Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Shortcuts in the Kitchen

We all cut corners in the kitchen from time to time, right? Or am I the only one who is so lazy that I regularly use a dishtowel instead of an oven mitt to remove a hot casserole from the oven? Or who tries to make muffins by using only one mixing bowl instead of two (one for wet and one for dry)? Well, I've learned my lesson. No more cutting corners for me. least when it comes to de-seeding jalapenos with my bare hands. I thought, "but I only have two peppers to do and the latex gloves are all the way downstairs". Put a big fat "L" for lazy loser on my forehead! Trust me, go get the gloves. That one pair of gloves will save you hours of researching the internet trying every home remedy known to mankind in order to get the EXTREME burning to subside. Sure you might get an education on how to use Colgate toothpaste or baking soda and lemon juice or rubbing alcohol or milk to ease the throbbing, but it's NOT WORTH IT.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, aloe vera gel (yes, the green goopy kind you use for sunburns) worked best....

While you might my little experience may turn me off from jalapenos, you're mistaken. These empanadas are just too tasty to keep me away, even when my fingers were on fire!

Ok, now I have to admit that there is one allowable shortcut I use in the recipe. I buy pre-made empanada dough (thanks for this tip, Margarita! I owe you!). It saves so much time and frustration. I buy the Goya brand from Joseph's Marketplace in the freezer section. The package looks like this. Yes, I realize that they are from Argentina and are therefore not local, but most of the filling ingredients are local, and Joseph's is a locally owned small business, so I've rationalized it.

Shortcut Empanadas
(adapted from Hope's Edge Edible Schoolyard Empanadas)
makes 24

3/4 lb waxy potatoes (yukon gold, fingerlings or red work well), peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
6 scallions, sliced into thin rings
2 jalapenos, de-seeded and chopped fine
1 cup grated cheese (pepper jack or sharp cheddar work well)
3/4 cup diced precooked chicken, optional
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
10-12 pre-made frozen empanada shells, defrosted

1. Cook diced potatoes in simmering water for 3-4 minutes. Drain and cool.
2. Combine potatoes and all remaining ingredients (except the dough) in a mixing bowl. This is the filling.
3. Set out one empanada dough piece and scoop about 2 Tbsp filling into the center.
4. Fold in half and seal edges by pressing with fork tines. Brush with melted butter if you like.
5. Place empandas on a cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes (until golden brown).

Monday, October 11, 2010

How Do You Spell Relief?

At 23 weeks pregnant, I want to scream with envy when I hear other moms-to-be beam about how "wonderful and beautiful" they feel. Not me.

I'm eternally in pain. Ok, maybe "pain" is an exaggeration. "Discomfort" is probably a bit more accurate. Acid reflux, backaches, braxton hicks contractions, round ligament pain--- I suffer them all. My husband says I remind him of that poem by Shel Silverstein: Sick. Only, I think he's mistaken because unlike the little girl in Silverstein's poem, I even complain on Saturdays.

Not that I wouldn't suffer all my symptoms 10x worse for my unborn offspring, but it is nice to get a little relief every now and then. Like massage. Just the word calms my body. Say it with me out loud and see if you agree. Massage. See what I mean?!

I was lucky enough to experience a prenatal massage this weekend with Alison Kruger at Akasha Yoga. I've taken yoga classes there before (which are also wonderful), and so when I heard they did massage, I told my husband that I wanted a gift certificate for Valentine's Day. It was worth every penny.

In return, I purchased my husband a massage from his favorite massage spot: Infinity Day Spa.

As I've been lucky enough to have experienced massages at both places, I'll give you a quick run down of what I see as the major differences. Akasha's masseuses seem more experienced (better) to me. Akasha is also a bit less expensive. However, Infinity's ambiance is superior to Akasha's. They also pamper you with tea, a small treat, a robe and a waiting area with candles and flowing water. And if that wasn't enough for your senses, they use a massage oil with your choice of scent. Overall, Akasha is a no frills massage from a quality masseuse, but Infinity pampers the senses. You really can't lose with either!

The holidays are just around the corner.....

Show Me the Love!

We each show love in a different way. Some people are physically affectionate, some shower gifts on their beloved, some keep an immaculate household for their family....I cook. The amount of time I spend preparing the menu, buying the best quality ingredients and making every ounce of the meal from scratch gushes with the love I have for the recipient.

And my purpose is (mostly) selfless. In fact, I will not even get to share the meal with some recipients.

My passion for cooking has lead me to join a number of food delivery ministries. This past weekend I prepared a meal for the priests of our parish, who without meal deliveries from parishioners, survive on microwaved meals and whatever they can scrounged up at baptism parties and women's club potlucks.

My menu had to please a crowd of time-crunched, meat-and-potatoes kind of men. I knew the perfect main dish that was both beefy and beautiful!

Stuffed Flank Steak Pinwheels
(modified version of Rolled Flank Steak on

2lb Flank Steak
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp Lawry's Seasoning Salt
1/2 lb sliced provolone
4 slices of bacon
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1/3 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small jar roasted red peppers

1. You want the flank steak to be cut really thin. If your piece seems thick (greater than 1/2 inch), slice the meat horiztonally down the long middle to "butterfly" it.
2. In a plastic bag, mix soy sauce, olive oil and seasoning salt. Add steak and marinate for at least 4 hours.
3. Precook the bacon. Set aside.
4. After marinading, lay the steak out flat, and top with provolone, bacon, spinach, mushrooms and red peppers leaving a 1-inch border.
5. Roll up the flank steak and secure every 2 inches with cooking twine.
6. Place the flank steak roll in a GREASED glass baking dish.
7. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour (internal temp of atleast 145 degrees).
8. Slice into 1 inch "pinwheels".