Saturday, May 29, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Like this super awesome bonus that Jenny at Nourished Kitchen is sharing with everyone! You've all seen my posts about her upcoming eCourse, "How to Cook Real Food", but I know some of you are a bit hesitant to sign up because of the cost (though, it basically comes out to just $10/class. You can't find a deal like that for most cooking classes held at schools or community centers! But I digress...). Or perhaps you've held out because you're still not too sure of what will be covered in each class. Well, here's a great opportunity for you to actually check out a special bonus class for FREE!
Jenny has asked me to share this wonderful bonus lesson on Nuts & Seeds with all of you, and after checking it out for myself last night, I can assure you that you will learn a LOT. Not only does she give you video lessons on the health benefits of nuts & seeds, she also shows you step-by-step how to make two great nut-based recipes. As if that wasn't good enough, she also provides downloadable worksheets & recipes that contain a ton of great information. And you get it all for free, here on PGEW (You don't even have to leave this page! Just scroll down a bit.). What's not to love?
Before you get started, I just wanted to thank those of you who have already signed up through yours truly, and remind the rest of you that there's still time to register! And remember, if you register through PGEW, you'll also help me a little bit, too. Every bit of help I get makes it possible for me to share more of the good stuff you all enjoy so much. :)
Enjoy your free lesson! I learned a lot and hope you'll like it as much as I did, and stay tuned for some great new recipes!
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Now, I normally like to get most of my produce from the farmer's market, but with the freaky weather (65 degrees & rainy at the end of MAY??? C'mon, Mother Nature!) two things have happened: stuff that should be growing in abundance right now is not, and I just refuse to go traipsing about in blustery weather if I don't have to (I'm fairly certain I was a cat in a former life; hate being wet). My freezer's been stocked with plenty of good frozen veggies & fruits so I've made due that way, but I have really missed getting the good, fresh stuff. True, the cheap bell peppers came from Mexico, but it was sure nice to enjoy the crisp sweetness of a fresh one once more. And the two that I got were so lovely, that I knew I couldn't just hack them up into little pieces. Their aesthetics also had to be enjoyed, and the best way I felt I could do that was to use them as natural dishware and stuff 'em with something delicious.
Stuffed pepper recipes are all over the place and usually consist of a lot of ground beef, bread crumbs and cheese. Not a bad combo taste-wise, but I do prefer to have color in my food and didn't want something that heavy & rich. Instead, I used some brown rice, lean steak, and some nice red & green veggies for a nice contrast. The end result was a beautiful, completely satisfying meal with hardly any clean-up because I got to eat the "bowl"! :) Seriously though, this is a wonderful dish to prepare for a nice twist on dinner, and though I made mine from scratch, this is a fabulous way to make use of leftover rice and meat, not to mention all those tiny bags of leftover veggies that may be lurking in your fridge or freezer. Paired with a nice salad and a glass of wine, this can also be a different, slightly elegant way to end a hard workday without having to break the bank.
Steak, Brown Rice & Veggie Stuffed Peppers (serves 2; total cost per serving: ~ $2.85)
2 large red bell peppers
1 c cooked brown rice
6 oz. lean steak, diced
1/2 c frozen peas, thawed
1/2 c frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 c diced yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t smoked paprika (regular paprika is also fine)
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a small, shallow baking dish with a very light coating of cooking spray and set aside. Rinse the bell peppers and pat dry gently with a paper towel. Slice off just the very top of the pepper and remove the seeds & veins. Take the "lid" of the pepper and cut off the remaining flesh, dicing into small pieces. Set aside with the rest of the veggies.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the minced garlic and onion. Sauté over medium heat until fragrant, then add the diced steak and all the seasonings. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the steak begins to brown (don't overcook as this will continue cooking in the oven!). Add the diced peppers, tomatoes, peas, broccoli and rice, and stir together until completely combined. Check for seasonings and adjust accordingly with salt & pepper. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Spoon a generous amount of the rice, steak & veggie mixture into each pepper until completely full (go ahead, pack it in!). Place the stuffed peppers in the prepped baking dish, tent with foil, and place in the oven. Cook for about 30 minutes and remove from the oven. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Serve with a nice salad, and enjoy!
Monday, May 24, 2010
So I was hoping you'd all wake up today to find the lovely new look of PGEW, but as I mentioned on Facebook & Twitter last night, I'm having major difficulties getting this all uploaded onto the site. *sigh* I worked quite hard on this, so I hope it doesn't take too much longer to get it up & running for you (and me). Anyway, I've consulted my people and hope to have a solution this week!
In the meantime, I'll be working on a new recipe (that I am soooooo ready to eat! It's gonna be a good one!) so I'll have that up tonight or tomorrow. And I wanted to remind you that there is just 1 week left to sign up for the "How to Cook Real Food" eCourse from Nourished Kitchen! Not only is this a fantastic way to learn to make amazing basics like stocks, breads, and even soda pop in your very own kitchen, you'll also be helping Poor Girl earn a small portion of the proceeds if you sign up through PGEW. This is a wonderful opportunity that Jenny of Nourished Kitchen has extended to folks who want to eat healthier, better foods, and to bloggers who are just as passionate about eating real food as she is.
If you haven't already checked out the details, here's a lovely little video that will give you a bit more insight into the course:
Thanks to those who have already signed up, and thanks in advance to you if you're going to sign up today! :)
Stay tuned for the new recipe and, hopefully, the new look of PGEW!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Now, I’m a huge fan of coffee and coffee-flavored drinks & desserts; however, my problem with the latter is that they are usually far too sweet for me to taste the coffee. Maybe I was just spoiled by all those trips to Colombia when I was a wee lass, where I could taste some of the world’s most incredible coffee. Some of my favorite memories from childhood are coffee-related: picking ripe coffee berries off the trees and enjoying the way the sweetness of the berry and the bitterness of the bean would play off each other; watching coffee in its early stages of picking & processing at my family’s plantations; rolling around in dried coffee beans that were baking in the sun (don’t worry; most coffee has not been rolled around in by 9 year olds). It’s a huge part of my heritage and I am very particular about my coffee and coffee-flavored things.
So I figured it would be fun to try my hand at my own coffee-flavored dessert but I didn’t feel like going the mocha route, as that’s been done quite a bit. Instead, I decided to work with the next most popular coffee & sweet combo and create some Caramel Macchiato Cheesecake Shots. In my mind’s eye and in my palate’s imagination (yes, my palate has an imagination) I envisioned tiny little versions of this popular coffeehouse drink that would definitely taste like coffee and look the part, too. I find these to be absolutely adorable to look at, as they come complete with their own “steamed milk” topping and caramel drizzle. But they also taste delicious and quite similar to the actual drink. The coffee “cheesecake” is sweet enough to be delightful but definitely packs a coffee punch, and the sweetness of the “steamed milk” topping and the homemade caramel add a wonderfully sinful touch. Now, I will warn you: these are RICH!!! This is one dessert that could never be bigger than shot size because you would immediately end up 10lbs heavier with a few cavities to boot. But, as I have always argued when it comes to my tiny desserts, this is really all you need to end a fabulous meal: just a li’l somethin’ sweet. They’re a little more complicated to make than most of my other shots, but they’re well worth it. Hope you like them!
NOTE: Do NOT use regular brewed coffee or espresso! The flavor will be great but you’ll end up with a runny mess that will never set. Also, if you want the true “cheesecake” experience, try them w/the vanilla wafer crust. But if you’re going for the whole “coffeehouse” experience, just use the caramel and cheesecake fillings. Either way, these are great!
Caramel Macchiato Cheesecake Shots (makes 8 shots; total cost per shot: $0.95 )
1 ½ packages low-fat cream cheese, softened
1 can condensed milk
1 T butter
3 T nonfat milk
1/3 c instant coffee granules
2 t very hot water
2 T granulated sugar
20 vanilla wafers, crushed (optional)
2 T butter (optional)
Prepare the caramel:
In a small saucepan, combine the condensed milk and 1 tablespoon of butter. Bring to a low boil over medium low heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Reduce to low heat (as low as possible) and continue to cook until the mixture turns a medium to deep golden brown, making sure to continue stirring throughout the heating process. If the boil becomes too rapid, remove from heat to continue stirring, then return to heat. The whole process should take about 20 minutes. If caramel becomes too thick, whisk in the milk one tablespoon at a time until all milk is used. (NOTE: If you do not have enough time to make your own caramel and you have a premade caramel sauce at home, you can use that instead. However, this is MUCH better with the homemade stuff.)
Prepare the coffee cheesecake:
Combine the instant coffee granules and the hot water in a small bowl until the granules completely dissolve. The coffee should have a thick, syrupy consistency. Using an electric mixer, whip one package of softened cream cheese until it is light & fluffy. Add the remaining half of the condensed milk and the coffee syrup and mix together on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Prepare the "steamed milk" cheesecake:
In a medium bowl add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the remaining 1/2 package of softened cream cheese. Mix together on medium high speed until light & fluffy.
Prepare the crust (optional):
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add to the crushed wafers and mix together until the wafers are moistened.
Assemble your shots by adding about a teaspoon of caramel (or cookie crust) to the bottom of each shot. Next, add about 2 tablespoons of the coffee cheesecake filling (or enough to fill your shot glass), followed by a small dollop of the “steamed milk” cheesecake. Top with a small amount of caramel, refrigerate for about an hour or so, and enjoy!
Friday, May 14, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
This next dish isn’t all that mysterious, per se, but I think it’s the idea of having something traditionally “French” that makes me all giddy to make it. Ever since my parents took me to my first French restaurant at the tender age of 8 and I experienced such rich, incredible food, I have been absolutely in LOVE with French cuisine. However, I’m still a little too kitchen-shy to pull a Julie Powell and tackle anything too complex just yet. But when I was planning my Mother’s Day brunch, I wanted something a bit different from my usual brunch menus which normally consist of omelettes or crepes, and the way everything was falling into place with the salad and the parfaits being slightly French-ish, I figured a Croque Madame would be the perfect entrée.
It’s essentially a fancy grilled ham & cheese sandwich. Well, the Croque Monsieur, is. There are many variations of the Croque Monsieur, and the Croque Madame makes itself special by topping the finish product with a perfectly fried egg (and we all know how good fried eggs are on sandwiches!). Croques Madame & Monsieur vary from café to café in France (or so I’ve read), so you really have a lot of room to play around with this. Some recipes call for mayonnaise, others call for lots of butter; personally, I like to use a homemade honey & Dijon mustard blend on mine, as I feel this accents the rest of the flavors beautifully. Traditionally this calls for Gruyere cheese and that’s how I made it for me mum, but I have slummed it in the past and used lesser cheeses (I think I’ve even used string cheese before! When you have a craving, no other ingredients work to make a decent meal, and you’re too broke to go to the store, you learn to improvise!). And when I’m really in dire straits and all I have are those little $0.79 packets of thinly sliced deli meats to work with, I find that they make a lovely substitute for the nicer smoked ham that may cost just a bit too much during scary week.
What I like best about this is that you can have it for breakfast or dinner, and it just feels slightly more grown up than a regular grilled cheese. It’s great for those nights when you’re too busy to cook anything too complicated, and when paired with a salad you have a perfectly wonderful meal. And at just about $3 per sandwich, even if you were to use Gruyere, you’ll fare far better than you would by spending $5 to $6 on a fast food burger. And you can say you had French food for dinner. ;)
Poor Girl Tip: If you want to make this with Gruyere, buy yourself a small chunk that you can reasonably afford and grate it instead of slicing. You will yield about twice as much cheese without having to spend more!
Croque Madame (makes 2 sandwiches; total cost per sandwich: $3.10)
4 slices of bread (preferably a pain de campagne, but any hearty bread will do)
8 oz. grated Gruyere cheese (regular Swiss cheese works well, too)
8 oz. thinly sliced ham (or honey baked turkey)
2 large eggs
1 T + 1 t butter, divided
2 T Dijon mustard
1 T honey
Whisk together the Dijon and the honey until smooth and set aside. Spread a small amount of butter on each slice of bread and place face down on a heated skillet (use medium heat for this). Grill for about 30 seconds or until the buttered side has just begun to brown and become slightly crisp. Remove from heat and brush the honey & Dijon mixture on the grilled side of each slice of bread. Add about 2 oz. of grated Gruyere on each slice. Melt about 1 tablespoon of butter in the same skillet and place the cheese covered bread slices in it to grill (cheese side up, of course) and top each slice with equal amounts of sliced ham. Put both sandwiches together and grill over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until the cheese has melted and the bread is golden brown & crisp. Remove from heat & cover to keep warm.
In a smaller pan or skillet, melt 1/2 teaspoon of butter and cook each egg sunny side up for about 2-3 minutes over medium low heat until the egg white is completely set and the yolk is cooked but not completely set. If you like a harder egg, flip the egg over and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Slide a fried egg onto each sandwich, serve with a nice salad, and enjoy! (Enjoy immediately… you don’t want this one to get cold!)
Monday, May 10, 2010
Recipes: Fresh Cherry & Greek Yogurt Parfait Shots and Butter Lettuce, Fresh Cherry & Scallion Salad with Gruyere and Chardonnay Vinaigrette
On the brunch menu:
~ Butter Lettuce Salad, Fresh Cherry & Scallion Salad with Gruyere and Chardonnay Vinaigrette
~ Croque Madame
~ Fresh Cherry & Greek Yogurt Parfait Shots
Mom was absolutely overwhelmed by the spread (in fact, she started digging in before I could bring her her present!), and declared it my most delicious meal to date. She was even more impressed when I told her the entire meal, including the mimosas, cost just over $30! Not bad for a gourmet brunch for two, even with splurges like Gruyere cheese and sparkling wine.
So how did I manage to pull this off for such a low price? I think it was a combination of planning and careful shopping. Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to go overboard on buying too much extra food, I got serious and took detailed inventory of what I already had in my fridge, freezer and cupboards. Once I’d come up with a rough menu outline based on what I had on hand and the potential dishes I could create, I went shopping only for the ingredients I absolutely needed and paid very close attention to the prices at the store. To ensure the lowest prices, I went to both Trader Joe’s and Safeway: cheese is way more affordable at TJ’s, so I was able to score a nice chunk of gruyere for just $3.25 (that took some major digging through larger, more expensive blocks, but I knew persistence would pay off!), while Safeway was offering better deals on champagne & sparkling wines because of the Mother’s Day holiday (YAY for $4 champagne!).
I was extremely lucky to have just scored some lovely cherries at last week’s farmer’s market and figured I’d showcase the extremely easy recipes for the two cherry-inspired dishes I ended up serving. I’d considered making the Mango-Berry Stuffed French Toast with cherries instead of mixed berries, but decided not to go in that direction because I wanted to have more savory dishes than sweet ones. Because I was serving Croque Madame (a common French sandwich that is basically grilled cheese & ham with a fried egg on top), I thought a nice salad would complement this beautifully. I knew I wouldn’t be using all the cheese in the Croque Madames, so I did some mental food math and decided to combine the cherries, the cheese, and the remainder of my giant head of butter lettuce to make a delicate spring salad that I must say I’m going to be making a lot from now on. The sweet tartness of the cherries, the earthy nuttiness of the cheese, and the satiny leaves of butter lettuce all went together wonderfully, especially with the addition of a tasty white wine vinaigrette. Let’s check out the recipe.
Butter Lettuce, Fresh Cherry and Scallion Salad with Chardonnay Vinaigrette (serves 2-3; total cost per serving: ~$2.95)
1 head butter lettuce
½ lb fresh cherries, pitted & halved
¼ c gruyere, shaved
1/3 c chopped scallions
2 T light olive oil
3 oz. chardonnay
1 T white whine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
Prepare the dressing by whisking together all ingredients until completely combined. Set aside in the refrigerator. Next, rinse and dry the butter lettuce and tear into 1”-2” pieces. Combine the lettuce, scallions and cherries in a medium bowl and toss together. When ready to serve salad, drizzle about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the dressing and toss until everything is completely coated. Add freshly ground pepper and a couple extra shavings of the gruyere if desired, and enjoy!
(NOTE: Do NOT overdress this salad! Butter lettuce is very delicate and will turn soggy very quickly if you overdress. If you like a lot of dressing on your salad, simply serve the remaining dressing on the side.)
As much as I loved doing something a little different than I would have normally done with my lovely bowl of cherries, I couldn’t resist using them in some type of dessert, too. Since we were having brunch, I figured I’d stick with that theme and made some lovely little yogurt parfaits that, despite their simplicity, were almost sinfully delicious. I absolutely adored this dessert (and so did Mom!) because it truly shows that Mother Nature is sometimes the best chef. I mean, really: what baked good or creamy concoction could possibly compete with the perfect sweetness of fresh cherries? The addition of sinfully rich Greek yogurt makes this dessert seem like it could be bad for you, but it’s practically guilt-free. No bells & whistles needed for this one! Here’s the super easy, super tasty recipe:
Fresh Cherry & Greek Yogurt Parfait Shots (makes 6 parfait shots; total cost per shot: $0.60)
½ lb fresh cherries, pitted & quartered
1 T granulated sugar
3/4 c nonfat Greek yogurt
1 T honey
In a medium bowl toss together the cherries and sugar until they release their juices and create a light syrup. In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey and Greek yogurt until smooth. Alternate layers of cherries and yogurt in each shot glass, drizzle small amounts of remaining cherry syrup on top, and enjoy!
That’s it for now! And don't forget to stay tuned for the Poor Girl version of Croque Madame in the next couple of posts. Cheers!
Friday, May 7, 2010
Mango & Berry Stuffed French Toast (serves 2-3; total cost per serving: $2.85)
6 slices whole grain bread
6 large eggs
2 T nonfat milk
1 t vanilla extract
1 c chopped fresh mango
1 c frozen mixed berries, thawed
1 T granulated sugar
1 T + 1 t butter
Powdered sugar (optional for garnish)
In a small bowl combine the mixed berries & granulated sugar and allow to sit for about 1/2 hour, or until the berries have created their own syrup. Add the mango and toss together gently. Set aside.
Whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Lightly butter each slice of bread with the teaspoon of butter (this will prevent the bread from becoming soggy from the berries), and add about 1/8 cup of the berry mango mixture to each slice. Put the slices together to form sandwiches, then dip each sandwich into the egg mixture. Melt the butter in a medium skillet and place one of the sandwiches into the skillet. Cook over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown and slightly crispy along the edges. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.
To serve as pictured, spoon a bit of the berry syrup onto a small plate and swirl around until the bottom of the plate is coated. Cut each French toast sandwich diagonally in half and stack together. Top with the remaining mango-berry mixture, dust lightly with powdered sugar, and enjoy!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Another bean salad, Poor Girl? Yes, ma’am! (And/or sir. Sorry gentlemen, I didn’t mean to exclude you; you know I love ya.) Before you start moaning & groaning, hear me out for a bit. Aside from the simple-to-prepare and time-saving factors, a good bean salad is an easy way to have a pretty balanced one-dish meal. Packed with protein and fiber, legumes are great nutritional multitaskers. Add some chopped vegetables and a tasty dressing and you have either a fabulous lunch or a great side to complement those summer dishes that will soon be appearing on everyone’s tables. Like rice salads, they help you use up any leftover veggies so you don’t end up having to waste anything you don’t have to.
But my current favorite thing about bean salads – or just beans in general – is how international you can get with them just by changing up the other ingredients. From Indian to Mexican to everything in between, there are endless ways to spice up some legumes. This time around I thought I’d go the Mediterranean route, especially because I had just scored that giant cucumber and gorgeous tomatoes at La Superior during my last shopping trip. With some sliced red onions and a simple lemon & olive oil dressing, this turned out to be light & refreshing but definitely satisfying. Of course, you can’t do “Mediterranean” anything without some crumbled feta cheese, so some of that was thrown in as well. When all was said & done, I had enough food for a couple great meals and the whole recipe cost just around $3 to make. This recipe is easily doubled and would be perfect for summer potlucks & picnics, too. Let’s check it out!
Mediterranean Garbanzo Salad (makes 2-3 servings; total cost per serving: ~$1.50)
1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
½ medium cucumber, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced into 1” pieces
¼ c crumbled low-fat feta cheese
2 T olive oil
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ t dried oregano
Salt & pepper to taste
Place all the veggies into a large bowl and toss together. Briskly whisk together the dressing ingredients, add to the beans & veggies, and toss together until completely coated. For maximum flavor, I strongly suggest letting this marinate a couple of hours if you have the time. When ready to serve, add the crumbled feta & toss together (or you can just crumble it on top as a garnish if you prefer). Serve by itself or as a side, top with freshly ground black pepper, and enjoy!
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I started my day at the Cesar Chavez farmer's market with Wendy from our awesome ABC station, News10. Spotlighting the opening of farmer's market season, we discussed the benefits of shopping at one's local farmer's markets and dispelled a few myths that surround them. What kinds of myths, Poor Girl? Prices, for one. It's a common misconception that if you go to a farmer's market you'll be paying way more for your food than you would at your trusty major chain grocery store. Though this can certainly be the case when it comes to meats & cheeses and a few specialty items like preserved/dried produce, in general you can actually save quite a bit of money for higher quality food. By buying local, sustainably grown produce, you're eliminating the middle men and lowering the cost of your food. No extra transportation costs by trucking in foods from distant areas; no extra coatings of wax or other preservatives to make produce look "perfect"; no fluoridated water drenching your produce so that if it's not dried instantly it spoils faster; little to no pesticide use... I could go on for days. And then there is the added benefit of knowing that you're supporting your local farmers, who, like most of us these days, are struggling to stay afloat in this shaky economy. Keeping your shopping local supports local businesses and, consequently, your local economy.
Anyway, I hope you all don't mind if I keep this short, especially because I have a GIANT I ♥ the Farmer's Market post I'm working on that requires all my attention. Featuring an interview with the fine folks at News10 on tips to shop your local market on a budget & get the kiddies into healthy eating, a tour of the market with one of Sacramento's premier chefs, and envy-inducing photos of our special fresh-from-the-market lunch, this is going to be a good one. :)