Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chili Cheese Fries

Yes, all of this is homemade. Drool.

Chili is the perfect cold weather food and French fries are the perfect American comfort food, so it only makes sense that combining these two things and topping it with a healthy amount of cheese is pretty frickin' delicious. This is a vegetarian recipe but my meat-eating boyfriend will attest that you don't miss the meat. But if you really want meat in it? Brown some ground whatever in the pan after the onions.

Black beans
Kidney beans
Bell pepper
Diced tomatoes
Tomato paste
Vegetable Oil
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes (or chili powder or anything spicy)
Dried basil

One of the best smells your kitchen will ever experience.

Dice the onion and garlic (I seriously love garlic and it's good for you, so I used a whole one) and cook in a thin layer of olive oil on medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, or just until the onion starts to look transparent. Or when your kitchen smells amazing.

Spices make the chili.

Add the can of diced tomatoes, chilies (or a can of tomatoes with chilies to save a step), corn and whatever spices you want to throw in there. Think basil, chili powder, red pepper flakes, that Trader Joe's Smoke Seasoning I mentioned earlier, basil and anything else along those lines. Stir it all up.

The texture part of chili.

Add about a half can of tomato paste (keep in mind that a can of tomato paste is very small - see the ingredients photo) and the bell pepper. Make sure the paste is blended well and taste the mix so far. If the paste taste is too strong add more seasonings.


Now add the beans and cilantro! It should be starting to look like chili. The mixture is supposed to cook on low-medium for an hour, but we got impatient and ate after 30 minutes. 

 The ever versatile potato.

This is a really convenient time to make the French fries. I included a picture, but for a reminder on how to cook them (chop, fry, dry, salt) go here.


Spoon the chili mixture onto a plate of fries, top with cheese and chopped cilantro and eat while the cheese is melting. Homemade chili cheese fries really are so satisfying. And the great thing about making your own chili is that it costs like $5 and there's a ton of it leftover the next day (when the flavors really come together), especially if you spoon it over some rice or corn bread. You can top chili with sour cream, avocado or whatever tickles your fancy.

And now I'm hungry again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pasta with Eggplant and Asparagus

So, this is pretty basic pasta dish but when you pair it with a vodka sauce it's fucking fantastic. Chunky, flavorful, healthy and very filling and the ingredients are so cheap and the dish lasts a couple of fat kids a few meals.

Fusili pasta
Vodka sauce

We go through this stuff.

Olive oil is going to be the tie-in ingredient. Cook the veggies in it and use it to keep the pasta from clumping together. I'm a big fan of this Spanish oil from Trader Joe's but any extra virgin olive oil will be good. Olive oil is classified in terms of virginity: extra virgin is the very first press of oil from the olives and is great for tasting (drizzled over veggies, in salads) while regular olive oil is not the first press and can be used for cooking. I only buy extra virgin, partially because I really like the taste and partially because I don't have room in my kitchen for a bunch of different cooking oils. But I seriously recommend finding one you like the taste of and using it in everything.

Meaty eggplant

Chop your veggies! Cube eggplant into bite sized pieces and cut the asparagus into half inch sized sticks. Season and layer loosely in a pan on medium heat with a thin layer of olive oil. 

 Adds the crunch

I used to never be a big fan of asparagus but recently I've been in love with it. When it's fresh like this it's so tasty.

Cook the eggplant first to let the seasonings (your basic pepper, garlic, basil, whatever else you like) sink in. Wait until the eggplant is just about done before putting in the asparagus. Limp asparagus sucks.

 Big ol' pot of pasta!

Boil water and cook your pasta! I said fusili because I like the spirals, but you could really use any pasta. Fusili will look the prettiest though. Drain the pasta once it's done to your liking and pour a few tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and stir to keep the pasta pieces from sticking together.

Add the vodka sauce to the veggie mix in the pan. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors soak together. This will also finish cooking the asparagus.


Put it all together and top with cheese! Mozzarella, parmesan or whatever you want. I had the idea to add a can of diced tomatoes to the mix but forgot, so you could do that. This is a pretty decent way to get your carbs in, but it's also way healthy.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fish, Fries and Brussels Sprouts

This evening started with the idea to make French fries and we had no idea what else. I mean, you can't very well just eat French fries for dinner (at least not and then post about it in a blog for all to read...). So this is a sort of fish and chips thing. And I had Brussels sprouts that needed cooking.

Olive oil
Vegetable oil
Brussels sprouts
Salt (and other seasonings)

Despite their name, Gold potatoes end up looking kinda green.

I had Gold potatoes on hand but I imagine pretty much any potato will work. Russet is another great potato for frying. Wash, peel and slice your potatoes into French fry shapes. I like them a little thick because it gives them more of a potato taste.


 Pour about an inch or a little more of vegetable oil into a pan on medium heat and let it get hot before adding the potatoes. Stick one in to test the oil: I did this and it crisped dark brown in 30 seconds, so if the oil heat is way off at least only one fry is ruined. Once you've got the right temperature stick a handful of fries in. Flip them at least once so they're cooked throughout. After you've got them cooked to the crispiness you want take them out and lay them on a plate with paper towels to soak up the extra oil and retain the crisp. Sprinkle with sea salt (smoked sea salt is pretty frickin' awesome).

Tilapia! With dried basil, smoked sea salt and rainbow pepper.

Season your fish and put it in a pan with a very thin layer of olive oil. Flip once to cook through. This isn't fried fish like regular fish and chips have, but still tasty.

 Crumbly fish.

I got the microwavable bag of Brussels sprouts from Trader Joe's and they were done in 3 minutes. Sprinkle with seasonings (sea salt, pepper, garlic) and serve it up! 

Fish, fries and sprouts!

For a spur of the moment, what-sounds-good-with-fries night, this turned out really well and tasted great. A few potatoes, a bag of sprouts, and a pound of fish fed us fat kids quite nicely.

My spice cabinet.

How to choose your seasonings: Put the same seasonings you used on the fish and fries on the sprouts and everything will have a cohesive flavor. In fact, this is a great rule for pretty much everything you make: if you're using pepper and garlic in mashed potatoes, add it to steak too. I just discovered smoked sea salt and am very impressed with the taste. Worked great on fries, enhanced the fish and seemed perfect on the sprouts. Except for the paprika, you can see everything is from Trader Joe's, and that's because each of those containers (including the big one on the left) was $2. The tall one is regular sea salt, and there's dried basil, ground garlic, smoked sea salt, rainbow peppercorns, and behind those is dried oregano, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and two spice blends, one called everyday seasonings and the other called South African Smoke flavor. I use all of them regularly and one day I'll have a much more comprehensive set of spices. 

The whole point of spices is to use what you like. I love garlic and put it in everything (sometimes pretty heavily in everything). Because I eat a lot of things that absorb the flavor of what you cook with it (rice, eggs, tofu, etc.), spices play a huge role in my cooking. Rich has this Italian seasoning blend that's super delicious, too, and way better garlic than my ground jar. Experiment with spices and find out what you like best.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Gooey, sweet and amazingly satisfying

In middle and high school one of my best friends and I had this joke that she made fun of me for liking raisins and I made fun of her for not liking raisins. Last Christmas part of my present was a mini box of raisins, just to poke fun at our old joke. Funny thing is I really don't even like raisins anymore. The only time I'd really eat them is in an oatmeal cookie, and cranberries just do the trick a lot better.

And I know this blog is how we should be fat because we eat unhealthy things, and that these recipes are for the most part healthy (Rich and I even argued once that nachos would be perfectly healthy if there weren't chips because it's all vegetable, bean and cheese...), and now we're talking about somewhat healthy cookies. But I'm going to argue that in this case the healthy substitution actually makes the cookies taste better.

This is what two and a half pounds of dried cranberries looks like.

When we went to the store for ingredients I loaded up on the cranberries and Rich made fun of me. But we devour them between these cookies, my morning oatmeal and Rich helping himself while cooking. I admit going through the checkout line with almost six dollars worth of cranberries was a little much, but I do not regret having enough for two batches of cookies, weeks of breakfast and letting Rich dig in without worrying about running out.

3 cups Oatmeal
1 cup Cranberries (or, you know, a pound)
1/2 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Brown sugar
1/2 cup Apple sauce (or butter, if you want a fat cookie)
1 1/2 cups Flour
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla

 I throw in a little extra of the brown sugar instead of the full white sugar amount.

Mix the apple sauce and sugars (real recipes call for a mixer, but I'm too lazy to clean one so I use a spoon). I get unsweetened apple sauce, but even with that and the cranberries you really don't have to put in the whole amount of sugar. In fact, getting sweetened apple sauce might just be too much.


Apple sauce is used as a direct butter replacement. Whatever the recipe calls for in butter, use apple sauce instead and you'll probably never know the difference. I use apple sauce in these and in banana cake and it makes them moister and more flavorful and not at all apple sauce-y. I do this all the time and no one has ever been able to tell and you practically eliminate the fat.

 Super awesome picture!

Egg drop! Eggs and vanilla go in together. Again, I always at least double the vanilla cause I love it. Spring for real vanilla. The good stuff is always worth it.

 This is only half the flour.

Next is the rest of the dry stuff: flour, baking soda, and a pinch of salt. If you're using a mixer you might want to do the flour in batches so as not to become clouded in white dust... mixers tend to spread this stuff around like mad, even on low settings. (Or maybe I'm just not that good with a mixer.)

 Nice 'n thick

Mix everything together really well until there are no lumps or uneven areas. Make sure the baking soda and salt were blended through the whole thing.

 Half and half

Add your oatmeal and cranberries!

Stir it up. 

Every now and then I'll get a cranberryless cookie and that's sad, so make sure you stir real well. This is also why we add extra cranberries: makes it impossible to not get a cranberry.

 Almost there...

This is what your dough should look like. Loaded with those juicy little suckers. Grab a couple of spoons and make little cookies!

Make evenly sized cookies

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes. The real recipe says 8-10 minutes but the apple sauce makes them take a little longer to cook. However, they do get this beautiful golden almost-crisp on the outside and stay super moist inside.

This recipe makes 3 cookie sheets of medium cookies.

I use these guys as a pre-run fuel because the sugar and cranberries will give me that immediate burst of energy I need while the oats keep me going for a surprisingly long time. Two little cookies is all it takes to hold me over, and they aren't so much that I feel them in my stomach. And sometimes they're a post-run hold over when my real meal is delayed. That (and Rich) is why 3 dozen cookies don't last a week. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Beer and Cookies

Screw milk. We drink beer.

This pairing is an ever so delicious stack of Trader Joe's chocolate chip cookies and Hangar 24 chocolate porter. It works because the porter isn't overwhelmingly chocolatey. And doesn't it look pretty?

Because making homemade chocolate chip cookies is quite honestly too time consuming for me (and expensive, because I like to use Ghirardelli chocolate chips), and because I generally don't eat enough cookies in one sitting to make it worth it, the refrigerated packages of dough that Trader Joe's sells are amazing. They're perfectly mixed: gooey, chocolatey and with the same exact ingredients you use to make cookies yourself. Plus, if I want cookies immediately I only have to wait 10 minutes.

Oh, and I <3 porters.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Green Curry with Tofu

It took forever, it seems, but I finally got the hang of cooking tofu. The first few times I experimented with it the tofu came out soggy and completely unlike the deliciousness that Thai restaurants always serve up. But because it's a dollar a package and a good source of healthy protein I was determined to make it work.

And work it did. Turns out the key, at least for curry, is frying the tofu, which, admittedly, doesn't do much for its health benefits. But this blog is "we should be fat," not "we should be healthy role models."

Coconut milk (1 can)
Curry paste
Chicken or vegetable stock
Bamboo shoots
Bell pepper
Peas (or green beans)
Olive oil

Cheapest form of protein out there.

Cube and dry the tofu. Use a clean cloth or paper towl to soak up the extra juice that the tofu is packaged in. Put the tofu in a large pan on medium-high heat with just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and sprinkle the tops of the pieces with whatever seasonings you like. Here, we used a mix from Trader Joe's called Everyday Seasoning and sesame seeds. While that's cooking, make your pot of rice. Both brown rice and white rice work wonderfully, and I've just discovered this delicious short grain white rice that I'm going to use for sushi (stay tuned for that for sure) because it's nice and sticky, so that's what we went with this time.

Golden soy squares!

Once the tofu has a nice layer of golden brown on the bottom, flip each piece to let the other side fry. The seasonings you put on the top will now get seared into the tofu for extra flavor. Just the edges are going to be browned, leaving the middle parts white so it's still soft. Don't burn your tofu.

The tofu is soaking in the curry flavors.

After both sides have a nice crispy layer, lower the heat to medium and pour in the can of coconut milk, stock, and a generous tablespoon of curry paste. I also throw in some dried basil and red pepper flakes for an extra kick because the curry paste is pretty mild. And the "stock" was just a chicken stock cube tossed into the hot pan of coconut milk. I didn't bother with making it into actual stock, but that just ups the flavor. And my laziness is rewarded.

Curry really complements green bell peppers. The other colors just aren't quite as good.

Chop your vegetables. Cut the bell pepper into bite sized bits and chop up your bamboo shoots and green beans or whatever else you're using. Peas work best, but the frozen bags at Sprouts were twice as expensive for some reason, so we used green beans. Frozen veggies work really well in things like curry and sauce, but nothing beats fresh bell pepper. And frozen bell peppers always end up soggy.

Almost ready!

Put the veggies into the pan after everything else has cooked about 10 minutes or so. Keep it at medium or low heat and put in frozen veggies before the fresh ones. I prefer my bell pepper to be a little on the firm side so I only cook them about 5 minutes. This is also the point you add fresh basil if you have it. Which we didn't.

You can see the pepper and basil flakes!

Scoop the mix onto rice and be sure to get a good amount of the sauce. This dish is the most complicated to make so far but it's worth it. Took me three tries to get it right. Because we're fat kids, it fed us both generously for dinner and there was enough left for normal person seconds. I had my leftovers for lunch the next day and holy crap was it good. Letting it sit overnight allowed the curry to soak into everything for maximum flavor. Also, this dish cost less than $5 to make and there's still leftover rice and frozen veggies for next time.