Lamb Kebabs

I generally associate lamb with gyros – and while they are delicious, they aren’t the most high class addition to a dinner table.  Plus, I don’t have a spit that I can roast and baste an enormous wheel of meat on.  I live in my apartment, and am highly limited by the size of my apartment and my itsy bitsy kitchen.  This is a lamb recipe that’s really really excellent.  If you don’t like lamb (my friend Emily doesn’t eat ‘baby animals’), you can use steak with similar results, but the combination of spices here is really well suited to lamb.

This recipe is really really flavorful, and incredibly easy.  You can grill it for the best results, but I just use a grill pan on my stove.  Before I had a grill pan, I got great results just using a regular frying pan.  I don’t measure the ingredients, I just use my hand.  I think that a palm-ful is essentially a Tablespoon, but I can’t promise, so just use your palm to be sure.  Plus, it’s cooking, not baking, so it’s not so important to have the EXACTLY right amount of each ingredient.

Ingredients:

  • Lamb
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Tumeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Paprika
  • Steak Grill Seasoning
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Olive Oil

Vegetable Skewers:

  • Bell Peppers (any color)
  • Yellow Onions
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Trim 1 lb of lamb, and cube into skewer sized pieces
  2. Soak the wooden skewers in water
  3. In a bowl, put 1/4 C olive oil
  4. Add 1 palmful of cumin and a palmful of coriander (equal amounts so that they offset one another!)
  5. Add a smaller palmful of Tumeric (it will dye your hand a little yellow)
  6. Add 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  7. Add a palm-ful of grill seasoning
  8. Add 1 tsp paprika
  9. Stir together the spice mixture in the oil so that it makes a paste
  10. Add the cubes of meat into the bowl, and toss to coat them with spices.  The oil is necessary because you use it in place of putting any oil on the grill, and it keeps the meat moist, and the flavors locked on.  Be sure to coat every piece well, add a bit of oil if the paste is too thick to spread.
  11. Skewer the cubes of meat, leaving a pinkie-sized space between each piece
  12. Make the grill hot – it should already be hot when you put the meat on
  13. Allow it to cook for about 2-3 minutes on all four sides, rotating it as you cook.  I like it medium-rare, but everyone has their own meat preference.
  14. Eat on Skewers, or take it off skewers and serve over cous cous or with vegetables.

To make the vegetable skewers:

  1. Cut vegetables into uniform pieces, and toss them with olive oil, salt,and pepper
  2. Skewer them, and grill them on all four sides, allowing them to get charred.
  3. YUM!
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Yummy Mac and Cheese

I teach in a middle school in the Bronx.  When we have potlucks at school, the kids all bring their parent’s mac and cheese, and we have a potluck that consists of 5 huge trays of thick, cheesy macaronis, and lots of packaged cookies and potato chips.

I decided to try to make a macaroni and cheese that would impress.  My first macaroni and cheese was rejected by the discerning palates of the 13 year olds in my class, because they didn’t like the ‘extras’ that I put in.  Apparently things like bacon, onions, etc. are actually ‘crap’.

I did much better with this recipe, which is very simple, and, to be honest, much better than my original.

I like to use a fancy shaped pasta that is twirly and swirly and holds onto the cheese very well.  Anything will do really, as long as it’s a short pasta.  This isn’t the healthiest recipe, but it is pretty much universally enjoyed.

Ingredients

  • 1 Box Pasta
  • 4 T Butter
  • 4 T Flour
  • 1.5 – 2C Milk (Skim is fine, obviously the fattier the better, but this is really already not the most healthy thing that you’ll have on your table)
  • 1 package of shredded cheese (sharp cheddar) OR the equivalent in a famcier cheese – I like gruyere, asiago, fontina…
  • Breadcrumbs w/ 1T butter
  • salt, pepper

Directions:

  1. Boil a big pot of water
  2. While water is boiling, melt 4T butter in a saucepan
  3. Use a fork or whisk to combine the melted butter with the flour in the pan.  Keep the heat on and stir until it is entirely smooth.
  4. Slowly add the milk.  If the milk is room temperature when you add it, it will combine more easily.  As you add, stir to make sure the flour mixture isn’t clumping
  5. Keep the heat on medium, and stir occasionally to make sure the flour isn’t clumping.  The sauce will thicken as the moisture evaporates.  Add 2 tsp pepper, and 1 tsp salt
  6. Salt the boiling water and add the box of pasta
  7. Add the cheese to the thickened milk (this is the base for fondue, and in this case, the base for your mac and cheese)
  8. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, tossing until all is coated.
  9. Pour the pasta/sauce into a baking pan (like you would use for brownies or cakes)
  10. Melt the last bit of butter and combine with 1/2 C of seasoned breadcrumbs.
  11. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top of the pasta
  12. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes.  Everything is cooked, it just depends how crispy you like your top.
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Fancy Ramen

Long before Momofuku, and the other trendy Ramen restaurants, my friend Molly and I were tweaking the college favorite to make it feel gourmet.  This variation makes your ordinary Ramen noodles feel a bit like fried rice – and slightly more substantial.

Ingredients

  • Packet of Ramen Noodles
  • Water
  • 1 Egg

Directions

  1. Without opening the packet of Ramen, use your fingers to break apart the noodles, and crush them into smaller pieces
  2. Measure 1 C of water into a frying pan over medium-high heat
  3. Pour the noodles and Ramen seasoning into the water, and let the water boil
  4. Leave the mixture uncovered, until the water is almost all evaporated, and the noodles are soft and flavorful
  5. Crack one egg into the pan, and use a spatula or form to scramble the egg throughout the noodles, so that it looks like the little scrambled pieces that you see in fried rice
  6. Remove from heat as soon as the egg looks cook – you don’t want it to get too dry, and it will continue to cook a bit once you remove it from the heat
  7. Enjoy!

note: I LOVE seasoning and always use the whole seasoning packet.  If there were 2 packets, I would use them.  Molly sometimes used less than a whole packet because she liked it to be less salty.  Cater it to your own tastes.

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Roasted Potatoes

Gavin is half Irish, half Polish, so he comes with some tasty traditional recipes.  Among other things, he loves anything related to potatoes.  The first thing that I ever saw him cook was mashed potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, and he took a great deal of pride in them.  He has promised me that he would put his recipe up here at a later date, but for now I will share the easy way that we make roasted potatoes.  Likely, people all over the world make them in the same way, but it works – and if you don’t do it this way, you should!

I like red potatoes best, but Gavin will eat any potato (except sweet!), and it works with any.

Ingredients:

  • Olive Oil
  • Potatoes
  • Lipton’s Dry French Onion Soup Mix (it comes in a little yellow paper packet – like a big thing of Ramen Noodle seasoning)
  • Salt, Pepper, Garlic
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Scrub potatoes, and cut into small pieces – make sure that all pieces are more or less the same size
  3. Drizzle olive oil onto potatoes to lightly coat them
  4. Toss with the soup mix, salt, and pepper
  5. Smash garlic cloves, and toss into the mixture.
  6. Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil, and spread potatoes on the cookie sheet
  7. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until they are as soft/crispy as you like.
  8. Enjoy!
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The Easiest Banana Bread

This banana bread is sweet and delicious, and unbelievably easy.  I can’t recall where I got the recipe – but I love it.  It forms a great crust, and is almost like a banana cake.  I made it last night for Gavin and myself, and it was delicious warm with butter or ice cream on top.  My friend Maya made a peanut butter sandwich using the bread, and raved about it.  Try it – it’s too easy not to!

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 C Flour
  • 3/4 C Brown Sugar
  • 1 Stick Butter (1/2 C)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 7 bananas (about 2 1/3 C) mashes to a pulp

It is best to use old, extremely ripe bananas.  If you store them in your freezer, they get black and disgusting on the outside, and perfectly mushy on the inside.  If you don’t have any bananas in this state, just buy the ripest ones that you can find, and it’ll be great!

Mix dry ingredients together thoroughly.  Add butter, eggs, and bananas.  I like to throw in chocolate chips, walnuts, or blueberries.  Just use a big handful of any of these, and stir them in at the end.

Don’t over mix!  It will get tough and be too chewy.  You just want everything to be evenly blended.

Grease a loaf pan (I couldn’t find my loaf pan and used a square pan and it turned out great, though it cooked much faster) and pour the batter in.  Smooth it out, and put it into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  I like it slightly undercooked, but don’t take it out of the over before the top has formed a hard, slightly cracked crust.  Eat hot for best results.

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The Easiest Entertaining

I first tasted this when I was at a potluck in college.  My friend Molly taught me to make it, and I find it to be a sure-fire hit to serve to anyone at any time.  You can’t make this unless you are entertaining or planning to share, as consuming it all on your own poses some danger to your health.  I have watched these disappear in moments once brought out at parties, and am confident that you will see the same phenomenon.

Baked Brie

Note:  If you think you don’t like brie, or you don’t like savory mixed with sweet, please believe me that you are wrong.  I have seen many people protest, and many minds changed once their taste buds encountered this magical combination of flavors.  Give it a chance, and you will be glad that you did.

Ingredients:

  • A Wheel of Brie – buy a small wheel, not the least expensive – perhaps the second least expensive.
  • Pie Crust – you can find this in the freezer section of the grocery store (near the eggs).  It should be in a long box, and contain two crusts.
  • Jam – any flavor is fine.  I love fig jam, but apricot, raspberry, etc. are all excellent as well.

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 350
  2. Unroll pie crust, unwrap brie (it will have a weird which coating on it, that’s normal, you can eat it, and you don’t taste it at all once it’s cooked), and open the jam
  3. Coat the top of the brie with a thick layer of jam
  4. Flip the brie jam side down into the middle of the pie crust
  5. Neatly fold the pie crust up to enclose the brie
  6. Flip the brie in the crust so that the seam side is face down on a cookie sheet
  7. Cook until golden brown, gooey, melty, and delicious
  8. Eat by cutting into it and transporting it to your mouth on top of crackers.
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Bok Choy Salad

New Year’s Eve Eve is a holiday that my friends and I created in high school as a remedy for the inevitable anticlimactic nature of New Years Eve.  In order to take some of the pressure and expectation off of the big night, we began to have celebrations a night in advance.  Some years we had parties, at one of our houses, and later at our apartments in the various cities where we attended college.  One year, we had a potluck in Pittsburgh.  Each of us prepared a dish, and one of us created a dance mix.  In the midst of memories of champagne and dancing, I recall this incredible salad, which brought the level of classiness up a couple of notches.  It’s not hard to prepare, though there are several steps, and it’s really quite impressive.

Bok Choy is not commonly used, and it is a more flavorful, crisp, thick version of lettuce.  What makes this salad irresistible is the sweet dressing, which perfectly compliments the tartness of the Bok Choy.  Really, just saying that you made a ‘bok choy’ salad makes people respect you – so give it a try!

BOK CHOY SALAD

BOK CHOY SALAD

1-2 medium heads Bok Choy
1 Bunch Scallions

Wash and cut Box Choy into bite sized pieces and chill. Keep separate in refrigerator.

Wash and cut scallions (greens and white part) into 1/4″ pieces. You may not want to use
a whole bunch – add a little at a time, the taste can be overpowering.

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2 ½ oz. sesame seed toasted (can be done in the toaster)- I sometimes substitute
sunflower seeds and it’s just as good.
2 pkg. Ramen noodles broken up (you can take them out of the soup packages)
1 pkg. sliced almonds

Sautee in a little olive oil with garlic powder and salt. Cool and store, covered, in
refrigerator. Can be stored indefinitely.

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Dressing

2Tbsp. Soy Sauce
½ cup sugar (you can use splenda if you adjust the amount)
¼ cup vinegar (cider or rice)
¾ cup (or less) extra virgin olive oil

Combine and boil no more than 1 minute. Toss three mixtures together just before
serving. The 3 mixtures can be made well ahead of time. Even the greens stay for at
least a week in the refrigerator.

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