Bad days, hard work, moments of weakness, we all have them. Sometimes it’s just hard to resist that fast food fix or the offered treat. My major guilty pleasure is Sonic Ched’R’Peppers. Give me a box of four cheesy, molten peppers and a cherry limeade any day of the week. They’ll burn a hole in the roof of your mouth and require you go to the gym later, but who cares? Oh, Ched’R’Peppers, my heart’s desire. I have literally been known to post the calorie count (330 for 4) on my refrigerator as a reminder of the possible damage. Because I am often known to buy two boxes. That’s 8 peppers. And feel disgusting for hours after. Two summers ago I decided I needed to learn how to make these suckers at home. I mean really, what’s in that cheese mixture, anyway? I think it’s probably best not to know. But guess what? Homemade cheddar peppers or jalapeno poppers or whatever you call them are a snap! And they’re oven-baked, so already, you’ve helped yourself out quite a bit. I got this recipe online and then tweaked it a bunch. Apologies to whomever I’ve plagiarized. Alternative recipe: Pioneer Woman makes fatty, bacon wrapped, grilled poppers. You probably need them in your life, too.
Ingredients: makes 10-12 poppers. There’s an awesome captioned gallery– that only goes backwards no matter what I do– featured below. Apologies.
- 5-6 medium sized, fresh jalapenos
- 2 oz. room-temp cream cheese
- full 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1 or 2 scrambled eggs
- garlic powder, salt, pepper, seasonings of choice
- 350 degree oven
- Wearing gloves or only touching the outside of the jalapeno, slice peppers open lengthwise cutting all the way through the stem (these handles make breading them easier). Cut out seeds and whitish membrane, leave a little in if you can stand the heat. Pepper should look like little boats when you’re done. Warning: After handling jalapenos, do not touch your eyes or nose or your bits. This is important.
- Mix cheeses in a bowl with a fork. They should be room temperature when you do this unless you want a workout. Add spices sparingly, particularly the salt, and adjust to taste.
- Spoon cheese mix into individual peppers. Don’t overfill, just make the cheese level with the cut.
- Dip peppers in egg and then coat in breadcrumbs. I like Italian breadcrumbs for this.
- Place on protected baking sheet and bake a little less than 20 minutes. Check on them around 15 minutes.
- Enjoy! It’s half the calories so you can eat twice as much! Just kidding. Mostly.
- Warning: don’t eat the end near the stem. It’s very, very hot.
Seven Flavor Beef
This was a first time, new recipe for me. I didn’t consciously intend to make a dish that originated at a famous restaurant. I was just craving food with an Asian influence– something that used ginger and lemongrass and chilies. Serious Eats and The Kitchn and the cook books on my table offered no inspiration. I like using Recipezaar for moments like this when my regular foodie haunts fail me. I went to Recipezaar and searched for recipes with the aforementioned ingredients (great tool for those with food allergies), organized my search by highest rating, and happened upon #236899 “Wild Ginger’s Seven Flavor Beef” submitted by user BarbryT. Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach her for comment because Recipezaar currently has no way for members to message one another. I will be submitting a review to her though. She introduces the recipe with the comment, “Wild Ginger is one of the reasons I moved to Seattle.” Wild Ginger Restaurant has been a Seattle staple since 1989. Their website is super shiny and the reviews I found are more than glowing. My husband and I will make a trip to Seattle in July and along with visiting Trader Joe’s and our favorite Italian restaurant, we may need to pay our respects. Wild Ginger boasts the
chopped ginger root
distinction of holding “the Zagat Guide‘s title of # 1 Most Popular Restaurant in the Pacific Northwest Region for 11 consecutive years.” The description of our meal on the menu is mouth-watering: “Flank steak, fragrant with the seven flavors of lemongrass, peanuts, hoisin, chilies, basil, garlic and ginger is quickly dry-fried resulting in a complex, intense flavor.” The journey of this recipe is interesting to me, how technology has enabled it to move quickly from it’s Asian origins to a Seattle dining room to a Texas home kitchen, how the contexts in which food is made and eaten can change so rapidly, but the real question here, I believe, is how was the beef?
It was good. Maybe a bit too spicy and lacking in two or three ingredients due to user error, but overall, very tasty. It was a perfect way to use up some too-tough grass-fed sirloin that’s been in the freezer. I had to make a trip to Fiesta to get some of the ingredients: fish sauce, hoisin sauce, and sesame oil, but the rest of the ingredients were easy enough to find. We didn’t get Chinese Five Spice powder (Fiesta didn’t have it and then we forgot about it), which resulted in hasty scrambling to make a homemade version. We ended up using regular ground pepper, star anise ground in the pepper mill, powdered cinnamon and cloves, and dill to substitute for the fennel. It’s very pungent and I’m interested to find the real thing. We marinated the strips of beef in a ziploc bag for an hour before searing in a hot pan with a little oil. The end result was very good, but a little too spicy. Next time we’ll cut the red pepper flake amount in half. Also, I forgot to add the basil and peanuts to the meat. They probably add a little something else, but the flavor was very bold and interesting without them. Sliced green and red onions and bean sprouts added some color and variety. Making the marinade was the most difficult part of this dish, I thought actual cooking was fast and easy. The marinade would be great for dressing up regular steaks if you were so inclined. Now that we have the ingredients, we’ll definitely try it again.
Beef with tricolor rice
I know, I know, you don’t believe me. Fine. But you should be aware that the Greek Gods Yogurt is a strong contender. Particularly their honey-flavored yogurt. It’s rich and creamy and the honey flavor adds a highlight to the tang of the yogurt. Oh, yes, yogurt without a ton of sugars and additives is tart. It’s a lot like sour cream actually. I had Greek Gods for the first time several years ago at a Trader Joe’s in Santa Fe. (Can we pause for a moment and give thanks for Trader Joes?…Okay.) It’s carried by most higher end grocery stores like Oklahoma’s Food Pyramid or Texas’ HEB stores (letting my roots show here). It should be treated a lot like ice cream. This is not your every-morning-for-breakfast-yogurt unless you lift weights for a living. At 250 calories for 6 oz, Greek Gods is just as decadent as Haagen-Daz or a higher end ice cream. Even more dangerous, you can purchase it in 24 oz. “family size.” It’s more like the snack you eat when you’ve had a crappy day and plan to watch at least two Law and Order episodes. Or for when you’re happy with life and you’ve accomplished a lot and want a special treat! Greek Gods is amazing with fruit and would probably make a fantastic dip for a fruit tray if you go for that kind of cutesy thing. Me? I’ll be watching Criminal Intent.
We recently moved to the land of sweet tea. For those of you in northeastern Oklahoma or further north, this may be a rare find. Southern sweet tea is McAlister’s Deli strength or stronger and it’s served all around Houston. It’s the kind of sugar level that makes your teeth hurt while drinking it. I’m not sure know where I heard about lemonade iced tea, but it’s very much a sweet tea. It’s an interesting idea and for a while I thought I had dreamed it up. But it does exist, though not many people seem to make it. I found this recipe from Southern Living and tweaked it for my own taste. Editorial note: Carrie pointed out that this drink was made famous by golfer Arnold Palmer, which is also another name for the drink. Thanks, Carrie!
- 2 iced tea size tea bags.
- 1/2 can thawed lemonade concentrate
- 1/2 cup sugar
I boil 4 cups of water and place two tea bags to steep for 10-15 minutes. After steeping I remove the bags and dissolve 1/2 a cup of sugar in the tea. I pour the tea mixture and 1/2 can of lemonade concentrate into a pitcher and stir. Just put the rest back in the freezer for the next batch. I’m sure you could also use fresh squeezed lemonade if you want to avoid dreaded High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). But you might have to play with water proportions for taste.
After combining the tea and lemonade, add about 4 more cups of water- you want 8-9 cups water total because this stuff is sweeeeet. Chill the pitcher in the fridge for a few hours or, if you’re like me and can’t wait, pour over a bunch of ice and enjoy.
Gazpacho was made for women who do half an hour of cardio, walk the dog, and pull weeds in succession all in 80 degree weather. There is nothing better than sitting your sweaty self down with a bowl of tangy, ice-cold goodness after working hard. Last summer, this was the food I fantasized about. I loved the colors and the promise of acidic flavors and the allure of fresh veggies. Everyone on the internet waxed poetic about it and sat on their balconies eating this stuff with a glass of wine and some crusty bread. Serious Eats featured a fresh veggie recipe and a grilled and chilled concoction. Pioneer Woman made it with toppings like grilled shrimp, avocado, cilantro, and a dollop of sour cream. Wow. The Kitchn even offered a listing of other cold soups in case you tired of the tomato based variety. So here I am, a year late to the party. The problem was that last summer I didn’t have a food processor to chop the veggies up superfine and I wasn’t about to do all of it by hand. Plus, I wasn’t sure how well it would blend if I just mixed it up. My food processor is an old-school GE model that I found at Family Thrift for $20 in February. I wandered around with it in my arms for half and hour debating it’s worth until someone else started eyeing it and I decided it was mine.
GE old school
I don’t regret it. I’ve used my processor for a million batches of homemade salsa and for shredding the 5 pound block of cheese that my husband bought for enchiladas. Habits of a military childhood die hard. Once a month I find myself in the grocery store asking, “Where are we going to put 10 gallons of [mayonnaise, pickles, salsa, other foods sold in bulk for restaurants serving 100+ people purposes] darling?” Oh well. Thank goodness for the shredder on the food processor or my wrists would have fallen off from manually shredding it all.
Okay, Gazpacho. I used Pioneer Woman’s recipe. Who wouldn’t? I think I like more Tabasco and a little more vinegar in mine, but I used her exact measurements to start– minus one clove of garlic– and then adjusted from there. Nothing against garlic, it’s just that between half a raw red onion and two cloves of garlic no one was going to talk to us for a month. The first time I made it I was talking on the phone and poured WAY too much vinegar in. But it was an easy save because the soup wasn’t boiling or being stirred. I just scooped out the area I had poured the vinegar into and viola! most of the vinegar wound up in the measuring cup and spared the rest of the recipe. The only extra topping I added was sour cream.
Isn't it dreamy?
This recipe is great for someone on a serious diet, so the sour cream makes it feel richer and like maybe you won’t pass out later because all you had for dinner was liquefied salad. But it’s good. The flavors are surprisingly complex for a raw dish and it’s an easy make-ahead meal. And as you eat it you might think of romantic warm evenings on the back porch and dinner parties and all the other light summer foods you love (leave them in the comments?) Or you might just be glad that you have something cold in your gullet after all that hard work.
Welcome to The Kitchen Table. Like most areas of life, the kitchen table is a messy place. Mine is no exception. My table serves a number of purposes: junk drawer, entryway table, laptop desk, office area, food prep area, gaming table, dog exam table, storage space and, of course, the place where family and friends gather to eat several nights a week. I grew up eating at a table with my family every evening and at every holiday. I believe the kitchen table is an important place, a place to connect and commune. I have named my blog after it in reference to Joy Harjo’s poem “Perhaps the World End Here.” As Harjo’s poem says, our lives and the lives of those who come before and after us can be experienced and remembered and dreamed by looking to this place of food, conversation, fights, reconciliations, joys, sorrows, loves, and stories. Welcome. Enjoy. Dig in! As I kick off my new blog, I thought I’d share what my kitchen table is currently being used for.