Girl + Fire = Food



Thursday, May 30, 2013

Un-Yucked Brussels Sprouts

I'm a grown woman and still as disgusted by Brussels sprouts as any child. There are just some things that to this day remain, for lack of a better term, yucky.

But Brussels sprouts, like other vegetables, are good for you. I've been trying to find ways to make them more palatable. There are actually people who LOVE Brussels sprouts. Some of these people are ones I know and even love.
I still think they're weird.

Friends suggested sautéing with garlic, roasting, steaming...the more like-minded suggesting throwing them away. This was, by far, the best idea.

But one lone comrade introduced the idea of brown sugar and bacon. Well, duh. Bacon makes everything better! And maybe caramelizing and candying (is that a word?) these icky little vegetables was the one way to make them appealing.

It ALMOST worked. Brown sugar is delicious. Bacon is delicious. But Brussels sprouts still taste like dirt.

At least they looked pretty.

print recipe

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Sugar and bacon can help make vegetables more palatable.
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
1. Fry the bacon in a skillet. Remove to paper towel and allow to cool before chopping into half-inch pieces. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings.2. In the same skillet with the bacon drippings, melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the sprouts until the edges begin to blacken.3. Add in the brown sugar and chopped bacon. Mix to coat evenly. Remove from heat as soon as sugar melts completely. Serve warm.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 servings

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Vegan-esque Fluffy Pancakes

Ever wake up craving pancakes and bacon, only to find out you're out eggs AND bacon? It's like waking up on in a bizarro world. I don't know how I managed to allow my fridge to become devoid of these foods. And I'd promised such meal to the boyfriend, so what's a girl to do?

Vegans sometimes use soaked chia seeds as egg replacement, and that I did have. So while he slept in, I experimented...

The recipe stayed the same, but I used one tablespoon of chia seeds soaked in three tablespoons of water. Let that sit for 15-20 minutes and you get a gelatin-like substance that binds the mixture appropriately. 

Vegan-esque pancakes look like they have black freckles. I giggled while I cooked.

When the man woke up, he had breakfast! Sure, it wasn't what he was expecting, but he's a REALLY good sport. Plus, I promised him if they were really terrible, I'd take him to a decent diner for breakfast.

He ate it all, but said he prefers the original recipe. I did, at least, serve them with real butter and maple syrup.

Interesting. And passable. But I probably wouldn't make them again.

Monday, April 8, 2013

FAIL: Tequila Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I nearly ruined the birthday dinner with this cake. I should have known this wasn't going to work when I couldn't find a real recipe for tequila-spiked pineapple upside down cake, aside from one blog post about a group of people who got drunk making the cake.

Why did I ignore the signs?

Things were going well. I'd found not one but TWO recipes for miniature, single-serving pineapple upside down cake. It's my dad's favorite, and my mom makes it for him every year for his birthday. Here I was, making it for just me and the boy for his birthday because it's also his favorite, and I didn't want to have a bunch of leftover cake that we'd be stuck eating for days. Especially if it didn't work out.

That was the one smart move I made.

I used half a bottle of $10 Zapoppan tequila reposado, which is actually quite tasty for a cheap bottle (gotta love Trader Joe's) and soaked a whole can of pineapple rings in it for just a few hours. I baked the little cakes in their ramekins, popped them out to cool as we enjoyed his birthday dinner, then lit a candle and sang him a little off-key rendition of Happy Birthday. I took the first bite, and rushed to stop him before he could make the same mistake.

And then apologized profusely for completely ruining his favorite cake. I'd also ruined the Guinness brownies I'd attempted to make him just a month earlier. Remember how I don't bake?

He was very sweet about the entire ordeal. Apparently the deck was stacked against me because he did mention that my pineapple upside down cake was never going to be a good as his mother's...well, at least I make kick ass carnitas.

Next time, instead of messing with the pineapples, I'll just put some spirits in a caramel topping that goes on AFTER baking. Because this was an absolute and total FAIL. L'sigh.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Carnitas Americano

Carnitas. Until recently, I never really indulged in the succulent pork product. When it comes to Mexican food, I'm a die-hard lover of carne asada. But when I found Pinch of Yum's Easy Crockpot Carnitas, it was really too easy not to make it.

On first look, carnitas and pulled pork look very similar. They both become shredded pork. But pulled pork is smoked and carnitas are usually braised in lard. This dish is neither, it's braised in orange juice and beer. You know, good stuff.

Actually, there was a thin layer of fat on the pork shoulder (or butt, if you will) and I didn't bother trimming it, so it was braised in some fat. Just not a bucket's worth! So carnitas lite, or what I'm terming carnitas Americano. Because it seems like crockpot cooking is very much a middle America way of life.

Not to spoil the story, but I do have to establish this one thing: this was the best thing I have ever made. Ever. I amazed myself.

It was perfectly juicy and crispy. And all I did was rub a hunk of pork with salt and spices then let it cook on low for 8 hours in orange juice and Hoegaarden. Oh, I'm sure you could use a Mexican beer, but we like our Belgian wheat beers here in the G+F kitchen. When I shredded it, broiled for a few minutes its own jelly, stuffed it in a taco with sour cream, cilantro, salsa, and avocado, it was divine.

Scratch that: it was the BEST DAMN THING I ever ate. Better than truffles. Yeah, that good.

I get a little hot under the collar just thinking about it.

Get the recipe at Pinch of Yum. It halves easily (ours was only 2 pounds, bought at Sprouts Farmers Market), but you will want to go for the full 4-5 pounds. This disappears quickly!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Girl+Fire Turns 3!

Three years ago, after being laid up from foot surgery, I came up with the crazy idea to start a blog. And fiery orange one at that.

Three years later, my foot works again. And Girl+Fire is still burning orange. Somewhere along the way, I even learned to cook!

The way I've celebrated this milestone the last two years was to compile a top five list. When going through the posts from the last year, I noticed a distinct trend: alcohol.

Well, I've never been shy about my love for certain spirits. And what better way to commemorate a third anniversary than to pull out the best alcohol-laden posts? Because it's not a celebration without a good drinky-drink!

5. The only non-alcoholic item on this list is the Semi-Raw Kale Experiment. One should blog responsibly, after all. And eat your greens!

4. And then we delve right in to the whiskey posts with Lemon Whiskey Apple Butter. The best way to enjoy a comfort food like homemade applesauce is to cook in some whiskey while making it.

3. Then came the making of Red Wine Sangria. I've since made this for several parties and it always disappears. We'll call that a win.

2. But we always return to whiskey, especially when paired with bacon! The Bacon Whiskey Milkshake was really the best way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

1. Hands down, my favorite meal all year long was the Fluffy Homemade Spiced Pancakes. Made for grown men and young children, they have all become fans of the pancakes. Of course, these pancakes are even more excellent when paired with a lovely champagne. Which is what I actually put in them when making up a batch this last weekend. Champagne pancakes. It's one of the best things about being an adult. And this here blog!

Thanks to all the fans and readers for the last three years. A toast to all of you!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Persimmon Chutney

I just realized, 3 days shy of our 3rd blogiversary, that this post from 2012 hadn't yet seen the light of day. Oops! Let's travel back a few months, to the Thanksgiving holidays...

I was convinced that I had never seen nor tasted a persimmon prior to two years ago, when Cheryl Lee of Black Girl Chef's Whites made cookies with them and we noshed on them at Mudtown Farms. But my mother swears we had a persimmon tree  in our backyard growing up.

And that she hates them.

How could I have blocked that out of my memory? I remember the two lemon trees (we always tied our birthday piñatas to them), the pomegranate bush (and the many clothes I stained trying to eat the seeds), the water feature smack in the middle of the yard, and my tetherball setup. But no persimmons.

Despite not being as foreign as I thought they were, they suddenly started showing up in our weekly fruit delivery at work. Lots and lots of persimmons. They're great in cookies, but 'tis the season for LOTS of cookies, so what else can be done with them?

Make a chutney, take it to Thanksgiving dinner along with the roasted squash puree, and watch it become the first dish to completely disappear. Everyone assumed it was a sweet potato dish. They were wrong, and still devoured it.

Guess what they're all getting for Christmas? Even mom, who actually loved this dish. Yay, we converted her!

The original recipe comes from Epicurious. The only change was to use a few tablespoons of the menjurje tea combination of honey and lemons instead of sugar. It worked really well. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Menjurje" Tea

Moms. They're great. Especially when you're sick, which I have been. Six times this year.

I'm otherwise healthy as a horse; I run 3-4 times a week, spin class twice, Zumba once or twice, otherwise eat well. I take care of myself. And yet, it seems like I'm sick every other month.

SIX times in one year. Ugh.

But mom is always there, making me chicken soup. And this wonderful honey lemon tea that is great for soothing sore throats. Something I know about, intimately.


Next time you're sick, try this.

If anyone wants to send me a new immune system (or just a less stressed life?) it's on my Christmas wish list!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Roasted Squash Puree: An Alternative Thanksgiving Side Dish

Do you ever get tired of mashed potatoes? No, because mashed potatoes are a delicious combination of the best type of carbs (potatoes) + fat (butter) around, and don't let anyone tell you differently (though pizza would be a close second). I know some people opt for sweet potatoes, considering them a healthier starch. Sure, okay.

What about other vegetables? Aside from those sweet yams with marshmallows, which isn't something we eat at our house, but to each their own. (We do eat whiskey marshmallows, though. And green bean casserole, of course. We're not monsters!)

This Thanksgiving, you can invite other squash varieties to your dinner with this jazzed up version of a pumpkin puree. The original is great and all, but pumpkins are so much more fun when they're carved in October or in pie in November. Plus, pumpkin puree is usually sweet. This ain't.

We're going to use green pumpkins! With edible skins! That's right, kabocha squash looks just like a pumpkin, but it's green and you don't need to take the skin off. Then there's the ultra cool spaghetti squash. Roast both of these with a couple heads of garlic, and you're halfway through this process. You can even make it a week ahead, and in an effort not to devour it all, freeze!

You'll want to sauté some onion, then add a bunch of spices, maybe add some liquid, throw in the squash. Then blend the whole thing together with a magic stick blender, or food processor, or if you like your veggies a bit lumpier, just mash away. I like my smooth, so I used a stick blender. It's magic. Also, my favorite kitchen gadget.

The trick here is the spices and the secret finishing ingredient:

Yup, limes! Or, more precisely, lime juice. Sounds weird, right? In this case, weird = good. It's deliciously weird! I mean, we're already onboard the off-beat train with two otherwise unlikely squash cousins.

You could totally turn this into a soup instead. Are you a soup eater? Try more liquid. Make it heavy cream and add more delicious calories! 'TIS THE SEASON!!

I like my mashy green-flecked puree. Enjoy.

print recipe

Roasted Squash Puree
A savory alternative to mashed potatoes or other typical seasonal puree.
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 kabocha squash
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Adobo salt mixture
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth (or just plain water)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt & pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice each squash in half and scoop out the innards (save the seeds if you like them, you can roast them at the same time). Cut the kabocha into 1-inch chunks.2. Line two baking sheets with foil. Spread the kabocha pieces on one, place the spaghetti squash halves on the other. Drizzle olive oil over all the pieces (about 2 tablespoons each), followed by a sprinkling of Adobo (about 1 tablespoon for each sheet).3. Cut the tops off both heads of garlic, remove the outer papery skin (leaving the heads intact), drizzle a bit of olive oil over the heads (about 1 teaspoon each). Wrap each head in foil.4. Place the wrapped garlic on a baking dish with the squash, roast in oven for 30-45 minutes, until the squash flesh takes on a golden brown char. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Then scrape the inside of the spaghetti squash to make "spaghetti."(These 4 steps can be done ahead of time and the vegetables kept in the fridge.) 5. While the squash is cooling, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent. 6. Add the spices and mix to ensure the onions are fully coated. Add the broth, roasted squash, and squeeze the garlic cloves into the pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10-20 minutes, until the squash is soft and easy to mash. Add salt and pepper to taste.7. Blend in batches, add additional liquid as needed until desired consistency is reached.8. Squeeze in lime juice and mix to incorporate. Serve warm.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 servings

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No-Bake Avocado Mini Cheesecakes

Family dinner night at my parents' house is always the perfect occasion to test recipes, lots of hungry mouths for tasting. Especially when that dinner night happens the same night as the Giants play the Steelers.

Our family is 99.9% Giants fans. My brother is bringing a Steeler fan into the family. We love her. We don't love her team.

But we do love avocados, because they're creamy and come from the land of the Aztecs. The fact that they have skins like dinosaurs is just part of the awesome bonus.

The Steelers fan, weirdo that she is, doesn't like avocados "plain." So I told her I'd put them in cheesecake (my brother's favorite dessert). Two birds, one stone.

The maxim that you can't please everyone all the time is so very true. So when you mix an avocado with condensed milk, cream cheese, and lemon juice, you will get a variety of opinions. Dad thought it was perfect and he's always the hardest to please. Mom loved it too. I was a big fan of the tartness, especially with lime zest over the top.

The rest of the family, not so much.

They're crazy. Don't listen to them. Especially the gloating Steelers fan. We don't want to talk about that. Ugh.

Let's talk about empty pie tins. Because you can either make this cake into 12 mini pies or one large one. The original recipe is very, very simple but called for one large cake. That wasn't going to work with a bunch of little and big kids around. So I adjusted it to make single-serving cakes (mini cakes...cakies) and adding lime zest. It's a great finish.

Far better than whipped cream. 

Less guilt-inducing too. Little cakies, no whipped cream. It's practically calorie-free!

That and the Giants will win the Super Bowl again this season!

Hey, it's totally possible. Don't ruin it for me.

print recipe

No-Bake Avocado Mini Cheesecakes
Adapted from No baking, just mix, pour, chill. Easy as 1-2-3.
  • 1 large avocado, soft or slightly overripee
  • 13 ounces condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 12 mini pie crusts
  • lemon zest
1. Blend the avocado, cream cheese, condensed milk, and lemon juice together until smooth. It helps if the avocado is really soft, and slightly overripe as it makes it easier to blend.2. Pour or spoon into the mini crusts.3. Chill for at least an hour (or up to overnight) before serving.4. Before serving, zest lemon on top of each cake. Enjoy chilled.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 cakes

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bacon Edamame à la Française

I've been stuck at home watching a lot of tv recently, since my immune system decided to take a vacation. Daytime tv is horrible, so I usually stick to the Food Network and Cooking Channel.

I caught an episode of French Cooking at Home and watched Laura Calder melt a HUGE portion of butter, fry pearl onions in it, and THEN add bacon to it. I was totally on in love with the idea...until she started shelling peas.

Peas irritate me. I don't know what it is about them that bothers me so much, but I don't like them. So I knew I wasn't going to follow this recipe exactly, but I didn't know what to use instead.

And then I remembered there was edamame in my freezer. And despite all the warnings about genetically-modified soy, and soy consumption tied to cancers, I do occasionally indulge in some. It's rare, because I don't want to die (that's why I eat quinoa). But it was the perfect replacement for this exceptionally rich dish.

Obviously with this much butter AND bacon, you eat this sparingly. After you defrost the beans, of course.

The original recipe called for an entire pound (2 cups) of peas. That's a LOT of peas. I decided half a pound of soybeans was sufficient and there was a good balance of beans to everything else. Despite my abhorrence of peas, I do so love bacon. And pearl onions (usually in my martinis, but fried up is good too). Throw in a bunch of lettuce so as not to completely clog your arteries and you're in business.

If you've never peeled pearl onions, all you have to do is boil them for a few minutes and the skins will come right off. Then drop them in butter, and once they're lovely and brown, toss in the bacon. The smell will overwhelm you. It's fantastic.

It's okay to scale back on the butter, if you're really afraid of saturated animal fat. I used half the listed amount and it was just fine. You might also want to be careful about how much salt you use. The bacon will add a good amount, so low-sodium chicken broth is a good bet.

In the end my taste testers (aka mom & dad) loved it. I found it intoxicating, from the aroma while it cooked, to the warm wilted lettuce and plump soybeans in my mouth.

I'm not clear on what makes this à la Française (read: French)...maybe it's the obscene amount of butter? The fact that Laura Calder has a delightful accent? I don't know. Suffice to say it's good food. Just eat it.

print recipe

Bacon Edamame à la Française
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 16 pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1/2 pound soybeans, shelled
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups red leaf lettuce, shredded
1. Melt butter in a frying pan and add the onions. Cook on medium heat until the onions begin to brown. Brown food tastes good.2. While the onions are frying, cut the bacon strips into small pieces (sometimes called lardons). When the onions have browned, add the bacon and cook until crispy. 3. Add the soybeans and chicken stock. Cover and cook until tender.4. Add the lettuce, stir, and cook covered until just wilted (about 1 minute).5. Serve warm.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day Drinking at Hollywood On Tap

I like beer. It's frothy. But I only really like specific beers. Mostly in the Belgian style, like Hoegaarden and Blue Moon. I'm a fan of the Trappist ales like Chimay, too. But I what I truly love are the superduper sour red ales. If it tastes like carbonated vinegar, I'm probably in love with it.

What I don't like is bitter, hoppy beer. It leaves my mouth feeling like it's covered in moss. Or carpet. In other words, not good.

And these days, most "craft" beers are exactly that: really bitter, hoppy beers. I don't understand the appeal, but I'm just one person. To each his own.

All that to say that when my buddy Rob had an extra ticket to the Hollywood On Tap craft beer fest held on Paramount Studio's "Streets of New York," I figured I'd tag along.

I don't think I've ever seen Rob drink beer (he's the Whisky Guy, after all), so this was going to be interesting. I'd also just cleared my entire weekend of all the responsible things I should have been doing, so why not waste the day drinking instead?

I knew there wasn't going to be much of a selection catering to my tastes, but I was willing to try something new. While Rob concentrated on the stouts (beers that taste like tree bark to me), I sought out anything claiming to be red ales.

There were but a mere handful.

The first stop was the Abita Brewing Company out of Louisiana. I was intrigued by their Pecan Harvest Ale simply because it wasn't the traditional fall pumpkin offering. You could smell and taste the subtle roasted pecans, which was nice. It completely deviated from my hunt for the sour reds but what the hell, right?

It was, of course, a bit too bitter for me. Sigh.

Next up was the Sacramento-based Ruhstaller, which has an interesting history. The California Red Ale was also too bitter for my taste, but it came with a delightful story.

In a bit of serendipitous planning on the event organizers' part, in the booth just next door was the local Monkish Brewing Company beers. This is where I found a winner. The Red Table was still a bit hoppy, but closest of all to what I wanted. And paired with a pink peppercorn, it was quite, dare I say, yummy.

This was the only booth we stopped at that paired their beers with a food product, so I really appreciated that. I'm a dummy for not also indulging in a taste of their Feminist, which came with some dried hibiscus flowers.

This misstep simply guarantees that I'll head down to Torrance for this and the rest of Monkish's frosty beverages. Yay for local breweries!

Now, let's talk food, lest this become a drinking blog (Girl + Quaff?). Two weeks in a row of concentrating solely on alcohol is making me sound like a drunk. I'm not.


There were a number of food trucks at the festival, none of which I'd ever tried. We settled on Germany's Famous Bratwurst. Rob, being of German descent, had the traditional bratwurst with sauerkraut and German potato salad. I, being of spicy descent, opted for the currywurst with garlic fries. Served with curry-laden ketchup it was so damn good.


If you're in the LA area, and have a hankering for German sausage, find this truck. It will make your tastebuds happy. They seem to concentrate on downtown and the Valley, but it's probably worth the trek.

On a weekend, anyway.

When you don't feel like being responsible either.

And then get yourself a local beer. They go so well together.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Girl + Conference: Liquid Refresments, Las Vegas Style

I don't know what your conferences are like, but apparently when you have one for meeting industry professionals, there will be alcohol EVERYWHERE.

I'm not complaining. I just wonder if this is true for everyone else.

Last week I regaled you with stories of eating my way through Las Vegas. Part two is all about the accompanying libations.

At our first stop at the Paris Hotel, we were greeted by tuxedoed waiters offering two types of wine and something blue. I've learned that I can't drink anything that is sweet because I will end up very sick. And that's not how one comports themselves while trying to network. The blue drink was VERY sweet.

I don't know what was in it, but it was red on the bottom. Pretty, but suffice to say it screamed danger to me, so I stuck to the white wine.

The next night our local friends treated us to the "local experience": the Double Down Saloon. 10 years ago it was called The Junkyard and we had taken a party bus from LA to Vegas to see my friend's band play in it. It's still a terribly awesome dive bar, but now there's a half-full vending machine in it.

Their two signature drinks are the Bacon Martini and Ass Juice. Yes, you read that correctly:

The martini is nothing more than a typical vodka martini with smokey bacon flavoring added. It's not horrible, but you don't need more than one. The ass juice shot is served with a Twinkie.  Twinkies have a shelf life of about one million years, and I loved them as a kid. But as an adult, one bite and I can't imagine what I ever found appetizing about them. As for the "juice," it's super sweet. No idea what's in it, but I stuck to beer lest I end up needing the puke insurance they sell at the bar.

No joke. I mean, look at the sign behind the pool table. Insurance is $20.

Back on the tradeshow floor, there was free alcohol everywhere. Every third booth had champagne. And then the floor receptions! The photo at the top of this booth was from the tequila tasting in Mexico's booth.

At the end of one day, the Japanese tourism group gave us sake, then whisked us off to a Japanese restaurant with more champagne. And beer. And wine.

The next party took us to the Hard Rock Cafe, where I stuck my cake pop in my beer. And then there was dancing. Because that's what you do when men in afro wigs are playing funk music for you. You dance!

And eat cake pops.

After the big closing night party at a hip nightclub...

...we returned to the Double Down on the last night of our stay. Apparently we felt the need to go from high brow to very, very low brow for the after-party. Inside we found a few wayward Australians (different than the ones from the first night) that were also in town for the conference. Who knows how they wandered so far off the strip, but they'd never had Twinkies so they ordered one of these shots...and immediately regretted the Twinkie offering. It was pretty hilarious.

I love Australians.

I have three conferences in Las Vegas in 2013. I imagine I'll be seeing the Double Down a few more times, if my friends have any say. Though I'll probably avoid the Twinkies.