Sunday, April 18, 2010

Secrets & Wishes

Ok, I find it only fair to share these secrets with all of you out there. {all 2 of you}

I am obsessed with food blogs. This also includes food gadgets, farmers' markets, bulk food shopping and cookbooks, but primarily I am obsessed with food blogs. In particular these:

They make good old fashioned normal delicious food. You won't often see crazy ingredients or expensive meals-which for me, is often what I want. They have great chicken dishes along with how to do fondue and all kinds of other great meals. Also, they imitate restaurant dishes until they find the perfect copycat recipe. They have several Cafe Rio ones along with some from the Hard Rock Cafe, etc. I have some things I have made from there that I will be sharing soon.

2. Smitten Kitchen
I haven't been a huge fan of hers other than looking occasionally but I was converted today. She does more exotic out of the box recipes-always with some flair. I have to admit I haven't made anything from her yet, but I promise I will. More importantly, I found this post from her entitled "Build your own Smitten Kitchen" which tells you what essentials every kitchen needs along with where to find them. I only hope the links still work by the time I can afford some of them. {wish = buy everything on the list NOW!} She is a witty writer- read her about section and even tips on how to take food photos

3. Our Best Bites
This is a major contender for my favorite which is why I put it last. They make delicious fun recipes that combine a little of the aforementioned Blog #1 and Blog #2. Their recipes might require a new ingredient like panko bread crumbs but they are reasonable and usually something you have been wanting to try {if you are anything like me}. A great resource for party foods. They also give great tutorials

Each of these blogs has ways to search by ingredient or recipe, frequently asked questions, tips and tutorials and most popular recipes. Dive right in and ENJOY!

Look at my other blog on the bottom right for links to other great food blogs & my other friends' amazing blogs. Erin does gorgeous posts with unique recipes and Aimee does great recipes too. 

Sadly, I wish I didn't share these with you because if you can go directly to the source, why bother looking at my food blog? However, I will be posting more of my own recipes, recipes from my father {a master chef}, and recipes from the great cookbooks I have at home. Please stay with me, whoever you are. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cheap Thrills

For anyone who really knows me, they know I am a dollar store fanatic. I love a good deal. I have been this way since I was little when my stepmom would take me to the 99 cent store near our home. She always had the philosophy that I could have a bunch of stuff or one nice thing. I have always been a quantity kind of girl, so I loved dollar stores and bargain stores like Ross, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx. 

Well I am all grown up now (sort of) and I still love my 99 cent stores and bargain shops. They are my go to source for parties, gag gifts, and treats. 

When we moved to California I discovered something crazy here. The 99 cent only store (the chain kind) has endless name brand items along with an entire produce, frozen food, and refrigerated food section. JACKPOT! For all the cooking and baking I do these days I often need specific ingredients that can add up very quickly. But the 99 cent store has been a lifesaver for smaller quantities or cheaper versions of good stuff. This is the place to look for:
Let me show you what you are missing if you have not visited your local store.
Aisles of canned food including pasta sauce, mushrooms, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chicken broth, etc. all for 99 cents. This store legitimately only charges 99 cents for everything, or even less, but never more. 
My particular favorite thing about the CA stores is the produce section. Again, tons of food for only 99 cents. 

I can get 3 bell peppers for 99 cents, whereas normal grocery stores usually charges 99 cents per bell pepper! They have had red, green, and yellow since I have lived here. They have full bags of potatoes, onions, hot peppers, green beans, sweet potatoes, apples, you name it for only a buck. 

And my next favorite find are these cuties:
Great spices for only 99 cents. Normal brand spices will cost you 3-4 bucks! I found ground ginger, cilantro, sesame seeds and paprika for a buck! Every other time I go, I pick up one of these to slowly grow my collection. A great find for those obscure spices that one recipe calls for. 

I could seriously go on and on because I just love it and never go a week without visiting this place. I always get some holiday decorations here and its a great cheap place for themed nights. Sometimes I like to have Mexican drinks for Mexican night, etc. 

Also, our stores have milk, eggs, even meats (although even I am not that adventurous) and they have a small bakery section too where I have bought english muffins and pita bread. Such deals! 

Each store may carry slightly different things but its worth a few trips and a few stores to check it out! And I almost forgot, a chef who got laid off even wrote a cookbook using only ingredients from the 99 cent store. It costs $9.99 (sadly not 99 cents) although I am looking for a cheaper copy on Amazon. Read the story & see the cookbook here to start trying out some recipes!

This post was in fact NOT sponsored by the 99 cent only store. lol. 
***Sadly, I looked up their locations and they are only in CA, AZ, TX, & NV. Visit website here

Let me know how your trip goes!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup is one of my favorite dishes. I do however, prefer only the brothy kind not the creamy variety so this recipe is not for you if you like the latter.

I got this recipe from Food Network-specifically Emeril. Click here. I like that pretty much everything that goes into it is stuff you usually have on hand (I have started to keep cilantro on hand for Mexican recipes). I added some corn for texture and just used tortilla chips, cheese, and sour cream for garnish. You can add carrots and/ or squashes too if you like. Add whatever you prefer!

*tip-if you haven't invested in a jar of chicken buillon you are wasting money. Chicken broth is expensive by the can or tub, buy a jar of buillon and it will last you ages and you can use it for any recipe calling for chicken stock/broth!

Make sure to have some spice or it won't be nearly as delicious as it can be. Don't chicken out on me!

Tortilla Soup
Recipe courtesy of Emeril via The Food Network

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onions

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped, or 1 pasilla or green bell pepper and 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 cups chicken stock

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 cups vegetable oil, for frying

6 stale corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips

1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows

1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and chopped, for garnish

Chipotle Crema, accompaniment, recipe follows


In a Dutch oven or large heavy pot, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, peppers, salt, cumin, and coriander for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cilantro and lime juice, and stir well. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Heat the oil in a heavy pot or electric fryer to 350 degrees F. Add the tortilla strips in batches and fry until golden and crisp, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Season with the Essence.

Ladle the soup into 4 or 6 serving bowls. Garnish each serving with the diced avocado, the fried tortilla strips, and Chipotle Crema.

Chipotle Crema:

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/8 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients. Process on high speed until smooth. Serve with the soup.

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