Growing Up in the State of Bland

Growing up, my family didn’t use many exotic spices when cooking. Like many people in the Midwest, we got by on salt and pepper. Mexican cuisine was probably the most ethnic we ever got. It wasn’t until I went to college that I truly started exploring other types of food. I’m a fan of just about everything now, but I still love any excuse to eat Mexican food.

With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, I thought I would share this far-from-authentic enchilada recipe from my childhood. It is still something I frequently make. It’s quite simple, tastes great, and is very satisfying with a side of Spanish rice or a salad. Sit back, relax, have a margarita or Corona, and enjoy!

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Say Goodbye, Not Hello…to Jello Pudding

I grew up on Jello brand pudding. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it, other than you pay the price of convenience and consistency (in flavor). Like any other brand name prepackaged food item, marketing has reinforced the idea that it’s easier to buy their product than to make something from scratch. But why pay extra for something when you probably already have the raw ingredients? And really where’s the convenience? Believe me, you aren’t going to save much time by opening a box of pudding mix versus measuring out the individual ingredients (at least not for chocolate or vanilla). Measuring out ingredients might set you back a whole two minutes. Can’t afford two minutes? Might I recommend a cup of chamomile tea to relieve your stress instead.

However, if you choose to pursue the path to chocolate bliss (I won’t blame you), this pudding recipe is where to start. The pervasiveness of this recipe, and similar variations on the Internet, demonstrates its simplicity. It’s not difficult to make and tastes better than prepackaged varieties. Plus you can control what goes into it, adjusting quantities to fit your tastes. Don’t want chocolate pudding, then don’t add the cocoa and maybe add a splash more vanilla. Once you get the hang of it, branch out to other flavors like banana cream, lemon, or butterscotch.

Shred Your Monday Stress with a Meaty Sandwich

Sometimes it’s just one of those days when nothing seems to go right. After a long and arduous day at work, you have to go home and cook. But fear not, this shredded BBQ beef sandwich recipe may help you regain some sanity on a hectic Monday.

What makes this sandwich so great you ask? Well, it’s simple to make and tastes good. The ingredients can be prepped the night before and using a slow-cooker, the meat will be ready to eat by the time you get home; just shred and put on a bun. What more could you ask for (other than someone to do the dishes)?

A Favorite Food at any Family Function

It started many years ago when my mother found this raspberry dessert recipe and brought it to one of our family gatherings. It was a hit! My cousins would request that she make it for subsequent get-togethers. Over time, no one needed to make that request; she would simply bring it.

The wonderful thing about this dessert is its layers. The pretzel crust has a salty and nutty flavor. The cream cheese layer is sweet and rich, but not heavy. The raspberry layer is tart and refreshing. Together, the dessert is a complex symphony of flavors and textures that perfectly balance each other.

Try it out, it may become one of your family’s favorites too!

A Sentimental Side Dish

I grew up eating these wonderful pickled onions and cucumbers. My grandma makes them for family gatherings during the summer; so I’ve come to associate them with a fish-fry, BBQ, or a bonfire and hot-dogs. I would have absolutely no problem eating them with every meal, but perhaps I’m a bit odd.

There is a creamy version of this recipe floating around, but I always stick with this one. There’s no need to weigh it down with a fattening mayonnaise dressing when it is perfectly fine in all its tangy glory. And better yet, when the cucumbers and onions are gone, the vinegar can be heated and reused again for a new batch. Although I would still be cautious about how many times I’ve used it and for how long.

Say Hello to My Little Friend…the Eggplant

Ah, this poor little vegetable (technically a berry). So often it finds itself misunderstood and on peoples’ list of least desirable edibles. Maybe it’s a general lack of knowledge, bad past experiences, or simply its shape that frightens people away.

However, with rising food costs, it’s nice to have alternatives. I often consider eggplant as a great meat substitute taste wise, along with mushrooms. I’m not a vegetarian, I simply eat what tastes great. And I can say without a doubt this dish will leave meat-lovers satisfied.

An Addiction to Green Tea

I have become addicted to green tea! However, it’s not because of the caffeine. It’s like having a cup of pure joy. It warms me up during these cold months with a light grassy aroma and fresh flavor.

Of course I’m not talking about Lipton’s or any other brand you would buy at the local supermarket either. The tea in those little innocent-looking tea bags is nothing short of undrinkable. That may sound quite snobbish, but it is true. If you buy green tea and the leaves are not green, then it has oxidized. The only tea that should be oxidized is black tea. Oxidation gives tea a slightly bitter or astringent taste, which is fine as long as it is intentional.

Loose Leaf Green Tea

Organic Kabusecha Green Tea

I have been ordering my tea straight from the source, Japan. I usually find a better bargain with loose leaf teas instead of those in filter bags. The price, while higher than store-bought, is definitely worth it. I have previously ordered higher priced tea, in the $30 per 100 gram range and found almost no noticeable difference in taste to some of the cheaper $12 varieties. My point: go with the cheaper tea. The cheapest tea will still beat out anything you can get in a grocery store or Asian market.

The tea in the picture is an organic kabusecha from O-Cha. Note: cha is Japanese for tea. The site is a little amateurish, but I have never been disappointed by their service or quality of goods. But don’t feel the need to limit yourself to one site, shop around.

A Nod to the Superbowl

Last weekend was a time of both rivalry and camaraderie for football lovers nationwide. People gathered together to drink beer and eat their favorite party foods; and nothing quite symbolizes a Superbowl party like chicken wings do. Although the Superbowl has come and gone, this dip is always a crowd-pleaser. Share it with friends or keep it all to yourself. Either way, you may not have enough!

Dreaming of Spring

As I sit here writing this, I’m looking out the window at an overcast sky and wishing winter would end. With spring about a month and a half away, I can’t help but think about all the flowers and the vibrant colors they will bring. This brings me to the point, a colorful sweet dessert that I look forward to as the seasons change. What is this wonderful dessert you may ask? A fruit pizza of course!

This pizza has a light shortbread crust covered with a sweet cream cheese spread and an assortment of fresh and canned fruits. I have eaten several variations of this dessert, most of these involving sugar cookie dough as a crust. Not that this is a terrible idea, it can be a convenience to just buy a pre-made dough. However, the crust usually ends up chewy, and honestly I prefer to have more control over the ingredients. A shortbread crust is lighter in texture and adds less sugar to an already tremendously sweet dessert.

Another good thing about this dessert you can use whatever fresh fruit is available. The usual standbys are strawberries, bananas, kiwis, pineapple, and mandarin orange slices. Of course you can substitute anything you want but there are also fruits I would avoid such as apples. Grapes in my opinion don’t add much in terms of flavor.

Here is the link for the recipe and instructions on how to make this dessert.