Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bargain Shopping for Wine and Liquors at Lee's Discount Liquor in Las Vegas!


   
     Like most chefs, I enjoy browsing the shelves of a good liquor store for bargains.  I have turned up some very good deals on French and Italian wines by doing so in the past.  Many times, a French wine can be be priced well below the actual value, because a clerk cannot read the French language on the label!
     Many Americans simply avoid the French wine section, because they also do not understand the labels on French wine.  This can create a "clear the shelves of slow moving items" situation in a liquor store.  While in Chicago, I purchased some fine $80.00 bottles of French chateau wine for less than $8.00 a bottle!  Whether the wine was mistakenly placed on sale or not, it does not matter.  Recognizing a bargain or just purchasing through intuitive skills can result in a real bargain on fine French wine.
     French domaine wines are the Cadillac of less costly wines and they are a grade above the table wine classification.  Many French domaine wines easily exceed the quality of the finest California wine.  French domaine wines are often on sale for less than $5.00 a bottle.
     Lee's Liquor of Las Vegas is one of my favorite liquor stores.  There are several locations in the Las Vegas valley and all of Lee's liquor stores offer fine wines and hard to find liquors.  A few of the Lee's Liquor stores are very large and they have an extensive selection of fine wine.  Bargains on the very best California wine, Italian wine and French wine can be easy to find in the larger Lee's Liquor stores.
     In the American west coast region, the best bargains for fine wine can be found in the California wine section of a liquor store.  Stocking French wine is of second importance in western states.  French wines are often overlooked by California wine snobs and that can create opportunities for bargains on fine French wine!
     I saw some tremendous bargains on fine recent vintages of French Chateau wines on the shelves at Lee's Liquor today.  Some of the 2010 French chateau estate reserve bottles were priced at $7.00 to $12.00.  If those bottles were left to mature and age for 5 to 12 years, the the prices would exceed ten times the original purchase price.  A one year old bottle of fine wine has not even come close to being mature, therefore by allowing the wine to age patiently, a bargain is created!
     Personally, I know less about California wine than French or Italian wine, even though I grew up in California.  I have found fewer disappointing wines when shopping for French or Italian wine in the past.  California has more than its share of poorly crafted wines that are made by inexperienced over zealous wineries.  I am a little bit rusty at selecting the very best of California wines and I will have to become familiar with the finer California wines again, now that I am now living in the west.  A few California wines do compare to the finest French wine.
     Rare and hard to find liquors, aperitifs and cordials can be found at Lee's.  I posted a picture of a mini bottle of a liquor from Amsterdam that has been recently marketed in America.  Agua Blanca or Agua De Bolivia is a liquor that is made with coca leaf.  The coca leaf hydrochloride alkaloids are extracted before shipping to the American market, just like coca syrup that is used for making coca cola.  I have had agua blanca that has not had the active hydrochloride alkaloids extracted in the past and the effect is pleasantly stimulating.  The very nice unique coca leaf flavor remains in Agua De Bolivia liquor even after the hydrochloride alkaloid denaturing process.  I like the flavor of natural coca flour or coca tea and I have posted recipes that require coca leaf as an ingredient in the past.  The first and secondary alkaloids of coca leaf are strong antioxidants and that makes the Agua De Bolivia liquor very appealing.
     The staff at Lee's is friendly, courteous and well educated about the products that they stock.  If you have questions, you will receive good answers!
     Learning about wines and liquors is part of being a cook or chef.  Finding bargains does make that education much cheaper!  Lee's Liquors is a good place to browse labels and find bargains in Las Vegas!  ...  Shawna      

Monday, October 10, 2011

Seared Poivre Noir Yellowfin Tuna and Roasted Anaheim Pepper en Florence Fennel Yukon Gold Gratin








Sautés Poivre Noir Albacore et le rôti Anaheim Piment sur Gratin de Fenouil Pommes de Terre Yukon Gold!

     Yellowtail tuna is usually called ahi on American menus.  Even Japanese sushi restaurants use the work ahi on menus in America.  Ahi is Hawaiian for yellowfin tuna.  For a French gratin style entree, the name ahi would be a poor choice.  French fusion chefs use the word ahi, but classic French chefs usually call yellowfin tuna by the name albacore.
      Because of the strong lobby of Japanese fishermen and the sushi industry, yellowfin tuna always seems so escape unsustainable seafood classification.  Yellowfin tuna has been steadily declining in numbers, like all tuna species.  The reality is yellowfin tuna is low in numbers.  Responsible chefs realize this and they do not use yellowfin tuna as bait to capture customers.  Just like Atlantic cod, yellowfin tuna seems to get the same respect.  Many consumers demand yellowfin tuna with no regard for the extinction of the species.  Some people are deranged enough to think about celebrating over eating eating the last yellowfin tuna steak on earth.  That same attitude sent Atlantic cod into extinction.
     Self control helps the sustainable seafood cause.  I can count how many times that I have eaten yellowfin tuna during the last five years on one hand.  Today's yellowfin tuna recipe will probably be the last one posted in this food site.  I also stopped posting black tip shark recipes when they become low in numbers.  Supporting seafood sustainability means taking action.  I have posted links to seafood sustainability site on the link page and seafood page in this site's index.  Always check the sustainability status before making any seafood purchase.
      Today's yellowfin tuna entree is a modern comfort food recipe.  The entree is cooked in two stages, so the tuna is still medium rare and juicy.  A gratin does not need to be heavily browned to be called a gratin.  A few golden brown highlights are enough for certain gratin applications.  Many kinds of cheese become vile and bitter when they are heavily browned.  The character of the cheese has a lot to do with how light or dark a gratin should be.
     The market had some very nice looking anaheim peppers for sale.  Anaheim peppers are spicier than a poblano pepper and some can be as hot as a serrano pepper.  Most anaheim peppers are fairly mild.  Anaheim pepper has a rich crisp green chile flavor.  The flame roasted Anaheim pepper adds some zest and lightens the overall feel of this gratin entree.
   
     Roasted Anaheim Pepper:  
     Roast 1 whole green Anaheim pepper over an open flame or in an oven, till the skin turns dark brown or black.
     Cool the roasted pepper under cold running water.
     Wash the black skin off of the pepper.
     Cut the pepper in half lengthwise.
     Scrap off all of the seeds and trim the stem end.
     Cut the roasted Anaheim pepper into long thin strips.
     Set half of the Anaheim pepper strips aside and save the extra for another recipe.
     
     Florence Fennel Yukon Gold Gratin:
     Blanch 5 small Yukon Gold potatoes in boiling salted water, till they become halfway cooked and so they are still firm.
     Cool the potatoes under cold running water.
     Use the back of a paring knife to scrape the skin off of the potatoes.
     Set the potatoes aside.
     Heat a small saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced florence fennel.  (Anise bulb)
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color.
     Add just enough flour, while stirring, to soak up the butter in the pan.
     Stir till the roux combines and till the roux becomes a white color.
     Add 1/2 cup of white fish stock.  (Fumet)
     Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 3/4 cup of milk.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Stir as the sauce comes to a gentle boil and thickens to a very thin consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely grated parmesan cheese.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin sauce consistency.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3 pinches of chopped green fennel leaf.
     Add the peeled blanched Yukon Gold potatoes.
     Pour the gratinee into an oven proof casserole dish.
     Arrange the potatoes in the casserole dish, so they are evenly spaced around the border of the dish.
     Sprinkle a couple pinches of fine bread crumbs over the potatoes and around the border of the casserole.
     Bake the gratinee casserole dish in a 350º oven, till a few light golden highlights appear.
     As the gratinee bakes, the yellowtail tuna steak can be prepared!
   
     Seared Poivre Noir Yellowfin Tuna and Roasted Anaheim Pepper:
 
     Season a 5 to 6 ounce yellowtail tuna steak with sea salt.
     Press a few pinches of crushed black peppercorn on one side of the tuna steak.
     Heat a small saute pan over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Sear the tuna on both sides for less than 1 minute on each side.  The tuna steak should be rare at this point.
     Remove the tuna from the pan and set it aside.
     Add the roasted Anaheim pepper strips to the hot butter in the pan.
     Saute the pepper strips for a few seconds.
     Add 1 ounce of dry white wine.
     Remove the pepper strips from the pan and keep them warm on a stove top.

     Seared Poivre Noir Yellowfin Tuna and Roasted Anaheim Pepper en Florence Fennel Yukon Gold Gratin:
     Tuna that is deep freeze treated for sushi can be cooked less than 145º.  Tuna that is not treated for sushi has to be cooked to 145º for 15 seconds to eliminate any pathogen threat.
     After the gratinee is baked to a golden color, remove the gratinee from the oven.
     Place the seared tuna on a cutting board with the black pepper side facing up.
     Score the tuna with a sharp knife, so the scores look like square shapes, and so the slices are cut only 3/4's of the way through the tuna flesh.
     Use a spatula to set the tuna steak in the middle of the florence fennel Yukon Gold gratinee in the casserole.
     Return the casserole dish to the 350º oven.
     Bake till golden brown highlights appear on the gratinee and till the tuna is cooked medium rare to medium or till it reaches a safe serving temperature.
     Remove the casserole dish from the oven.
     Place the casserole dish on a serving plate.
     Mound the roasted Anaheim pepper strips on the center of the tuna steak.
     Spear a few sprigs of green fennel leaf into the center of the tuna through the roasted Anaheim pepper strips.
   
     Viola!  Modern French comfort food!  The gentle aromatic florence fennel in the gratin adds a nice warm flavor that is perfect with yellowtail tuna.  Excessive cheese is not necessary.  This is not a gratinee style French onion soup!  Tuna casserole fans will like this French comfort food style recipe. Yum!  ...  Shawna

Monday, October 3, 2011

The International Marketplace, Las Vegas!










        The International Marketplace is not only a favorite of Las Vegas locals, it is a tourist destination for visitors of this city.  The International Marketplace is located at 5000 South Decatur and it is near the intersection of Tropicana in Las Vegas.
     The International Marketplace features fine food from every country in the world.  The selection and quality of the food is unbelievable!  Anything and everything food is stocked at the International Marketplace.  The marketplace is actually a gigantic building that is stocked full of hard to find exotic food items.
     Many people refer to the International Marketplace as an eye candy destination!  It literally is one of the biggest exotic food markets in the world.  People have been known to spend several hours looking at imported exotic food at this market.  Food label reading at this market can be inspirational for discovering new cooking ideas!  Even chefs who have 20 or more years experience, like myself, can find plenty of imported food items that are unheard of at the International marketplace!  If you are bored from eating the same old entree recipes and are looking for a new cooking ideas, then this is the place to go.
     There are so many food items to chose from at this market.  Each aisle represents a different region of the world.  Each aisle is stocked full of imported food items.  Everything from Arabic food to Zimbabwe cuisine can be found in this market.
     The Italian section is loaded with great artisan pastas and hard to find specialty items.  A huge selection of fine olive oils, vinegar and balsamic vinegar can be found in this section of the store.
     British food is plentiful.  High quality German food is popular at this time of year for the Octoberfest celebration.  French and Swiss food is well stocked.  Traditional fresh and imported baked goods are of the highest quality.  The huge asian half of the market offers a wide variety of gourmet hard to get items.  Imported candy, licorice and asian sweet snacks are stocked at the market.  The fresh Pacific seafood and fresh exotic produce sections are loaded with interesting items.
     Persian, Arabic, Balkan and Greek specialty items are abundant.  Middle eastern spice mixtures are well stocked.  Spice mixtures are great for cooks who want to experience accurate middle eastern flavors, before mixing their own spice blends.
     Mexican, Central American and South American food are stocked.  Many Incan food items are stocked in the latin food section.  Purple maize pudding, Cuzco giant maize, maca, quinoa and dried potatoes are just a few of the high Andes Incan items that are available.
     Exotic cooking vessels and tableware from all places around the world are available at this market.  Moroccan tagines, woks, steamers, Mongolian grills, tandori ovens, Korean barbecues and many other hard to find exotic kitchen items are stocked at the International Marketplace.
     Basically, if you can think of an imported food item, then the International Marketplace has it in stock!
     I highly recommend The International Marketplace for visitors of Las Vegas and locals alike.  This is one of my favorite places to shop for gourmet items in Las Vegas!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mezze Platter of Hummus and Ajvar Sesame Rye Rusk Canapes with Arabic Candied Dried Fruit









     A simple hand passed canape platter presented with no extensive garnishing.  The simpler the better is a food theme that many traditionalists prefer
   
     I am still temporarily staying in a motel, till I start my trip home to Las Vegas later this week.  In order to fight boredom, I have made a few nice simple recipes in the motel room.  In a couple of weeks, I will have a new home with a kitchen in Las Vegas and then I will resume cooking recipes for this food site.
     This canape platter was made with pre-made and pre-packaged ingredients.  I purchased the items for this canape platter at a Grecian delicatessen and at an Arabic Persian market.
     Arabic hummus and Balkan ajvar are two items that many people enjoy.  Ajvar is a vegetable dip that is made with sweet red bell pepper, eggplant, chile pepper and garlic.  Ajvar is similar to north african harissa.  Ajvar is sold in glass jars.
     Hummus is a smooth dip that is made with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon and seasonings.  In many North African countries, hummus is another word for whole beans instead of bean dip.  In the middle east, hummus almost always refers to the smooth bean dip.
     Hummus is packaged many different ways.  I purchased a few individual squeezable snack packets of hummus.  The hummus was packaged with the intent of appealing to children.  When I saw this style of packaging, I thought that it was a great idea.  Making a healthy snack, like hummus, look more appealing than candy to children is a good thing  That is clever positive marketing!
     I really designed this simple hors d' oeuvres platter with the intent of featuring the Arabic honey preserved dried fruits.  I used to like these candied fruits when I was a child.  My step grandfather was Syrian and I liked the neat Arabic food that was in his kitchen.  I have not seen these candied dried fruits since I was a kid.  The Arabic market had a large selection of Arabic candied dried fruits.  The candied dried fruits at the market brought back some good old memories!
     Each candied whole dried fruit is individually packaged.  Arabic candied dried fruits are hand crafted and they are a very high quality product.  The fruits are naturally sweet and there is no heavy sweet sugar flavor added.  An ancient technique of preserving dried fruit with honey was used to make these candied fruits!  The candied dried fruit that I chose for this canape platter were plum, apple, pear and fig.  Arabic candied dried fruits are healthy to eat and they taste great!
     I chose Croatian rye sesame rusk for the canape toast.  Rusk is a fine bread that is sliced and toasted twice.  Rusk is nice and crispy.  Pre-packaged rusk like this can be purchased in Greek delicatessens.
   
     Mezze Platter of Hummus and Ajvar Sesame Rye Rusk Canapes with Arabic Candied Dried Fruit:
     Hand passed hors d' oeuvres platters for social events has its origins in mezze from the middle east.  Offering a few items that are sweet or savory on a platter is a good strategy for pleasing guests at an event.  Canapes tratitionally have a toast, bread or a cracker as a base and they should never be bigger than what can be eaten with two small bites.
     Imported olives from the mediterranean region are the best.  The better the olive, the better the canape.  Pre-made hummus was used in this recipe. 
     Spread a thin layer of hummus on 4 slices of rye sesame rusk.
     Garnish the hummus with pitted olives or a dab of ajvar and pitted olives.
     Spread a thin layer of ajvar on 2 slices of rusk.
     Garnish the ajvar with pitted olives.
     Arrange the rusk canapes on a platter.
     Place a few Arabic candied dried fruits on the platter.
     Garnish the platter with 2 Grecian yellow fefferoni peppers.
   
     A nice combination of savory, sweet, fruity, spicy and mild flavors are offered on this simple canape platter.  A good canape platter will open the senses, add inspiration and help to create conversation.    ...  Shawna

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Travelers Microwave Cuisine - Teriyaki Ramen Noodles with Chicken, Snap Peas and Carrots









     Modern motel rooms usually have a microwave oven.  For a traveler, cooking a simple meal can be relaxing and more satisfying than dining in a strange roadside restaurant or eating unhealthy fast food.  For travelers on a budget, cooking a meal in a motel room microwave can stretch the money that was set aside for vacation.  This recipe is made with ingredients that can be found in any grocery store or convenience store.  That is important for travelers.
     Ever since healthy snack foods became popular, small packages of washed ready to eat raw vegetables have been offered in convenience stores and grocery stores.  Sometimes the small packages of vegetables are sold with a dipping sauce.
     If you read the ingredients of the dipping sauce, then you may find that the small container of sauce is full of artificial or unhealthy ingredients.  When I see a list of chemicals on the label, then I usually discard the small container of dipping sauce and just eat the vegetables with a sprinkle of sea salt.  If you are calorie conscious, the saturated fat content of the dipping sauce can nullify the nutritional value of the raw vegetables in the package.  For this recipe, I tossed the dipping sauce out and used the vegetables to make this microwave ramen noodle recipe.
     Whole roasted chicken or roasted chicken pieces can be purchased in the deli department at grocery stores.  Reheating roasted chicken is much better than cooking raw chicken in a microwave oven.
     Individual portion packages of ramen noodles can be purchased for less than 25¢ a package.  Dried bouillon is included in the ramen package.  Ramen noodles are famous for being low budget college student survival food.  I have posted several gourmet ramen recipes and travelers ramen noodle recipes in this blog so far.  People like ramen!
     Small bottles of teriyaki sauce are sold in every food market.  Pre-made bottled teriyaki sauce is a real convenience for a traveler.  Most bottled teriyaki sauce needs no refrigeration.
   
     Teriyaki Ramen Noodles with Chicken Snap Peas and Carrots:  
     Trying to cook all the ingredients at one time will result in an overcooked mess.  It is better to do the cooking in stages, when using a microwave oven.
     Place enough water in a container to cook 1 portion of ramen noodles.
     Add 1 package of chicken bouillon.
     Place the container in a microwave.
     Cook the broth, till it comes to a boil.
     Add 1 portion of ramen noodles.
     Add 1/2 cup of petite baby carrots.
     Cover the container loosely with a lid.
     Cook the ingredients in the microwave, till the noodles become halfway cooked.
     Add 1/3 cup of fresh snap peas.
     Add about 3 to 4 ounces of thick large bite size slices of roasted chicken breast.
     Cover the container loosely with a lid.
     Cook the ingredients in the microwave, till the noodles become fully cooked.  Cook the ingredients, till the vegetables become tender, and so they still have a little crisp bite.  (al dente)
     Drain the broth off of the ingredients in the container and discard the broth.  (The broth can be sipped on separately like hot bouillon if you wish.)
     Add just enough teriyaki sauce to the ingredients in the container to lightly coat the ingredients.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Use a fork to mound the ramen noodles on the center of a shallow soup bowl.
     Arrange the baby carrots and snap around the noodles in the bowl so it looks nice.
     Place the roasted chicken pieces on the mound of ramen noodles.
     Sprinkle some thin sliced green onion tops over the noodles.
   
     This is a tasty, simple and healthy microwave ramen noodle recipe!  Travelers do not have to settle for high saturated fat fast food while on the road.  Cooking something nice relieves driving related stress.  Healthy food on the road helps a traveler to be more energetic when they reach the destination.  Making the food look nice creates a feeling of making something better than what restaurants serve along the highway.  Yum!  ...  Shawna 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Travelers Microwave Cuisine - Bacon Chicken Chile Cheese Burrito








     I was stuck in a motel room for over 20 days while getting ready to move back home to Las Vegas.  Most modern motel rooms have a microwave oven.  Since very few chefs focus on sharing recipe ideas for travelers, I figured that I would give it a shot.  The idea was to create a few entrees that required easy to find ingredients and to only use a microwave oven to do the cooking.
     In one of the first travelers recipe articles, I mentioned that many travelers do not like to dine in strange roadside restaurants that they do not know the reputation of.  Getting sick from food poisoning at a roadside restaurant is the last thing that a traveler wants to do, while on vacation.  I was dining in local restaurants for the first week that I was in this motel.  On the fourth day of dining in low quality local restaurants, I contracted severe food poisoning from eating bad chicken tacos.  The symptoms of the food poisoning were rather painful and I was very sick for two days.  I did report the restaurant to the health code authorities.
     After that lousy local restaurant food poisoning incident, I decided to prepare most of my meals in the motel room, rather than to risk getting sick from poorly prepared food.  This proves that dining in restaurants that you do not know the reputation of, can be risky for your health!  I had severe food poisoning seven times during the two years that I worked in Chicago.  The health inspection system is in shambles in both Illinois and Indiana.  There were many restaurants where I refused to even order food, because the dining room was filthy.
     Many times, travelers find themselves staying at a motel in a small town out in the middle of nowhere.  Sometimes there is a good busy restaurant in the area.  More often than not, small town restaurants along the highway are sub par and it is easy to get a meal that does not sit well on the tummy.  There is not unwritten rule that says that traveler has to eat at the only restaurant in town.  The are alternatives.  Buying food to make a meal with at a small town grocery store or convenience store is not a bad idea.  Packing a cooler with some food or packing non perishable food before hitting the road is good too.
     Whole roasted chickens can be found in the deli department at nearly every food market.  Small 4 ounce to 6 ounce cans of Mexican style sauces and canned chile peppers can also be found in nearly every grocery store.  Making sauces with a microwave oven is nearly impossible to do, so pre-made canned sauces are a good choice.  Packaged grated cheese is a major convenience.
     Bacon can be cooked crisp in a microwave oven.  Some bacon can be purchased in disposable microwave safe cooking containers.  A microwave safe cooking container is all that is needed.
   
     Bacon Chicken Chile Cheese Burrito:  
     Place 2 to 3 strips of bacon in a microwave safe container.  
     Cover the container with a loose fitting lid. 
     Cook the bacon, in a microwave oven, till it becomes crisp.
     Remove the crisp bacon from the container and set it on a paper napkin to drain off any excess grease.
     Place a large whole wheat tortilla on a counter top.
     Sprinkle a little bit of mixed grated cheddar cheese and grated Monterey Jack cheese across the middle of the tortilla.
     Place a thin layer of canned roasted poblano pepper strips over the cheese.
     Place a few canned red jalapeno strips over the cheese.
     Sprinkle a little bit more of the grated cheese mixture over the peppers.
     Place the 2 crisp bacon strips over the cheese and peppers.
     Place 3 to 4 ounces of sliced roasted chicken breast over the bacon strips.
     Sprinkle a little bit more of the grated cheese mixture over the chicken.
     Fold one end of the tortilla partially over the ingredients and roll the tortilla into a cylinder shape.
     One end of the burrito should be open and the other end should be sealed.
     Place the burrito on a plate.
     Place the plate and burrito into a microwave oven.
     Heat the burrito in the microwave, till the cheese melts and the burrito becomes hot.
     Remove the burrito plate from the microwave.
     Spoon some canned salsa chipotle on one side of the plate.
     Spoon some canned salsa verde on the other side of the plate.
     Place a few slices of avocado on top of the burrito.
     Sprinkle and cascade some diced tomato over the avocado slices and the burrito.
     Sprinkle some thin sliced green onion over the diced tomato and the sauces.
     Garnish the plate with a tiny pile of alfalfa sprouts and a turned radish.
   
     For a motel room microwave burrito recipe, this turned out nice!  Cooking a meal is a good way to relieve travel related stress.  Taking the time to make the plate look nice can result in smiling about how the meal that was just made is better than any food offered at restaurants along the highway.
     The next morning, if a fellow traveler starts idle chi chat in the motel parking lot and complains about getting a greasy lousy meal at the solitary local restaurant, you can proudly say that you found a place that served much better food than that!  Being your own traveling chef pays off!  ...  Shawna   

Monday, August 22, 2011

Travelers Cuisine - California Roasted Chicken Wrap






     More food for those who hit the road!  Road kill is an old expression that professional drivers use to describe any food or meal that is sold along highways or major travel routes.  Honestly, some of the food that is sold at restaurants along interstate highways does resemble road kill.
     Truck stop diners usually drew customers who had a sense of humor.  Customer questions like "What kind of meat is it?" were often answered by a trucker with a mouth full of food saying "I don't know.  Its smothered with gravy and it tastes pretty good!"  Then the customer would say to the waitress "That looks like good road kill, I'll have what he's having."  The expression "road kill" does not necessarily have mean that the food is bad.  Road kill is just slang for food found on the road.
     In the old days, old fashioned diners and truck stop restaurants were the dining options along major travel routes.  Professional drivers knew where the best highway diners were.  Hungry tourists looking for some good food often asked a professional driver where the best food was down the road.
     Diner and truck stop food was pretty good and the restaurants offered a nice atmosphere.  Simple blue plate specials like open face roast beef sandwiches and mashed potatoes smothered with gravy were just about as fancy as the food got.  Simple salads, soups and diet platters were the healthy dining options.  Back in those days, there were two diet platters on every diner menu.  One was cottage cheese with fruit and the other was a plain hamburger on a plate with sliced tomato and vegetables.  
     During the last thirty years or so, fast food restaurants saturated every town and exit on major highways.  Many of the old fashioned diners and truck stop restaurants were forced to close their doors.  Fast food restaurants even replaced old fashioned diner at truck stops.  Nowadays, there is almost only one option for dining on major travel routs.  Fast food road kill.  The expression "road kill" takes on a negative meaning when it is applied to fast food.  Fast food restaurants are notorious for offering highly modified, high complex carbohydrate, high saturated fat, genetically modified, overpriced food that has low nutritional value.
     Travelers do have another option.  Make your own road kill!  Packing a cooler with food before hitting the road or stopping at a small town food market is a good idea when traveling.  Whipping up a nutritious meal at a roadside picnic table or in a motel room gives a long distance driver a sense of accomplishment and relieves road related stress.  When healthy food is eaten during a long journey, a traveler will feel more alert and energetic when arriving at the destination!
      Wrap sandwiches are perfect for travelers who make their own road kill.  A standard California sandwich wrap recipe is made with turkey, but chicken can be substituted.  Lime juice is the original sauce for a California wrap, but in later years, buttermilk dressing often took the place of lime juice.  Along the east coast, mayonnaise is often slapped on a California wrap and that is okay.  Lime juice is rarely used to make a California wrap sandwich anymore, except in regions west of the Rocky Mountains.
     As far back as the early 1980's, the "California" name was given to any sandwich or omelette that had avocado, alfalfa sprouts, tomato and cheddar in the list of ingredients.  Back in those days, when people saw the word California on a menu, they associated the word with healthy food.  California was the leader of the pack as far as setting new healthy nutritious dining trends was concerned.
     When on the road, a California wrap is a good choice for a meal.  Grocery stores along the highway sell roasted whole chickens.  One whole roasted chicken is enough to make 6 to 8 California wraps.  The vegetables can be found at any farm produce stand or grocery store.  Since the ingredients are easy to find, a California wrap qualifies as good road kill.
     
     California Roasted Chicken Wrap:
     This recipe is good for using leftover roasted chicken.  Pre-roasted chicken from a delicatessen or grocery store is convenient for those who travel.  Bacon is optional.  Bacon can be cooked in a motel microwave.  Ordering a couple side orders of bacon at a diner restaurant is also an option when traveling.  Fast food restaurant personnel kind of freak out when someone only orders bacon!
     Remove the skin and bones from a roasted chicken breast.
     Cut the chicken breast meat into thin slices.  (About 3 to 4 ounces is needed for this recipe.)
     Set the sliced roasted chicken breast meat aside.    
     Note:  Crisp bacon can be acquired on the road at restaurants.  Bacon can be cooked in a motel room microwave.  A microwave safe container must be used, if bacon is cooked in a motel microwave oven.  After cooking the bacon in a microwave, set it on a dry paper napkin to drain off any excess grease.
     Place 1 large whole wheat flour tortilla on a counter top.
     Option:  If mayonnaise is the choice, spread it across the center of the tortilla.
     Place the roasted chicken strips across the center of a tortilla.
     Sprinkle a little bit of mixed grated cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese over the chicken slices.
     Place a few thin slices of avocado on the cheese.
     Place some alfalfa sprouts on the avocado slices.
     Place the 3 strips of crisp bacon on the alfalfa sprouts.
     Place a few thin slices of tomato over the bacon.
     Option:  If mayonnaise was not the choice, drizzle lime juice or buttermilk salad dressing over the ingredients.
     Fold one end of the tortilla partially over the sandwich ingredients.
     Roll the tortilla into a cylinder shape, with one closed end and one open end.
     The California wrap can be sliced in half or served whole.
     Place the California roasted chicken sandwich wrap on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with red tipped leaf lettuce leaf, turned radishes and a green onion sprig.
     Sprinkle a little bit of thin sliced green onion on the plate.
   
     Even when on the road, making an entree plate look nice is a good thing.  Creating a plate that has nice eye appeal puts a smile on a face.  This is a great tasting light sandwich wrap that is perfect for travelers.  Yum!  ...  Shawna 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Travelers Cuisine - BLT Whole Wheat Tortilla Wrap





BLT Wrap!
   
     In America, if you say the three letters BLT, there is only one thing that comes to mind.  Bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich!
     BLT sandwiches have been made since the late 1800's.  There are five required ingredients for a true BLT.  Bacon, lettuce, tomato, bread and mayonnaise.  The better the bacon, the better the BLT!  The better the tomatoes, the better the BLT!  Tortillas do qualify as bread.  Whole wheat tortillas are perfect for making a BLT sandwich wrap.
    The Sahara Casino in Las Vegas recently closed for possible renovations.  The Sahara had a popular eatery called the NASCAR Cafe.  The NASCAR Cafe was famous for the 6 pound burrito eating challenge special.  Finish eating the 6 pound burrito within the time limit and the prize was free food at the NASCAR Cafe for the rest of your life!
     The NASCAR Cafe offered an interesting BLT special on the menu.  The NASCAR Cafe BLT had 1 pound of bacon on the sandwich!  That huge BLT was guaranteed to make the cholesterol count go through the roof!
     Travelers who have few dining options when they bunk down in a motel out in the middle of nowhere do not have to settle for a lousy meal at a fast food joint.  Almost every modern motel room has a microwave oven.  Bacon can be cooked in a microwave oven.  A BLT Wrap is a nice light meal after driving the highway all day.
     A BLT sandwich is more appealing if it is served with fruit, rather than greasy french fries or a heavy mayonnaise based salad.  Even the most health conscious person cannot resist the temptation of a good BLT if there is some fruit on the plate!
     I made this BLT Wrap while stuck in a motel room that had a microwave.  I wrote the recipe for those who travel to areas where restaurant dining options are limited.  Making a creative light meal with a motel room microwave after driving all day provides satisfaction and it relieves stress.  Every item in this recipe can be found at a convenience store, a gas station market or any grocery store along the highway.  A microwave safe cooking container that is suitable for cooking bacon is all that is needed.  There is bacon that is packaged in modern microwave ready cooking containers.  Just take the container out of the box, follow the cooking directions and viola!  Crisp bacon!        
   
     BLT Whole Wheat Tortilla Wrap:
     Bacon can be cooked in a microwave and it will become crispy.  Microwave bacon does shrink in size, but nearly all of the fat will cook out of the bacon.  Less saturated fat is a good thing while traveling.  A plastic microwave safe cooking container is needed for cooking bacon.  
     Cook 6 to 8 thin slices of bacon in a microwave that is set to a medium heat level.  Cook the bacon till it becomes crisp.
     Set the bacon on a dry paper towel or napkin to drain off any excess grease.
     Place a large whole wheat tortilla on a counter top.
     Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise across the center of the tortilla.
     Place a few small leaves of red tipped leaf lettuce on the mayonnaise.
     Overlap several thin slices of rip tomato on the lettuce.
     Place the crisp bacon strips on the tomato slices.
     Fold one end of the tortilla partially over the ingredients.
     Roll the tortilla into a cylinder shape.
     The sandwich wrap can be cut in half or served whole.
     Place the BLT sandwich wrap on a plate.
     Place some leaf lettuce on the plate as a bed for the fruit.
     Place a portion of a fruit of your choice on the plate.  (I served the BLT sandwich wrap in the pictures with red grapes.)
   
     Making a motel microwave meal look nice adds to the appeal.  BLT Wrap!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Travelers Cuisine - Cheddar Jack Red Jalapeno Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomato







     While stuck in a motel room waiting to move back to Las Vegas, I decided to create a few recipes for travelers.  Eating greasy high saturated fat fast food while on the road is not a good thing.  Finding healthy dining options at roadside restaurants can be impossible in remote areas of the country.  Stopping at a local small town grocery store near the highway or packing food in a cooler is not a bad option.  Whipping up tasty salad that looks nice in a motel room helps to relieve travel related stress.
     Cheddar chicken salad was popular in the 1980's, but most of the recipes lacked spicy zest.  Many chefs choose not to use chile peppers in recipes, because they fear scaring away customers.  What those chefs end up creating is bland middle of the road flavors that become boring after a few bites.  Experienced chefs do know how to use chile peppers to season food.  It only takes a tiny bit of hot spicy chile pepper to make a recipe taste lively.
     Green jalapeno peppers are in the mild to to lower medium spicy heat range.  Red jalapenos are usually milder than green jalapenos, but there are exceptions to the rule.  Any jalapeno that has the seeds removed will taste mildly spicy.
     The combination of cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, red jalapeno and chicken creates a tasty salad flavor that is nice for stuffing a tomato.
   
     Cheddar Jack Red Jalapeno Chicken Salad:
     This recipe makes one stuffed tomato!
     Grocery stores sell fresh roasted whole chicken in the delicatessen department.  A roasted whole chicken from a grocery store is a good for making a few meals while traveling.  About 5 to 6 stuffed tomatoes can be made with the meat on one whole roasted chicken.
     Chicken and cheese mayonnaise salads must be served shortly after the salad is made.  If the salad sits for too much time, then the cheese will soften and the texture will become mushy and unpleasant!
     Place 1 1/4 cups of diced roasted chicken meat in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely diced seeded red jalapeno pepper.  (Canned red jalapeno strips are fine for this recipe.)
     Add 1/2 of a chopped green onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of mixed grated cheddar cheese and grated Monterey Jack cheese.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add just enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     
     Cheddar Jack Red Jalapeno Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomato:
     Vegetable snack packs are available at grocery stores and roadside convenience stores.  The vegetables can be used to garnish a stuffed tomato platter.
     Place 3 pieces of leaf lettuce on a plate, so the leaves point from center.
     Place 1 turned radish half between each lettuce leaf.
     Place trimmed sweet snap pea pods on each side of the radish halves.
     Place a small mound of alfalfa sprouts on the center of the platter as a bed for the stuffed tomato.
     Vertically slice a ripe tomato from the bottom to at least 3/4's of the way to the top of the tomato.  Cut 4 vertical slices total, so the tomato can be opened into 8 thin tomato wedge leaves.
    Open and fan out the tomato, so the tomato leaves form a tomato wedge leaf cup.
    Use a round scoop or spoon to mound the cheddar jack red jalapeno chicken salad in the tomato.
    Set the stuffed tomato on the bed of alfalfa sprouts on the platter.
    Garnish the stuffed tomato with a few thin slices of green onion.
 
     This is a good tasting stuffed tomato that looks nice!  Taking a little bit of time to create a simple motel room meal while traveling helps to relieve road related stress.  A good looking plate of food always puts a smile on a face.  Yum!  ...  Shawna