Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thai Seafood Curry

What you'll need:

1/4 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic crushed and minced
1tbsp grated ginger
1tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp green or red thai curry paste
1 can coconut milk
1tbsp oyster or teriyaki sauce

1lb 51-60 count shrimp peeled
4-6 tilapia fillets
octopus or calamari (optional)
prepared crawfish tails (optional)
prepared crab meat (optional)
prepared lobster meat (optional)

2 cups water
1 cup rice

In a dutch oven or deep covered frying pan, drop the curry paste and cook out the oils. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and brown. Add can of coconut milk and add brown sugar and oyster sauce. Stir until blended and then toss in fish.
Once the fillets flake and separate, add in the rest of the seafood. Shrimp will turn pink when ready. Sauce should come to a simmer,but not a rolling boil. Turn off heat and let sit covered.

In a sauce pan bring two cups of water to a boil, stir in rice, bring to a boil again, and lower heat, Let rice cook 20 minutes covered on low heat. At end of cooking time, fluff with fork and let sit five minutes before serving.

This dish can be very filling and the remaining paste can be used in other dishes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More Urban Jungle Survival Tips

All right so it's grocery shopping time, and I am always on the lookout for bargains. My eyes are automatically drawn to the yellow or bright red shopper's club card deals. Sure some of them are great, but not everyone can afford those pricey deals. However, there are other options.
Number one is the closeout item. That is a product that the store is no longer going to sell, or is changing the packaging, or any number of reasons. Some of them are really useful, and then there's some that well, just flat out useless. Most grocery stores have a corner or area where these items are gathered. Other places will specify them with a different colored shelf tag to draw attention to it.
Items that are marked down are also kept in some of these closeout areas as well. The one proviso here is that some items in markdown areas are either close dated or damaged, so be careful.
Canned goods that are dented, packages that are torn or crushed are good examples of these. Most times if the top of the can is not pushed out, then the product is still good. Just remember that the clock is ticking on those items once damage occurs. It may not stay fresh as long, so the quicker they're used, the better.
A lot of grocery stores have areas where marked down meats are kept as well. Most of the time these products are a day or two out of date. In the case of processed meats such as ham and turkey, they should be anywhere from seven to ten days from their expiration date. Products day of or older should not be in either of these areas. and if they are, they should be brought to the attention of store management.
Things to look for when choosing marked down meat are color, smell, and packaging. If the product is still red, most of the blood is still in the meat. Anything brown usually means that most of the blood has soaked into the pad underneath or leaked out. When looking at the packaging, it should be rightly wrapped and stuck to the bottom of the tray. If it is not, it can be re-wrapped, but remember to move it to another package at home.
If the product has turned green or gray, move on to something fresher. Also when choosing fresh meat, if the packaging smells, the product may not. However a lot of the time odor has to do with case sanitation and whether or not the package was wrapped tightly. Choosing processed meats is a different game altogether.
Processed meats should look slightly pink or white depending on what it is. If the product has turned beige, green, or gray, don't take it home. Chances are that air has been introduced into that product, thus initiating the decomposing process. If the product has a stomach or has puffed up, then definitely don't take it home.
That means that dangerous bacterias like listeria may be lurking in that package. For the most part listeria is harmless, but it's best not to take any chances. For instance bacon should be bright red or pink and white. If it is brown and the edges look feathered or frayed, chances are it is not safe to eat. At home if the processed meat has a slimy coating, contact the manufacturer directly and discard the product because they will more than likely send a coupon for a free replacement.
Seafood is usually marked down, but it's best to pass it up and get something fresher. But if it's too hard to pass up, there are some things to remember. Fresh whole fish should smell like fresh water, and the eyes should not be clouded over. Shrimp should be stuck to its shell and slightly firm. If the shell has separated, or it's a bit soft to the touch, it's probably best to get something fresher.
Dairy and produce also usually have markdown items as well. Again take the same precautions. Typically milk will last one to five days after the expiration date, but the best way to tell is the smell test. When it no longer beings to smell fresh, pour it down the drain or use it for baking. Most dairy or produce products should be marked down within five days of their expiration date to ensure maximum usage.
Bread or bakery items are usually marked down a day in advance of their expiration date. Most of the time the best thing to do here is take the product home and store it in sandwich bags in the freezer until ready for use.
Fish and seafood can be frozen for up to three to four weeks. Breads no more than two weeks because they will dry out. In some cases that can be a good thing because that can be used as bread crumbs or bread pudding. Fresh meat can survive up to six weeks in the freezer, and processed meats up to three months.
Hopefully these tips can save money and hopefully time in the grocery store. My rule is always if it's green or gray, throw it away.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tex Mex Mac and Cheese casserole

1 bag elbow macaroni
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes or similar style
1lb hamburger meat 80% lean or better
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
1 bag shredded medium cheddar cheese
1 bag Mexican style shredded cheese
1 stick unsalted creamery butter
6 tbsp flour
4-6 cups whole milk (nothing under 2%)

First things first. Prepare the water for the macaroni and place on back burner. Next brown and then drain hamburger meat. Add taco seasoning until meat is entirely coated. Cover and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When water comes to a boil, stir in macaroni.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and add flour a tablespoon at a time and make a roux. Do not brown. Whisk in the milk and combine until blended. Lower heat and stir sauce until thickened. When the sauce coats the back of a spoon, turn off heat. Add mild cheddar and whisk until blended into sauce.

Macaroni should be fork tender and white when ready. Drain off the pasta and pour into a rectangular baking dish. Add Ro-tel, hamburger meat and stir together. Pour sauce into pan and stir until all ingredients are blended. Spread the bag of Mexican style shredded cheese over top, pop into oven and bake until cheese bubbles and macaroni begin to harden.

This will serve a small crowd, or one or two people over several days. Can also be portioned and frozen for later use.

Quesadilla, pepper jack cheese, or even Velveeta can be used in place of medium cheddar. Other add-ins instead of hamburger meat can be prepared chicken and beef fajita strips chopped into small pieces. Ground turkey, chicken, or even vegetarian grinds can be used.