Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stuffed Calamari - 04/3008

Have you ever walked by something in the grocery store and had an irresistible urge to use a particular food in some way. Every time I see squid in the seafood section, I have wanted to make some stuffed calamari, so here is my attempt:

Crab Stuffing

For the stuffing, I combined one container of crab claw meat and one container of crab backfin meat (for large and small pieces). I neglected to pick over the crab for shell fragments, but I would definitely recommend it anytime you use crab. To this, I added some plain breadcrumbs (store-bought because who has the time to crisp up and crumble bread?), a little mayo, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, and thyme. I expected my random jumble of spices to need some work, but the mixture tasted pretty good on the first try. A Good rule of thumb for crab and salmon accompaniments is to use Dijon mustard.

Stuffed Calamari

The calamari tubes were pre-trimmed of their fins, so all I had to do was wash them and delicately fill them with a moderate amount of stuffing. They looked rather bland at first, so I just threw on some paprika to give them a little color. I ended up baking them for about 10-15 minutes until the calamari were white and no longer gray. The crab was already cooked, so the key was to cook the calamari slow enough to let the stuffing heat up.

Seafood Salad Sandwich

Stuffing the calamari tubes was more labor intensive than I thought. So I decided to Robin Miller this meal while I was cooking (yes, I used a name as a verb). I cut up the calamari into rings, which is the usual method for preparing it. Then I put some salt and garlic powder on them and sauteed them just until they were done. I mixed these back into the stuffing to make some general seafood salad. I suppose I could have made this into seafood cakes (crab cakes + calamari), but I was tired and full of food at that point. Lunch today, though, consisted of the salad with a slice of provolone and a little more Dijon mustard. I'm beginning to appreciate how to work and re-work recipes. If one thing fails, then just transform it into something else. Or even if it does work, it could make something else that's easier.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Soy-Lime-Ginger Shrimp - 04/21/08

Want a quick and delicious seafood marinade? Try this one.


You assemble the marinade in a blender. I used two chopped shallots, 5 cloves of garlic, the green parts of some scallions, 1 chopped ginger root, 1 cup of soy sauce, 1/2 cup of lime juice, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup of olive oil. I placed this over the shrimp and let them sit for about 20 minutes. In the mean time, I started some rice in my rice cooker that I had seasoned with garlic salt and some dried ginger.

Soy-Lime-Ginger Shrimp

After marinating, I put the shrimp in a saute pan and cooked them until they were no longer gray-white. The recipe recommended to use a grill, but the pan is easier for me. I served the shrimp up with a side of rice. This is one of my new favorite marinades that could easily be used for other meats.

Carnitine Cupcakes - 04/21/08

On Monday, I attended my last team meeting with my current research group. I made this wonderful treat for everyone to enjoy.

Carnitine Cupcakes

The cupcakes are basic vanilla cupcakes inside of cupcake wrappers. I had a little difficulty getting them out of the cupcake pan, but it was okay in the end. They also deflated a little bit, so I'm glad I planned the next couple of steps. I prepared a cream cheese frosting for on top. I split the frosting in half, and added grenadine to one half. Grenadine is made from pomegranates and has a nice cherry flavor. It is used in many mixed drinks, including my childhood favorite, Shirley Temples. I piped the grenadine frosting into the cupcakes. No need to empty them out or anything. These cupcakes were light enough that the filling fit just perfectly. Then, to cover up the evidence, I spread the plain frosting on top. That way, the filling remained a surprise.

My research group studies carnitine, a molecule involved with fat metabolism. I wrote the single-letter abbreviation for the elements in carnitine using some decorative frosting. After transport, I assembled a mock-up of the molecule with the cupcakes and cut Twizzlers for the chemical bonds. For the chemists reading this, I admit I did leave off the hydrogen atoms save the one in the hydroxyl group, mostly because the hydrogens would have made the molecule too hard to assemble and I needed 12 cupcakes to feed the entire team. The team raved over the design and flavor of these cupcakes that were, in reality, quite easy to put together. Some people even asked me to make their wedding cakes (quite a tall order I don't want to undertake). It just goes to show you that a little extra effort goes a long way.

Chachos - 04/18/08

Look at me, I'm Robin Miller!


For those unfamiliar with Food Network, Robin Miller usually has shows where she does a good amount of prep work over the weekend. That way, she can make meals faster during the week. Most notably, though, she uses food she cooks earlier in the week (meats, pastas, rice, etc.) to speed up cooking later in the week. This is exactly what I did. If you remember my chacos, I turned them into chachos. I made more tortilla chips with the corn tortillas. I reheated the chicken tenderloins and chopped them up roughly. I spread the chicken over the chips along with some cheese, then melted the cheese in the microwave. On top, I spread some salsa, sour cream, green onion, and olives. I mainly did all of this because I had eaten the chacos for two meals a day for two days in a row, so I wanted to mix it up a bit. It's just as easy to do this with other meals too. Just ask Robin Miller.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chacos - 4/16/08

For lunch (and probably dinner too), I made chicken tacos, or as I like to call them, chacos. These are not to be confused with facos (fish tacos) or sacos (steak tacos).


As long as you have all of the right ingredients, these are quite easy to make. I used chicken tenderloins so I would not have to cut up the chicken, but you can easily to this with chicken breasts and slice them up after they are done cooking. Grill or pan fry the chicken. For seasoning, I used garlic salt, pepper, cumin, Sazon Goya, and a little lime juice. When the chicken is done, place it in a tortilla (I love flour tortillas, but corn tortillas are better for you, so I used those this time). On top, you can use whatever you like. Today, I added chopped cabbage, cheese, sour cream, salsa, olives, and green onions. You could easily have chiles, tabasco, lime juice, black beans, cilantro, or anything else you want.

On the side, I made some tortilla chips. The corn tortillas always come in packs of about 50, so there are plenty to spare. I chopped some tortillas into sixths and placed them on a greased cookie sheet. I sprayed them with Pam and dusted them with salt, garlic powder, pepper, and lime juice. I then put them in a 350 degree oven until they were crispy, about 20 minutes or so (I wasn't watching the clock, so don't quote me on it).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sweet Breakfast - 4/13/08

My lab was having a day to work on some special recipes for patients on a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, so I went ahead and made some carb-tastic breakfast treats for everyone to enjoy. For avid readers, you may remember my banana bread trio was for a very similar event.

Monkey Bread

Monkey pull-apart bread is a wonderful treat and quite easy to make. The only drawback is you have to let it sit for a while before you can do anything with it. First, buy frozen bread dough. Thaw one loaf of dough and rip it into balls about three-quarters to half the size of a golf ball. Melt half of a stick of butter and set it aside. Mix together three-quarters cup of sugar with 1.5 tsp of cinnamon and one-half cup of chopped nuts (walnut, pecan or another softer nut). Grease a Bundt or other round pan with a hole in it. Dip each bread dough ball into the butter and then into the cinnamon-sugar-nut mix. Place the balls into the greased pan in an even manner. I find the best way to do all of this is to have one hand grab the dough ball, dip it in butter and toss it into the cinnamon-sugar-nut mix bowl. Have the other hand cover the ball in the mix and place it in the pan. You can use this same method for breading meats with an egg wash/buttermilk and breadcrumbs/cornflakes. Next, you have to let the dough balls rise for 3-6 hours in a warm, draft-free location until they are doubled in size. After the dough has risen, you can refrigerate it until you are ready to bake it and the dough will remain raised. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. When you remove it from the oven, invert it onto a serving plate. Allow this to cool for a few minutes then eat it by pulling the balls out by hand. This is a very communal food, so germophobes need not attempt it unless they want it all for themselves.

Muffins & Muffin Bars

I also made some muffins for breakfast. The first ones are cranberry-orange muffins that turned out a little dry (probably my fault). The other ones are apple-raisin-walnut mini- and regular-sized muffins. The second batch made so much batter that I made the minis, upgraded to the regulars and still had enough batter left over to make a muffin cake. I greased a 9" baking pan and filled it with what I had. I baked it until it was just done (it turned out very moist). To add insult to injury, I made a confectioner's sugar icing, flavored it with vanilla extract and drizzled it over the top of the sectioned pieces. Everyone raved about the food and devoured it quickly, which probably means I did something right.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Seafood Po' Boy - 4/2/08

I like to go to the store without a food plan sometimes and just see what inspires me. That is where these ideas came from.

Shrimp Po' Boy & Spaghetti Squash

One of the local seafood specials was fresh bay scallops and there were also some nice peeled and deveined shrimp. I always choose the peeled and deveined shrimp because there's no reason to have to peel and devein your own shrimp. I decided to make a seafood po' boy. I grabbed some fresh tomatoes and dill for the seafood along with some small French baguettes (the size of a sandwich). Staring at me in the face from the seafood counter were some spaghetti squash, so I grabbed one of those too.

A po' boy is pretty much a seafood sandwich. Most are flavored with Cajun spices as they come from Southern areas like Louisiana (think Emeril, but less pork fat and Oreos). The seafood is also mostly fried and held together with a mayonnaise-based sauce. Since I was not in the mood to gorge on some ridiculous amount of calories, I made this as a saute. I heated up some butter in a pan and added some garlic. I added the shrimp and let them cook a bit before adding in the scallops. I only let the seafood cook for a minute or so until it was opaque (unless you like the feel of eating erasers, then you can cook it longer). While it was cooking, I added some lemon juice and chives. Then I added the chopped tomatoes to let them heat up while the seafood finished cooking. Right before adding the seafood to the bread, I added the chopped dill. You can also season this mixture with some Old Bay seasoning, tartar sauce, or any other sea-foody sauce.

Spaghetti squash is a delicious, versatile vegetable. It gets its name from the fact that the flesh comes out as strings that resemble spaghetti. To prepare it, you must first cut it in half. This is not an easy feat, so be prepared for a struggle, especially if you do not have a big knife. Scoop out the seeds from the very center. Place each half flat-side down in a microwave- or oven-safe dish. Fill the bottom of the pan with some water and cover it with some parchment paper. You can either microwave if for about 25 minutes or bake it in the oven. It's done when the flesh is tender when poked with a fork. Allow the squash to cool slightly before shredding the flesh with a fork into a bowl. Now is the time when you can flavor the squash with whatever you want. I made this batch Italian-style by adding some parsley, oregano, Romano cheese, salt, and pepper. The squash has very few calories, so it is a good substitute for spaghetti in almost any dish. My mom has even mentioned making desserts with it. If you want to keep it simple, just use some spray butter (Parkay's is the best), salt and pepper on it.

Turkey Chili - 3/31/08

I was in a soupy mood, so I decided to make a delicious chili.

Turkey Chili

This one started with a base of onions and zucchini. They key for soups is not to saute or sear the veggies, but rather to "sweat" them over lower heat with some spices. To this I added the ground turkey and let it cook all the way through. Then I added garlic salt, tomatoes, some tomato paste, and water. I let this simmer for about a half hour, then added the kidney beans. The original recipe called for some cornbread dumplings, but when I made their dough, it was too wet to form real dumplings upon the first try. So instead, I made some small cornbread ovals and baked them in the oven. To serve, I spooned the chili into a bowl and topped it with two cornbread ovals, a dollop of sour cream and fresh cilantro. The dish turned out good and has made great lunch and dinner leftovers.