Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sweets & Simplicity - 2/22/2009

I had a good deal of leftovers from last week's meals, so I have mostly simple dishes for this post. But don't get me wrong, that does not mean any of this is light on flavor.

Tuna Salad Nicoise

I read in one of my magazines about a salad with tuna and egg, which gave me the idea for this lunch. My tuna salad sandwiches are usually nothing special. But for this salad, I pretty much combined egg salad and tuna salad (why choose, right?). I used one of the flavored tunas, in this case garlic-flavored. To this I added probably about 1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, a little salt, pepper, capers, and halved Spanish olives, and mixed everything nicely. While this was going on, I was boiling my eggs. I find if you put the eggs in the water, then bring it to a boil over high heat, then time seven (maybe even eight) minutes, the eggs come out perfect every time: cooked through but nothing is hard or rubbery. The keys for this is to use fresher eggs and to shock them in an ice bath after cooking. That way the eggs peel very easily and do not crack while boiling. Anyways, back to the sandwich. I coarsely cut up my eggs and mixed them into the salad. I put all of this atop some spray-buttered toast in an open-face sandwich (I've never managed to fit all of a tuna or egg salad on a closed sandwhich). The egg whites add some nice protein and a different texture to the salad while the yolk makes it a little creamier and the olives and capers add some nice salty flavor. The end result is what I call tuna salad Nicoise.

Spiced Chocolate Pudding

While I am controlling my portions and appetite, that does not stop my craving for something sweet. I have been eating the low calorie pre-made Jell-o pudding cups, but sometimes the flavor is just not as good. In order to make up for that, I made this small confection. I bought one of the sugar-free Jell-o chocolate pudding mixes and, while preparing it according to package directions (which can really be condensed to "mix with milk"), I mixed in some powdered ginger, powdered cloves and powdered cinnamon to the mix. These warm spices helped to distract my tongue from the weirdness of the sugar substitute, so I would recommend this trick to anyone who wants to add a little spice to their diet.

Calamari Steak with Brussels Sprouts

Today at the grocery store, I found calamari steaks again and I decided to cook them for dinner since the last time I bought them I did not cook them before they started to smell. I marinated the steaks for an hour in a combination of hoisin, black bean sauce, sesame oil, mirin, minced ginger, sliced and dried garlic, and soy sauce (yes, I pretty much combined most things Asian that I had). Meanwhile, I prepared the brussels sprouts: halved them, oiled them up with salt and pepper, then baked them at high heat for 10 minutes. Next I tossed the sprouts with some caraway seeds and baked them for another 10 minutes until they were nicely browned all over. Back to the calamari, I grilled the steaks over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes per side (don't overcook seafood), and assembled my plate with some rice cooked in chicken stock and dried garlic. Brussels sprouts can be quite tasty if prepared fresh and simply. They're almost like little cabbages. The calamari was tender and delicious and went nicely with everything else. Start to finish I probably cooked this all in 30 minutes, including clean-up time. Even Rachel Ray can't do that.

Cereal Treats

One of my classmates had a get-together earlier in the week, meaning I had an excuse to make something sweet and delicious. I wanted something simple and not over-the-top. A friend recommended Rice Krispie treats, but I felt that was a little too...normal. So I did the same thing with Captain Crunch with Crunchberries and Reese's Puffs. You melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, then add 10 ounces of marshmallows to melt them down. Remove the pan from the heat and add 6 cups of cereal. Press this into a greased baking dish and allow it to cool. I find it cuts easier if you cool it in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This recipe is easy to multiply and make with other cereals, though some cereals may require tweaking of the marshmallow mixture, but most people don't care about it. This treats tasted good and got rave reviews from everyone at the shindig. Lesson of the week is to KISS: Keep It Simple and Sweet (or Knights in Satan's Service for old-school rock n roll fans).

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