipes, called matrimony. (I mean, what better dessert could there be to celebrate the anniversary of our marriage than a dish called matrimony?) Traditionally this is made with oranges and star apple - a fruit native to Jamaica and next to impossible to find this far north - so this recipe substitutes a combo of pear and apple. The fruit is simply dressed and seasoned with just a pinch of nutmeg-- a light, lovely post-dinner treat. Or, in our case, dinner.


{recipe from Sky Juice and Flying Fish: Traditional Caribbean Cooking}

Serves: 6

  • 1 ripe pear, peeled, cored & diced
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored & diced
  • 2 oranges, supremed
  • 1/4 cup condensed milk
  • grated nutmeg, to taste
  • (I also added a pinch of cinnamon, too)
1. Place the diced pear and apple in a medium bowl, add orange sections and mix. Sweeten with condensed milk and nutmeg, and toss to combine.

2. Let chill for at least one hour before serving. Serve chilled.

Thankfully, our meal turn-out was not reflective of our marriage and we were able to laugh off my disastrous attempt at authentic Jamaican cooking. Looks like we have yet another good reason to go back. x 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

the cookie cure

Like I mentioned last week, I've been feeling a bit blue lately-- and what better cure for the blues than a batch of fresh-baked cookies? Not just any cookies, though. I needed something a little different... but still comforting and somewhat familiar. And thus, my Cure-All macadamia white chocolate chip cashew butter cookies were born.

I am in *love* with this flavor combination. My husband --who has a habit of dipping pieces of chocolate into peanut butter as a snack (weirdo)-- surprised me one day with a square of white chocolate dipped into some precious, coveted cashew butter. I'm not crazy about white chocolate but, it was so creamy and delicious that I had to make something with those two ingredients. And you just can't go wrong with cookies. EVER.

After experimenting with a few recipes, the best and final version is actually a modified JOC recipe for classic peanut butter cookies. Despite the difference in texture between traditional PB and cashew butter (the latter, like most natural nut butters, is more runny), the cookies still have the familiar crisp edges and rich gooey insides-- exactly what I was going for. The addition of white chocolate bits and roasted macadamia nuts sweetens the deal and gives these little beauties the perfect touch of crunch.

Cure-All Cookies

{adapted from JOC, 2006}

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup cashew butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup white chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup roasted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease or line 2 cookie sheets. Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a small bowl, and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until well blended. Add in the egg, cashew butter and vanilla, and beat to combine. Stir in the flour mixture until blended. Gently fold in the white chocolate chips and chopped nuts.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and arrange about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Flatten dough with your fingers, a flat-bottomed glass, or a fork (don't skip this step or the cookies won't bake properly). Bake 1 sheet at a time, 10 to 12 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Allow cookies to set up on the sheet for a minute before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

If you're not into cashews, substitute classic peanut, creamy almond or rich hazelnut butters. Also, feel free to swap out the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts for semi-sweet chocolate bits, toasted cashews, slivered almonds, or whatever else you're craving-- go nuts :-)  

Friday, April 16, 2010

april showers...

The weekend is almost here! Yay!

Its due to rain 'round here all weekend long which, is kind of a bummer-- but all those pretty new blooms need waterin', right? I'm going to make the best of being indoors and get some long-postponed scrapbooking done. How 'bout you?

I'll leave you with some delicate spring blooms from my mom's garden: lovely lavender hyacinths and sweet violas. Because pretty fleurs make the rain worth enduring :-)

Until Monday! x

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

so fresh, so clean

I had a bomb dropped on me last week, friends.
Come June 1st: I'm being laid off. A pretty stale piece of news but --in this uncertain economy-- not all that uncommon, I'm afraid. At least I've got this place and some lovely spring weather to keep me occupied during my limbo. That's my best attempt at a silver lining for now, anyway.

Since I've been a little down in the dumps, I've abandoned my kitchen almost entirely. I have been doing quite a bit of cleaning, though. I'm no neat freak but, sometimes giving the abode a good clean is a great de-stressor and makes me feel accomplished-- how about you?

 As I cleaned, I successfully tested some DIY linen water that I'd been dying to make since I'd seen it in last summer's issue of GreenCraft. I think this would be a quick and useful project for those of you in the midst of spring cleaning.

Linen water is a great way to keep your home smelling fresh-- without any harsh chemicals or over-bearing scents. More importantly, you can make your own with simple ingredients and recycle a used spray bottle in the process. Its great for spritzing anywhere that could use a bit of freshening: bed sheets, blankets, curtains, gym bags, upholstered furniture, carpet & rugs, pet areas, laundry hampers or even in your car. Just be sure that the components of the linen water won't alter or damage your fabric before using.

DIY Linen Water

{from GreenCraft Magazine, Summer 2009}

  • 2 1/2 cups mineral water
  • 5 ml. essential oil of your choice
  • 1/8 cup vodka
  • a used spray bottle, washed and dried
  • printable labels (optional)
1. Combine the vodka and essential oil.

2. Add mineral water to the vodka-oil mixture, and pour into a clean spray bottle.

3. Spritz at will!

I recommend citrus fruits for your essential oil (lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc.) because they exude a freshness that I just love but, if there is another scent you'd prefer, go for it.

Also, I made some labels for mine on printer-friendly sticker sheets. Creature Comforts has a variety of cute *free* options right here, for personal use only please.

Now that I think about it, you could even dress this project up as part of a gift basket for a thoughtful housewarming gift or maybe a simple Mother's Day present. Give the gift of freshness :-)