Cooking from "Scratch"

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sorry for the long hiatus folks. I always seem to take those, don't I? Ugh I hate myself for it. Just wanted to post a quick little blurb here on a new food experience I decided to try out for lack of variety in my kitchen these past few busy months of summer. I actually didn't take a ton of photos since I was pressed for time (which is also why I decided to try this). This week I ordered a home-delivered dinner kit from one of those companies you may or may not have already read about. Because, well, I was pressed for time! Between work, marathon training, rowing, etc., the manfriend and I have been eating weeknight dinners around 9pm on average. We always try to prepare healthy, simple and quick meals due to this terrible habit. But our meals started looking more or less the same -- salad mix with an array of summer veggies, sometimes a poached egg or smoked salmon thrown on top. Can't complain -- wholesome and quick, but this foodie needs variety even on the weeknights! So after doing a quick internet search during my lunch break, I decided to go with ScratchDC because it wasn't a national company like Blue Apron or Plated (nothing against them though -- I've heard good things about those two as well).

My box arrived early at my office in DC, which I approved. I would've been rullll mad had it been late, forcing me to stay past closing time! And it came in a super cute package all tied with strings! Because it's the company's birthday week, I also got a slotted spoon/normal spoon in one tool as a freebie! Score! Gotta love the free. Most of the packaging itself was also recyclable, which I give two green thumbs for that. 

And because I was in such a rush to cook something quickly because of course, it was already 8:30pm, I forgot to snap pics of the cooking process and all the ingredients coming together. But here is the end product after a mere 30 minutes of cooking. It was actually pretty straightforward thanks to a simple little recipe card that I decided to save for later. 
Verdict? I'd do it again in a heartbeat if I had $33 bucks to spare on nice weeknight meals every Monday through Thursday! I hope this doesn't make me less of a chef, but it was SO convenient having all the ingredients prepped and pre-measured for you (saving time and food waste). The food was fresh, sourced responsibly from farms and easy to prepare. 

The amount of food in one "bundle" was quite enough to serve dinner to two individuals. We each got two hearty, marinated porkloins, a half of a roasted peach filled with creamy goat cheese, half a loaf of foccacia/flatbread, and salad greens with plenty of delicious prosciutto. If you have the money and don't have the time, go for it! It's a great way to mix up your weeknight dinner plans and still feel like you actually cooked rather than throw together whatever's lying around in your fridge.

Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches

Monday, June 23, 2014

This past weekend I thought what better way to ring in the summer solstice than to make my own homemade soft shell crab sandwiches with friends? The truth is, there is no better way. I had never made them myself before and to be honest, I wasn't looking forward to slicing off their faces since you have to buy them fresh. Luckily, the guy at the sweet, little River Falls Market in Potomac cleaned them for me although I felt kind of sheepish having him do it. Pretty sure the young boy they had working behind the counter could've killed them without batting an eye. Next time though! We decided to buy two crabs per person since they were "only" $9.99 each. We were hungry!

So, before you dredge the cleaned crabs in flour, please remember to pat them dry. Rookie mistake. While they were pan frying in hot canola oil, the whole thing popped loudly and angrily, and a little leg got blown off! I wish I had caught that sweet action shot of hot flying oil and crab legs. 

I wasn't quite sure what I was doing and I had only read one recipe on how to cook 'em. After about 4 minutes or so on one side, I'd flip them. Once the shells have turned red, they should be good to go. 


After pan frying each crab, place them on some paper towel to drip off. At this point, I laid a pat of butter on each crab and doused them all generously with freshly squeezed lemon juice and of course, and this is key, Old Bay.

You'll also want to gather up your fixin's. I layered my sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and pepperjack cheese to keep things simple. I also experimented with both a cool wasabi mayo I got at the store and my friend's homemade Sriracha mayo. The possibilities are endless!

Friends, you are doing yourselves all a disservice by not having these at home, especially in early summer when softies are at their peak for us wallet-conscious buyers (hard shell crabs are still quite pricey right now and are best picked at the end of summer anyway when they're nice and fat). But seriously, check out those monstrous sandwiches. Two are more than enough for one hungry gal like yours truly. They were to die for! Crispy and crunchy when you first bite into them, then soft and meaty after. So delicious. You will win the hearts of all your friends guaranteed. 

What are you waiting for? Go get these suckers right now!

Maine Avenue Fish Market

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

This past weekend I explored the Maine Avenue Fish Market on the waterfront in downtown Washington, DC. It was my first official Bookalokal event, a brilliant startup that focuses on connecting people through local dining experiences. I heard about the fish market through some friends who had been going there to pick up fresh seafood on the weekends. There wasn't much to be found on the Internet about the market when I tried researching it before my outing. To my surprise, it is the oldest continuously operating fish market in the U.S. (since 1805!). I really wonder what it was like back in the old days. It would be neat if I could dig up some old black and white photos or newspaper clippings on the early days of this market. I kind of liked the fact that there isn't a ton of marketing surrounding this place, which I believe remains one of DC's few "hidden gems". I asked around and hardly any of my friends, almost all of which are local or native to the area, had heard of this place.

As I had suspected, the market was bustling by the time I arrived (though not nearly as crowded as a weekend morning at Eastern Market thank god). I had read and been told by the vendors that weekends were prime for the best selections. Most of the shoppers looked like they knew what they were doing; the market definitely draws its fair share of regulars in addition to the eager newbies such as myself.

As we perused the various stalls and icy crates, we were handed free steamed Maryland blue crabs to munch on as we walked. I think it had something to do with being of the fairer sex?

The market is small (it is basically everything you see in that first top picture), but the selection of seafood was impressive for its size. They had everything from blue crabs and snow crabs to oysters, swordfish, clams, octopus, shark, catfish, flounder and crawdaddies. The only true drawback I saw about this place is that much of the seafood was not in fact local. Some of the items traveled from as far away as Indonesia to get to DC. 

No seafood marketplace in this area is complete though without the local delicacies of Maryland blue crab and Chesapeake Bay oysters, of which the market had plenty. When I return the next time, I will be sure to buy a bushel of crabs to devour. Because eating just that one I got for free was just the most dreadful tease.

At the end of the tour, I ordered a crab cake sandwich. Though smaller than I had expected, it was perfectly moist and meat-filled. I detest when the crab cake depends on breading to make up the majority of its bulk. All it was missing was some Old Bay, either in the classic spice form or in Flying Dog beer form!

Chipotle Beef Burritos

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

At the beginning of 2014, I was doing so well with my blogging! I made it one of my new year's resolutions so naturally this has fallen off the wagon a bit. So sorry! Anyway, this post is dedicated to a rather simple yet oh so delicious crockpot recipe since I haven't broken that thing out in awhile. It makes the perfect dinner for a lazy summer Sunday.

  1. Microwave 1 large minced onion, 1/3 c. chili powder, 3 tbsp. minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, 6 minced garlic cloves, 1 tbsp. tomato paste, 1 tbsp. cumin and 3 tbsp. of green chiles (which I subbed for jalapeno pepper -- Trader Joe's didn't have any!) until the mixture is softened for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir a can of tomato sauce, 2 tsp. brown sugar and 1/2 tsp. of liquid smoke into the slow cooker. Season a 3 lb. boneless beef chuck roast liberally with salt and pepper and coat it nicely with the mixture you microwaved. Again, the store didn't have this particular cut so I used tri-tip instead which worked perfectly.
  3. Nestle the beef into the crock and cook on low 9-11 hours or high 5-7 hours.
Super simple. Looky!

Once it's all done, you get this. Carefully pull out the beef, tent it with foil and let it cool for about 5 minutes if you have the patience. Then, take two forks and slowly pull the meat apart.

Glorious! Toss the shredded beef with more sauce from the crockpot to lock in flavor and moisture. I was an idiot and thought I'd try to make a few "healthy" choices with this recipe and got whole wheat wraps. Never again! Just get plain ole flour tortilla wraps. These things fell apart on me and broke when I tried to make a burrito!

I ended up just demolishing the whole burrito contraption and eating the thing with a fork and knife. I added fresh cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, black beans and a yummy store-bought (lazy girl style) corn salsa to the beef to bring it all together in burrito heaven. Two burritos are more than enough for one stomach though my soul craved more. 

Grills Gone Wild

Monday, March 17, 2014

I don't know how I'm only just finding out about this now, but apparently local favorite Rocklands BBQ serves up unconventional meat specials once a year in an event aptly dubbed "Grills Gone Wild." Maybe it's only because I'm just now tuning into national and local food news. I'm so happy I got my head out of the hole! I would've continued to miss out on smorgasbords like the one below.

For starters, I had the muskrat brunswick stew, perfect for a chilly evening. Such a comforting stew and the textures and ingredients very much reminded me of a Maryland crab type soup. The muskrat had a mild flavor, not real "gamey", but I'm still not sure what that really means. It didn't have a "dirty" taste like I imagined a muskrat would. This one is highly recommended if you're looking for a hearty, filling stew with a different meat other than your average pork or chicken!

Next up, grilled marinated gizzards, livers 'n hearts! I couldn't quite tell you which organ was which. But if I had to guess,I most definitely enjoyed chewing on the fatty, juicy gizzard and munching on the hearts. I think it was the livers that did not appease me. They had a slightly off-putting creamy texture that I didn't think meat should have. But it was worth trying! I think all chicken nuggets should be made with the hearts! One of the best organs out there (if I have my organs right).

Isn't this just delightlful? Looky, cornbread!

Diving into aquatic meats, I also got to try the blackened blue catfish. I haven't had catfish in the longest time. I remember my dad once catching a bunch of catfish and bringing them home to cook up for dinner when I was a little girl. Catfish is not for the folks that prefer their fish mild (like tilapia or cod). It has a distinct fishy flavor to it that some may not go for, but I loved how much it tasted like its environment! If you want to go for something other than you're cornfed salmon or white fish, try this sucker out.
My favorite dish of the night had to be the wild beaver sausage sandwich with balsamic onions. What a filling, hearty "hot dog" if I ever did say so. This is probably the best dish for the less adventurous Grills Gone Wild diner. It tasted like a cross between a breakfast sausage and some sort of German brat. Super juicy and not tough or gamey. Can I have these for breakfast everyday? 

I'm coming back next year for sure! I can't wait to see what they've caught and cooked up next! Squirrel? Pigeon? Who knows!

Kale and Butternut Squash Salad

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Apologies to the lapse in blog posts last week, folks. Battled a little cold no thanks to the weather changes.

Contrary to many of the meals I post on this blog, I do try to eat healthy throughout the work week. As I've come to learn more and more about the U.S. food system through a very informative, six-week online class hosted by Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, I've attempted to adopt a more "flexitarian" diet. In other words, I am more mindful and conscious of my food choices. Where they come from, how sustainably, humanely and locally were they produced, what it can do to provide nutritional value to my body, etc. I am making strides to limit the amount of meat I consume to just the weekends or special occasions out at restaurants. I strive to keep an abundance of seasonal and colorful fruits and vegetables on my plate, whether I get them organically or not, from the perimeters of my closest Trader Joe's or the stands at my local farmers market.

The salad I created on this typical forgettable weeknight was fairly delectable and pretty simple. I used organic kale from TJ's and cage-free eggs, butternut squash and feta cheese from the farmers market. Pan roast the kale and cut-up squash til the color on both veggies darkens a little. Such beautiful colors, aren't they? Then throw some sunny side up eggs onto the mixed bed of kale and butternut squash. I added in the feta cheese, red pepper flakes and some black pepper. This actually chronicles the first time I've ever cooked butternut squash. I have to admit, I was a bit intimidated by the large, heavy and funny-looking squash. But I love its mild, dewy flavor so much so I thought what better time to start now before it's out of season.

Enjoy this fairly healthy, semi-vegetarian winter salad, friends!

Free fried oysters? I'll take 'em!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Check out this delicious oyster appetizer from Woodmont Grill I won courtesy of the many great Maryland Seafood facebook contests! I highly encourage you all to Like their page on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter so you can receive updates on the many great initiatives they are coordinating to help bring local sustainable seafood to your mouths! Look how big these fellas are! Very well-done, Woodmont Grill! The service was also impeccable!

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