Monday, March 28, 2011

First day in Costa Rica

No pictures folks because I am beat. I have taken pictures and when I post them you will see that I brought a guest to Costa Rica: Flat Stanley. He is my traveling companion this trip because my friend Nany from work asked me to bring him so she can talk to the kids at school about Costa Rica. Yesterday was a whirlwind. In Asheville my flight was delayed and I almost didn't make my connection. I took the chance and figured the worst thing was I would spend the night in Charlotte and come Monday. I barely made it. And I mean barely. I swear I totally made a run for it. I will be honest folks, I totally pushed like 2 old people and a kid out of the way to make the plane. I finally made it and the boarding was still going on although it was almost over. I was hyventilating because I hadn't eaten solid food in a week and almost died. But I got on. The plane ride was fine. Luckily, I got to rest some although I did not eat. When I got to Costa Rica my mom and sister picked me up. We went back to my mom's house and then out to eat at a Japanese restaurant. I was able to have some Udon noodle soup which was very light. I also ate a dumpling. Moderation is my key nowadays. Today, I had to run some errands that had to do with the family business. So my cousin Henry, who is nuts and who I love, came with us and helped out. Then we went to see my dad. We had lunch with him and, again, I had soup. I actually had Olla de Carne, which if you follow my blog you know I make when Tom is out of town. This one was pretty good. I had a little tiny portion and tons of leftovers. When we got back to my mom's house, she was making tamales for me. I have some video of us making some of them so keep an eye out on Sabroso Saturday. Tonight, we are relaxing and maybe seeing my other cousin. Tomorrow is more errands and lunch with a cousin. I might even go get my cards read. Woo woo stuff.

I will try and post a video if I do anything interesting.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Quick Update!

I haven't been around. I have been very sick and am finally feeling better. I was sick enough that I had no idea if I was going to make it to Costa Rica. But I improved and will be heading there for a few days to see my family.

I will try and post while I am there but I am still deathly tired and my main goal is just making it there today. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ~ Me & My sister again

Yeah, I got nothing so I am posting old photos. This is one of my and sis and some random person at my uncle's farm. That was so long ago, I cannot expect to remember.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Volcanos and Crocodiles, oh my!

I am still under the weather and hoping I feel better by the weekend when I am off to Costa Rica. Since I am also a slacker and really have nothing to talk about lately, I decided to post some old Costa Rica pictures this week. I should have videos and more pictures after my Costa Rica trip but, for now, you get old pictures.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spaghetti & Sausage

This really isn't a recipe because who doesn't know how to make spaghetti. If you don't, get out of the kitchen. It's the easiest thing to make. It is definitely my go to meal during the week and also you can have it made in under 30 minutes.

The twist to mine this week is using fresh, okay fresh frozen, tomatoes that I put up last year from my garden. I was rooting around in our freezer and discovered I have 2 bags left so I decided to use one in this recipe. I have to say that there is nothing like fresh tomatoes and even if you freeze them, they hold up pretty damn well.

I always start by thawing them out in a big pot or pan. Because they are frozen they will be really juicy. You have to reduce them down to concentrate the flavor. To the tomatoes I add salt, pepper, and Italian spices. I wish I had fresh herbs but I won't until summer. This time I added some fresh onions and garlic. I also added a pinch of red pepper flakes. I let it simmer for an hour or so to get rid of some of the liquid.

In another pan, I heated a little chili oil and browned some sweet Italian sausage. Yummo! Once that was cooked, I added it to the sauce. I then let that all simmer for an hour or so. I tasted the sauce and added spices to taste. I also added some sugar to balance out the flavor. Lastly, I added a pat of butter to smooth out the sauce. You can also add a little olive oil if needed.

I prepared the spaghetti and then added it to the finished sauce and mixed it well. OMG so delicious. The great thing about spaghetti is that you can make it with any protein. You can add veggies to the sauce. I added mushrooms. You can have it vegetarian style. You can use any type of pasta.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mostly Wordless Wednesday - Me & My Sister

In a little over a week I get to see my sister! Yippee Skippy! I haven't seen her for almost a year because she lives in Costa Rica now. I was looking at some old photos and found this one. I love it. I am the little one. That was probably also the last time my ass was ever in a bikini.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

I have been under the weather but this weekend I ventured out in my jammies to the yard to look around. I saw the first signs of Spring. WOO!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Carolyn's Oxtail Stew Recipe

I know what you are thinking. WTF? Oxtails, are you kidding me Carolyn? I know many people will be immediately turned off by this recipe because of the oxtails. But let me tell you oxtails, correctly cooked, can be the most tender and delicious cut of beef ever.

I usually use oxtails when I make Olla de Carne, a traditional Costa Rican soup. I love them so I decided to see if I could cook them in a different recipe. Of course, I have no recipe. I decided to braise them and then stew them up. I had recently seen someone do this to short ribs so I said what the heck, let's see what happens.

The first thing I did was to heat some flavored oil in my big pot. I recently bought a whole selection of yummy oils and thought this might be a good recipe to use them. Since the oil is already infused with the flavor, it will infuse the meat with flavor as well. I used my Tavern Direct garlic and rosemary oil. If I had fresh rosemary I would have used it but I didn't have any.

Once the oil was screaming hot, I popped in the oxtails to brown. Once browned, I added the mirepoix (celery, carrots and onions). I think I was supposed to do cook the mirepoix first then the oxtails but it still worked out. Next I added the spices. I added salt, pepper, a bay leaf and a little garlic powder.

Once that got mixed in I added some red wine. I also had a little wine for myself but most of it went into the pot. Then I let it cook for a few hours. Once it was ready, I got my handy dandy oil skimmer thingy and poured in the liquid. It separated the oil and I added the sauce that was left back into the pot. Next, I took out the oxtails and got my handy dandy hand mixer and whipped the sauce into a nice creamy gravy! Gotta love the kitchen gadgets.

That is how easy it was to make a really delicious and hearty meal. Of course, you can do this with short ribs or just beef chunks as well. But I love my oxtails. The meat is so good! I decided to serve the stew on mashed potatoes. If I had some polenta, I would have actually served it on that because I think it screamed for some creamy polenta. But mashed potatoes are just as good.

I know that some people would totally be put off by the oxtails but if you ever have a chance, try them if you haven't. It will be worth it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - The Life Of Shawnie Part 2

Shawn never has a care in the world. She eats, poops, sleeps. She rages at Scout and then forgets why she is mad. She sleeps and sleeps some more.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Random Willynillyness Cooking Presents: Surf & Turf

I had no idea what I was going to make for Sabroso Saturday. But while at the grocery store, I saw some beautiful steaks and then some shrimp so I thought okay: Surf and Turf.

Surf and Turf is not that special or difficult to make. But I thought I would share my thoughts on making a perfect steak. I have to admit a few years ago, I couldn't cook a steak to save my life. I could never figure out how to make it the temperature people wanted it.

Tom likes his steaks medium rare. I used to like my steaks well done until I realized that they taste much better a little more rare. When you have your meat well done, it loses a lot of flavor.

My dinner was Steak, Garlic Shrimp and mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes are easy peasy. I make really good mashed potatoes because I am not afraid to use the butter and cream. You have to, no question. If you don't know how to make mashed potatoes, I am sad for you and you should never ever be in the kitchen.

I boil my potatoes and mash them. Of course, before mashing them, you should heat a little milk, cream or half & half with some butter and then add it slowly to reach the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Done. Sometimes I get crazy and add some cheese to the potatoes or cook the potatoes with garlic cloves for added flavor.

The shrimp are easy. Since we live in the boonies, we only get frozen shrimp around here. It's not too bad. I start by heating some olive oil in a pan. I add red pepper flakes. This is so the oil gets infused with the flavor. Once the oil is screaming hot, I added the shrimp and warm them through since I used pre-cooked shrimp. I then added tons of minced garlic, salt, black pepper and a pat of butter. I then take them off the heat so they don't overcook. Done!

I love cooking my steak on the grill outside but it's freaking ass cold so I have to use my George Foreman grill. I love it. I think it does a better job then the grill because it is easier to control the temperature.

I start by taking the steaks out and leaving them at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. I learned on the Food Network from endless chefs that the last thing you want is to place a cold piece of meat on the grill. It will be all WTF? and seize up. If you put it on the grill at room temperature it relaxes and cooks.

After the steaks are at room temperature, then I add a dry rub. I use the English Prime Rib Rub I bought at Penzey's Spices. This stuff is the best spice rub EVER! It is amazing.

I heat the grill. Again make sure the grill is hot before you put the steaks on so you can sear in the flavor. The tricky part is how long to leave them on. I can't tell you. It really depends on the size and thickness of the steak. But what I can tell you is that you need to learn how to feel for the doneness of the meat.

How did I learn? By trial and error. Also, I watched a lot of Food Network shows and picked up tips. It is really hard to cook the perfect steak. You can time it but sometimes that will not work. I learned that the only way to get the perfect steak is by touch. By touch, you say? Yes, by touch.

I once saw on a TV show that you can judge the doneness of the steak when you touch the steak and how it feels. Yes, that sounds really weird but it works. Here is a link that shows how to gauge the doneness of the steak. This method really works.

If you do it enough times, you will never overcook or undercook a steak again. I tell you that I can go work on the grill line of any restaurant and no one would ever know I am just willy-nilly chef. I am that good at telling now. After you grill the steaks and have them to the temperature you want, you take them off the grill and let them rest. This is also something I learned from watching endless hours of cooking shows.

You do this with any piece of meat you cook. The reason is that the meat then has time to rest and the juices get redistributed throughout the meat. If you take it off and cut it up immediately it will seize up and the meat will be tough. Trust me on this.

That's it. that was how I make our Surf & Turf dinner. I have to say that it was delicious. The steak was perfectly cooked and spiced. The shrimp were garlicky and delicious. The potatoes were so creamy and yummy. Dinner was perfect. You can change the Surf to lobster or crab as well. It doesn't have to be shrimp. I usually like making crab legs.

This meal is the best thing ever. It's easy to make and perfect for any occasion.