When I was growing up, I learned much of my basic cooking skills from my mom and brother. I also learned a lot on my own when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol at the age of 20, and began diving into healthy eating books and cookbooks–hence I had to learn how to make myself healthy lunches and such. I continued learning by reading and then by watching Food Network as that evolved. But I never took a formal cooking class until this past summer, when I enrolled in a 3-session course at Madison Area Technical College (MATC) on Thai cooking. I love Thai food, but it’s not easy to learn how to make real curry without having an instructor show you how it’s made from scratch, rather than by opening a jar of curry paste. I also learned how to make a real spring roll, and also pad thai, among other things.
I liked the course and instructor so much, that I took another course recently through MATC–same instructor, different location, and this time it was a 2-session course on making soup from scratch. I already knew how to do this, but the course taught me things I did not know, and it also was great to see how you make amazing chicken stock from scratch to start out. From there you can make, as we did, chicken noodle soup and wonton soup. The second session, we made chili and cream of mushroom soup. The latter is something I’ve never made, but it was phenomenal and I can’t wait to make it at home.
Then last week I received a James Beard cookbook and will be covering that in the Bullz-Eye.com Holiday Gift Guide. But this past weekend, I had to sample some of the recipes, which meant actually following the recipes of a master, and I learned so much in making just a couple of recipes from that book–gruyere soup; and beef Bourguignon saute. The latter involved making a sauce from scratch and making that the base–and learning how to do that was worth the price of the book, even though I didn’t technically pay for the book. That sauce was amazing and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. And it was SO easy. Of course, these recipes use crazy amounts of butter, but that’s why they taste so good, and because they are so rich, you can’t overeat. I also learned that by mixing flour and butter together, you can use that to thicken a sauce (cornstarch what?).
What’s my point? You can always learn more, especially with cooking, in which there are so many cuisines, methods and different foods out there in 2012. And I can’t wait to dive into that James Beard book some more.
Posted in: Book Reviews, Chefs and Restaurants, Food TV, Healthy, Ingredients, Your Kitchen
Tags: beef Bourguignon saute, butter, chicken noodle, chili, cooking classes, cornstarch, cream of mushroom, curry, curry paste, flour, gruyere soup, James Beard, Madison Area Technical College, pad thai, sauces, soup, spring roll, Thai food, wonton
Mikey’s kitchen tips
Happy Friday folks. I had this idea to come up with some kitchen tips for you, some that I learned quite a long time ago when my mom and brothers taught me how to cook; some from knowledge I gleaned on my own. Anyway, here are three tips and we’ll try to do this once a month or so…..
Perfect scrambled eggs–I can’t believe how long it took me to figure out how to properly cook eggs. In the past, I would scrambled the egg in a bowl and add it to a frying pan and almost seem like I was racing against time to try and cook the egg. Then for whatever reason, it struck me that scrambled eggs did not have to be rubbery and/or burnt around the edges. Maybe I saw Gordon Ramsay yelling at some chef on MasterChef or Hell’s Kitchen. Maybe I just figured it out on my own. Regardless, here is what to do–scramble the egg lightly and add a pinch each of Kosher salt and pepper. You can add a splash of milk too if you like, but I typically don’t. Anyway, heat the pan over medium-low heat and spray with cooking spray or add a tiny bit of butter. Add the eggs and stir gently, not leaving the stove. Just as the eggs begin to set, turn off the heat and stir a little more until just set and I mean JUST set. The result should be creamy and awesome eggs.
Soup add-ins–Lately I’ve had an obsession with raw jalapenos. If you’ve ever had pho, you might have had it with sliced jalapeno like this, but when I saw it done, I had to do it myself. But I took it further. I add raw, very thinly sliced jalapeno pepper to all of my soups, even if I make canned chicken noodle. It adds a great blast of heat, but natural, clean heat. Another thing I like to do is to add steak to soup, generally a soup that is already beef-based or a vegetable soup. I like to use tenderloin or sirloin, and the trick is to sear it on a grill or grill pan, for a minute or two on each side, and the key is to make sure it’s still not cooked in the middle. Of course, I’m not advocating to eat raw meat. Slice it very thin, and then add to your soup just as you’re about to eat it, and let the hot soup finish cooking the meat. That way you don’t have rubbery steak in your soup.
Posted in: Chefs and Restaurants, Food TV, Grocery stores, Healthy, On the Grille, Recipes, Your Kitchen
Tags: beef tenderloin, cooking tips, creamy eggs, eggs, Gordon Ramsay, Hell's Kitchen, kitchen tips, Masterchef, perfect scrambled eggs, raw jalapenos, scrambled eggs, sirloin, sliced steak, soup
Product review: House Foods Tofu
I know, I know. A food blog geared toward guys talking about tofu? Well, I’m not the biggest fan of the stuff, but its health benefits, especially for weight loss, are real. So when the fine folks who represent House Foods Premium Tofu reached out, I thought I’d give tofu another chance. They touted the prospects of cutting tofu into chunks and grilling it, with House Foods extra firm variety really standing up to the grill, whereas that is not always the case with standard tofu. For you novices, keep in mind that tofu typically comes in the extra firm variety like that, or the softer versions which are more like scrambled eggs (and can be used as such) and can be used as a salad dressing or “cream” soup base.
Anyway, I tried the firm variety, not extra firm, and used it cubed in a miso soup. I should preface this by saying that my doctor instructed me to lose some weight to help bring down my spiking blood pressure, so I’m doing Weight Watchers, which really has come a long way in being more guy-friendly. I mean, Charles Barkley does it, why can’t I? Anyway, this soup kicks ass–you fry some mushrooms in a bit of oil, add some broth along with sliced bok choy, and the tofu. And to make it more flavorful (and with some spice), I sliced some fresh jalapeno and put that in the soup. Delicious.
But wait, this is about the tofu. Well, tofu is the type of food that absorbs flavors, but it’s usually the texture that separates good tofu from not-so-good. And House Foods is good–the firm is firm, and it doesn’t fall apart in soup. It has a nice texture that isn’t offensive. And hey, I’d use it again, and I probably will!
Posted in: Grocery stores, Healthy, Ingredients, Product Reviews, Your Kitchen
Tags: Charles Barkley, easy soup, easy soup with tofu, healthy quick recipes, healthy recipes, House Foods Premium Tofu, House Foods Tofu, miso soup, product review, soup, tofu, tofu review, Weight Watchers
Easy chicken barley soup
Finally things are starting to cool down, and when “soup weather” is upper 70’s, you know we have a problem. But hey, this blog is about the food, right? And it felt good to make some soup last night and eat some for lunch today. Not the open a can type of soup, but the real, from-scratch kind. And as with most of my recipes for this blog, I try to keep things simple, so here is how I made it…..
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast half, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
Salt and pepper
1 carton (32 oz.) chicken broth
1/2 cup quick cooking barley
1/2 tsp. each–dried basil, oregano, thyme
Pinch of garlic powder
Pinch of onion powder
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken, and stir until browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add carrots, celery and onion and stir/cook for about 3-4 minutes, adding a generous pinch of both salt and pepper. Add chicken broth, barley and spices, and bring to a boil. Turn down heat, cover loosely and simmer for about 15 minutes. You can add more broth or water if the soup is too thick. Serves 4, or 2 really hungry people.
That’s it–simple and it tastes really good! I should add that I really like Trader Joe’s Free Range Chicken Broth. It really makes the soup.
Posted in: Food on a Budget, Healthy, Ingredients, Recipes, Your Kitchen
Tags: chicken barley soup, chicken vegetable barley soup, easy barley soup, easy chicken soup, easy lunch, easy soup, food for dudes, Grub For Guys, guilty pleasure, healthy lunch, midnight snack, soup, warm weather food
Easy chicken vegetable soup
Here is an easy soup I made twice this past week, and one that is real easy–chicken vegetable soup. Here is a general list of what you’ll need:
Olive oil or vegetable oil
1-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 carton chicken broth
assorted vegetables such as onion, carrot, celery, cabbage, green beans (whatever you have on hand)
assorted frozen vegetables such as corn, optional
noodles or pasta
Salt, pepper, and dried herbs
Grab a large soup pot and pour in about 2 tablespoons of oil. Heat on medium heat for a minute or two, and meanwhile cut the chicken into small pieces. Put chicken in pot and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then stir very few minutes. Meanwhile, chop your vegetables (maybe 2 cups total), and add to the pot. Sprinkle more salt and pepper. Cook for a few more minutes, then add frozen corn and other frozen vegetables if using (1/2 to 1 more cup total), and chicken broth. Add another 1-2 cups water, noodles or pasta (about 3/4 cup dry), a bit more salt and pepper, and herbs such as Italian seasoning, oregano or basil (just a teaspoon or so). Stir and cook for about 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Serves 3-4.
Posted in: Food on a Budget, Grocery stores, Healthy, Ingredients, Recipes, Your Kitchen
Tags: chicken noodle soup, chicken soup, chicken vegetable soup, easy chicken soup recipe, easy chicken vegetable soup, easy chicken vegetable soup recipe, food for dudes, Grub For Guys, guilty pleasure, midnight snack, soup, soup recipe for guys