Whenever someone asks, “What’s a healthy recipe that’s easy and I can snack on?” I have a stock reply.

Hummus. (See just the recipe here).

It’s easy, it’s healthy, it’s delicious and it can go with vegetables, bread, with other sauces, or be served as a spread.

So, what is hummus and why should you make it at home?

Hummus is a mix of cooked and crushed chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, with tahini, also known as sesame seed paste.

There are some other ingredients: lemon juice and salt, as well as a host of optional ingredients including garlic, peppers, artichoke hearts and other seasonings.

Mainly though, it’s just cooked chickpeas and tahini, blended together.

Things can get a little bit more complicated if you’re willing to take the extra step (frugal and healthy) of cooking the chickpeas yourself.

Even then, hummus is a super simple recipe.

It’s also cheap.

Adding the chickpeas to the blender.

Normally, stores sell 8-16 ounces of hummus for $3 to $8.

You need eight ounces of tahini for this recipe which sells for $3. The pound of dried chickpeas is another dollar.

It makes a full 72-ounce blenderfull, which is a decent return on investment.

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Find the stand-alone recipe here.

Sometimes, great things come from the lowly grill at your local gas station.

That is the case with the corned beef hash burrito, originally hailing from the Triple S gas station in Española.

Uniquely New Mexican and a delicious fusion, there is nothing quite like it.

I was first introduced to this fusion by a co-worker who announced to the newsroom that he was going to get one at the gas station.

Soon, I went to discover this invention myself. I can vouch: it’s amazing.

Here in New Mexico, you will always be asked if you want red, green, or nothing. This refers to green chile and red chile. If you want both, it’s called Christmas.

This version leaves the chile choices up to you. I decided to chop up and lightly cook a green chile for the burrito. Normally I would have paired it with salsa and the secret sauce I use for grilled corn and fish tacos, but I was out of both.

There are quite a few moving parts to this recipe.

First, the corned beef hash. I used the canned kind because I haven’t made corned beef in a while. If I had, the cash is pretty easy to make. Finely dice everything (cabbage, potatoes, corned beef) and throw it in the skillet to fry up.

Either way, it fries in the skillet.

Next are the diced potatoes, which are optional.

Since I now have an InstantPot, the brand name for a type of electric pressure cooker, I cooked the potatoes the night before. First, I cooked them for five minutes, which left them a little too hard. I cooked them again for two minutes, which made them a little too soft. The next morning, I diced a few of them, then threw them in a skillet with some oil, salted liberally, and let them fry.

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In New Mexico, Chile is king. No questions. No debate. Red, or green? Christmas? (Christmas is both red and green.)

(If you want just the recipe, see it here.)

Zhug, after the cilantro and jalapenos and citrus and salt have been blended together. Ready for some fiery consumption.

Cilantro certainly plays a second fiddle, in salsa, as do tomatoes, but still: chile, cilantro, these are the building blocks of many New Mexican meals. So, what does that have to do with zhug? Well, combine those two things into one dish. Blew your mind, didn’t it?

Chile and cilantro are not the sole property of New Mexican cuisine and lots of other cultures do complimentary things with them that I think we should all copy, or at least, pay attention to.

That New Mexico can learn a lot from other parts of the world, including from the middle-east, where zhug originated.

What is zhug, anyway?

It can either be described as a cilantro-based hot sauce (and, depending on how you make it, I mean Hot) or as chile and cilantro pesto. Take your pick. I prefer the former, partially because I make mine scalding.

It’s a very simple sauce. Put cilantro, lemon juice, lime juice and, important here, peppers, into a blender. Blend. Blend, blend, blend.

That’s it. Maybe add some salt, to taste. And you’re done. It’s a pesto-like hot sauce or a hot pesto. Either way, zhug goes well with pita bread and tabbouleh, with some hummus. Maybe you’re going to make zucchini fritters. Add some on the side, along with tzatziki.

I should add, this sauce is very dear to my heart. Being such a fan of cilantro, even naming my blog after a proclivity for it, I gotta say. We all should love zhug.

 

Zhug

Ingredients
• Between 10-20 hot peppers, rinsed and chopped (de-seed if heat is an issue)
• 1-3 bunches of cilantro, washed and chopped
• 3-6 garlic cloves, chopped
• ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom or seeds from 6 cardamom pods, crushed
• ¼ teaspoon ground coriander (cilantro seeds)
• ½ teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 lime juice, more to taste
• ¼ to ½ cup lemon juice, more or less to taste
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Salt to taste
• Optional: 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Directions

1. Chop the cilantro, peppers and garlic.
2. Put all the ingredients, sans salt, in a food processor or blender.
3. Blend until it reaches desired consistency.
4. Add a small amount of salt, to taste.

 

If you want the full gallery of full-quality photos, they are licensed under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution-only license. See them here.

Jalapenos in a blender, before being blended, to make Zhug. Add liquid (lemon/lime juice) to aid in the blending process.

Cilantro, being being chopped up and put in a blender to make Zhug.

I’ve been a fan of curry pastes for a long time, as well as a fan of buying ingredients in bulk for cost savings.

I don’t just buy curry pastes in bulk. Potatoes, too, as well as chicken thighs when there’s a big sale.

Somehow, and I don’t know how, I alighted on the idea to combine all three of these things. It may have started with pan-fried potatoes, or maybe with oven baked chicken thighs (skin on, bone in). It may have its genesis in yellow curry fried rice, where I first learned that the (Thai) curry paste works incredibly well as a seasoning.

Before I go any further, I need to mention that this dish goes really well with at least tzatziki, and probably zhug as well.

Yellow curry paste!

Irregardless of how it happened, I then used yellow curry paste (the mildest of the pastes) as a seasoning for pan fried potatoes. All of this is being done in a cast-iron skillet, of course.

Finally, I decided that the best of all worlds is to put the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes, and maybe a few other vegetables and then bake to allow the juices and fat to seep into the potatoes, mingling the flavors.

The problem with chicken thighs is they take a long time to cook at a high temperature. It’s not so much a problem as something you need to be aware of going into the cooking process.

(Continued after the jump)

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Having made rice bowls the night before, I had lots of leftover rice. (Part and parcel of making rice bowls is leftover rice, to either be used in future bowls or in other dishes).

Finished spam, rice and (scrambled) eggs. Furikake is on the top of the sushi, or vinegared, rice.

That meant, this morning, it was time to fry up some spam, cook some eggs in the spam fat and heat up that leftover rice to make a (modern) Hawaiian classic, spam, eggs and rice.

Now, a close relative of this is the spam musubi. I wrote about it for the Rio Grande SUN (no link since the columns don’t make it to the website) but I did post the recipe here.

Many people, including the people I work with, cast aspersions on the very idea of spam, or scoff, or express their pure disgust at the idea. Then again, lots of people are scared of lots of things, and if you weren’t put off by the article title, I hope you will keep reading.

Spam, rice and eggs is so ubiquitous in Hawaii that it’s even sold at McDonald’s, part of their breakfast menu. That also indicates what kind of a breakfast it’s going to be. But, never fear. Much like the rice bowl, you can easily add veggies to the top of your rice to make it a more balanced meal.

Spam, rice and eggs is so simple, almost dead simple. Simply cut a couple of pieces off of the spam log, fry them up in a pan, heat up some leftover sushi or vinegared rice (you can also use normal steamed rice, fresh or leftover) and cook a couple of eggs in that same pan, either fried or scrambled. Put some furikake (Japanese seasoning made with seaweed, among other things) on the rice, maybe cut up a few veggies to put over the rice and there, you have it.

Spam, rice and eggs. Simple, wasn’t it?

Next up, according to my thinking? Spam, (sushi) rice and eggs in a burrito. New Mexican and Hawaiian fusion, all the way.

See the full set of photos (see below) on Flickr.

All the photos are released under a Creative Commons Attribution Only (2.0) license.

Spam, Rice and Eggs

Ingredients

1 can of spam

2-5 eggs

Vegetables as desired

Rice, either leftover or fresh

Milk, if making scrambled eggs

1 tablespoon oil

Optional: Butter

Directions

If using fresh rice, make it now. I suggest making sushi/vinegared rice, either fresh or left over.

1. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat.

2. Take the spam out of its package and slice into 1/4 inch slices.

3. Fry the spam until lightly brown on each side

4. Cut up any vegetables desired to be used on the rice

5. Prepare eggs for scrambling, if cooking that way, including mixing and adding milk.

6. Cook the eggs as desired.

7. Serve the spam with the rice and eggs.

 

Spam cut into slices before it goes into the skillet for some light browning.

The spam has pan fried up nicely. Just a little brown. I cook on the grill because it doesn’t make the house smell.

Flippin’ the spam slices.

One-handed egg crackin’.

Pouring milk into the eggs before everything is mixed. Scrambled eggs, this time.

Finished spam, rice and (scrambled) eggs. Furikake is on the top of the sushi, or vinegared, rice.

So, what’s for dinner?

That’s always a problem, right? Pasta, or . . . What else is in the kitchen? Refrigerator? And the time factor? Do I need to go to the store?

In my house, there are a few things always on hand: vegetables, maybe some meat (leftover, marinated or unprepared), always uncooked rice (and often times, leftover sushi/vinegared rice, plain recipe).

For me, the easiest meal is often times the humble rice bowl. I cook up some rice in my rice cooker, I turn it into sushi/vinegared rice (blog post). Then, do I want to make sushi? Or a rice bowl? Or maybe onigiri? Or maybe, a few sushi rolls now and rice bowls for lunch tomorrow, and some onigiri (rice balls) for later? The options are endless.

Peppers, grilled chicken, cucumbers and seaweed, at the very bottom, sit on top of rice in this rice bowl.

So, what is the rice bowl?

Well, it’s simple. You make some vinegared/sushi rice, put it in a bowl, cut up some veggies into bite-sized pieces, maybe cook up some meat and cut it up too, then throw it all on the rice.

Which veggies? Well, cucumbers are always nice, as are avocadoes. If you thinly slice, then deseed lemons, they are delicious. Being in New Mexico, I always add green chile peppers (unroasted) as well as jalepenos. Nori (seaweed) adds much needed taste. Green onions are also a good addition.

What else do you have? Throw it in there! Leftover steak? Cut it up, throw it in. Same goes for chicken, pork, or other meats.

Add some soy sauce, maybe some spicy/Sriracha mayonnaise, maybe some eel sauce, (Link to Amazon; once I make my own, I will post the recipe and update the link. Your local Asian store should have it for cheap.)

Bam! You’ve got a simple, relatively healthy dinner. Veggies, a little meat. Sure, the rice isn’t particularly healthy, but it’s frugal. Very, very frugal.

Avocados! Taste delicious in rice bowls, as do lemons. Seaweed is also a must.

(I buy sushi rice, Kokuho Rose variety, in 40 pound bags to be as frugal as possible. I store them in five-gallon buckets with lids, a carry over from my days as a homebrewer.)

There you go. Rice bowls. Simple. Delicious. Easy.

Seaweed (nori) is the first thing to go on top of the rice.

See all the photos on Flickr, in high quality.

Realized you don’t know how to make sushi rice? Here’s the recipe.

Want just the rice bowls recipe? Right here.

Simple rice bowls

Makes: as many as you have rice for

Ingredients

Sushi/vinegared rice
1/2 to 1/4 cucumber
1-3 green peppers
1 jalapeno (if you like it spicy)
1 piece of cooked meat (heated up if desired)
1/2 sheet of nori (seaweed sheets)
1 avocado
1 lemon, thinly sliced
All other vegetables, cooked or raw, as you see fit
Other ingredients as you see fit, or have seen in a sushi roll
Condiments such as eel sauce, Sriracha mayonnaise and eel sauce or cream cheese

Directions

1. Cut up the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Cut the lemon slices into quarters.
2. Put enough rice into the bottom of a bowl.
3. Tear up the nori and place on top of the rice.
4. Put the cut up vegetables and meat, if using, on top of the nori, which is on top of the rice.
5. Heat up in the microwave for 30 second to 1 minute if working with leftovers or desire it hotter
6. Add condiments over the top and enjoy.

Tzatziki, a yogurt sauce made with lemon juice, dill, and a few other ingredients, is a fantastic side to a variety of dishes, including zucchini fritters, curry fried rice and hummus, especially when paired with pita bread.

(Skip to just the recipe)

It also goes very well as a compliment to zhug (a hot sauce made of cilantro, peppers and lemon/lime juice) creating what for me is the ultimate quadfecta in pita and falafel sides: zhug, Tzatzikihummus and tabbouleh.

Tzatziki poured over curry fried rice makes an easy and delicious meal. All this is missing is some zhug.

There are a couple of things to consider when making tzatziki, aside from how to spell it.

The first is what kind of yogurt to use. I use full-fat plain yogurt or, if I’m going through a DIY phase, I use yogurt I’ve made from whole milk.

Plain full-fat yogurt is superior (in my opinion) to the more popular and prevalent fat-free and 99 percent fat free options because it has less sugar.

Yogurt makers add sugar to make up for the taste of the lost fat. Naturally occurring fat is a lot more healthy than artificially added sugar. Less sugar, less problems.

Dill piles up in a container of yogurt being used to mix the tzatziki.

Second,  good dill, which can be surprisingly hard to find. When I find it, I buy a large bunch. You can also add some chopped mint to the batch, if you’re feeling a little adventerous or have mint on hand. If I have it, I add it. If I don’t have any available, then it doesn’t go in.

Tzatziki is more like art than science. The amount of lemon juice used, of dill, of lime juice, of salt, of garlic, everything is up for interpretation.

For just the recipe, see the page here, or see it after the jump (more link).

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Two Recipes for Some Thanksgiving help

Thanksgiving is right around the corner which means, if you have to cook any part of the meal, you’re scrambling for ideas, for  ingredients, for menu planning, for drinks, for the whole shebang.

I’ve been there before and I’m going to be there again this year which means I’m scrambling as well.

I know a few parts of the meal ‘m going to be making already. Obviously, there’s the turkey. That’s a given. Then there’s the gravy. (Here’s the full recipe.) That’s something where the majority can be made ahead of time.

Then there’s the stuffing which I rarely stuff inside of the turkey. (I like to put a few lemons, maybe a lime, some apples, maybe an orange, in the bird’s cavity.)

I personally make a sage sausage stuffing with sourdough bread and bake it in the oven. This makes it toasty and more delicious.

There’re two options for the sage sausage. Either, make it yourself or just buy it. When it’s on sale, I buy it. When it’s not, I make it myself with fresh sage which I then dry in the oven.

There you go. Two great options.

I highly suggest you take my advice on the gravy.

Either use the links above or see the recipes after the jump.

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Boozy apple crisp

I’m a big fan of the apple crisp. That should come as no surprise, considering I written about two crisps/hybrids and consistently use the crisp (aka crumble) topping as a basis in other recipes.

There’s the original, double sided crisp which is just a crisp on both the top and bottom and then there’s the hybrid cobbler crisp with raspberries.

I’ve since used the crumble/crisp topping in an apple coffee cake (the crumble/crisp is also called a streusel). It’s the search for inspiration for that coffee cake that brought me to a recipe by Monique at the Ambitious Kitchen.

There were two things I took away from her recipe, both of which I incorporated into the apple coffee cake: the addition of liquor in the baking process and mixing the streusel topping into the middle.

I recently made the Ambitious Kitchen crisp with the addition of, and more, liquor than called for in the original recipe and eliminated the nuts.

I also substituted my streusel topping for hers, which I found to have too much sugar. Finally, I used semi-sweet apples from my co-worker’s orchard.

Finally, I didn’t deal with the the vanilla bean the recipe and conceded to the use of butter on the apples. I don’t know that it added anything and I found the apples needed a bit more sugar.

My last note is that it really does need to be heated back up before serving and it might actually be better a day later, after being reheated.

With that, I give you my modified recipe:

(If you want just the recipe, it’s on my website, here.)

Ingredients

Streusel topping
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1+ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1+ teaspoon ground/powdered ginger
The apple filling
  • Optional: 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 medium-sized Granny Smith apples to 5 pounds, cored and very thinly sliced
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1+ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1+ teaspoon ground/powdered ginger
  • 1/4 cup spiced rum
  • 1/4 cup brandy

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 pan.
  2. Peel the apples if desired. Cut the apples into very thin slices.
  3. Melt the butter for the streudel topping. In a medium-large bowl, mix the bottom’s melted butter, brown sugar, flour and, if using them, spices. Mix in the oats.
  4. Place the apple slices, the 1/3 to 1/2 cup brown sugar, cinnamon and liquor in a very large bowl and toss to combine.
  5. Take 1/2 cup of the streudel topping and mix it into the apples.
  6. Pour the apples into the greased pan.
  7. Cover the apples with the rest of the streudel mixture and lightly pat down.
  8. Either put the pan on a baking sheet, or put it directly in the oven, and bake for 50 minutes to 60 minutes (an hour).

(Recipe adapted from the Ambitious Kitchen, “The best apple crisp you’ll ever have.”)

boozy-apple-crisp-1-of-8-900x600

This spiced apple crisp, baked with booze, gets better after the first couple of days. Serve warm or hot.

 

See, use, whatever you want, because all the photos are here on Flickr.

Making sushi rice

There are two subjects here: the rice used in sushi and how to prepare that rice, once cooked, into sushi rice.

The first deals with brands and varieties, that is, what type of rice to use. The second is purely recipe and technique, that is, how to make the sushi, or vinegared, rice.

By no means do I claim, proclaim, profane or otherwise pretend to be some kind of expert on rice, sushi, or the rice used in sushi. However, the topic has been written about multiple times. My takeaway was Kokuho Rose. I’ve grown so fond of it that I had to take a more cost-effective solution to buying it, mainly, 40 pound bags. It’s become my favorite white rice.

My default brown (long grain) rice is whichever five pound bag of (brown) jasmine rice I’m currently working through.

The great thing about making vinegared, or sushi, rice is it goes fantastic in rice bowls or really, anything. Then again, I like vinegar.

The rice question

The basics are, the rice used in sushi is either medium or short grain. If you look on the internet, you will find that the answers go either way. Koda Farms, who grows Kokuho Rose (a variety only grown by them) claims that short grain is should never be used. The Kitchn proclaims short grain is sushi rice.

So, this is all confusing. Japanese style medium-grain or short grain rice seems to be the answer. (Japan, for the most part, does not export its rice).

Try out different varieties/brands and find what you like. I know what I like. (I buy the stuff in the red/pink packaging).

Making sushi rice

When it comes to making the rice, I suggest using a rice cooker, especially because they are both so cheap and because they make cooking rice so easy, and perfect.

But what makes vinegared, or sushi, rice, special? The vinegar! And sugar. And salt.

(Use a rice cooker. Seriously. So much easier.)

So, you get your rice cooking (for what I use, the ratio is 1 and 1/4 cups water to 1 cup rice, meaning, for two cups of uncooked rice, you need 1 and 1/2 cups water in the rice cooker) and then move on to making the vinegar solution.

For the purposes of this post, as well as the recipe, the quantity will be two cups of uncooked rice.

I’ve found that heating the vinegar up in the microwave is the easiest way of getting the sugar (1/4 cup) and the salt to dissolve. It should be noted, however, that I just wing it with the salt and sugar. I literally just pour some of both in and call it good.

Another point of confusion is the washing of the rice. Many claim this is essential. I notice no difference with the rice I buy.

All that being written, here’s how to make sushi (vinegared) rice.

For just the recipe, it’s housed on the main website, here.

Ingredients

2 cups uncooked rice

2 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon salt

Directions
  1. In a measuring cup, mete out 2 cups of uncooked rice
  2. Wash the rice if desired, until water runs clear.
  3. Pour uncooked rice into rice cooker.
  4. In a measuring cup, Measure out 2 and 1/2 cups water. Pout into rice cooker.
  5. Close rice cooker and turn on.
  6. While the rice cooks, measure out 1/2 a cup of rice vinegar in a microwave-proof container, if possible.
  7. Add the sugar and salt to the vinegar. Mix to combine.
  8. Heat the vinegar up in the microwave, while mixing periodically, until all the sugar and salt is dissolved. Once dissolved, move it to the freezer while waiting for the rice to finish cooking.
  9. Once the rice cooker either turns off or turns to warm, allow it to sit undisturbed for 5-15 minutes.
  10. Open the rice cooker and quickly mix the rice one or twice. Replace the lid and wait another 5 minutes.
  11. Remove rice from cooker into a large non-reactive bowl.
  12. Pour the vinegar mixture over the rice and, with your rice spoon/mixer (oversized, flat spoon), lightly mix with a forward-pushing motion.
  13. If making sushi, cover bowl with a wet towel and allow to cool further. If consuming rice bowls, consume!

See, or download, all the full-quality photos on Flickr.

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