All you can afford

Once again, I have embarked on an adventurous road trip into the sunny state of California! And during this road trip my food cravings have brought me to one of Riverside’s premier sushi bars, OOKA Sushi!. Now I actually learned about this place on accident, but it was easy to tell from the atmosphere, that the locals would have pointed me in the same direction.

The service was nice, the sushi was great, and the atmosphere was exciting. But.. the prices were what you might say, steep! And unfortunately for me, I forgot that the great state of California does not traditionally feature the “All you can eat,” option at their sushi restaurants. Now a la carte sushi is no cheap meal when you consider that approximately 2 to 3 rolls equals one full meal at around 10-15 dollars per roll! And when you add in some miso soup and some quail egg shooters, you’re looking at a hefty bill.  It was for this reason, that I decided to take my stand against the sushi bars without all you can eat!

The average sushi roll tends to be about 8-10 pieces made with only 2-3 pieces of fish or other seafood per roll. That is not nearly enough to satisfy a whole dinner meal for a hungry college student let alone any hungry individual! I always believed that one of the best aspects of the Japanese cuisine and culture was that they wanted you to eat until you were completely satisfied! When this aspect of the meal is missing, I feel that it actually takes away from the eating experience as a whole! Now I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to enjoy sushi without going all you can eat, but you surely can’t enjoy your full moneys worth unless you go big and eat until you can’t eat any more!

 

Onion Rings and Mozzee Sticks!

While browsing around the web the other day, I encountered a video of chef Carla Hall, on ABC’s “The Chew,” boasting that she had the crunchiest onion rings you could get. After watching the video, I decided to make my own onion rings! But I didn’t stop there. I also decided to use that same recipe to make mozzarella sticks!! Carla led me to a great secret when making batter, which is Instant mashed potatoes. Yea, really, Instant mashed potatoes add a nice flavor and thickens up the batter nicely. I spiced up her recipe a little bit by adding finely crushed Maui Onion Chips and Tangy Buffalo Doritos chips to the breading!

Now when making onion rings you need only a few basic ingredients to make a delicious crunchy batter. I usually like to use Panko bread crumb when making batters because the Panko does a great job of adhering and coating the food. I then like to flavor it up withe the finely crushed chips because they add great crunch, flavor, and texture to the batter. Once you have all the ingredients, the steps of deep frying are fairly easy! All you need to do is to start with dipping in plain flour, then move to the batter, then into the Panko chip combo, then to the fryer! So here goes my recipe for home-made onion rings and mozzarella sticks!

Ingredients needed:

Flour

Cornstarch

Club Soda

Panko bread crumbs

Your favorite kind of potato or tortilla chip

Sliced Onions (sliced into rings) duh

String Cheese

Red Cayenne Pepper

Instant Mashed Potatoes (Secret ingredient)

Vegetable Oil

Steps:

1. Start by whisking together some of the flour, the cornstarch, the instant mashed potatoes, the cayenne pepper, and the club soda. The batter should thicken up just a little  so that it will still make a nice smooth even coat. Then mix up  the Panko and crushed chips to make your breading. Also, start heating up a pot of  vegetable oil to 365 degrees.

2. Now dip your rings into the flour first, then into the batter making sure it is completely coated. After it is coated, dip it fully into the bread crumbs making sure it has a even coat all the way around it!

3. Carefully drop the fully breaded item in the heated oil and allow it to brown up on both sides then using a metal slotted spoon or deep fryer basket spoon remove it.

4. For the mozzee sticks, simply cut the string cheese sticks in half and repeat the same process!

They will be hot out right out of the fryer so set them aside and give them a minute to cool down but the sooner you dig into these crunchy finger foods, the better they are! I enjoy dipping them in ranch, honey mustard, and barbecue sauce!

The Splits

My favorite course of the meal is always, and has always been, dessert! Dessert is the sweet taste of victory after plowing through all the previous courses that stood in your way. Dessert is also my favorite because of the variety and creativity that can be found in the dish. So many delicious foods have great uses in desserts that you can combine odd or different flavors that will compliment each other great.

One of the easiest ways to create new flavors with dessert are to take the classics, and switch out the main ingredients for similar but different items. The ice cream sundae has so many different combinations and flavors that it can practically taste any way you want it! There is the Hot Fudge sundae, the Strawberry sundae, the S’mores sundae, the Turtle sundae, and the list goes on and on but the basics remain the same. Ice Cream, Sauce, and Nuts. The variety of those you can choose and combine make the sundae the perfect dessert for creativity!

Another one of my favorite desserts to switch up is the Banana Split. The banana split is traditionally made with a vanilla ice cream and the 3 sauces of chocolate, strawberry, and pineapple, splitting a banana in half. One of the best ways to make the banana split your own is to switch out the banana itself! Using peaches or apples (or any fruit your want) you can switch up the split to give it a whole new flavor. Another great idea is to switch up the sauces and ice creams with the bananas! My specialty combo is a scoop of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream with marshmallow sauce and whipped cream!

It’s fun to mix up the classic desserts and make new combos that show some creativity and imagination in the most imaginative course of food, the sweets!

Mass Cooking 1: Chicken and Broccoli in a Cream of Mushroom sauce from resident chef Dobes of Evans Mansion

Every once and a while you gotta cook for a lot of people. It SUCKS. And everyone hates taking on the challenge of feeding large groups of people because it usually requires tons of time and labor to make a decent meal.  It also usally involves spending hours in the kitchen while every one else is mingling and partying. It doesn’t always have to go down that way! Today I got the chance to work with the live-in chef of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Mr. Doble, where he shared with me a simple and moderately less time consuming meal to make for a group of 25+ people. The first step involves planning out your dish. Because we are making it for lots, we decided to make a dish that can be made in bulk, so that we can fully prepare and cook it within a reasonable time.
One of Dobes’ favorite dishes to make that can easily be adapted to feed a large group is a Chicken and Broccoli in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce dish. The ingredients that who will need include:

Approximately 1 Chicken Breast per person
Fresh Chopped Broccoli
Canned Cream of Mushroom sauce
White Rice
Garlic
Butter
Step 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using the large pan you will cook it all in, place enough butter on it to coat the whole bottom then allow it to melt in the oven as it is preheating.
Step 2. Place chicken breasts on pan and fully coat with melted butter, then allow to cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
Step 3. In a pot, bring the cream of mushroom sauce up to a boil. While this is cooking add desired amount of minced garlic and salt and pepper. (To Taste)
Step 4. In a separate pot, add rice and water and bring up to a boil allowing the rice to fully cook. Again add salt to taste.
Step 5. Once the chicken breasts are done cooking, remove pan and place the chicken aside. Then empty the pan of all the fat and dripping from the chicken. Place chicken breasts back in pan and add the cooked broccoli.
Step 6. Once the cream of mushroom has been heated up, simply drizzle and spread it on the chicken and broccoli combo.
This dish is very simple and takes less than an 45 mins to make if you have the space in the oven. This dish by itself is a delicious and somewhat healthier meal that you can make after a long day. The beauty of it though, is that it can easily be prepared for large masses of people! Try it out by your self and keep it in mind next party, event, or pow wow you need to cater for!

No Right way to do it

When it comes to making great food, there’s never a “right” way it has to be done! Some people may argue that there is always a right way to do something, but in my eyes, cooking is not one of them! Cooking is about exploring tastes and making meals that satisfy your hunger! It doesn’t really matter how you get it done, as long as it ends up the way you want it!

I like to use some unconventional techniques and items when I’m in the kitchen (mostly because I have a fake kitchen with super old school appliances and such) but I find that to be more creative, and sometimes I think it contributes to how well the food tastes. I think that the best meals, don’t only come from a 5 star restaurants. They come from the heart. When you actually show care in what you are cooking it can be tasted in the meal. Your mother always makes the best home cooked meals, because she is making them with love. My mother cooks for the family, and she knows that she is the one bringing everyone together, so I can see it clearly that she wants to make everyone happy and that can only come from the heart.

So I say do whatever you want in the kitchen! Get creative and mix up your dishes and try weird combinations without fear! No matter how crazy it may seem, if you are motivated the right ways in the kitchen, most likely you will be able to make some delicious tasting foods you didn’t even think possible!

Grilled Chazee’s

The simple grilled cheese sandwich has been around for decades and continues to live on as one of those nostalgic pastime foods for many generations. It has even grown into its own industry in varying parts of the world. In America alone there are  hundreds of grilled cheese restaurants and food trucks that specialize in only grilled cheese sandwiches. And because of the simplicity of ingredients, the grilled cheese has great potential for customization.  By simply changing up the breads and cheeses used in the sandwich you can create completely different and unique tastes.

One of my favorite ingredients to throw in a grilled cheese sandwich is fresh sliced roast beef. Getting some packaged roast beef from the grocery store and some Kraft singles make for a bomb lunch time sandwich.

Ingredients:

2 Slices of your preferred bread. I usually go with some old fashioned white.

2 Slices of Kraft Singles American cheese. If you have more expensive tastes you can go big with some Pepperjack or Sharp Chedder.

2 Slices of Deli Roast Beef. The easiest option is to pick up the nice prepackaged bags at a grocery store.

1 tsp of Butter or Butter-like spread

Steps:

1. Butter one side of  each slice of bread

2. Layer your sandwich with a slice of cheese, then both slices of roast beef, and then  lastly the the second slice of cheese.

2. On a low-medium heat, fry up the sandwich using a pan.

3. Once the bottom starts to get a nice golden brown color, flip the sandwich and golden up the other side.

4. After both sides have crisped up and the cheese has fully melted inside the sandwich take out of the pan and put on a plate.

5. Cut the sandwich in half diagonally (because that’s how real connoisseurs do it) then enjoy the sandwich, that’s all there is to it.

It’s a quick easy sandwich and no matter how many times you make it you can find a new way to enjoy it. I take whatever ingredients I got left over in the fridge and throw them in there sometimes when I’m really desperate, but hey, it makes it new every time. And remember, the classic grilled chazee is always a suitable sandwich if you don’t have anything to spice it up.

Partying Too Hard? part 1

Sometimes you go too hard in the paint.. Usually you end up slopped over the toilet the next day wishing you never took that first sip. Unfortunately, by that time it’s too late and no matter how hard you wish, or pray, you just can’t will the hangover away. In these times you need a cure that can only be found in the universal language known as food. Many different cultures around the world have their own special hangover cures and, through personal experience, I have tested most of them out and can say that they are all equally satisfying. Because of my Mexican/Hispanic heritage and tradition, my personal favorite is menudo. Not to be confused with the Spanish pop sensation, menudo, the soup, is actually a filling delicacy in  Mexican tradition known for its hangover curing capabilities. The main ingredient of menudo is the beef tripe, which takes hours to cook properly. And it is because the dish itself take hours of preparation and cooking, that it is best to get menudo on a Sunday morning at your favorite authentic Mexican restaurant. Menudo is more than just a soup to be eaten when feeling under the weather from the night before, it can also be a family reunion for some. Seeing as how the dish takes a lot of time and effort to make, most families will work cooperatively to put together a breakfast feast for everyone to enjoy the day after a long night of raging.

Being a college student, I don’t often get the chance to enjoy a good homemade bowl of menudo. So I looked around and found the perfect solution for my nauseating problems on Sunday morning. There are now cans of pre-made menudo that can be purchased for cheap, ready to be heated and enjoyed! You can find these cans in your local grocery market’s ethnic or cultural aisle. Although they may not be fresh from my grandmother’s kitchen, I still find the cans to be quite authentic and tasty! Next time you’re feeling a little under the weather from a long Saturday night, go out and find yourself a can of menudo and bring yourself out of that slump!

Damn, I Wish I Had One

Cooking can be a lot of work. There are a lot of different items , ingredients and utensils needed to prepare of full meal. Which is one of the reasons why a lot of students  don’t take the time to cook themselves nice hearty meals. Most college students are stuck with recycled appliances and shoddy homemade contraptions to store and cook their food.  And though it may get the job done, most students would agree that they wish they had better equipment and tools to use in the kitchen. Luckily, there are tons of cheap, and effective, items that can help students cook for themselves!

An essential item for almost all cooking is heat. In a dorms or apartments  though, you may not be able to get an open flame from a stove to cook on. And for that there are multiple options that offer the ability to heat and even grill without an open flame. The most notable appliance in this department would be the George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine. These little grills are very versatile and can be used to cook just about anything. In addition, they are great for eating healthier and leaner! Another great option is an indoor grill and griddle combo. These machines are similar to the George Foreman, but they offer some more cooking options with specially designed griddle plates or pans for cooking breakfasts and more.

Once you have the appliances needed to cook, you need the utensils to handle the food while cooking, right? Most large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target offer a good selection of cheap utensils that will satisfy your cooking needs. But for those who aren’t happy with just the ordinary, there are also tons of unique and creative options that are cosmetically appealing and functional. The new Marvel Comics Spatula set consists of different flexible, heat-resistant silicone spatulas with Marvel Superheroes as the spatula.

Getting the right tools can make all the difference when it comes to cooking, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money on these items. Being creative with your tools and utensils at hand can work just as well the the most expensive one on the market. As long as it works, do it do it!

Food Shows Are Actually Entertaining Too?

One of my favorite ways to get new ideas and inspiration is through watching various different cooking shows on TV.  The only problem is that most of the time you’ll sit through the show and mindlessly watch the celebrity chefs whip up some crazy dinner that you know you will never be able to recreate, but The Food Network has been mixing it up this October with some new shows that might actually offer some entertainment as well. If you enjoy cooking but can’t bring yourself to sit through a painful episode with Ina Garten or Rachael Ray then check out these new competition shows coming out in October!

1. Halloween Wars, Premieres October 2nd: 5 teams comprised of the best pumpkin carvers, sugar artists, and cake decorators will battle it out by creating incredible detailed and spooky, Halloween inspired displays to win a $50,000 grand prize.

2. The Next Iron Chef, Premieres October 30th: A contest pitting a star studded cast of prestigious chefs against each other to determine who will be “The Next Iron Chef.” The chefs will be tested through various different cooking challenges while they try to earn a coveted spot in Kitchen Stadium!

3. The Best Thing I Ever Made, Premieres October 16th: I know this isn’t exactly a competition show, I still feel that it offers a fun and entertaining alternative to the ordinary cooking shows you’ll catch mid-day. For this show, an assortment of Fan- favorite chefs will share their own culinary secrets and techniques in a way never seen before.

All of this competition in the air has given me initiative to start my own competition up now! I am going to have a “Food Battle Royale- College Edition” competition where I’ll be challenging fellow college chefs to improvised cooking! Keep reading and commenting on upcoming posts for more information or email me at giolgutierrez@gmail.com if you’d like to participate.