Simple Sisters

What to Cook and How to Cook It!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Vegetable Plate

Ever have an idea, follow it through, and then just think, "Damn, I'm good!" Well, last night I hit upon the brillance of the vegetable plate.

Here's my theory:
1. Cook several veggies, and have your self a veggie plate for dinner = Yum + Healthy

2. Be a "Sunday Chef" (we'll do a post on that soon) and cook several veggies, then use them over the next few days as additions to meals = Easy + Yum + Healthy

Last night I made:
Steamed broccoli
Sweet potato fries (with Greek yogurt as a dipping sauce)
Caramelized leeks
Broiled eggplant

You don't even have to make a single one of the things listed above. Maybe you like artichokes! Bell peppers! Cauliflower! Super. Follow your bliss.

In case anything above sounds good to you, though, here are the recipes:

First I made the
Sweet Potato Fries
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
2. Wash & scrub two sweet potatoes.
3. If you hate peel, peel them. (I leave it on.)
4. Slice the sweet potatoes. I do this by slicing them lengthwise into 1/2inch slices. Then I turn one slice flat on the board, and make more 1/2 inch slices, so that they are roughly french fry shaped.
5. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
6. On the cookie sheet, pile the sweet potatoes along with:
- 2 Tbsp oil
- salt and pepper
7. If any of the following things sound good to you, you can add them too:
- 1 tsp garlic
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley (2 tsp dried)
8. Toss the sweet potatoes to coat them in the oil and whatever else you added.
9. Spread them out flat on the cookie sheet.
10. Bake for 15 minutes, stir (flip), bake for 15 more minutes. Done!

Once the fries were in the oven, I made the
Caramelized Leeks
(This would work exactly the same and be just as delicious with caramelized onion)
1. Wash (REALLY THOROUGHLY if you're using leeks) a leek or one medium onion.
2. Chop your leek or onion.
3. Put 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp oil in a pan over medium heat.
4. Add the leek or onion to the pan, and stir it around.
5. Leave it alone, stirring only every 5 or 10 minutes, and the leek or onion will brown and start to smell fabulous.
6. When it's dark golden brown, move the pan off the heat. Done!

Once I'd put the leeks in the pan, I made the
Broiled Eggplant
1. In a medium bowl, combine:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp garlic
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (skip it if you don't have it!)
2. Slice an eggplant (doesn't matter if you slice lenghtwise or crosswise) into 1/2 inch slices
3. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
4. Quickly dip the eggplant (one slice at a time) in the mixture in the bowl, and place on the cookie sheet.
*once your fries are out of the oven, turn on the broiler*
5. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and let the eggplant broil about 2-5 minutes (check it each minute).
6. Once the eggplant slices are becoming brown and sizzling, flip them over and broil for another 2-5 minutes (checking each minute).

Once I had the eggplant in the oven, I made the
Steamed Broccoli
1. Put 1/2" water in a pot.
2. If you have a steamer, drop it in. If you don't, don't worry about it.
3. Bring the water to a boil.
4. Add your broccoli. I like mine in "two bite" pieces, so that's how big I cut it up!
5. Pop the broccoli in the pot and put the lid on.
6. Leave it for 2-3 minutes. When you check it, the broccoli should be bright green! (If you do really big pieces, it might take another minute or two.) Done!

As far as leftovers, any of these things (or a combination of any of them) would be great with a simple chicken breast or fish filet!

Enjoy! And let us know if you have questions!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Do-Re-Mi(repoix)

To quote Maria von Trapp, "Let's start at the very beginning: a very good place to start."

I mentioned to some friends the other day that most French cooking begins with "mirepoix" (meer-uh-pwah) which is simply the French way of saying "onions, carrots, and celery."

This morning I got my regular weekly email from Whole Foods and they mentioned it too! The article is somewhat complicated (so feel free to skip it or read it later).

The basic idea is that using a combination of three simple ingredients can give any dish a good start on basic flavor. And it's not just the French who think so -- lots of other cultures do this. For example, Cajun cuisine uses onions, bell peppers, and celery and calls it "the trinity." Spanish cuisine uses onions, garlic, and herbs (such as oregano or parsley) and calls it "sofregit." (I have no idea how to pronounce that.) And thank you, Wikipedia, for some other examples.

I happen to be allergic to celery, so I omit that. If you have an allergy, or simply don't like a food or it's flavor, then for heaven's sake, don't use it!

I've just been thinking that you might enjoy trying this as something new with your next dish...say....Beans and Rice! :)

Here's how:

1. See the previous post on Beans and Rice.

2. While you're cutting up your onion, cut up carrots and celery too. (You're going for equal parts of each of the three, cut up the same size -- OR just whatever you have, and however you happen to slice/chop them!)

3. When you begin to cook the onion -- in step three -- toss in the carrots and celery.

Voila! You have cooked with mirepoix! And the best part: easy, tasty goodness.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Organic

We would like to take just a moment to talk about organic foods and, we hope, take some of the mystery out of the whole situation.

1. What does "organic" mean?
In the United States, organic food is "certified organic" or it can't be labeled organic.

To get the certification, certain procedures have to be followed. You can read more about US certified organic foods and certification procedures here.

And here's a great article from Wikipedia.

2. What's the difference between organic and non-organic foods?
a. the food -- it's grown/produced to different standards, as discussed above
b. the working conditions -- since no scary pesticides are used, workers are not exposed to scary pesticides
c. the environment -- since no scary pesticides are used, the planet is not exposed to scary pesticides

A few points:
- Organic farms do not release synthetic pesticides or herbicides into the environment. Some pesticides and herbicides have the potential to harm local wildlife.
- Organic farms are better than conventional farms at sustaining diverse ecosystems of plants and insects, as well as animals.
- When calculated either per unit area or per unit of yield, organic farms use less energy and produce less waste (such as packaging materials for chemicals, among other things).

3. Our suggestion: buy one organic thing every time you shop.
a. it shows that you're interested (and will bring prices down! and then we'll all have more choices)
b. try different organic things and see how they are different (maybe frozen organic strawberries this time. what do you think?!)

4. The organics we buy
a. Always:
i. Sugar
ii. Bananas
(These are both because of reasons associated with 3b. We can tell you a lot more about what happens to people who are harvesting non-organic sugar and bananas, but unless you like sad movies, etc. you might just want to take our word for it.)

b. Sometimes: fruit, vegetables, lettuce, cheese, rice, flour, cornmeal, prepared foods (like Annie's and Amy's Kitchen), and, for CurlyHairDay, meat.

Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Basic Beans and Rice, serves 2-3



So, the basic idea is that you need beans, rice, and flavor. You can vary beans and rice in numerous ways. Use your favorite ingredients, and make what you like!



Here's what you need:

beans
rice
tomatoes
onion
garlic
salt
toppers/flavor



Choose one or more ingredients from each category in about the quantity recommended:

1. Beans:

You can choose: One 16 oz can of black, pinto, kidney, or great white northern.
Please do not choose lima beans!

2. Onions and garlic (unless you don't like onions and garlic):

1/2 onion, cut into small pieces (or big pieces, whatever)

1 clove garlic, cut into very small pieces
OR 1 teaspoon minced garlic from a jar
OR 1/4 teaspoon powdered garlic
OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt.

3. Cooked Rice:

You will need 1 or two cups cooked. 1/2 cup dry rice makes about 1 cup of rice

You can choose: white, instant, basmati, brown, boil in the bag, etc.


4. Tomatoes:

Any combo of the following:

2 tomatoes cup up into smallish pieces
1 can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
1/2 jar of salsa

5. Veggies:

You can have a total of about 2 cups of veggies, or none at all. These are generally good choices:

bell pepper - red, green, yellow, orange. Cut into small pieces
fresh spinach - cut up a little
squash or zucchini- cut up into uniform-size pieces


6. Cheese:

A small handful per person should be adequate, but any amount you like is ok.

Choose from monterey jack, motzerella, colby, cheddar, vegan, etc. Buy it shredded, shred it, or cut it up into small pieces.



7. Something Greasy:

The Simple Sisters use only butter, olive oil or canola, but most anything will do. You will need about a tablespoon. Use as much as you want, though, especially if you are trying to gain weight.

8. Totally Optional Toppers:

If you've got them, throw them in at the end.

sour cream
hot sauce
more salsa
pepper
tortilla chips
flour tortillas (corn tortillas MUST be cooked or they are very gross!)


Do this:

1. Read the directions on your rice and start cooking it.

2. Open the beans and rinse them. Put aside. Cut up the onion, garlic and any veggies

3. Put some oil in a pan or pot (we like non-stick, but anything will do), turn the heat on medium-high and toss in the onion and garlic. Let it cook for a minute or so. Try not to burn it.

4. Add the rest of the veggies, the beans, salt and the tomatoes of your choice. Turn the heat down to medium and stir. Keep stirring every few minues until the rice is ready.

5. When the rice is done, dump it in the pot and stir. Taste it. If its not yummy, add: salt, chili powder, salsa, pepper, hotsauce, etc. until you like it.

6. Put in a bowl and top it with whatever you've got.

That's all!

Help! How do I cook?

So, you have one (or more) of the following problems:

1. You don't know how to cook anything that doesn't come with directions, so you either eat frozen dinners, or you make the same thing all the time.

2. When you look at recipes, you think, "I don't have any of these ingredients! If I buy all of this, it will cost a fortune! I might as well go out to eat!" If you buy everything you need , you end up with leftover ingredients that you're not sure what to do with, and you feel like cooking new foods wastes money. To make matters worse, sometimes you don't even like what you made.

3. When you read a recipe, you don't know what some of the ingredients are, or where to get them.


READ: Cooking isn't about reading a recipe and following the directions to the letter.

It's about:
  • knowing what ingredients you like
  • knowing what is available where you live
  • combining the ingredients you buy and the ones you have on hand to make the kind of food that YOU like.
Once you get the hang of this, it's actually MUCH EAISER And CHEAPER to eat what you make. Moreover, you will actually LIKE the food that you make instead of playing Recipe Russian Roulette (ah! I hate apples in my pumpkin soup! Yuck!).

So, we're not going to give you a giant ingredient list to go out and buy all at once. Instead, we'll start with a couple of recipes that are easy, quick, and use inexpensive, easy to find ingredients. If you have some leftovers, no problem! Soon, you'll learn that you can make almost an endless number of substitutions in any recipe, so you can use what you have and love what you cook!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

We heart cooking

Hello, world!

This blog is a collaboration between two sisters, here known as CurlyHairDay and SmallBean.



We both love to cook, and we're not afraid to experiment in the kitchen. (Thanks, Mama!) We hope you love to cook too, but if not, by the time we're done with you, we bet you will!

Let's get started!

You will need:

A kitchen
or any general area containing an oven, stove, fridge, sink/water source and some knives and spoons...campsites work too.

and

A cupboard
or pantry or shelf or cabinet in which you can keep some basic things...the bathtub will not suffice (you will need to bathe eventually), but a box will do just fine.

Here's the plan:
1. Help you stock your pantry with what you'll need to make most dishes
2. Give you some basic recipes to get you started
3. Explain how those recipes are formulas or springboards for you to make all kinds of things
4. Keep it simple and stress-free

So please let us know what you think as we go along. And for heaven's sake, please ask questions!

Happy cooking!
The Sisters