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Dinosaur Ratatouille: Add a Little Heat

20 Dec

Growing up, there was a definitive point in the year when my mom’s cooking would switch from light summer fair to warmer, more substantial late fall dishes — a trend that would carry into the coldest days of New York winters. November, December, and January were met with large pots of beefy stews, steamy oxtail soup, aromatic chili, roasted root vegetables, and hearty cassoulet all served piping hot in the comfort of our small city home. It was the quintessence of winter, warm and robust meals, meaty, saucy, and spicy all to take the chill out of the air with snow falling as early as October.

My countertop, the garden. All my vegetables, laid out and ready to be prepped for my favorite winter-dish.

Of all the foods my mom prepared, one vegetable dish — made popular by the Disney movie whose name it shares — was my favorite. Ratatouille, made traditionally in the vegetarian paradigm of the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, is the perfect marriage of spices and vegetables that never comes off as bland or uninteresting. While ratatouille runs in the same vein as chili, with its fragrant seasoning and twang of spicy heat, this dish is both meatless and beanless.

My tower of eggplant.

I don’t typically cook all-vegetarian meals, at least not entrees themselves. I reserve my veggies for side dishes or light snacks and let the noble meats pull the weight in my cooking. What makes ratatouille so special though is that there are so many different types of vegetables involved that this dish is interesting enough to stand on its own. Eggplant, a vegetable favorite of mine with its meaty texture and ability to take on just about any flavor, is the ingredient that really helps pull this dish into the realm of hearty and filling.

While my Moosewood Cookbook recipe for ratatouille has served me well for a number of years, I really wanted to spice this dish up for Tre’s inaugural tasting. Naturally gluten-free  and free of corn, rice, and soy I knew that ratatouille would be good for a few dinners and lunches. But I wanted a taste that was unique from the recipe I’d grown to love. Looking to my culinary inspiration, the Dinosaur BBQ, and their smoky, tangy arsenal of sauces, I decided to create a little twist on this old favorite.

Dinosaur Ratatouille

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium size onions, chopped
  • 1 medium eggplant peeled and cubed
  • 1 large zucchini, cubed
  • 1 green bell pepper, cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, cubed
  • 3 small vine tomatoes, diced (or one 14oz can diced tomatoes, drained)
  • 1/3 cup Dinosaur Sensual Slathering Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Dinosaur Garlic Chipotle Pepper Sauce

This calls for a LARGE pot!

 

Directions

  1. In a a large stockpot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and bay leaf and cook until onion begins to go transparent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggplant. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until eggplant begins to soften.
  3. Add zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, and both sauces. Stir to combine well. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until bell peppers and zucchini have softened.
  4. Remove from heat and serve.
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The Kitchen Essentials Series: #2 Sharp Knives and a Decent Cutting Board

3 Dec

I’ll admit that at the moment, I don’t have either of these things…

My knife collection consists of a hodgepodge of randomly acquired cutting tools that do not match, are not sharp, and are overall poor quality. I think anyone in those interim years between mid-college and a “grownup” living situation suffers the same lack of commitment to cooking paraphernalia that has resulted in my poor knife inventory. For an assortment of reasons, including the magical disappearance of my kitchenware when roommates move, to the cost of high quality sets, to an inherent and respectful fear of all blades, I’ve foregone the dive into investing in a quality set.

Despite my willingness to settle with my garage sale-caliber spread, I thoroughly believe that the most dangerous thing you can have in your home is a dull knife. With the extra pressure you need to apply for cuts and their overall clunky precision, you’re more likely to bury a dull knife in your hand and do serious damage to yourself than with a sharp knife.

Emotional cost of stitches > cost of a nice knife set

Just tonight, Tre nearly took off an entire finger slicing champaign cheddar with a butter knife… not that that’s ever an appropriate tool choice for cutting anything harder than butter, but it’s an excellent point-prover. That’s not to say you can’t hurt yourself with a sharp knife either: just ask my mom about the cutco incident where she and I both inflicted surgery-precise wounds on ourselves within 10 minutes of each other. But given a choice and weighing the risk, I’d opt for a sharp, high quality set any day. Christmas is coming….

In addition a large cutting board gives you more room to maneuver said knives and to work with multiple or large portions of ingredients. My cutting board is clunky and has been mistaken for a drink coaster and I attribute its continued existence in my kitchen to plain forgetfulness. Perhaps writing this post may go so far as to help me remember to grab one next time I’m on my semi-annual trip to Walmart. Thankfully, my food processor helps reduce some of the knife-to-cutting board type prep with less bodily risk, but nonetheless, a larger board would work wonders in my kitchen.

Despite the fact that I own neither a nice set of knives nor a decent cutting board, these rank high on my list of kitchen essentials that everyone should have. If you spend any amount of time prepping ingredients, having both to simplify and safen the process is worth the investment.

Guacamole: A New Kind of Condiment

2 Dec

One thing that Tre and I have made consistently every week since his diagnosis is, you guessed it, guacamole. We’re lucky to have a local grocery store with an almost constant stock of fresh avocados all year round and it makes me sad that so many people pass up this wonderful fruit. Guacamole has made appearances here on this blog in my beef and turkey swiss burger recipes. But behind the scenes, it goes on everything from cold cut sandwiches (with almond flour bread) to carrot sticks for a quick snack. Since I intend to keep guacamole as a regular part of our diet and will surely have it make cameos on the blog going forward, I figured it was time to post the official recipe.

Here is a batch of guac all packaged and ready for storage. Tre and I will make guac every Monday or Tuesday and eat it throughout the week. We enjoy it most as a dip for carrot sticks but have been known just spoon it out of the bowl from time to time.

 

Between the two of us, Tre and I go through about 2 avocados a week worth of guac. Instead of buying pre-made guacs laden with preservatives and salt, or envelopes of powdered ingredients that I can’t even pronounce, Tre and I take the 15 minutes required for preparation to make our own guacamole from fresh, ripe avocados.

Avocados are praised for their health benefits and are often cited as not only being a great snack, salad topper, and dip ingredient, but also a healthier alternative to run-of-the-mill condiments like mayonnaise. Avocados are loaded with vitamin K, fiber, folic acid, potassium, protein, and healthy calories among other things and have been linked to weight loss, cardiovascular health, and lower cholesterol. While some people simply substitute avocado slices in for typical condiments on their sandwiches, I like to take it a step further and create a thick, spicy guacamole for a topper. I could literally go on and on about how much I love guacamole, but by all means, here is the recipe

Guacamole — Yields about 1 cup. We double the recipe for a week’s supply

  • 1 large ripe avocado, pitted and skinned
  • 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tbsp red onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • Dash crushed red pepper
  • Dash cayenne pepper to taste (very hot so add in small increments)

Directions

  1. In a medium sized bowl begin to mash pitted and skinned avocado with a fork or potato smasher. Add lemon juice and onion and mix until well combined.
  2. Add salt, garlic powder, and onion powder and combine with a fork. Begin to add crushed red pepper and cayenne pepper to taste to build up heat. I recommend about 1 tsp crushed red pepper and a very small dash of cayenne. Combine all ingredients and let the guacamole sit for about an hour to combine flavors. Mix again with a fork and serve.
  3. To refrigerate, plate the guacamole in a smaller bowl. Stretch plastic wrap over the top and pat it down until it is in contact with all the contents of the bowl. This will help prevent browning (oxidation) of the guacamole and drying.

Note: Guacamole will almost always brown slightly when stored for any period of time. This is due to oxidation of the avocado when it is exposed to air. The lemon juice in the recipe not only adds to the flavor, but also slows the oxidation. The color does not mean that the guacamole has gone bad but you do want to keep track of how many days it is stored. This recipe has an approximate refrigerated shelf life of about 6 days when stored properly with plastic wrap.

Skewer-less Sirloin Kebabs

1 Dec

In a pleasant turn of evens last night, Tre insisted on cooking for me when we got home from the grocery store. I’ll admit it was nice to have pre-dinner time off, not that I was any less domestic. I took the time to work on a scarf I’ve been knitting for Tre and to tidy up the kitchen. I know how that sounds and I swear I’m not undermining the last 50 years of feminist advancement. By day I’m an office worker in Information Technology at the local University. By night, I’m a Business School grad student. That leaves me a total of maybe 2 hours an evening to accomplish anything else I might have to do. With all the hectic running around, problem solving, and teamwork, I consider cooking, cleaning, light hobbies, even the gym to be a welcome mental break.

Having taken an adequate hiatus from red meat, plus celebrating a holiday that is centered around poultry, we decided to pick up some steak for a quick meal. Generally, I think that people perceive steak as being difficult to cook since it’s usually a top dollar menu item in restaurants. Having perfected my own brand of steak preparation, I’ve found that steak is not only quick and easy to prepare, it’s also very filling in smaller portions and, depending on the cut, still budget friendly. I will do a dedicated steak post to get into all that though. Stay tuned.

I admire Tre’s cooking in the sense that he keeps the dishes very simple, but he’s not afraid to try new things and experiment with spices and sauces. He also pays particular attention to pairing meats with veggies and entrees with sides. With three ingredients and a sauce, he was able to pull together a quick and delicious entree paired with a potato side that couldn’t have been easier for a Tuesday night. It reminded me fondly of summery beef kebabs, with a tangy marinade and chunks of pepper and onion cooked al-dente, minus the skewer and the grill. At some point I acquired one of those lean-cooking counter top grills that both robs you of flavor and is a pain in the ass to clean. Not to mention, it leaves anything you possibly cook on it with a distinct rubbery texture. Rather than bust out my only kitchen electric that I’m ashamed to own, we opted to cook over the stove for an autumn twist on kebabs. This recipe would also work well with boneless chicken.

Vinaigrette Marinade — Yields 1-1/2 cup

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions

  1. Whisk ingredients together until combined. Store in a large jar and keep refrigerated.

Skewer-less Sirloin Kebabs — Serves 4

  • 2lb sirloin steak, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped into 1 inch squares
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped into 1 inch squares
  • 1 large red onion, chopped into large chunks
  • 1 12-ounce package whole white or small portabella mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1 cup vinaigrette marinade (see above)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Cooking up our skewer-less kebabs. I popped into the kitchen long enough to snap a photo. Disclaimer: We used yellow onion instead of red and only one pepper. They also were not cut into squares as recommended in the recipe... but still the same general concept.

 

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine sirloin cubes with peppers, onion, and mushrooms. Toss with vinaigrette marinade and transfer to two large ziplock bags. On plates, flatten the bags to allow the ingredients to all sit in the marinade. Refrigerate the bags for no less than 2 hours and as long as over night.
  2. After the ingredients have finished marinading, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Transfer the meat and vegetables to the skillet by spooning them out of the bags. Do not dump the entire contents of the bag into the skillet. Save 1/3 cup of marinade from the bags and pour over the cooking vegetables and meat.
  3. Allow the meat and vegetables to cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened and the meat is cooked through to desired doneness, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

If you’re feeling particularly Mediterranean, you could crumble some feta cheese on top and serve over greens (or over a pita if you are not gluten-intolerent).

A WCSR-free Thanksgiving

30 Nov

Yes my friends, this is stuffing! Wheat, corn, rice, and soy-free stuffing that looked AND tasted like the real thing!

Yes, Thanksgiving was last week, hence the lack of posts here and general early-winter disarray. Tre and I were off enjoying our first WCRS-free holiday with a surprising amount of success. Thanks to a number of prolific gluten-free bloggers out there as well as some good old fashioned elbow grease and family support, I was able to create a few fun treats for Tre including stuffing, chocolate cake, double chocolate cookies, and gravy for Thanksgiving dinner and dessert.

In an unexpected departure from my normal cooking routine, I packed up my ingredients and trucked across town to my parents’ house (notice in the picture no BLUE counters). I love cooking with my mom and she was super-helpful when it came to turning my almond flour and flax bread into stuffing and was welcome company on my “black Wednesday” trip to the grocery store for forgotten ingredients.

Stay tuned for recipes, but in the meantime, stay warm! Here in NY it’s getting cold!

The Kitchen Essentials Series: #1 Basic Electrics

22 Nov

Part of living a gluten-free (corn, rice, and soy-free as well) means more time in the kitchen cooking for myself and Tre. In spending this time, I’ve discovered that my kitchen is just as essential to the process as the recipes and the cooking. There are a few things in my kitchen that have made the process vastly easier. These “Kitchen Essentials” are a short list of items that I’ve learned to love. Keep an eye out for more Kitchen Essentials!

“Kitchen Electrics” describes a vast genus of modern era kitchen gadgets designed to make our lives easier, while more often than not, serving as catalysts of utter frustration. A step below your larger kitchen appliances, kitchen electrics are more supplemental to cooking, and less essential though they do simplify and expedite many processes for us. They range from run-of-the-mill blenders, toasters, and slow cookers, to posh bread makers and wine chillers, to eclectic ice cream makers and juicers, to vast collections of gadgets all designed around the single process of making coffee. You no longer have to peel an apple by hand because there’s a screwy-lever looking thing that will do it for you. You no longer have to grease and heat a skillet on your stove because there’s an electric one you can just plug in. Point is, it gets a little excessive when every need you could possibly have in the kitchen is met with some “as seen on TV” electric gadget..

In the kitchen of my dreams, the navigation bar of bedbathandbeyond.com’s “kitchen electrics” section would be an itemized inventory of my cabinets. But the reality of the situation is that many of these items are both expensive and unnecessary for every day cooking. Not to mention, many of their processes can be replicated with standard utensils and my own two hands.

Yet despite the obvious frivolity of some kitchen electrics (infrared bacon cooker, anyone?), there are a few that I’ve grown quite fond of and, dare I say, could not live without. Of the expansive selection of electrics pandered to us in infomercials, department store flyers, and cooking shows (hosted by chefs who claim that their recipes can be recreated in the common kitchen yet wield $400 commercial blenders and mixer attachments), I’ve narrowed it down to 5 that have proven to be ever useful in my kitchen and relatively inexpensive.

Kitchen Electric Essentials

  1. Food Processor/Blender: I don’t actually have a separate blender, I use my food processor to do basically the same function so I list these concurrently as number 1. My food processor has helped me do everything from simplify ingredient preparation to allowing me to create entire meals in its bowl. If you’re going to squirrel away money for a solid kitchen electric, I would spend it on a nice food processor or blender. They really open doors in the culinary realm if you’re willing to splurge a little on buying one. Cheap food processors and blenders break easily and often leave people disillusioned about having them in their kitchen. But if you decide you really want to have food processor or blender, be prepared to make it a solid investment. It will be worth it!
  2. Mixer: Electric mixers, not necessarily stand ones but $20 hand mixers, have also become a kitchen essential for me. All you ever have to do is try to mix something by hand once and you’ll come to appreciate the simple effectiveness of having one of these bad boys handy.
  3. Slow Cooker: My slow cooker, or “crock pot” as they are affectionately referred to, ranks supreme when it comes to making easy meals. Although the name implies that it requires time to cook, 9 times out of 10, all you have to do is combine your ingredients and let it do its job over night. It doesn’t get much easier than that. Crock pots retail for as low as $15 and come in a range of sizes and options. At one point, I shamelessly owned 3… 2 of which succumbed to my clumsiness.
  4. Toaster Oven: Since Tre and I don’t eat bread (at least not until I find a WCRS-free recipe that works), having a standard toaster is almost pointless. I would not have even listed a toaster oven here had I not inherited one from a former roommate and come to appreciate its power in the kitchen. Good quality toaster ovens can be treated like mini versions of their full scale appliance counterparts with similar levels of performance. I’ve used mine for everything from baking small desserts, potatoes, and veggies to broiling steak and cooking half-chickens. I find my toaster oven to be most useful when I have a lot of things that need to be baked at different temperatures and don’t have time to wait for one item to finish in the oven to start another. I’d go so far to say that if you’re going to buy a toaster, you might as well just buy a full toaster oven for its range of uses not limited to making toast. They heat quickly, they can be cleaned in 1/20th of the time a regular oven requires, they use less electricity than electric stoves, and they’re kinda cute in an “easy bake oven” kind of way.

So there you have it, my dream team of kitchen electrics. While it would certainly be nice to have a more extensive collection, I’ve been quite content with these select few. For those of you who are entering your kitchen for the first time with the intent to be more serious about cooking for yourself and others, I recommend these to the highest degree to save yourself a little time and energy.

Kitchen Tips: Never Toss Forgotten, Rotten Food Again. Save Your Receipts!

16 Nov

Although this does not necessarily pertain to eating WCRS-free, I have assorted kitchen tips that have helped me to become an organized, clean, and resourceful chef since becoming serious about cooking. My kitchen is one of the most prominent features of my exploration into new culinary territory and in expanding my kitchen and its use, I’ve found a couple ways to improve the overall experience. I’d be a fool not to share these tidbits along with my tips for living WCRS-free so keep your eye out for Kitchen Tips!

How many times do you go to the grocery store, buy awesome-looking fresh produce and meat with full intention of making meals all week, bring your purchases home and square them away in refrigerator drawers and then…

BAM!

Grad school/work/life happens and all the sudden it’s 3 weeks later, you’ve completely forgotten about the food you bought, you can’t remember the last time you cooked and ate at home, and you open said fridge drawers to bags of rotten produce soup, green meat, and other assorted foods long past their edible prime. OK, maybe that’s a super-extreme example. I won’t say it hasn’t happened to me considering the craziness that has been my life for the last year. But whether this has happened to you in the exact same manner as the scenario above, or even with a single piece of produce or cut of meat that you simply forgot purchasing, then you know the anguish of having wasted food that you were once excited about preparing and eating.

Call it stinginess. Some people have no problem pitching food. But between the money lost (double lost actually if I eat out instead of cooking the food I purchased) and the slightest tinge of guilt for wasting what could have been great food, I’ve sworn off pitching rotten food. No, that doesn’t mean I force myself to eat long-expired perishables or hoard decomposing produce and meat. I have simply made a pact to myself that I will never let my food get to that point.

It’s not more expensive tupperware that’s the key, or those green bags that swear they keep your produce fresh for weeks. It’s not freezing everything I bring home or turning to preservative-laden jarred goods. My secret? It’s simple really. I discovered it when I could no longer keep track of the foods I’d purchased in a sea of roommate grocery clutter in our refrigerator. In an attempt to inventory what I had, I saved my grocery receipt and taped it up on the fridge. Aside from clearing up the “who bought it” mystery, this method also helped me to keep track of what I had for use. When I’d cook with or use something, I’d either cross it off the list, or change the quantity on the receipt if I had some left. Anything left from previous shopping trips that I needed to use was written in at the bottom (since much of what I buy is perishable produce and meats). And anything general like paper towels, spices, and condiments were simply crossed off since they entered the supply rotation. The result was a neat little inventory of everything I had in the fridge replaced each week with a new shopping trip receipt.

Having my groceries inventoried like this for the last year has saved me from inevitably forgetting foods and allowing them to rot into waste. No matter how thoroughly you meal-plan, everyone has forgotten about something in the fridge or pantry. With your own list right in front of you every time you hit up the fridge, it’s easy to keep track of what you have, how old it is, and what you need to buy.

Food Processor Series: Instant Oatmeal with no Unidentifiable Ingredients

9 Nov

Ground oats with a dash of salt, brown sugar, and cinnamon provide the base for my super quick, super easy instant oatmeal.

Alright, I’ll be the first to admit that my inaugural adventure with the new food processor was fairly anticlimactic. This was mostly out of sheer intimidation. A blade spinning at an excess of 90 mph attached to a motor — heavy enough that I had to take a break while dragging it up the 3 flights of stairs to my apartment — is nothing to be fooled with. That, and a long discarded users manual would be of no help in determining if the jet propelled blade was properly attached and of no threat to my or Tre’s safety. Sadly, these are legitimate concerns and I’m fairly lucky thus far in my life that almost everything I’ve encountered is largely idiot-proof. This food processor is no exception, thank god, and after a dozen false starts I began to figure out how to harness its powers for good in my own kitchen.

Thanks to my mom’s burst of culinary inventiveness last weekend (yielding oat-based “breadcrumbs” we now call Tre’s breading) and the gift of my new KitchenAid, my interest in cooking with processor ground oats was jumpstarted. Tre is not allergic to oats and, in moderation, I’ve been working this grain into our diet as a viable complex carb substitute to whole wheat. Though oats and oat products bear similar stigma as potatoes to carb-free eaters, they prove to be a better choice than simple wheat-based foods. Oats are an excellent source of dietary fiber (hence me pairing “oats” with “moderation,” semantically speaking) and have been linked to heart health, blood sugar and blood pressure regulation, athletic endurance, and even healthy weight loss.

One of my favorite breakfasts has always been oatmeal, instant oatmeal to be specific. The kind that comes out of a wax paper pouch and becomes a meal in a matter of seconds. It’s filling, not too sweet, and has what I consider the quintessential breakfast smell. But when you start to take a critical look at the foods you put in your body, even something as innocuous as instant oatmeal is jam packed with an excess of sweeteners, color enhancers for those little mock-fruit pieces, thickening agents, and stealthily placed allergens: wheat, corn, and soy. With a newly invigorated interest in oats, I wanted to make my own brand of instant oatmeal; one whose ingredients I had complete control over with no ambiguity. Using my food processor to break the oats down a bit helped make the overall texture more creamy and less dense. This simple recipe can be portioned out into ziplock bags and cooked exactly like store-bought instant oatmeal for a quick and easy breakfast.

Here is my instant oatmeal portioned out for 5 days of breakfasts. I used craisins as my fruit.

Instant Oatmeal: Makes 5 individual servings

  • 2-1/2 cups rolled quick oats
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit such as mixed berries, raisins, or craisins
  • 5 ziplock bags or other storage
  • Directions

    1. Combine oats, salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar in food processor. Pulse in short bursts until ingredients combine and oats are ground to a coarse meal. If you prefer a texture more like grits or “cream of wheat,” blend until oats reach a medium-fine texture. Do NOT blend to the point of powder.
    2. With a measuring cup, pour 1/2 cup of mixture into each of 5 ziplock bags or other storage. Add dried fruit, about 2 tbsp per bag. Seal bags and store in a cool, dry area.

    To Prepare Oatmeal

    1. Pour your 1/2 cup portion of oatmeal mix into a heat-safe bowl. Add about 1/2 cup boiling water OR add 1/3 cup water and microwave for 1-2 minutes.

    I like to make this Sunday night and portion it out for breakfast all week. The dried fruit will rehydrate slightly much like the fruit in instant oatmeal but the dish is also very good without the addition of fruit. Sometimes I’ll add a splash of almond milk when I forego fruit for a more creamy texture.

    Food Processor Series: Tre’s Breading

    9 Nov

    ***Unfortunate Update: Through trial and error Tre and I discovered that he is also unable to eat oats. While Tre can no longer enjoy this breading recipe we made for him, it may still be tolerated by other people with wheat allergies. I’m working on an almond-based substitute which I will post shortly. Hang tight.***

    Last weekend, my mother presented Tre and I with a dry concoction she called “Tre’s breading” intended to replace traditional bread crumbs in cooking. The coarsely ground meal looked almost identical to the traditional Italian bread crumbs you buy at the store, and upon taste test, offered little evidence that it was some sort of substitute. My mom, who is also invested in mine and Tre’s WCRS-free lifestyle, had taken to the pantry and her stockpile of oats to create a viable substitute for this kitchen staple. Using her food processor, she pulsed quick oats with parmesan cheese and various cooking spices into a course ground meal that looked and tasted almost exactly like its wheat-based counterpart.

    Breadcrumbs are one of those ingredient staples that you don’t think about until you realize how happy you are that you magically have them in your pantry the night you decide to make chicken parm. It wasn’t until I couldn’t use breadcrumbs that I realized what a staple they are in my kitchen. From the aforementioned breaded chicken parm, to breadcrumb-thickened meatloaf and meatballs, to a breaded gorgonzola steak topping, crumbs have always been a go-to filler for many of my favorite recipes. With my mom’s clever inception of an oat-based substitute, culinary doors that had once been closed were now reopened for enjoyment.

    Tre's breading getting ready to be a filler for meatballs and a lone turkey burger.

    Tre’s Breading

    • 1 cup rolled quick oats
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 1 tsp dried parsley
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • Dash of crushed red pepper
    • 1 tbsp fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated
    • Dash of salt

    Adjust spices to taste, this is just my general guideline. I make this breading in increments of 1 cup unless I know I’ll be using a lot in a recipe. Because of the cheese, this must be stored in the refrigerator and has a somewhat limited shelf life.

    Directions

    1. Pour the oats into a food processor and pulse in bursts until it reaches a medium-fine meal. If you do not have finely grated parm, add it with the oats and blend together.
    2. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse a few more times until combined. You do not want to over blend into a fine powder.

    My New Friend the Food Processor

    8 Nov

    All these blades make my life a little easier and, as Tre says, the cooking ever better!

    Last weekend I was gifted with a hand-me-down KitchenAid Food Processor: an illustrious and envied kitchen item that has ranked supreme on my life’s wishlist, second only to a stand mixer and commercial blender, and thoughtfully left to the wishlist due to cost implications. Despite being lightly used, I couldn’t have been happier about the gift from Tre’s mom which, lucky for me, was a redundancy in her kitchen. As a family who has made their mark as entrepreneurs in the food manufacturing industry, it’s only natural that Tre’s mother has abundant kitchen appliances, electrics, gadgets, utensils and the like… if not a little superfluity among them…as well as a palate and penchant for recipe inception rivaling that of one of the most prolific chefs I know: my mother.

    My mom takes a less industrial approach to cooking and thus has a less extensive collection of kitchen items. Her’s is more eclectic, and for those of you who have ever cooked with a stove-top pressure cooker, perhaps you would appreciate the quaint antiquity of her cooking style. It was from her that I learned how to chop, slice, dice, puree, shred, peel, and mix without the aid of a food processor — skills that make my appreciation of said electric that much more extensive. You are no kind of chef if you haven’t shed blood from the manual kitchen tools of yore. Nonetheless, I’m glad to hang some of those items to rest, namely a cheese grater that’s claimed its pound of flesh from me, in lieu of my new-to-me electric companion.