Friday, October 29, 2010

Mexican Bean Soup

 ~~~~California Intermission, Check back Monday for more California~~~~

I know I have been slacking on the family recipe book project, but I declare now...I am back in action! Although I may still not finish by December, I am going to give it my best try to finish it in less than a year (January 25th 2011). I am planning a family/friends dessert party to tackle some of the dessert recipes and a friends Italian night to get through some of my Italian recipes. Here is the breakdown:

About 12 weeks left
Recipes Left: 54
Dessert Party: 14
Italian night: 5

So that leaves 35 other recipes which is about 3 a week. I need some help eating all of these!

So for your reading pleasure... a recipe book cooking experience story:

Cloudy...check. Cold...check. Soup recipe...check! What better time than now to make a soup. My mom gave me this recipe and it is only 1 weight watchers point/cup! For those of you who are unfamiliar with WW, 1 point is about 50 calories.
So I stopped at the grocery store and went straight to the canned and Mexican aisle. I am getting good at this! Instead of grabbing the cheapest item, I tried to be more eco/heath conscious when making my decisions. I got vegetarian refried beans, no salt added black beans, and organic chicken broth from free-range chickens. Although other items (i.e. the frozen dinner) kind of ruined my streak, I felt good enough about my choices. I searched and searched the frozen dinner aisle but was not able to find a 'Smart Ones' fiesta chicken dinner...easy fix, insert 'other low calorie frozen fiesta chicken dinner'. On my way to get some cheese I was not able to walk by the Egg Nog without picking one up. Horray for Nog! Cheers!

This recipe cannot be any easier! Well it was a little difficult because of my tools. Normal people would open the cans/packages and dump it into a crock pot and then relax until done. Me, of course, had to make it more difficult. I have a great crock-pot and can opener still packed up from my move. Don't you think I could have just gone downstairs and opened the box and brought them up? No, no....I would rather put it on the stove where I felt the need to attend to and use a broken can opener. Instead of easily sliding around the can, I had to poke hole after hole around the rim until it opened (4 cans). Why you ask...why the madness? You know that moment when you say, "this won't be that bad" and it is kind of difficult but you keep going because maybe, just maybe, you will get the hang of it? Then you reach that moment of, "I should go get the dang stuff from the basement". Then you irrationally decide that you have already put so much work into the process and there is no use in quitting now (even though quitting halfway through and unpacking things would have still taken less time).

But in the end....excellent soup that has quite a kick to it. Since I have whined to no end...I will unpack a few things tonight, just for you :)

Mexican Bean Soup
• 1 can non-fat refried beans
• 1 can black beans
• 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes (spicy)
• 1 can diced green chiles
• 2 cans non-fat chicken broth
• 1 Smart Ones Fiesta Chicken dinner
• 2 cups frozen corn
Dump all into a crock pot. Can add an extra bit of uncooked rice. 1 weight watchers point/cup. Can add chips to bottom, cheese and sour cream to top, but points go up. (yea, duh! I added the extras, I can't resist the cheese)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Embassy Suites

Generally I expect very little from a hotel breakfast. Perhaps some bagels and yogurt cups...hard boiled eggs if I am lucky. Imagine my delight when we had breakfast at the Embassy Suite in Lake Tahoe. Here is the spread....

-Bagels, english muffins, danish, toast
-frest fruit
-scrambled eggs
-bacon and sausage
-coffee, milk, assorted juices
-and the best part: omelet bar

Jeff and my breakfast. My omelet had spinach, onions and bacon! YUM YUM.

What you get at hotel continental breakfasts?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fire + Ice: Lake Tahoe

Fire + Ice was recommended by the hotel concierge as a good place to get dinner. If you have been to Mongolian BBQ in Denver, this place is almost identical. Here is the step-by-step guide for how to enjoy dinner at Fire + Ice in Lake Tahoe....

1. Order a martini. I couldn't find this on the online menu so I am a little fuzzy on the ingredients, but I know it had cream and citrus in it and was good good good!
2. Take a picture of the menu: because it is cute and...well just because
3. Take a picture of the ambiance: to really give your blog readers a feel for the place.
4. Make a bowl: they have a wide variety of pastas, veggies and meats that you can blend in whatever way you see fit. Then choose a sauce to put on the side. DON'T make too big of bowls because this place is all you can eat and there is no point filling up on your first creation.
5. Let the cooks take is from here: Some guys (maybe girls) will take your bowls and throw them on this large round burner. They move around the area chopping, stirring and cooking away. Do not get scared if you think your food has been cooking too long...they know what they are doing.
6. Watch the show: the guys will do a number of tricks to keep you entertained. Throwing cups, spinning spatulas, flipping food. These guys have a tip jar that we were happy to add to...come on, they are sweating over a hot stove for your dollars!
7. Enjoy! Jeff's first creation: lo mien noodles, peas, peppers, tuna.
My first creation: bow tie pasta, kidney beans, potatoes, onion, cilantro, sausage and a sweet chili sauce.
They also serve you warm tortillas and rice to make little burritos.
Step...I forgot which number we were on: Order another martini (Cosmo this time)
Jeff's second dish: Total copy of mine with a few changes (his was better)
Mine: Shrimp alfredo...I couldn't resist
Step 9: Take some close-up pictures of the food as Jeff sits very patiently waiting to eat.
Step 10: Apologize profusely for being a crazy photo-woman and let the poor boy eat!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Seattle's Best - Arriving in Lake Tahoe

Let the California blogging begin! I know it is super weird that I am starting my California blogging with a Seattle company. But it's my blog and I will do what I want! :)  We pretty much drove straight through from Denver to Lake Tahoe. We stopped in Salt Lake City at a place called Squatter's Pub which was very good and rejuvenated my image of SLC nightlife and 'hipness'. The presentation of our sandwiches were rather uninspiring, though, so I neglected to take photos. I do recommend the place though...fine beer and sweet potato fries, a winning combo. Then we stopped to sleep in the car for a bit at a park in Reno...kind of sketchy. I we got in Lake Tahoe too early to check into our hotel so we walked around the main street. This cup of coffee was my first big splurge of the trip...white chocolate mocha. Amazing! The barista took extra time to make the chocolate and caramel look beautiful and added a chocolate stick. A warm cup of coffee on a drizzly Tahoe morning...this is going to be a great vacation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Guest Recipes!

Happy Friday!

Jeff and I are leaving today for California!!!! I am so excited. I will not be posting next week, so hang tight until I return.

Jenny's Egg Bake

Egg Bake
• 1 tube sausage
• 1 dozen eggs
• Milk
• Hash browns
• Salt/pepper
• Cheddar cheese
Bake ½-1 hour at 350°F

Apple Sauce

Apple Sauce
• 2 qt casserole dish
• 6 apples
• ¼ water
Microwave 9-10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes
Put in blender:
• ⅓ cup sugar
• ⅛ tsp. salt
• ⅛ tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves

Thursday, October 14, 2010

City, O' City - Vegitarian

Take a look at that picture.... Burger and fries, standard bar fare. Would you believe me if I said that this was all vegetarian? For those of you that think vegetarian food is boring, look no further...City, O' City in Denver is where it's at! That is the 'Maximus burger' ($10 with the fries) quinoa and pinto bean burger, lettuce, tomato, onion, special sauce, cheddar jack, sweet potato kaiser. The texture is so spot on that it is scary. The taste is not quite like beef, but I prefer the taste of this quinoa and pinto bean burger more anyway. Bonus: packed with protein. The 'Ranch' on the side was even vegan...which gets me thinking, what the heck is it made out of?!

Jeff ordered the Gaza Grinder ($9.50) hummus, greek salad, french fries, feta, sriracha aioli, flat bread and the soup of the day which was coconut curry.
What a beautiful little soup!
Here is a look at the inside of my burger. You also get a great view of the toasted sweet potato bun (YUM!)
The food here is awesome! They have a large variety of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free food including 'chicken' wings, 'meat' lovers pizza, wraps, sandwiches. One of the best things on the menu (not pictured) the fried PB&J on banana bread (quite possibly the best sandwich I have ever tasted).

The great thing about this place is everything is at a minimum vegetarian. It is really nice for my vegetarian friend, Kori, to be able to go into a restaurant and order ANYTHING off of the menu.

And the drinks....great selection of beers and a variety of 'not your average' cocktails. My favorite is a Ginger-Lime cocktail.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kitchen Sink Pasta Salad

So I call this one Kitchen Sink Pasta Salad. Here was my the fridge, grab everything that needed to be eaten...and throw it on some pasta. Brilliant! I am a regular Betty Crocker :)

Here is the veggie base: carrots, onions and tarragon ( I added, spinach and turkey as well)

I drizzled the whole wheat pasta and veggies with olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar (who am I kidding? I tipped the balsamic too fast and had a little mess on my hands) and tossed in some fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
Ahh how I love easy cooking. Don't you?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Black Bean and Cilantro Ravioli with Lemon Yogurt Sauce

So I went a little crazy and had a ravioli bananza! Although these are fried again, I am definitely looking forward to steaming them in the future. The body can only handle so much fried food. So without further ado...cilantro black bean ravioli. Pretty much the same idea as the cilantro and shrimp ones....

Chop up some cooked (or canned) black beans and mix with chopped fresh cilantro, salt, pepper and garlic salt. Heat up the bean mixture a little in a sauce pan and place on the egg roll wrapper square putting egg on the edges to seal.
Fry the little guys up in some oil until golden brown
MMM so good!
Here is an internal view
To add a creamy touch I put together a lemon yogurt sauce. I can't remember exactly what I did, but I think this is the general idea...
-1/4 stick of butter
-1 cup Greek yogurt
-splash of almond milk
-fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
Heat on low-medium heat until smooth and creamy. Top the ravioli with sauce and then smile a little because dinner is done :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shrimp and Cilantro Ravioli

I gained inspiration for this recipe from checking out FoodBaby. She made sweet potatoes ravioli, which sounds like a delicious fall meal. I, of course, made took the recipe idea and made it more unhealthy....fried ravioli. I did fill them with shrimp and cilantro to make it semi-healthy, but I am sure the frying ruined the attempt. So at the store pick up some 'egg roll wraps and let your imagination cook wild. You can make Chili rellanos, egg rolls, steamed ravioli, fried seared ravioli. Then you can fill them with; meat, sweet potatoes, beans, cream cheese and peaches....the possibilities are endless, literally. (Bonus: Chili Rellano recipe on bottom)

So for the Shrimp and Cilantro ravioli, I chopped up some fresh cilantro.
Then chopped up some cooked shrimp and placed both on an egg roll wrapper square
Then I put a little egg around the edges and topped it with another egg roll wrapper square. Press hard on the edges with your fingers to be sure it is sealed.

Added a small layer of olive oil in a frying pan and cooked them on each side until brown (medium heat)
Don't those look amazing? I took a big bite and the fresh flavor rushed my mouth. Please be creative and try to make something delicious with egg roll wrappers!
Bonus Recipe:
Crispy Chili Rellanos (from Jennifer)

• Wonton wraps (Sold in produce section of grocery. Also called egg roll wraps.)
• 1-2 eggs
• 1 can of Whole Green Chilies (sold either in the canned food isle, or the Mexican food isle)
• 1 block of Monterey Jack Cheese
• Vegetable oil

Prep: The can of whole green chilies will need to be opened, and you will have to take out each individual chili to give a rinse. Most times, the canned chilies come lathered in vinegar, and so as not to take away from final product, this should be rinsed off.

While chilies are drying, take the 2 eggs and beat them in to a bowl as if you were preparing scrambled eggs. You will use the egg as paste for the wonton. Also, you will need to slice the Monterey cheese. The more slices the better!

Cook: When ready, take a single wonton wrap and lay it down on flat surface (cutting board is perfect). Slice one side of the whole chili, and open up on top of the wonton. Put cheese on top of chili…be generous. Then fold the wonton so that it takes the shape of a burrito. Each time a side is laid down, be sure to “glue it” with egg. This will help the wonton stick to itself. Repeat this until ingredients are used. I like to make about a dozen or so. When ready, get out skillet and turn heat up to medium-high. Pour in enough vegetable oil to cover the entire surface of pan. As soon as you can hear sizzling from the pan, place your rellanos in and fry until golden brown. NOTE: this will not take long. Only 2 minutes on each side should be enough.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sauce for a Cause

How does your ketchup taste? Does it taste like high fructose corn syrup, tomato paste and Red #5? If you would like to have your ketchup taste like honest to goodness tomatoes check out Sauce for a Cause. This company, created by Alex Mitchell, produces four sauces that are natural, gluten-free and gourmet. Fifty percent of the proceeds are split up between five causes: Life Straw, Friends of the World Program, Leave no Trace, Cancer and Flight for Life Colorado. Sound good so far? Plus the packaging is eco-friendly and easy to store in small places (great for camping or hiking).

I tasted each of the sauces….

Not Your Traditional Ketchup - Guess what? It tastes like tomatoes! Also has that vinegary ketchup taste we all love

Mango Mint - Sweet and fresh with a hint of spice. This sauce is great to cook over chicken and shrimp

Tangy Tangerine BBQ - A light citrus BBQ that has just the right balance of smoke and sweet

Gourmet Mustard - Swimming with whole mustard seeds, goes great on sandwiches, wraps and hot dogs

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sushi Den

I am having a lot of trouble sticking to the Candida diet this go around. I suppose though that cheating with sushi is a lot better than cheating with a greasy burger or pizza. Jeff has been wanting to try Sushi Den in Denver for a while now and we decided to make a date of it and boy were we happy little fish! We sat at the sushi bar so we could watch all of the action. For anyone in a 'newish' dating situation, you should really consider doing a sushi bar date. It is fun, yummy and romantic...the trifecta!

So we sat right here watching the chefs do their work. It was pretty amazing to see how quick and accurate they were. It looked so simple, but I realize that if I tried it myself, I may want to have a box of goldfish crackers on hand for my eminent failure. To get the 'tube' form they used bamboo 'placemats' to wrapped around the rice.

My favorite way to start dinner? A cocktail. This cocktail did not disappoint. It was 'ginger plum' flavored and had the right balance of flavor and strength.
We also got this cute little plate of cucumbers, ginger and wasabi to add to our wasabi remained untouched...

Pork egg rolls. These were very good and the presentation was beautiful but a word to the wise. Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into! I had heavily dipped an egg roll into the innocent looking mustard sauce on the side and had just put it in my mouth when Jeff (who had taken his first bite seconds before) tried to yell STOP to me. I am not good with am the biggest wimp possible with spicy foods. The roll was already in my turning back. Imagine taking a huge chunk of wasabi and throwing it down the hatch...miserable. I never thought the a date with Jeff at the Sushi Den would induce tears. So I sat there, crying my eyes out trying to wash down the spice with water. Lesson cautious eaters!
Okay so I am a wimp with spice...and I am also I wimp with seafood. I didn't eat a lot of seafood growing up and everything still has that 'fishy' taste to me, so I opted for the extremely daring and unique shrimp rolls and avocado rolls. I know...don't you envy my bravery? Both were amazing though and were enough to fill me up. The presentation here is just gorgeous! The only tough part is they bring out all the food on one plate so if your server runs off in a hurry without explaination, you have to guess which is which. It adds to the fun though!

Jeff was much more adventurous and took the advice of the nice women next to us who could see that we were sushi newbies. She recommended the eel as her top pick. Oh my God! Never in my life did I think that I would try eel. Granted I took the smallest sliver of a bite (after Jeff begged for 5 minutes that I try it) but it was actually really good. For Jeff, it was love at first sight.

He also got some tuna because he is a sucker for tuna and was loving it.

Last, Jeff got the tuna rolls which were just as tasty as everything else.

I am not sure if the orange 'after dinner snack' was special service for sitting at the bar or if they do it for all guests but I can't complain when they bring out complementary, perfectly ripe oranges. And look at the presentation!

So the Candida diet naturally has given me a wicked craving for sugar and I couldn't deny my feelings any longer. I am not generally a chocolate gal...but tonight my body was ready for some chocolate! We got the fried bananas and green tea ice cream. YUM! The bananas tasted as though you would imagine fried bananas to taste....amazing. Dipping in the chocolate sauce really hit the spot.

The green tea ice cream was something else. Just imagine sipping on a nice cup of green tea and that exact flavor is transferred to the ice cream. So good! I wish I could have had more but my teeth are sensitive to cold. Jeff monopolized on my weakness and finished the ice cream.

The meal was fabulous, the service was quick and friendly (sans an abrupt hostess, which is becoming a theme whenever we go out) and the atmosphere is very chic.  I would love to go back. The price is a little up there but it is completely reasonable for the quality of food you get. The fish is flown in fresh daily. The girl sitting next to us said she travels for work all the time and has had sushi in a lot of different places but Sushi Den is her very favorite. Our meal was about $80 for drinks (2), appetizer (1), sushi items (4), dessert (1) tax and tip.