Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Macaroni Lorraine

12:30 PM, Thursday May 25th

Overall the experiment was a success! I did get some dirty looks, some grunts, some embittered mumblings and  some under-the-breath complaints from my brother - but nothing the sound of running water couldn't muffle! On a scale from 1 to 5. this recipe was a 2 on the complaining family scale. 

So what did I make? Well, I'm going to call it "Macaroni Lorraine". According to Wikipedia, it would be more accurate to call it "Macaroni Alsacienne", but that's too hard to say:

The original ‘quiche Lorraine’ was an open pie with a filling consisting of an egg and cream custard with smoked bacon or lardons. It was only later that cheese was added to the quiche Lorraine[3]. The addition of Gruyère cheese makes a quiche au gruyère or a quiche vosgienne. The 'quiche alsacienne' is similar to the 'quiche Lorraine', though onions are added to the recipe. 
- "Quiche", Wikipedia

Ingredients:

1 Box Organic Macaroni and Cheese Mix (the Giant had Anne's brand)
1/2 cup milk for Cheese Sauce
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/2 White Onion, diced
2 Slices Black Forest Ham, diced
Canola Oil, 1-2 Tbsp
Vine Ripened Tomato, sliced (optional garnish)

Directions:

1. Dice the vegetables and begin to saute them in the canola oil; boil pasta water
2. Cook macaroni and cheese according to directions (I omitted the butter) 
3. Add in sauteed peppers and onions and diced ham to macaroni mix and stir
4. Pour into casserole dish and garnish with tomato slices
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes

I definitely want to perfect this recipe more. If I did it again, I would dice the peppers and onions more finely, I would skip the tomato so I could stir the casserole in the middle of baking and I might use a little less milk in the cheese sauce. Also, I totally forgot about spices - pepper and garlic powder would definitely add some flavor and some herbs might help too.

Next time I cook at home, lunch will not be made from a box or a powder - promise!

Summer Cooking Experiment


11 AM, Tuesday May 25th

Returning home from college is always interesting - you take a look around the house, see how things have changed, learn the new rules, adapt to the new rituals and habits of your family - and you realize that everyone was pretty much happy without you. You learn that when you cook your own dinner, it is considered a nuisance, not an act of independence.

With this is in mind, how am I going to keep cooking and not drive my family crazy? It's a good question. I am certain that there is not a single recipe in existence that requires little counter space, produces no odor of any kind, doesn't make a mess and takes only a small space of time. I am going to try my best today to consider these issues in the hopes of not causing conflict by making lunch.

I have all summer to push my boundaries, so I think I am going to start with something easy - a Mac and Cheese bake with some veggies mixed in. My brother is my gauge for this experiment and I am going to rate the recipe by how strong a reaction I get. On a scale from 1 to 5, a 1 will be a dirty look, 2 will be a vocal complaint, 3 will be open threats,.4 will be physical obstruction and 5 will be unable to complete recipe. This should be a fun summer - I am going to buy groceries now :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Read Your Nutrition Label - Part I


Monosodium glutamate, also known as sodium glutamate and MSG, is a sodium salt of the naturally occurring non-essential amino acid glutamic acid. It is used as a food additive and is commonly marketed as a flavour enhancer.
Although traditional Asian cuisine had often used seaweed extract, which contains high concentrations of glutamic acid, it was not until 1907 that MSG was isolated by Kikunae Ikeda. MSG was subsequently patented by Ajinomoto Corporation of Japan in 1909. 
- Wikipedia, "Monosodium Glutamate" 
MSG is one of the mysterious ingredients in food that I prefer to avoid. It is responsible for the fifth taste - after sweet, sour, salty and bitter - umami, which is best described as a "savory" taste. There is little scientific evidence that MSG causes health problems, but I can't imagine eating large concentrations of any chemical is good for you. Check the nutrition label when buying:
- Taco Seasoning 
- Instant Sauce Mixes
- Dehydrated Broth Cubes 
- Gravy Mixes
- Goya Rice Products, such as the Paella Dinner
- Tofu 
- Salad Dressings
- Infant Formula
There are many other names for MSG, such as Autolyzed Yeast Extract, and truthinlabeling.com has a pretty complete list of all the different names for it. After doing a little research, I think the worst thing about MSG is that it allows manufacturers to use inferior ingredients and still achieve a good taste, and that's just not cool. Please avoid this questionable ingredient.  

Easy, Healthy, Quick Meals - Part IV


This is a great convenience meal because most of the ingredients can be frozen - I ate it several times during exams! This is a great way to get vegetables, and saves time because the pasta is precooked. The whole bag of veggies is only 270 calories so load up! Recipe Courtesy of  Birds Eye (see product website). 

Ingredients:

Birds Eye Asparagus Stir Fry (w/ Asparagus, Carrots, Cauliflower, Noodles, Green Beans)
Frozen, Uncooked, Peeled Shrimp
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder
Sesame Oil

Directions:

1. Cook shrimp in a skillet in 1-2 Tbsp of sesame oil until pink, being sure to flip them occasionally
2. Pour in as many vegetables as you want (you may need to add some more oil too!)
3. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
4. Cook until hot

Cinco De Mayo: Fiesta de Tacos

Counterclockwise: Flour Tortillas, Goya Black Beans and Rice Mix, Taco Filling (LightLife Smart Ground Mexican, Onions, Orange Bell Peppers, Canned Corn) Center: Sliced Grape Tomatoes and Avocado


Cinco de Mayo Taco Dinners are yet another reason I need more party platters - they make food look so wonderful! This one happens to be my roommate's, but I have plans to acquire one of my own in the near future. How else are four people going to make their own tacos in a way that does not involve cramming them into a tiny college apartment kitchen?