Monday, June 20, 2011

Salad For Dinner????

Growing up, I ate a lot of TV Dinners.  They gave me this weird obsession of having to have a big ol' piece of meat on my plate, with two large helpings of sides and a dessert.  A salad for dinner was unheard of in my house until just a few years ago. Once I started regularly cooking for myself, my dinners would consist of HUGE hunks of meat, usually covered in gravy or a sauce, baked, mashed or roasted potatos and some kind of veggie out of a can...usually corn or green beans, smothered in butter.  I can't believe I ever ate this way and didn't weigh 200 pounds.  It's not easy to eat healthy if you don't know how to cook.  Which is why I'm here trying to encourage you to get in your kitchen and try it.  It's really not that hard.  It's actually fun and you'll feel such a sense of accomplishment when you watch someone close their eyes and moan after a bite of your food...believe me!!  It's an awesome feeling! 

Yesterday I was craving spinach salad for dinner.  I know, I know, *GASP*, a salad for dinner??  But this really is a hearty salad.  You won't feel like you didn't eat enough food.  You are getting 2 pieces of bacon and 2 eggs, so calm down.  Take a deep breath and eat this salad for dinner.  You will be satisfied, I promise.

Here's What You Need:
<*This recipe is for 1 large salad - I never said I was totally reformed.>
2 eggs, hard boiled
2 handfuls (I know...I'm very technical) of spinach, washed and dried
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 handful of white button mushrooms, dirt removed with a damp cloth or towel (Never rinse your shrooms).
2 slices of bacon
1 tbsp of Dijon
1 tbsp of Red Wine Vinegar
Bacon Grease (shut'll be's not that much)
1 tsp honey
Salt & Pepper

Here's What You Do:
Hard boil your eggs.  To do this, put your eggs in a pot and cover with water.  Place the pot on high heat.  Bring water to a boil.  Boil for ten minutes.  After 10 minutes, turn off the water, but allow the eggs to sit in the hot water for 5 more minutes.  Take the eggs out and rinse with cold water.  At this point, I put my eggs in the freezer, because I like my eggs cold on my spinach salad.  Or you can put some ice over them in the pot.

Next, fry up your bacon in a skillet over medium heat, turning until crisped to your liking.  I like mine really crispy.  Once your bacon is cooked, set aside on paper towels to soak up the grease, then crumble bacon.  Pour the bacon grease from the skillet into a cup and set aside. (You should get about 2 tablespoons).

Add spinach, mushrooms, and shallots (you can use red onion, but I kinda prefer the sweetness of a shallot) into a large bowl and toss so everyone gets distributed.

For the dressing:  Add bacon grease to a skillet.  Add in honey, Dijon and red wine vinegar, whisking until everything is incorporated.  Add your dressing to your bowl of spinach, shallot and shrooms and toss so that everyone gets coated with that heavenly smokey, tangy, yet sweet, dressing (my salad was NOT dripping with dressing.  Everything was just slightly coated for flavor.)  Salt and pepper the salad.  Peel your eggs and slice them.  Top your salad with crumbled bacon and eggs.

By no means am I trying to say I'm a healthy cook.  Read past entries and you will see, I love me some hearty, heavy meals.  But I do prefer fresh food, changed from its original form only ever-so-slightly.  I really do like to taste what I'm eating and I really do prefer my food to be only lightly lemoned, salted, olive-oiled, etc.  I'd eat Mediterranean food every day of my life.  I'd rather eat a piece of fish with fresh herbs and roasted veggies over chicken fried steak any day. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

All Hopped up on Popcorn

Hello.  My name is Jessica Halliday...and I am addicted to popcorn.  I mean really addicted.  I make it just about every night around 8ish.  It's healthy.  It's easy.  It's cheap.  You can do so many things to it, add so many flavors, it's the perfect canvas for anything in your spice rack.  Cayenne, celery salt, cinnamon sugar, dried herbs, the list is endless.  But I, being the simple girl that I am, just like salt.  Not a ton of salt.  Just a little pinch.  And there's something calming about picking kernels out of your teeth for the next few hours after eating popcorn.

Here's how easy it is....this makes the perfect serving for 1 bowl of popcorn:
Get out a pot.  I use stainless steel, but nonstick should work too, dunno, I never tried it, but I assume it will.  Add in a tablespoon of vegetable oil and turn your burner to high.  Take a bag of popcorn (which is like $1 at the store, don't you dare buy that boxed's loaded with a bunch of stuff you don't need - trust me), grab a handful of kernels.  Drop your handful of kernels into the pot with the oil.  Keep your burner on high.  Put a lid on it and wait.  Usually takes about 2 minutes before the kernels start to pop. 

At this point, shake your pan a little bit, just to get everyone evenly heated up.  Now you're going to have a popping party.  It's gonna sound like the grand finale of a firework show in your kitchen for a few seconds.  Once you hear space between the pops, keep your eye on it or those suckers will burn like hell.  When the popping dies down, turn the heat off, tilt the lid so that some steam escapes, but don't take the lid off just yet.  There's always a sneaker popper that likes to explode all over your kitchen when you get all impatient like myself.  After about 30 seconds, when you are SURE no more kernels are gonna blow, add in your pinch of salt or seasoning of whatever kind (Parmesan cheese is amazing too).  Give it one last shake with the lid on to distribute your seasoning of choice. 

A couple of side notes: 1.) I personally like to underpop my corn a little bit because I love those kernels that are JUST about to pop, but have just cracked a little bit.  Those are my favorites.  I like gambling on whether or not I'm going to break a tooth.  I live life on the edge!  2.) I've never made this on an electric stove, so I have no idea if you will burn your house down if you try.  

Add your popped corn to a bowl for a delicious snack you can enjoy while yelling at your favorite sports team, watching a cheesy, make-you-sob-like-a-baby movie, stupid reality show, or whatever you are doing at the time.  But beware of lurkers, because one handful only makes one bowl and one bowl of popcorn can go QUICK!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Killa Vanilla

It's a cool 102 degrees in Memphis today.  I kid, I kid.  It's one of those heats where showering is just plain pointless, because you sweat the second you get out.  Memphis heat is unlike any heat I've ever known.  It's wet heat.  It causes swamp ass (for you that don't understand this's when your butt crack gets so sweaty it feels like you've been trekking through the Bayou for a week....appetizing eh?).  Wearing pants in this weather is stupid.  Good luck pulling your pants back up after a bathroom break.  It's hot.  And hot begs for ice cream.  And I've been dying to work with vanilla beans, so here we are!  Vanilla Ice Cream.

Here's What You Need: 
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 pint of heavy cream (did I mention that this was not an ass friendly recipe?)
1 whole vanilla bean, split in half (don't cut all the way through), seeds scraped
1 tablespoon of agave nectar (optional)
1 tablespoon of good vanilla extract.  Not that $2 crap.  I got mine in Mexico.

Here's What You Do:
Combine milk, sugar, cream and vanilla seeds in a saucepan with a whisk.  Once you scrape the vanilla bean of the seeds, just go ahead and throw the entire bean into the mixture too...this adds more flavor!  Add agave and vanilla extract.  Whisk over medium heat until the mixture is totally combined.  You don't want any sugar granules in your ice cream.  Once everything is combined and the mixture feels creamy when rubbed between your fingers (that's right, play with your food) strain it into a bowl and place mixture into the refrigerator for at least an hour.  I left mine overnight.  When you're ready to make ice cream, just re-mix the contents in the bowl, add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions for your ice cream maker.  Mine is easy.  Hope yours is too.

 Look at all those yummy seeds!  

I left out the eggs in my recipe because something about adding 1/2 cup of sugar, a pint of heavy cream and 8 eggs freaked me out.  Plus then you have to cook it to a certain temperature and I just didn't have time.  But this ice cream is very creamy, VERY vanilla-y and JUST sweet enough (you know I'm not much for sweets). And you can bite down on the little vanilla seeds like you can with Breyer's Ice Cream. mmmmm! 

Enjoy!  And stay cool!   

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

How to Roast Chicken and Not Be an Idiot

I've had an uncontrollable urge to try beer can chicken for quite some time now.  I just like the idea of cracking a can of beer, taking a few gulps, plopping a bird ass-down on to said can of beer and grilling her up while the beer steams her from the inside out.  Sounds exciting.  Adventurous.  I've never done it.  And I want to.  But I live in Memphis, TN.  It's hotter than hell here (100 degrees the day I made this meal, to be exact).  And the thought of spending most of my day outside, babysitting a bird on a grill over indirect heat makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a spoon.  So what did I do instead?  I turned my oven on to 425, cranked my air on to a cool 65 degrees, turned every fan in the house on and I roasted myself a chicken in June in Memphis.  I wanted to give all you loving readers something to do while you're all pretending to be working hard at the office, since I will be, once again, slacking on my blog this week!

I went with the lovely Ina Garten's recipe with a few tweaks, because her husband loves chicken.  So if she can't roast a good chicken for the lovely Jeffrey, who the hell can??  Here's the recipe.  And here are the tweaks I made:

I only stuffed my bird with 1/2 a lemon and 1 whole bulb of garlic cut in half, because that's all I could fit inside my bird.  I also added only 1 1/2 lemons to the roasting pan and added in 1 whole onion, peeled and separated.  Additionally, I loosely topped my chicken with aluminum foil because all that bacon on top starts to spatter and there's no freakin' way I'm cleaning my oven tonight, or ever for that matter, if I can help it.  After the one hour is up and you remove the bacon, I also removed the aluminum foil so the chicken would brown up.  And I didn't use the wine in the gravy...I just doubled the amount of stock.  Simply because I'll be playing with alcohol all week, I am avoiding it until then. 

I am the bar manager/bartender of a bad ass music venue in town, Minglewood Hall.  I love my job.  I get paid to see live music, one of my favorite things to do in the world.  I clean up after people all night.  I deal with drunken idiots for 5, sometimes more, straight hours a night.  I have to explain to people that I am not the one who has been drinking all night long.  You, sir, are the one who just ordered a vodka and Grey Goose.  You, ma'am, are the dumbass that just asked me for an umbrella sour.  You do realize you are drinking Amaretto, right?  AM-A-RET-TO.  Not Um-ba-rell-a.  At least learn what you're drinking if you're going to let it make you act more stupid than you already are.  Yes, I promise I poured you the correct amount of liquor.  That's my job.  If you want more, you pay for more.  If you act like a jerk, you will get less.  I'm not going to risk my job for a $7 drink, you asshole.  I don't care if you say you're going to tip me "good".  Usually that means you aren't or you are going to give me a dollar.  A dollar isn't good.  Don't expect me to go out of my way for you.  Try to come up to the bar slurring and you get cut off.  Try to argue that you're not too drunk, and you get kicked out.  Simple rules people.  Simple.

I have just provided many simple recipes for you in this blog.  Recipes for great food and recipes for not acting like an idiot.  Please use them.  You will not be disappointed.   

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Quick Fix

This pic is from  Come on...I gave up my Natty Light days LONG, LONG ago!

I've been crazy busy since vacation, so the blog is suffering, I know.  I haven't had time to cook anything worth writing about.  But I wanted to share with you what I DO eat when I am crazy busy and have no time to cook.  And let me warn you.  It's a bunch of crap.  But it's stuff I love and it gets me through the night.

Ramen Noodles - At $0.39 cents a package, I used to live on these things in college.  And they take 5 minutes to make.  My dad bought me like a 100-pack my first year at Marshall University.  I did NOT gain the Freshman 15.  In fact, I lost about 25 pounds and I wore a size 0 back in those days.  There are an assortment of flavors: chicken, pork, beef, shrimp.  Chicken is what my dad bought me in college.  Chicken is the one I can never eat again.  Something about 100 straight days of Ramen, pretty much ruined me of chicken Ramen forever.  Go figure.  Beef Ramen is my favorite.  And do you know how many things you can do with Ramen noodles??  It's like a craze...making Ramen into delicious dishes.  Never underestimate the power of Ramen.

Canned tuna - I used to not care about what type of canned tuna I bought, until I discovered Bumblebee tuna.  It doesn't look like canned throw up.  It looks like tuna.  Now I will never buy any other type of canned tuna.  Solid White Albacore in water.  I used to live off it.  But I used to get really pissed if I cracked open a can of tuna and discovered that it was immersed in oil.  These days I'm totally addicted to the Bumblebee "Tonno in Olive Oil", which is Yellowfin tuna in olive oil.  It is delish.  I can eat it straight with nothing else.  But in a quick rush out the door, I usually add a little mayo and maybe some capers and top Triscuits with it.  It's delicious.  It would make a mean tuna casserole too!   

Pierogies - Mrs. T's.  Potato and cheese filled.  In your freezer section.  Saute them in a little butter and olive oil.  Salt and Pepper those babies.  Add more cheese if you like.  Dip 'em in sour cream.  They are pockets full of love!

Peanut butter crackers - They are filling and will keep you going for a good 4 hours.  But have a back up package after that.

Special K Protein Meal Bar - These are yummy and fill any chocolate craving you are having.  I like the double chocolate ones.

So there you have it.  What I grab when I'm in a mad rush and I can't cook anything.  This is what I've lived off of last week.  It may also be why after every day I work, I lose 1 pound.