Food Network: Causes Bursts of Cooking!

About 2 weeks ago, Adam and I did nothing but watch Food Network for about 3 days straight. Episode after episode of Ace of Cakes, Iron Chef America, Good Eats, Unwrapped… but one show in particular caught my attention and has lingered in my mind for the whole two weeks. One particular episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay featuring the traditional Venezuelan dish, arepas.

According to Wikipedia, arepas are:

a bread made of corn originating from the northern Andes in South America (Colombia and Venezuela), and which has now spread to other areas in Latin America (e.g. the Dominican Republic, where it is now popular). It is similar to the Mesoamerican tortilla.

The word “arepa” may originate from the language of the Caracas Indians (north coast of Venezuela) that meant “maize.”

I was bound and determined to make arepas. They seemed easy enough, but I was sure there was a secret to making really good ones. I asked my Venezuelan student to tell me what her mom does when she makes them, and she said “I dunno, its just masa and water and a little salt.” (Can you tell she’s an 8th grader?) I started looking up recipes. She was right, its just masa (corn flour), and water, and a little salt! I went to the grocery store today and bought the necessary supplies, and decided on a filling.

The thing with arepas is that they can be filled with anything. Cheese, meat, vegetables, seafood… I decided on steak, cheese, avocado and sour cream. It sounds like a lot, but there was only about an ounce or two of meat, and small bits of the other stuff.

You’re getting 2 photos today (don’t you feel special?) because neither view I took gave the full effect of this Venezuelan sandwich. The arepas were about the size of a regular English muffin.

The view from the top

The view from the top

Arepas

Ingredients

2 cups masa harina

2.5 cups warm water

1/2 tsp. salt

Directions

In a bowl, pour the 2.5 cups of water, stir the salt in, then gradually stir in the flour until it forms a smooth dough. Let the dough sit about 5 minutes, then form into 3″ patties. Heat an oven safe griddle, and pre-heat the oven to 400*. When the griddle is hot, place the arepas gently on the surface, turning once. Transfer the griddle to the oven and bake about 10 minutes. Split and stuff with filling of your choice.

Now you can see the filling!

For my WW friends: these are 6 Points® a piece!

Spicy Tomato Steak

Ingredients

1 lb. top sirloin, trimmed

1 can Ro-Tel or other tomatoes with chiles

1 can broth

salt to taste

1 tbsp. chili powder

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. oil

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Instructions

In a pot or pan with a cover, heat the oil. Then add the onion and garlic. Cook until lightly browned. Lightly salt both sides of your steak, then add to the pan. Pour the can of Ro-Tel, NOT drained, vinegar, and the can of broth over the steak, then stir in the chili powder. Cook, covered, about 50 minutes until steak is tender. Remove from the pan and allow to sit a few minutes before chopping into small pieces.

I was so skeptical of this dinner. I had no idea if the arepas would come out, and no idea how the steak would turn out. I assembled the sandwiches, and warned Adam, “I have absolutely no idea how these will taste. Please be honest.” He took a bite. I waited. Then he took another bite accompanied by a “mmmm” sound. That was a good sign. I finally tried mine and I couldn’t stop “mmmm”-ing! What a great treat! This is something that will for sure be on our regular rotation! Well, some permutation of this meal… I want to try a vegetarian roasted veggie one, a chicken one, a plain cheese one… maybe arepas will be dangerous.

In any case, you must try arepas! They are: vegetarian, gluten-free, wheat-free, and DELICIOUS! I’m still basking in the truly delicious surprise that was my arepa dinner. I gave one to my stepdad when he came to drop off Stella, and he called about 5 minutes later to rave about how great it was!

Speaking of, this is Stella, my mom and stepdad’s goldendoodle!

She's really quite fluffy!

She's really quite fluffy!

A couple of blogger news bites!

  • PLEASE go bid on baked goods at Meghann’s site! All proceeds go to benefit Team in Training’s fight against Leukemia and Lymphoma.
  • Check out ZestyCook’s Grill Charms Giveaway! They’re these cool little things that go into steak or burgers so you can tell whose is whose. Cool stuff!
  • I sent my Secret Cupid gift out this weekend, so if you haven’t gotten yours yet, you might be getting mine!

I’m extremely proud of myself also. I walked 1.5 miles today in 25 minutes with my work friend. Now, for those of you that run miles upon miles, walking 1.5 miles isn’t a big deal. For me? Yeah. A big deal.

Have a great night!

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Old Clothes for Dinner?

What were you doing at 6 a.m. today? While you may have been sleeping or working out, I was up, in the kitchen, slicing vegetables for tonight’s dinner. I got too tired last night to throw together tonight’s crockpot meal, so I got up early this morning and got to chopping! It really didn’t take long, but it was about 4:15 when I finally realized that I didn’t need to cook!

Now you may be wondering what the heck I mean in my title… Dinner tonight was a traditional Latino dish called “ropa vieja” which literally means “old clothes” and this is because, when made properly, it looks like a pot of wet, old clothes! I’d always heard about this dish, and was curious, and until a few years ago, I had no idea what it was. My friend Anna and I went to a Cuban restaurant for dinner, and I saw Ropa Vieja on the menu! Of course I had to order it…and I was hooked. I had just started cooking, and I went about trying to recreate the recipe, but I couldn’t get the meat as “fally-aparty” as it had been in the restaurant. I had just joined Weight Watchers and had found Heather’s Recipe Site, and I was DELIGHTED when I found the recipe for crockpot Ropa Vieja! One problem…no crockpot. I went out not long after that, and bought a crockpot and made the recipe and I was thrilled…it was BETTER than the restaurant’s!

I’ve made it several times since then, and it seemed like just the thing for a cold day today. I ate mine in a low-carb flour tortilla with a touch of fat free sour cream. DELICIOSO!

Beef...onions...peppers...YUM!

Beef...onions...peppers...YUM!

Crockpot Ropa Vieja (From http://freewebs.com/hwc1973)

Ingredients
1 large onion, sliced into thin rings
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c red wine vinegar
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1.5 TBS ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
9 dashes hot pepper sauce
1 (2 lb) flank steak
1 c vegetable broth
3 bay leaves
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro

Combine onion through pepper sauce in a large bowl. Transfer half of the mixture into 5 or 6 qt slow cooker (crockpot). Place steak on top. Spoon remaining mixture over steak. Pour broth around steak and then tuck in bay leaves. Cover and cook until steak is tender. 5-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.**

I cooked this for literally 11 hours, and when I went to take the bay leaves out of the pot, the meat fell apart. I overdid the veggies a little bit and used twice the amount of peppers. If I do that again, I’ll cut the broth a bit because there’s too much liquid in the pot. It was still delicious, and only 5 Points® per serving, plus tortillas!

*************************

I’ve had a couple of you ask me about this stuff called PB2, so I thought I’d just talk about it here.

from bellplantation.com

PB2 is a powdered peanut butter that has 75% less calories and fat than regular peanut butter, but with all the taste. It’s fantastic in smoothies, oatmeal, other hot cereals, puddings… yeah, just about anything that normal PB would go into! I love normal peanut butter, and as much as I love it, I can’t really have it in the house. I tend to take spoons to it and just go to town. If I want a spoonful of peanut butter, with PB2 I can mix it with water and it gives me PB2  the flavor and texture satisfaction without the calories or Points. I’m working on getting some jars to send out as a giveaway…more to come on that!

From the Bell Plantation Website:

Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts, salt, and sugar

Serving Size: 2 tablespoons (12 grams)

Servings Per Container: 16

Amount Per 2 Tablespoon Serving (*when mixed with water):

Calories                             53.2

Calories from Fat           16.8

% Daily Value*
Total Fat

1.87 g

Saturated Fat

0.34 g

Trans Fat

0 g

Unsaturated Fat

1.53 g

Cholesterol

0 mg

Sodium

77.6 mg

Total Carbohydrate

3.4 g

Dietary Fiber

0.48 g

Sugars

1.66 g

Protein

5.65 g

Vitamin A (IU)

0%

Vitamin C (mg)

0%

Calcium (mg)

1%

Iron (mg)

2%

On that note, a QOTD: What’s your favorite “almost” food that helps you stay on track? For me, its either PB2 or Morningstar Farms corn dogs. They taste so “bad” but they’re seriously healthy!

Cuban-Style Chicken, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Stew

When I was on my way home from work today, I had literally, no idea what the heck to make for dinner. No idea whatsoever. I knew I had chicken, but I also have ground beef, pasta, tomato sauce, and various other veggies… when I got home, I started scrounging. I found a sweet potato… then 2 cans of black beans… then chicken broth… then I had an idea! A quick, spicy, stovetop stew was perfect for this absolutely freezing night. I decided to take a few flavors I know and love, along with a technique I learned from making Ropa Vieja: meat + vinegar + slow (ish) cooking = really tender meat.

There were some really intense flavors here!

There were some really intense flavors here!

Cuban-Style Chicken, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Quick Stew

Ingredients

2 large chicken breasts, cut into chunks

1 large sweet potato, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 cans (15 oz) black beans, rinsed well

1 can (15 oz) chicken broth

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Sriracha to taste

salt & pepper to taste

2 c. cooked rice

sour cream (if desired)

Directions

In a skillet with a lid (or pot), heat the olive oil and garlic. Sautee until aromatic and garlic is lightly browned. Add the chicken, sweet potatoes, beans, broth, vinegar, and spices. Stir well, bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low and simmer, covered for about 35 minutes. Serve on rice with sour cream on top.

I call this “Cuban Style” because, in many of the Cuban dishes I’ve had and made, they mix a bean-based protein, a meat-based protein, and multiple starches along with intense flavors and slow cooking. Next time I make this, it’s going into the crock pot to cook for even longer. It was very satisfying with all the different flavors and textures!

Not long after finishing dinner (and our first set of thank you notes!), there was a knock at the back door, and the UPS man handed Adam a mystery package. I recognized the name of the company on the outside of the box, but definitely did not order anything from them! Then it hit me! It was the hummus I’d won from Back In Skinny Jeans‘ giveaway! Stephanie at BISJ told me that I’d won “hummus in a tube”, but when I opened the box, there was a great surprise!

SO... MUCH... HUMMUS...

SO... MUCH... HUMMUS...

I got 4 jars of Wild Garden Hummus, 2 in original flavor and 2 in Roasted Garlic. I’m so excited to try them!

OH FELLOW BLOGGERS!!! MAKE SURE you visit Lee’s blog here to sign up for our “Secret Cupid” Valentine’s Day Exchange!